I started the Harry Potter series with the second book. I was super confused – I had no clue what a hippogriff was, and I had to use all my powers of contextual deduction to figure out what a Hermione was (except in my head I called her hero-mine for about 5 years.)
As a 5th grader I had already been an avid reader for many years of my life. The buzz started early on, but I knew I had to get my hands on the books. But the Chamber of Secrets had just been checked out AND extended and wasn’t due back for something like 3 weeks – and we were still using the dewy decimal system at that time so there were obviously no e-readers to turn to. I couldn’t wait that long. So, into the Chamber of Secrets I dove.
The magic of Harry Potter stayed with me long into my adult years. I’ve re-read all of the books, at least once (some 3 times) and obviously have seen all the movies. And HELLO – they created an entire theme park so I must not be the only weirdo. Albeit, I still haven’t been there, but it’s on my travel list.
Where To Find The Magic of Harry Potter in Chicago
Every single one of the places below has made me say, “I feel like I’m in Harry Potter!” at least once. Whether for a rainy day hideout to cozy up in or a day trip destination for some magical adventure, the 4 spots below should be on your list.
If you really want to let your freak flag fly (hey, absolutely no judgment here, I dressed up like a dementor for the midnight premier of the 6th movie. In college. Yeah.) – you can make a crawl out of it! Just let me know if you find somewhere in Chi-Town that makes a good Butterbeer.
The first time I saw this tiny little cobblestone alleyway (I have a serious thing for cobblestone alleys – like the one at Green Street Smoked Meats) it was on the way back from my usual spring/summer 5-mile morning run circuit and cutting through the loop to get home. I wasn’t sure what street I was on but all of a sudden there was a break in the building facades and I spotted this adorable little door with a big light up sign that said COFFEE.
I spent a good chunk of time trying to come back to visit when it was open (they’re pretty seasonal, and they have really specific hours during the winter so it’s best to call before you go). Fun fact: Pickwick, as the private alley was known, was home to a stable in 1857. Henry Horner, a merchant, either built a new one or kept the old one (it’s not clear), but records show that stable survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. So it’s officially one of the oldest buildings in the city.
This is a great spot to take a load off after some shopping or sight-seeing on a Saturday, or somewhere to duck in during your lunch break for a bit of an escape. The coffee is magical too!
After many years of construction, the Chicago Athletic Association was finally restored and opened as the Chicago Athletic Hotel. Originally an elite private men’s club until 2007 (founding members included Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick and William Wrigley), this Venetian Gothic landmark dates back to the 1890’s and the history of the time can be seen preserved in the millwork and stained glass that has been restored.
Though the Game Room and Cherry Circle Room will make you feel like you’re in with the boys, the Drawing Room, in the 2nd floor lobby, is straight out of the Gryffindor common room. Featuring a sequestered area beyond the center of the lobby that houses 2 behemoth fireplaces, cozy leather couches and low coffee tables that offer the perfect setting for book-devouring, noshing on their menu or happy hour. A third behemoth fireplace is situated across the lobby (to your left when you first enter) and has built in benches specifically for cuddling or some lively discussion.
The Northwestern University campus reminds me a lot of Indiana University in Bloomington – peppered with grandiose gothic architecture, hidden courtyards and alleyways and a fair amount of green space. Campus is typically pretty quiet on the weekends – perfect for a leisurely stroll, or even to stop for a picnic.
I think I was wandering around the Gold Coast, trying to get from the red line to Water Tower Place and was trying to avoid the stampede of crazed tourists on the Mag Mile when I stumbled across this tiny greenhouse-looking Argo Tea hidden amongst some trees near the Loyola University city campus.
My immediate thought was that I was in an Herbology class – probably because it was so secretive and Loyola University’s campus is all gothic architecture and tall iron gates and whatnot. Okay, I’m lying; technically the FIRST thing that popped into my head was the word “mandrake”. But then I started thinking about Harry Potter and all that jazz.
Other Harry Potter Hideouts
The list above covers only a few of the numerous magical destinations in Chicago. Honorable mentions go to the others below to find that cozy, quaint, muggle-free vibe you’re looking for.
Foundation Room at the House of Blues – more of a Ravenclaw vibe due to its exotic tapestries and ornate décor, the Foundation Room at the House of Blues makes me think of Harry Potter because it’s hidden at the very top of the venue, accessed by a secret staircase. Plus it’s full of little hidden rooms within the room – all of which have a very mystical, magical vibe.
The Lodge – situated on the nightlife-known intersection of State and Division in the Gold Coast, the Lodge has been a go-to destination for drinking pints since 1957 and feels like something you’d find in Diagon Alley. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a hidden back alley with a bar called the Bullpen – it’s literally about 2 or 3 people wide.
Stony Island Arts Bank – I have not been yet, but there is a room in the Stony Island Arts Bank that definitely has flying books in it when no one’s looking. That, or it’s a musical interlude by a talking teacup away from being Belle’s library. This one is definitely on my list!
- Have you been to any of these places? If so, what do you like about them?
- Do you have any magical destinations in your city?
- Do you have any “escape hangouts” you gravitate toward?
Let me know!! You can also get social with #moderatelyexcited. I’d love to hear from you!