The Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience is an interactive “play” experience that is currently stationed in Chicago. Going into this, I had no idea what to expect really. It was a pretty last-minute decision, so I didn’t have the time for my normal habit of researching the heck out of it like I do everything else. Read on to learn all about the experience and see if it’s right for you!
Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
The Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience is an interactive experience for all ages. It currently resides in Chicago, but just like many of these experiences, it will be moving on to a new city so more people can experience it. It features scenes, games and interactive rooms all based around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are plenty of photo opportunities, but unlike some of the fandom experiences we’ve seen, this is a little more than just that!
Yes, if you want to spend all your time taking photos here, you definitely are welcome to. But there are other interactive spaces like Potions Class, the Quidditch Tournament and The Forbidden Forest that offer more than just that.
SPOILER WARNING: This post contains a lot of photos sharing what exactly the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience includes . If you’d rather be left spoiler free, skip ahead!
Tickets to the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
There are two types of tickets that can be purchased. Standard tickets include admission only. And premium tickets give you priority entry, free coat check, 10% off your retail purchase and some free goodies. If you’re going in the morning, premium tickets can be helpful because it gets insanely busy during this time and it’ll cut down on your wait time. Prices vary by time and date, but if you’re able to swing a last-minute trip, you can get them as cheap as $20, which more than half off what regular tickets tend to go for. You’ll m ost likely find these prices the day of, but if your schedule is flexible, it’s a great way to save some money.
Harry Potter Magic at Play Rooms
Upon entering the experience, you’ll be given a card with a QR code to keep track of all the photos you’ll take. Most of the photos are operated by photo boxes, but the Great Hall photo is operated by an actual Human Being. At the end of the experience, you can purchase any of the photos in both digital and physical copies. And there is always one photo gthat you can get for free as long it’s downloaded within 3 days. We were told it changes, but during our jouney to Hogwarts, it was the Great Hall photo that was included.
Journey through the Wizarding World
Throughout this experience, there are many types of rooms. Some rooms offer interactive play experiences, others are just photo opportunities. Your journey begins much like Harry’s, at Privet Drive. You can even peek into his room under the stairs!
You’ll then be guided to Platform 9 & 3/4, the Hogwarts Express and take your journey to Hogwarts. The boat journey to Hogwarts is really well done and very beautiful, especially if you love that scene from the first movie like I do. And though it is technically it’s just a photo opportunity, it was really amazing to see it up close.
From there, you’ll enter the Great Hall and then after will have an opportunity for photos with the sorting hat. Be aware though, this hat will not sort you. It’s just a photo op, and you can have whatever House border added onto the photo if you choose to buy it. Then you’ll move onto the Classrooms Floor, which was a lot of fun. Be prepared to wait here a little as many of the interactive parts can have lines build up. You’ll move onto the Quidditch section, then go down into the Forbidden Forest. This was one of my favorite parts! After that, you’ll go past Hagrid’s and into the maze from Goblet of Fire. This is the last section of the experience and once you leave, you aren’t allowed back in.
Harry Potter Magic at Play Review
Overall, I really enjoyed the Harry Potter Magic at Play exhibit! I had read a few bad reviews saying it was boring and that it was only for kids. But I don’t really agree with that. Yes, there are more things for kids to do there, but I think it’s really what you make of it! Want to play the Burrow House? Then go for it! I did and it was a blast. Want to run around and get lost in the maze? Have at it. If you love Harry Potter and are looking for a unique experience outside of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then I do think this is a fun way to spend some time immersed in some magic. I was actually very impressed with how large it was. I hadn’t expected there to be so much to see and do.
Is Harry Potter Magic at Play worth the cost?
Keep in mind, the experience is generally about an hour to an hour and half long. So that may or may not be long enough for you to justify the cost. But as long as you keep your expectations in check, I definitely think this can be a fun time for an afternoon trip to the city. I’ve also read reviews that stated it was too crowded and busy when they visited. We visited in the afternoon and it was quite empty. There were a few times we had to wait our turn for something. Or wait for larger parties to clear out to get an empty shot. But according to the employee we spoke with, the afternoons are pretty quiet in general. So if you’re worried about this, just book and afternoon time.
Is it the most amazing Harry Potter thing you’ll experience? Obviously not. But it is a great alternative for those who don’t have access to the more authentic Harry Potter experiences out there. And if you’re unable to make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this is a fun way to get a little dose of it without flying to Orlando. And if you’re able to get a last minute ticket, it’s definitely a bargain.
Merchandise at the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
After your journey through the maze, you’ll be brought out to a merchandise area. There is plenty of merchandise here. Though much like most of these special experiences, it is a bit pricey. Most of it is branded for the Magic at Play experience. And they also showcase a lot of the Pottery Barn Teen Harry Potter line as well. Prices are in line with what you’d expect from the theme parks, so it’s all a little bit pricey. But if you’re looking for a fun souvenir, or just want something from the shop, they have smaller items like magnets and pins too.
The Merchandise shop is available to the general public, so if you really just want to see what is available here, you don’t need a ticket to experience this section.
Butterbeer at the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
Of course, you can’t have a Harry Potter experience without butterbeer right? We love butterbeer. So much so that we made our own Butterbeer copycat recipe. So of course I had to try the butterbeer here. Although it was good, it’s definitely not as good as what you’ll find at the Parks. It;s a bit sweeter and maybe not as buttery. But still worth a try. When in Hogwarts, right?!
The Butterbeer Bar also has snacks you can purchase as well, however I didn’t get to try any because they were all sold out. It was a Sunday afternoon, so it’s very possible it had just been a busy day. This is located at the end of the experience, so you can grab some while you walk around and look at the merchandise or get it on the way out. They also sell bottles of butterbeer that you can take home with you. And this is another section of the experience that anyone can go to. So even if you don’t buy a ticket, you can still stop by and grab a butterbeer.
Owl Post at the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
The Owl Post at the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience is super cute and allows you to send postcards. The postcards they had to offer aren’t as impressive as the ones you’ll find at the Parks. But they’re still fun and it’s nice to be able to send a little souvenir to friends or family back home.
The Owl Post is also accessible to the general public, and no ticket is required to enter this area.
Tips for the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience
- Dress the part! There are lots of photo opportunities here, so be sure to come dressed ready for themed photos. Be as simple or elaborate as possible. Get decked out in House Robes or just a simple Harry Potter t-shirt. It’s up to to you!
- Choose a later time. Since this was a last-minute decision for me, I didn’t have a lot of choice of time. So I went in the afternoon. And we had most of the rooms to ourselves! The employee working said that mornings are busiest and that about 2/3 of their guests for the day show up in the first two hours. So arriving later in the day will not only allow you to sleep in, but will also allow you to experience lower crowds.
- Be patient. As with all things, patience will be your best friend. Some of the experiences available in this exhibit will require that you wait a little bit. If you want the perfetc shot of the Great Hall without people in it, you’ll need to be patient. If you want to fully experience the potion room, you’ll need to be patient. You get the idea. Pack some patience and you’ll have a much better time.
- Take your time. There is no re-entry once you’ve completed the experience. And for the mostpart, you cannot go back to a level if you’ve already completed it. Take your time and do everything you want to do. Take all the photos you want to take. And play all the games you want to play. Because you likely won’t be able to go back and do it again. There is no one rushing you out of the experience, so take your time and just enjoy it!
Harry Potter Magic at Play Overall Thoughts
Overall, I thought this was a fun and unique experience! I do think most Harry Potter fans will enjoy this. As long as you realize it’s not the same as the Studio Tour or actually being in the Parks, I think you’ll enjoy it too. Have you been to this? Let me know what you thought of it!
The Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience has just been extended to stay in Chicago until September 4, 2023, so we think this is a great way to spend a summer afternoon in the Wizarding World!
You can find all of the details for the Harry Potter Magic at Play Experience here.
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .