More than 100 years ago, Harry Houdini wowed Downtown Pittsburgh workers on their lunch break, dangling precariously upside-down above the corner of Liberty Ave and Wood St as he performed a dangerous straight jacket escape in promotion of his new show in town.
Fast forward to 2023 and wondrous escapes and logic-defying illusions are commonplace on this same street at Liberty Magic, a venue of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Pick a card, any card, as we help you discover what makes this stop a must on your Pittsburgh itinerary.
What is Liberty Magic
Magic's beauty is wonder
Shoot Ogawa, Magician
Grand, glowing theatres dot Pittsburgh's Cultural District with the latest Broadway productions and spectacles from musicals to opera, ballet and the symphony.
But past those towering edifices is Liberty Magic, tucked into a beautifully restored art deco building and one of only a dozen theatres in the U.S. devoted entirely to magic. From Wednesdays-Sundays each week this marvelous space comes to life, drawing in audiences to forget what they think they know and be allured by the wonder of world-class magicians.
I've been fortunate enough to see titans of the magician industry like David Copperfield, Criss Angel and Penn & Teller live, and have had a lifelong appreciation for magic my entire life. And I can tell you with certainty that seeing just one magician at Liberty Magic is going to be a transformative experience.
Seated in an intimate, 66-seat theatre, the show at Liberty Magic is personal, making the feats you're about to see feel that much more special. Performances feel more like a longform play interspersed with up-close magic.
Magicians take the time to get to know their audience, using volunteers as assistants and changing up which illusions are performed on a night-by-night basis based on your reactions. Seated just feet from the magician, I felt as if I was seeing a world-class entertainer who was there just for me.
Several times throughout my latest visit, the magician gave permission to the audience to enjoy the show the way we wanted to. He welcomed skeptics and those new to magic just like anyone else. I urge you to look around after a big moment and savor the reactions you'll find from fellow theatregoers: some people with eyes and mouths wide open, others shaking their heads in disbelief, some laughing and others with furrowed brows trying to figure out what just happened.
Come Early and BYOB
To get the full Liberty Magic experience, you have to go all in. Embrace the speakeasy vibes and hidden entrance to this theatre and come wearing your favorite cocktail attire to set the mood (if not, don't worry you can dress however you like, there's no stuffy dress code).
Get there early. About 30 minutes before your show begins, a house magician helps set the mood with card tricks and other up-close illusions. Plus, surrounding you from floor-to-ceiling in the lobby and foyer are magical wonders and curiosities that include top hats, canes, an entire wall of cards and more. There's even a Zoltar fortune teller machine to tell your future!
No sippy cup of expensive wine here. At Liberty Magic all shows are BYOB ($5 corkage fee), so be sure to grab a bottle or can of something delicious (and local) to sip as you enjoy the show.
A New Show Always Around the Corner
Because of the small, personal atmosphere of a Liberty Magic show, there's plenty of reasons to make a return trip several times a year. If you're in town for a vacation, meeting or an event, be sure to check out the latest show! Featured magicians change every four to six weeks, ranging from international headliners just passing through to local magicians hoping to be the next breakout star. Unlike a Vegas show which stays largely the same year after year, Liberty Magic always has a card hidden up its sleeve for something new and fun.
For locals, be sure to explore Liberty Magic's subscription packages so you can see all of the amazing magic in town throughout the year.
Get the VIP Experience
Still want more magic? Consider upgrading your ticket to the Skeleton Key, a VIP experience that gets you backstage after the show. While the rest of the audience disappears like a rabbit into a top hat, you will have the unique opportunity to talk and ask questions to the magician you just saw, and experience some even more amazing illusions not included in the regular show.
After my VIP experience, I was super glad I did it. The illusions I saw behind-the-scenes were absolutely jaw-dropping, and the ability to forge a personal connection with the performer made the entire evening even more memorable.
Abra Cadabra Some Tickets
Ready for the show? Get tickets for Liberty Magic online on their website, where you can also see details on the upcoming season and which magicians will be in town during your Pittsburgh visit.