Wednesday, August 12, 2009
In July, I had the opportunity to visit Harry Potter The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. My husband and preschool-aged daughter excitedly tagged along with me. If you have Harry Potter fans in your family, this exhibit is THE place to visit!
Like most Harry Potter fans we've seen all the movies. The amazing thing about this exhibit is that visitors can see in person over 200 props and authentic costumes from the Harry Potter films. Parts of the 10,000-square-foot exhibit feel as if you've set foot right onto a Harry Potter movie set.
Alohomora! With this one word (and a special timed-entry ticket), visitors gain entry into Harry Potter The Exhibition. The exhibit has been a popular attraction at the museum since its world premier opening in April and Harry Potter fans can purchase tickets for the Chicago attraction up until it closes on September 27, 2009.
The fun begins even before you enter the exhibit! While we waited to enter the exhibit doors, a guide quizzed us with Harry Potter questions, many of them quite difficult. For example, do you know the name of the Weasley family owl? (Errol)
In the entry area, visitors can purchase a hand-held speaker for an extra $5 if they wish to listen to the self-guided audio tour while viewing the exhibit. Several parts of the exhibit have corresponding numbers. Visitors punch the number into the hand-held speaker to hear a short blurb relating to each respective exhibit part. The museum does not allow visitors to take pictures inside the exhibit. (They threaten to set the dementors on anyone that does not abide by the rules!)
The exhibit consists of several separate settings:
Sorting Hat - The walkthrough begins with the sorting hat. A couple lucky people out of our group volunteered to find out in which Hogwarts house they belonged.
Pre-Show - After the sorting hat experience, each group enters a movie viewing area and watches a Pre-Show. Clips from various Harry Potter films are shown on eight large screens. (If you have small children, you might want to cover their eyes for parts of the pre-show. Several scary images of Voldemort and other troubling characters flash on the screen.) A train whistle blows and the group proceeds forward, walking by a replica of the Hogwarts Express.
Gryffindor Common Room - My daughter loved seeing the moving pictures in the Portrait Gallery and passing by the Fat Lady to enter Gryffindor. All sorts of costumes and movie artifacts are available to see in this area including: school uniforms, Harry and Ron's dormitory room complete with beds, Harry's glasses and wand, The Time-Turner used by Hermione Granger and the Marauder's Map.
The Classrooms - Many instructor artifacts and costumes can be viewed here including: Professor Snape's costumes and potions, Umbridge's ugly pink office, Professor Trelawney's crystal ball (I learned from listening to the audio that some versions are made of rubber not glass). The interactive Mandrakes exhibit is pretty darn neat. The Mandrakes scream when you pull them from their pots.
Quidditch - Visitors can play Quidditch by throwing quaffles through the hoops and see many Quidditch costumes and props including the Golden Snitch and the Nimbus 2000 broomstick.
Hagrid's Hut - One of my favorite characters is Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, shown in this exhibit outside the hut. What an amazing sight to see all the individual feathers on his large body. Visiting Hagrid's Hut was the highlight of the tour for me. I even sat in his oversized chair!
Forbidden Forest - If you like spiders, you'll like the Forbidden forest. Acromantula is displayed here along with life-size centaurs and the Hungarian Horntail dragon. This area even smells forbidden.
Dark Forces - Our trip through the Dark Forces was short and sweet. We didn't want our daughter to have bad dreams because she looked at a Dementor or saw Lord Voldemort’s costume and the Death Eaters’ robes and masks.
Great Hall - My husband liked the Great Hall the best of all mostly because of the floating candles overhead. He also liked seeing Professor Dumbledore's costume and chuckled when he noticed Dobby the house-elf peering out from behind his robes. Fawkes the phoenix looks splendid as expected. My daughter oohed and aahed at Hermione Granger’s purplish Yule Ball Gown. The feast of turkey and lavish desserts looked good enough to eat!
Visitors can buy all sorts of fun things in the special gift shop at the end of the tour. We ended up purchasing a few postcards, a golden snitch, and a fun palm-sized Harry Potter flip-book. I would have loved to purchase a wand or time-turner, but I wasn't willing to fork over $50+ dollars.
Overall, the Exhibition is pretty fantastic! So much consideration goes into creating those costumes and props. School-aged children will love it (I'd make them read the books before they go. Great incentive!) and Harry Potter fans of all ages will find something to marvel at. I think some parts of the exhibit were a little too scary for our preschool-aged daughter. I wish I could go back and spend a little more time listening to the audio self-guided tour. I recommend that you purchase your tickets before you visit, especially if you go there on the weekend. That way you can guarantee a specific time. (Thanks to the Museum of Science and Industry for providing the tickets to the exhibit. We had a blast!)
If you aren't able to make it to Chicago to see Harry Potter The Exhibition, don't worry. The display opens at The Museum of Science in Boston on Oct. 25 and plans are currently underway for other locations.
By the way, even though you can't ride on the Hogwarts Express, there are plenty of other train related exhibits in the museum!
Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom or Seven Clown Circus.