I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when it was first released. Three years ago, when my son was in first grade, I could tell he would love these books too. So we started reading them tiogether. I would make us read the books before we would see the movies. Our first goal was to finish The Sorcerer’s Stone before the library had a showing of it. Then the second goal was to finish The Chamber of Secrets before it was released in theaters again. We are now on the fifth book. Our first adventure into Harry Potter events was when The Cursed Child was released. I took my son to the midnight book release party at Anderson’s Bookshop in LaGrange, IL. After, that, we heard about the Harry Potter extravaganza in Aurora, but were too late to get tickets. Instead, we found a couple other local events. And this year I tried to get us to as many as we could in the area. So if you are not as obsessed with searching them out as I am, I will share the Harry Potter activities that we have been to or know about in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most no longer use the name of Harry Potter due to copyright issues, but they still focus on activities that connect to the Harry Potter movies and books and anything wizardly or magical. For us, this was the summer of Potter.
- Wizarding World of Woodstock (Woodstock, IL. August.) This was the second year we attended this event and it is one of my favorites. I like that it is centered in the town circle of Woodtsock and that many of the businesses participate by offering activities or related items for sale. They even have a “knight” bus to transport you from the high school to the event, which arrives every five minutes or so. Last year was super crowded. We waited in line 45 minutes to get into Gringotts and you just received a fake gold coin and a photo opportunity. This year we only waited in line there for a few minutes to receive a key and get a photo and loved it. So it was great to go to Gringotts. It just wasn’t great when we had to wait 45 minutes. Last year the sorting line was also long so we picked up a map somewhere else and got sorted when the line was shorter. We loved that this year there was a voice behind a curtain that suspiciously sorted most people into houses by the colors they were wearing, making most kids and adults very happy. They also sold t-shirts and pins. Free crafts were offered and characters roamed the streets to stamp your scavenger hunt cards. The best part is really just seeing the fans walk around in costumes to feel like you are actually in Diagon Alley or the world of Harry Potter and you don’t have to pay anything for it. This year they had additional events you could register for such as the Owlery and a dinner, but we did not attend those. Unfortunately, this year a downpour occurred about 2 ½ hours into the event. So I grabbed the deliciois pizza we ordered and we hid under an awning until the rain subsided. I can’t wait for next year as it just seems to get better. https://www.woodstockpubliclibrary.org/library/page/wizarding-world-woodstock-2018
- Wizards and Wonder at Blackberry Farm. (Aurora, IL June or July). This is my second favorite because it is only $10 to enjoy the farm with Harry Potter activities and some perks. There are no additional costs once you arrive, so you receive a wand, jelly bean tasting, a cupcake, butter beer, a mandrake, and Dobby’s sock (last year.) You also get to ride the train as Hogwart’s Express and the hay ride. The carousel and one of the best playgrounds in Illinois are also open. This year you could take a picture with Hagrid in his hut too. Sign up with the Fox Valley Park District. We got a cute picture with Harry Potter too. They did shorten it to two hours this year. That was not enough time. It felt more rushed. So if it is two hours next time, get there when it starts. https://www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org/facilities/blackberry-farm/
- Magic Fest (Downtown Aurora. June). There was a lot of hype about this event in the news in 2017 and tickets sold out so fast we could not get them. The fest organizers were informed by Warner Brothers that they had to change their name and they also changed the fest from two days to one. However, I think you could enjoy many things without tickets. Only the indoor events in Hogwarts Academy required the tickets. There were still some things for sale and to see on the streets in downtown Aurora that you could do without tickets. The Quidditch was fun. You actually played the positions on teams. There was a mini train, goods for sale, and an owl show. We paid extra to make necklaces, but they were running late and we had to leave so we missed our time. In the Hogwarts Academy they offered wand making and bookmark making, whichi were both fun events with slightly long lines. They also held a Sorcerer Stumble event the night before. While there were bars with special beverages, there were also some restaurants open with special treats and the Sci Tech Museum was free until a certain time. So it was nice to hang out in the city on a warm night with not a lot of people and ride the Knight bus. It looks like this event will not continue next year so I am glad we witnessed it once. http://downtownauroramagic.org/
- Wizards Weekend (Antioch, IL. June) The day starts for kids at the library if you pay $25 to attend the Hogwarts School of magic. Parents weren’t allowed in so I am not sure what they did, but my kids loved it. The best part for the adults was seeing all of the characters outside for photo ops before you were assigned to a house. The children got bags with hats inside that said Wizards Weekend. The rest of the day wasn’t as exciting. There was a craft market with a few Harry Potter activities and crafts, but it didn’t take long to get through. There was a scavenger hunt around the town, but most businesses were closed and only had a picture in the window. It would have been better if the businesses were open and had Harry Potter items for sale or activities. One café did. The best part was the Wizard Grand banquet in the evening. It was a little pricey, but we got t-shirts and were able to meet with and pose with all the characters. They sat in front of the room and the moderator asked questions. It was a long day and the best parts were at the beginning and end. https://www.antiochchamber.org/index.php?m=77
- The Party that Shall Not be Named. (Naperville, IL. August) We really loved this last year for the 20th anniversary, but there seems to have been less this year. The day started early at the Naperville Public Library. My kids enjoyed making wands and buttons and playing Sphero Quidditch. Many of the activities were for teens, but I saw younger kids sneak through. Then at 3:00 you move to the town where many businesses offer Harry Potter items for sale or activities to participate in. There was only one photography studio offered this year and they were not open. Our favorites were a bank that offered chocolate coins and Catch 35 that gave away free cake pops. We attended a wand session at Anderson’s Bookshop, but that was $10. We did miss out on the free cups last year because of long lines, but were able to walk right up to get some this year. Even though it wasn’t as grand as past years, we still had a good time. http://downtownnaperville.com/event/afternoon-of-magic/
- The Party that Shall Not be Named (LaGrange, IL.) This does not seem to be a yearly event and was not offered in 2018. Anderson’s Bookshop held activities and the local stores and libraries had things to make and purchase. We loved the cupcakes ion the alley and just walking around seeing everyone in costume.
- Potter in the Park (Sparta, MI. June). We were unable to attend this year. One Facebook review said it was not worth a long drive and another said it was. However, it seems to keep improving every year with more additions and I hope to attend next June 22, 1019. It looked like they had crafts and food for sale and Quidditch in the park, among other activities.
- Magic Market and Fair (Mokena, IL. October). This is new this year and a fundraiser. Tickets are still available for October 20, 2018 on Eventbrite. There are two sessions. Select one session for $5 each ticket to make crafts, participate in activities, and shop the market. For an additional $5 there is a Wizard’s Ball in the evening. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/magic-market-and-fair-witches-and-wizard-ball-tickets-47099854934?aff=eac2
- Festival of Magic (Chesterton and Valparaiso, IN. July). This was a long drive for us and seems to be new in the organizing stages. What I did not like was that we had to drive 20 minutes between two locations (Aftermath Winery and Running Vines Winery.) The frozen butter beer was delicious. Tickets sold out quickly and they were so nice to get me one free ticket when I was only able to get two. However, you really only needed the ticket for the drink and the map. I thought it would be an enclosed location, but you just visit stores for a scavenger hunt. Most businesses did not have anything other than the scavenger hunt sign for the event. There was one location with props and a Platform 9 ¾ display outside which was cool. We then drove to downtown Valparaiso. Most stores also did not have anything and we just had to take pictures of things in town for the scavenger hunt. The cupcake shop had cool looking Harry Potter cupcakes and cookies for each house. Then we drove back to Chesterton for an owl presentation, which was really just questions about owls. There were no owls. But you did get bags and a cool magnet. I actually wish there were more of these types of activities offered. We had to leave before the talent show and there were some other activities on the other days. I would probably not make the long drive form Illinois again. After getting all the stamps, the reward was just a sticker. I believe this is the first year, though, and they will improve in the future. I imagine it would be fabulous for those who live close. And, of course, my kids love anything Harry Potter. https://www.southshorecva.com/event/festival-of-magic-sold-out/11049/
- ExpectoCon (Madison, WI). I saw this advertised on TV when we were in the Dells, but we already had plans so I did not attend this year. It looks like it relates to all things wizard with a focus on Harry Potter since one of the actors was a guest all three days. Maybe next year. https://expectocon1.ticketleap.com/expectocon/
- Warriors and Wizards Festival (Jackson, WI. October). I am not sure I will be able to attend this due to the distance and just having too many activities that weekend. There will be actors and other special events. https://warriorsandwizardsfestival.com/
- Midwest Magic Fest (Waukesha, WI. September.) We will not be able to attend this year and I have never been. But it looks like a weekend packed with Harry Potter fun. https://midwestmagicfest.com/home
- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Chicago, IL. December.) This year the CSO will be performing the music along with The Chamber of Secrets We missed last year, but hope to go this year. The orchestra in Indianapolis also does something similar. https://cso.org/ticketsandevents/production-details-2018-19/cso-specials/harry-potter-chamber-of-secrets/
- Public libraries, park districts, stores, and book stores. Search your local locations for programs and events. This last year we attended a Harry Potter day at the New Lenox Public Library with wand making, spells, and more. We also attended multiple programs at the Frankfort Park District including a three-night camp. They have a Yule Ball in December. Several libraries in Illinois have offered Harry Potter Escape rooms. Barnes & Noble recently had a Lego Hogwarts Express class. Even Target had an event this year with free bags and posters to celebrate the new Lego toys and their Harry Potter merchandise.
- Baseball Games. Local teams host Harry Potter nights with specials and characters to meet. Unfortunately, they have always conflicted with other events so I have missed them. The Joliet Slammers and Windy City Thunderbolts have each hosted one this last summer and likely will next year.
Please let me know if there are any events I missed and I will try to be there!
Filed under: Exploring Illinois