By Megan Horst-Hatch
For those excited about the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” there is no need to travel to Middle-Earth to celebrate the movie’s premiere in style. While you might not immediately associate Chicago with the Shire, the Windy City still offers plenty of ways to prepare for the movie’s opening on December 14. Whether you are a long-time fan of the book or just reading it for the first time, you can still find fun things to do that are associated with the movie. From picking up some magic tricks to learning all about author J.R.R. Tolkien himself, get ready to set out on an adventure of your own as you check out the following places in the Chicagoland area before seeing the film.
Dig into ‘The Hobbit’ sandwich at Bourgeois Pig Cafe
738 W. Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
When it comes to getting fuel before your next epic battle against dragons — or at least grabbing a quick bite before watching the film — sink your teeth into The Hobbit sandwich at Bourgeois Pig Cafe in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. This loaded BLT is fit for a hobbit and features avocado and alfalfa sprouts served on sourdough bread, making it perfect for lunch or dinner. This isn’t the only menu item at Bourgeois Pig Cafe with a literary bent. Owner Mason Green has created additional sandwiches that are nods to other works of literature, including the Hamlet (smoked ham and cheese on a baguette), the Secret Garden (a vegetarian special on multigrain bread) and The Sun Also Rises (hummus and turkey on sun-dried tomato bread).
Related: Best Sandwiches In Chicago
Learn magic tricks at Magic, Inc.
5082 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
For fans of “The Hobbit,” picking up a few magic tricks to delight friends before the film is a must. To get started, head to Magic, Inc., located in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. It is the oldest continuously family-run magic shop in North America. The store is the stomping grounds for many famous magicians with Lance Burton, David Copperfield and Penn Jillette and Teller known to stop in to pick up magic tricks. For beginners, Magic offers tricks like cups and balls as well as books on balloon twisting. Sets geared for children are also available. More advanced magicians will find instructional DVDs, mouth coils and fake thumb tips. And what’s a wizard without a wand? The store also offers magic lessons and instructions on ventriloquism.
Get to know J.R.R. Tolkien at The Marion E. Wade Center
351 E. Lincoln Ave.
Wheaton, IL 60187
For some fans of “The Hobbit,” it’s not enough to read the book or see the film. For these fans, a visit to Wheaton College’s Marion E. Wade Center is in order. The center, set in an English-style building, features research materials and personal effects from J.R.R. Tolkien, and also has an exhibit focusing on “The Hobbit” film. The center’s previous exhibits on Tolkien have included a display focusing on the illustrators of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Tolkien is not the only author profiled at the center; the museum’s visitors can see memorabilia and personal writings from such authors as C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and Dorothy Sayers. For the museum’s hours, refer to the website.
Look for something precious at Jeweler’s Row
Wabash Ave. between E. Washington St. and E. Monroe St.
Chicago, IL 60603
While you might not find the One Ring at Jeweler’s Row (after all, do you really want your significant other to become invisible?), you can definitely find that precious piece of jewelry for yourself or that someone special. Jeweler’s Row is located in Chicago’s Loop and comprises more than 30 jewelry stores. This historic strip of retail space features earrings, bracelets, necklaces, watches and more at a variety of price points. If you already have a piece of jewelry you love but want to make some changes to it, then you’ve come to the right place as many of the retailers also offer customization options, remounts and alterations.
Related: Best Jewelry Designers In Chicago
Find the best hobbit costume at Chicago Costume
1120 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
For some fans, dressing up for the film’s premiere is the final order of business. Whether you’re planning to wear your costume to a themed party or to see the movie, a costume that can make you look as if you just stepped out of the Shire is important. Chicago Costume can help you get everything you need for your costume, including capes, cloaks, brooches and prosthetic ears. If you’d like to make a dramatic entrance, consider checking out Chicago Costume’s array of theatrical makeup and extras like braided beards and long, flowing mustaches. Chicago Costume’s second location also offers furry hobbit feet.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.