By Missi Wilson · August 2022
Like many Millennials, my husband, Brian, and I grew up obsessed with the Wizarding World® since our hands first turned the pages of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998. Now, our three-year-old wizard, Wesley, is as obsessed as we are but at a remarkably young age. To embrace his love for magic, we summoned our suitcases (accio!) and went to Philadelphia for Harry Potter: The Exhibition and New York City for Harry Potter New York and The Cauldron NYC.
Making its world premiere in 2022, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a technologically immersive display showcasing authentic props, costumes, and set recreations from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts® films, plus the Broadway performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
You begin at King’s Cross Station with a kiosk that sorts you into your Hogwarts house (dormitory). You then choose a wand and your patronus, a magical creature defensive charm, that is linked to a wristband. This personalizes your experience as you follow the golden snitch, a flying gold ball with Mercury-like wings, throughout the exhibit. When interacting with various spells, potions, and activities, you earn points for your Hogwarts house – 10 points to Ravenclaw and Slytherin (our houses, of course)!
Each section brought magic to life – our names appeared on the Marauder’s Map; only glass separated us from Harry, Ron, and Hermoine’s robes; mandrakes squealed as Wesley pulled them from their pots; we threw rugby-like quaffle balls through hoops to win the Quidditch Cup; dueled with hero-Harry and villain Lord Voldemort’s wands at the Battle of Hogwarts; and, Wesley’s favorite, we curled up in “the cupboard under the stairs” at 4 Privet Drive, where Harry lived as a child.
Located in the heart of New York City, Harry Potter New York is the first official Harry Potter flagship store with the largest collection of Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts merchandise in one place. Once I walked inside, I honestly considered just handing over my 401k.
Giant magical creatures welcomed us throughout, and we discovered tasty treats like Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs; wands from over 50 characters; personalized house robes; graphic prints by MinaLima, who did the graphics for the films; plus, we posed for a photo in Hagrid’s shoes and the telephone booth to the Ministry of Magic!
For Brian and me, the most incredible part of Harry Potter New York was the one-of-a-kind virtual reality experiences. I did “Chaos at Hogwarts,” a thrilling journey with house elf Dobby to contain magical creatures loose in the castle. And Brian did “Wizards Take Flight,” where you fly through the skies of London to defeat Death Eaters, followers of Lord Voldemort.
Before exiting, we stopped to have a glass (or three) of Butterbeer. This was definitely Wesley’s highlight as he first thought it was ice cream and then realized it’s soda! Seeing a Butterbeer mustache on him is something I will always remember.
Although not affiliated with the Wizarding World franchise, The Cauldron NYC’s Harry Potter-inspired experience truly feels as if you’re sitting in Professor Snape’s Potions class trying to pass your Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations. They offer multiple immersive cocktail brewing classes for adults and families alike. We did Wizard Afternoon Tea so Wesley could enjoy the experience. The hour and 45-minute interactive session included two different tea brewing experiences, a selection of tea “sand-witches,” and assorted dessert treats.
Wesley was given an interactive wand that was used to unlock the ingredients for brewing our custom teas. He was taught to perform “spells” and loved shouting “Abracadabra!” to summon our incredible server. Brian and I assisted him with grinding various herbs and dropping flavorful mixes into his tea concoction.
To make sure we properly fermented our tea, our server dropped some dry ice into a tray and it billowed over our table. Watching Wesley’s eyes in amazement was priceless, and we were pleasantly surprised Wesley enjoyed the tea he created! This was a wonderful family activity that we highly recommend. The Cauldron Co. can be experienced in New York City, Edinburgh, Central London, East London, and newly in Philadelphia.
For our family, the Wizarding World is real. We immerse in it daily with the books, films, and music that have been part of our lives for over 20 years. But Harry Potter: The Exhibition, Harry Potter New York, and The Cauldron NYC gave Brian and me something we had not felt before – real magic. I’m not talking about casting spells and enchantments, but the magic of being parents and experiencing Harry Potter through the eyes of our son. Seeing and hearing Wesley’s genuine laugh, excitement, and astonishment that Harry Potter isn’t just a movie he watched or music he listens to – but something he can actually feel, taste, and touch – makes me want to put the memories made during this trip into a pensieve (a magical device to store memories) so I can watch them over and over… “Always.”
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts characters, names and related indica are trademarks of ® Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Pottermore Publishing and Stage Theatrical Rights ® J.K. Rowling All Rights Reserved.
WIZARDING WORLD is a trademark of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Image Credit: Missi Wilson
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