Harry Potter: Magic at Play delivers exactly what it promises: magic and play.
The newest installation at Chicago’s Water Tower Place (835 N Michigan Ave.) spans 30,000 square feet and three floors, helping wizards and witches of all ages explore the magical world of Harry Potter.
Remember the feeling you had when you first read a Harry Potter Book or seen one of the films? With Magic at Play, all that euphoria and excitement comes back. When OGX (Original X Productions, which also brought to life The FRIENDS Experience and The Office Experience) began creating the experience in mid-July, the ultimate goal was to create something that celebrates Harry Potter’s personal discovery of the wizarding world.
But before we get to the magic, we have to start where it all began – 4 Privet Drive, where the Dursleys’ living room has been transformed into an interactive playground, complete with two slides for kids (and adults!). You can even peek inside Harry’s closet under the stairs.
Before you know it, you’ll be whisked away to King’s Cross Station. (Yes, you can have your photo taken on the famous Platform 9 ¾) before entering the magical world of Hogwarts via the Hogwarts Express and of course a boat across the Great Lake. Fun fact: Magic at Play is the first and only place for fans to experience the Boathouse.
Gather in the Great Hall to choose your house – and if you don’t know, don’t worry; The Sorting Hat will help you find out! Then hurry to Potions, Divination, and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. In this free-flowing part of the experience, you can actually cast magic and practice your spells. Lumos!
A bit of fun calls for a quick game of Quidditch, and once you get to the green, sprawling field, there are plenty of activities to get you sweating, including Snitch Seeker drills. Be sure to dust off the Nimbus 2000!
Of course, there are plenty of photo ops everywhere – your Instagram and TikTok will thank you! – and even 4 official photo ops that you can personalize with a frame from the house of your choice and buy them at the kiosks near the exit.
Other magical moments include a stop in the Forbidden Forest (you never know what lurks in the shadows, so grab a lantern), a LEGO activation that lets you build your own wizard and watch it come to life, a Visit Hagrid’s Pumpkin Patch and, for those brave enough, take a stroll through the Triwizard maze. Pay close attention as there are many hidden Easter Eggs covering the vast universe of films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
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“From the moment guests arrive, they are immersed in Harry’s story and actively participate in their own journey through innovative games, experience sets, games and more,” he said Peter Van RodenSenior Vice President, Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, per press release.
While the kids play in the Burrow’s playground, parents can enjoy a delicious Butterbeer along with sweets from local bakeries. If you’ve thought about skipping the Butterbeer… word to the wise, don’t! Magic at Play is the only place in the Midwest that serves authentic Butterbeer.
The magic doesn’t stop once you leave, as there’s a gift shop (open to both ticketed and non-ticketed visitors) that offers the largest collection of bespoke merch designed exclusively for the experience, along with the opportunity , send owl mail to your loved ones and tell them how much fun you had.
Best of all, if you want to throw a party at Magic at Play, you can! The experience will feature party rooms to enhance your next big event in Wingardium Leviosa style.
We don’t want to spoil all the magic for you though, so check it out for yourself. Magic at Play opens to the public on November 11 and runs through mid-May 2023. But don’t worry if you’re not in Chicago — and aren’t planning a trip to the Windy City anytime soon — as the experience has plans in various cities to travel so everyone can join in the magical fun.
From the moment you step inside Magic at Play, it’s obvious that it was made with great love and attention to detail Harry Potter Fans – both longtime and new to the franchise – will surely appreciate it. And since it’s designed to stimulate the imagination with sensory and hands-on experiences, it’s perfect for magicians of all ages! Tickets start at $37.50 for adults and $29.50 for children under 9; Children under 2 years have free entry. You can get them here.
Magic at Play brings to life the beloved story of the boy who lived and they definitely managed to make you feel like you stepped into his magical universe for a brief moment.