Where to see Harry Potter the Exhibition

Harry Potter: The Exhibition celebrated its world debut at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois on April 30, 2009. A one-of-a-kind 10,000 square-foot exhibit featuring more than 200 authentic costumes and props from the Harry Potter films, this exhibition gives fans the opportunity to experience personally the magic of Harry’s wizarding world.

Before entering the main exhibit, guests are invited to be sorted by the infamous Hogwart’s Sorting Hat. A lucky few will sit on the sorting stool and learn which student house will be their match. Next, step into a waiting area where you are treated to a montage of film footage from the Harry Potter movies, presented on eight viewing screens. When the Hogwart’s train whistle blows, doors open to reveal the arrival platform and a replica of the famed movie train, the Hogwart’s Express. All first-years are greeted by a wizard host and then it is time to enter Hogwart’s and the world of Harry Potter.

Enter Hogwarts through the portrait gallery and keep a close eye out for those restless portraits; you never know when they might move. Don’t worry about the Gryffindor password, the Fat Lady is too busy trying to break a glass with her voice to bother. Step through her portrait entryway into the Gryffindor dormitory where you will see Harry and Ron’s four-poster beds complete with draperies, bedding, and their personal belongings. View Ron’s Chudley Cannon poster collection and his sweater made especially for him by Mrs. Weasley. Stand mere inches from Harry’s original eyeglasses, wand, Muggle clothing, and Hogwart’s robes. Hermione’s belongings are also well represented with her Muggle outfit from The Prisoner of Azkaban, her wand, and even the time-turner.

Belongings from other Hogwarts’ students are also on display including Neville’s Mimbulus Mimbletonia and his dancing shoes from the Yule Ball, Luna’s copy of the Quibbler, Colin Creevey’s camera, and Draco Malfoy’s Nimbus 2001. Fans can enjoy reading the notices on the Gryffindor common room bulletin board and taking an up-close look at the Marauder’s Map before visiting the displays of Hogwarts’ classrooms.

An exhibition of this magnitude would not be complete without several vignettes dedicated to various Hogwarts’ professors. On display in all its pink glory is the office of Dolores Umbridge containing her distinctive pink suit, kitten plates, and the parchment with Harry’s “I must not tell lies.” punishment lines. Visit Professor Trelawney’s Divination classroom and see the thick eyeglasses worn by actress Emma Thompson when portraying the character of Sibyl Trelawney.

Also on display are the costumes worn by actor Kenneth Branagh in The Chamber of Secrets as well as a set of Gilderoy Lockhart’s textbooks, including Magical Me. The potions classroom of Severus Snape is also represented complete with the dark robes worn by actor Alan Rickman, many potion bottles and ingredients and even the bezoar box from Half-Blood Prince. Before leaving the Hogwarts’ classrooms don’t forget to stop by Professor Sprout’s Herbology area and get a hands-on lesson in pulling a mandrake from a pot.

After exiting the classroom displays, visitors can get active in the Quidditch area viewing many movie props, costumes, and even tossing a Quaffle through a goalpost. Many Quidditch-related props are on display including Harry’s Nimbus 2000, the Quidditch ball box from Sorcerer’s Stone, broomstick catalogs, and a program plus banners from the Quidditch World Cup. Also on display are several costumes including the Quidditch outfits for Harry, Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum, Oliver Wood, and one of the Irish National team.

After exploring the world of Quidditch, it is time to visit Hagrid’s Hut. Visitors can enter into Hagrid’s and rest in his giant-sized armchair by his fire that is warming a dragon’s egg. Standing next to the Hagrid costume worn by actor Robbie Coltrane will make most visitors feel as tiny as Professor Flitwick. Exit Hagrid’s for a brief encounter with creatures from the Forbidden Forest including a baby thestral, centaurs, and Buckbeak the hippogriff.

The darker side to the Harry Potter films is represented in the Dark Forces area where fans can come face to face with a dementor. Items that are not to be missed include Riddle’s diary with basilisk tooth and the life-size pawn and rook chess pieces from Sorcerer’s Stone. The costumes on display in this area include Voldemort’s robes from Goblet of Fire, Deatheater robes with masks, Lucius Malfoy’s costume from Chamber of Secrets including his snakehead cane, and even the Azkaban clothing worn by Bellatrix Lestrange.

Leave the dark wizardry behind and enter into the Great Hall at Hogwarts where the candles float high above and the main table is set for a feast. Costumes from Goblet of Fire are on display including Fleur’s school uniform, Krum’s dress attire, Hermione’s ball gown, Cho’s ball gown, and Harry’s and Cedric’s dress robes. Ron’s outdated and lacy dress robes are also available for viewing and they actually look as sad in person as they do on film.

Costumes fill this display room and include robes worn by various characters like Dumbledore, Tonks, and Professor McGonagall. When visiting, be sure to look closely for the house elf Dobby who is peering shyly from behind the robes of Albus Dumbledore. Before leaving the enchanted Great Hall, take time to stop and enjoy the display of sweets from Honeyduke’s Sweetshop.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition is an amazing journey through the films that began almost ten years ago. The opportunity for fans to stand inches away from iconic Harry Potter props and costumes is thrilling. The artistry, design, and talent that went into each piece is exceptional. If you live in the Chicago area or are planning a visit, this special exhibit is a must see!

As the final films in the Harry Potter series finish filming, Harry Potter: The Exhibition will begin to make its way to other major venues in the U.S. and internationally. The exhibit will be open until September 27, 2009. It was created by Exhibitgroup/Giltspur in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Tickets can be purchased at the Museum, online at http://www.msichicago.org/ or by call the Museum at 773 – 684 – 1414. Chicago will be its only Midwest stop. For more information about the traveling exhibit visit the website www.harrypotterexhibition.com.

What you need to know if you go:

The entrance is in the Rosenwald Court on the Main Level of the Museum. Arrive five minutes prior to your ticket time. There are no restrooms, food, beverages, strollers or photography allowed in the exhibit. It is wheelchair accessible. There is an audio guide available in both English and Spanish for a rental fee of $5 ($4 for Museum members.) Plan to spend at least an hour or more exploring the exhibit.