Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which just opened in New York, is a cross between a Disney World pre-ride and Universal Studios Florida. Disney because it has that great immersive quality, transporting you directly into the world of Harry Potter. And Universal because that’s where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings the books and movies to life.
At Harry Potter: The Exhibition, groups enter together and a couple of people volunteer for the sorting ceremony. If you don’t know what that means, this exhibit is not for you.
The true magic begins after you watch a few scenes from the movies, there is a train whistle, then the wall disappears to show the Hogwarts Express train. Though this is a replica, it is a life-size and makes for a dramatic entrance.
My 13 year old, who has read each book dozens of times and watched every scene of the Potter movies repeatedly, was enchanted. She was not as thrilled with the audio commentary, particularly the ones by the heavily accented costume designer. But she loved seeing (though not touching) the actual costumes and props. Whether or not the exhibit is educational is debatable, but it is certainly teen-friendly.
There are a couple of interactives; kids can pull Mandrakes from their pots and hear them scream, sit in Hagrid’s oversized chair and toss quaffles through hoops. The Great Hall has fancy (and Ron’s – not fancy) outfits from the Yule Ball, the candies made by the Wesley twins and Dobby.
If you are taking small children, note that some of the settings are scary. The Dark Forces area shows Death Eaters’ robes and masks, a Dementor, and a video of “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” Also, once you enter the exhibit, you can’t leave for the bathroom and return; once you leave, that’s it. And at $25 a ticket ($19.50 for ages 4-12) you don’t want to rush through.
It takes at least an hour to get through the exhibit, and the gift shop can eat up more time, and money. Stick to the $2.95 chocolate frog.
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers.