Whimsic Alley offers magical treats for Harry Potter aficionados
By Erica Wayne 09/15/2011
Muggle fans of Harry Potter (including me) were in a real funk once J. K. Rowling published her last book. July 2007 marked the end of the adventures of “The Boy Who Lived.” Rowling even included an epilogue (19 years later) that showed Harry happily married, approaching his 40s, with three kids of his own. No more Hogwarts, no more Dark Lord, no more epic struggle between good and evil. Finite incantatem?
But no. Not yet. There were the two final films — carefully spaced almost a year apart (November 2010 and July 2011) — and the Universal Theme Park, announced just before the release of “The Deathly Hallows” novel but not opened in Orlando till mid-June of 2010. Each of these dates gave all but the most pureblood Harry Potter fanatics something new to live for. But now that all the anticipation is over, is that all there is?
Never fear! Rowling always has something up her magical sleeve. Pottermore, the interactive Web site for Harry junkies, has already been accessed by a million lucky early registrants while the rest of us wait for the general opening in less than a month (Oct. 1). And, if Rowling’s own playful para-sequels to the epic aren’t enough, there’s a slew of fan fiction (some of it very, very good) which, as Time magazine’s Lev Grossman put it, ensures that Harry Potter will be known in the future as “The Boy Who Lived FOREVER.”
But for those of us who want something a little less cerebral and time-consuming than Rowling’s Internet, don’t fancy riffs on our favorite characters by other authors and can’t afford a trip to Florida for the full pseudo-Hogwarts experience, there is a local venue that provides periodic Potter-related events in a (scaled-down) Great Hall and a somewhat truncated version of the Diagon Alley shops with small rooms, nooks and niches devoted to costumes, hats, books, jewelry, DVDs, games, candy and other artifacts and knickknacks of the wizarding variety.
Whimsic Alley, on Wilshire Boulevard between La Brea and Fairfax avenues, is probably best known for its monthly Sunday afternoon teas, each one with a unique theme. Three generations of Potter lovers in our family (no fair guessing which one my husband and I belong to!) went to the Aug. 21 “Wizard Magic with Jonathan Castile” tea, and all six of us were pretty bowled over by the event and the storefront itself.
We got there an hour early, so there was plenty of time for browsing. Our family got a book of Harry Potter “trivia” (pardon the term), a new wand, a quill, a locket (think “horcrux”), some candy (think chocolate frogs, dementors’ kisses, dragon eggs and all-flavor beans) and a DVD of the parody film “Harvey Putter and the Ridiculous Premise.” Unfortunately, Whimsic Alley was out of my first choice — a bumper-sticker that reads “Republicans for Voldemort.”
At last it was time to enter the high-ceilinged Great Hall and have our tea and entertainment. We were seated at one of four long tables, each accommodating about 20 guests, many (both adult and children) in full costume. Hermione would be pleased to note that, instead of invisible house elves, the food was served by adorable wait-staff in Hogwarts uniforms.
As they came around with not really hot enough water and assorted tea bags for our individual pots and, a bit later, with a seemingly never-ending selection of delightful savories and sweets, these “student” servers asked us Potter-related questions. (Such fun — do you remember the location of the girls’ toilet that Moaning Myrtle haunted?)
We feasted on tea sandwiches: cucumber, chicken salad, egg salad and peanut butter and jelly, each on a different kind of bread or roll. One was on a miniature croissant, another on “magic” bread, a rainbow of different colors. Then scones, lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies and cream puffs. (I may have left out a couple of sweets, since by that time my focus was elsewhere: Jonathan Castile had begun his excellent performance and kids were vacating the table to sit on the floor in front of him.)
When the tea was over, my family’s vote was unanimous — there’s no doubt we’ll return. The Quibbler (Whimsic Alley’s version, not the Lovegoods’) lists the theme of the next few teas. Halloween (Oct. 23) would probably be my first pick if it weren’t already rumored to be sold out. But the White Hippogryff Exchange on Dec. 18 is just as appealing. The price of the tea tickets (we bought them discounted on Goldstar) was under $30 apiece including handling charges; a real bargain for a two-hour extravaganza and the opportunity to spend ourselves silly in the store.
Whimsic Alley does much more than monthly teas. They’ve had Murder Mystery Dinners (with open bar and actors playing roles of prominent members of the wizarding community), Wizard Crafts Faires (the next is Nov. 5-6) and Yule Balls. This year, the Christmas gala is set for Dec. 9. Tickets purchased by Nov. 15 are only $80 for a full dinner, open bar, band and dancing. After that, it’s $133.
There have also been several weeklong “Warthogs” Summer Camp sessions for kids during the past two years. The camp was recently voted to be among the best in our region by the readers of LA Parent Magazine. And if that sort of activity makes you yearn to be 11 years old again, next year Warthogs will be holding a Wizard’s Camp for adults over the Presidents Day weekend (Feb. 18-20), complete with spells and potions classes, care of magical creatures, divination and more. As Harry, Ron and Hermione would say, “Brilliant!”
5464 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles