As you all know, playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is only one of a number of ways to interact with the Harry Potter universe. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited some options – like the fact that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will not reopen in London until October or in New York until November – lots of creative new attractions are now open or will be opening soon in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the film franchise!
Official Harry Potter Studio Tours
Harry Potter fans have two different options to experience official Harry Potter studio tours. One is in London, where much of the films were actually created. The other is in Los Angeles, home to the overall Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London (aka The Making of Harry Potter) is well worth a visit if you can get there. And, if you’ve already been, you can still enjoy a unique experience on a return visit because they regularly shift the focus of what they have on display.
Currently they are featuring ‘A Celebration of Slytherin’ through mid-September. You can see the Slytherin Common Room set, along with “iconic costumes and props belonging to your favourite cunning Slytherin characters.”
The autumn feature will be the Dark Arts, during which you can also see the Great Hall decorated “with over 100 floating pumpkins as well as a Hallowe’en feast of lollipops and red apples dressing the long tables.”
And every winter, the Great Hall receives “a festive makeover with the long tables laden with a mouth-watering Christmas feast. A blanket of filmmaking snow will cover the majestic Hogwarts castle model and shop fronts of Diagon Alley as part of the wintery transformation.” I’ve only been once in the summer, so I absolutely hope to go see ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ at some point!
The Warner Bros. Studio Backlot in Los Angeles has revamped and expanded their Harry Potter experience. While you will still be able to see costumes and props from the film (petrified Hermione being my favorite when I was there!), they have added several interactive elements to enhance your visit. One that sounds particularly fun is standing in “the Dursley’s living room, where a clever optical effect makes it look like you are being buried in Hogwarts acceptance letters.” You can also be sorted into your Hogwarts house, pull a baby mandrake from its pot, and try mixing a potion in a cauldron. If you’ve taken the Warner Bros. Studio Tour before, it definitely looks like a return visit is called for!
Harry Potter Exhibitions & Experiences
Once again, the Brits and the Americans have all the fun with Harry Potter exhibitions! Luckily one of these has an online experience, and another will be a touring exhibit, so other Harry Potter fans around the world can still enjoy these exhibitions.
The Natural History Museum in London features a magical exhibit – Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature. As their website explains, you can learn about how “how the wonders of the natural world have inspired myths, legends and magical creatures for generations.” There is emphasis on “real-world scientists, like the character Newt Scamander™” as well to help inspire younger visitors who might also like to pursue a career full of magical beasts. Tomorrow (22 July) there will be a free virtual event for people who are unable to travel to London in person. Check the NHM website for other similar events in the future.
If you can’t make it to London, enjoy a virtual visit with Google Arts & Culture. This includes interactive games, quizzes, information about both mythical beasts and real beasts, and so much more!
The Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition in Covent Garden, London showcases scenes from the film franchise, ideal for taking selfies as if you were there. Additionally visitors will have “the chance to experience green screen technology for yourself and ride a broomstick over London just like the cast did during filming!” There is also a bottled Butterbeer bar if you want to taste a bit of the Harry Potter universe to complete your experience.
In October, A Forbidden Forest Experience will open at Arley Hall & Gardens in Northwich. Intended to recreate the feeling of searching the Forbidden Forest at night, there will be a woodland trail “filled with magical creatures and wizarding wonders from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films.” Visitors can cast spells, interact with characters, and enjoy a selection of magical foods and drinks too!
The Franklin Institute in Philadephia will be opening Harry Potter: The Exhibition in 2022. Descriptions on the website, where you can sign up to get ticketing information when it is available, promise “an up-close look at authentic props and original costumes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts™ films as they engage with innovative, awe-inspiring, and magical environments and installations.” They also note that this will be “the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented about the Wizarding World” so watch for it to turn up in other cities and in other countries in the future.
Harry Potter Stores
All of the destinations above will give you ample opportunities to shop for Harry Potter merchandise, but if you’re in the mood for more you can always check out one of the official Harry Potter shopping locations.
In London, you can purchase goodies in The Harry Potter Shop in King’s Cross Station (where you can also take a picture pushing a trolley through the barrier at Platform 9¾), and there are retail locations at both Gatwick and Heathrow Airports.
In New York, the recently opened ‘flagship’ store, Harry Potter New York, is located at 935 Broadway. They use a “virtual queuing system” so make sure you plan your visit ahead of time. You’ll also want to check out their TWO new virtual reality experiences – “Chaos at Hogwarts” and “Wizards take Flight” which just debuted on July 16, 2021!
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