May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Discover the Enchantment: ‘Harry Potter: The Exhibition’ Comes to NYC

By Zachary Greenberg

I am delighted to inform you that you have been granted entry to “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” New York City’s latest pop-up exhibit, which gives you a chance to visit the Wizarding World firsthand. This exhibit has a remarkable walk-through tour of various scenes from the film’s franchise, showcases unique props and displays behind-the-scenes facts about the characters and the actors who played them. Delicious Harry Potter-themed treats and merchandise are offered along with interactive exhibits that allow you to feel like a wizard for the day. Located at Herald Square, this exhibit is currently open through October. I recently experienced this magical exhibition with my good friend Abie, who like me, is an avid Harry Potter fan.

Watch out for the dragon!

To begin our quest, Abie and I first had to fill out our application on a tablet by entering our name, house (I chose Hufflepuff since I strongly feel like I would have been an awesome Puffer), wand type (I picked Grindelwald’s the villain from the Fantastic Beast series since it looked coolest to me) and Patronus charm animal (I chose an otter since it looked the cutest). These selections appeared later during certain interactive segments, so choose wisely! The tablet’s camera then captured our photo, completing our profile. Then, Abie and I moved forward to the next room where we took photos in front of a green screen that added some magical touches.

With our profiles set, we were directed by an attendant to a room with memorabilia where it all started from the beginning of the series. On display in a vault from the Wizarding Bank Gringotts was a copy of the first novel in the series: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Slightly disappointed, I asked the worker why it wasn’t an original “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” book, the original name for the published book, but he didn’t have an answer. Next, a video began playing all around the room, first showing moments from the opening scene of the first film with baby Harry being picked up by Dumbledor, then flashing forward by showing highlights from the film leading up to boarding the Hogwarts Express train. The attendant then asked us if we knew the spell to open a locked door to get us to the next room. I hadn’t watched the films in a few years (I would certainly consider myself a fan of the franchise, but it doesn’t compare to my knowledge of and passion for Star Wars or Marvel, both of whose films I’ve seen many times). Yet, I had a gut feeling and blurted out “Alohomora,” to which the attendant exclaimed, “Correct, 10 points for Hufflepuff,” as the doors swung open. I was very proud of myself.

Zack by the Fat Lady portrait.

In the next room, after we scanned our wristbands, the walls, which were covered with a live Marauders Map, displayed our names on the map where we were standing. After a little wait, the walls transformed into a 360° video display, highlighting scenes from throughout the film’s franchise, giving context as to what would be in store during the exhibit. The video concluded with a model of Hogwarts Castle. The attendant motioned us forward to start our tour of the castle.

The exhibit was brilliantly laid out, reminiscent of a Harry Potter-themed open house for schools, bringing back memories of when my friends and I explored different high schools to consider attending. Only this was no ordinary school: It was one that was full of courses all related to magic and Harry Potter. First, we entered the grand staircase, adorned with pictures of famous wizards, some of which were animated. We reached the portrait of the Fat Lady who guards the Gryffindor dormitory and then entered the common rooms.

Unlike in the films where each of the four houses’ dormitories is in a different wing of Hogwarts Castle, in the exhibition, there was a central corridor with different paths leading to each house’s exhibit. There was also a Sorting Hat on display that had an interactive aspect, allowing us to take a photo with a virtual copy of the hat on our heads. Each house had a beautiful glass window with the respective logos of a lion for Gryffindor, a snake for Slytherin, a badger for Hufflepuff and an eagle for Ravenclaw. Inside each dormitory were displayed each house’s student robes as well as pictures, authentic wands used by the characters in the films and tidbits about famous characters in the franchises who were in each respective house. Facts provided were historical information about the house, the background of the characters in the book and film, and behind-the-scenes bios about the actors who played them. Surprisingly, there were even some facts, wands and costumes for Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter, the main characters of “The Cursed Child,” the hit Broadway show. Notably in the Gryffindor common room was the famous Sword of Gryffindor that Harry used to defeat Voldemort in the second film.

In the Gryffindor common rooms.

Next, we went to the wand store in Diagon Alley. On display were the wands used by characters in Fantastic Beast, namely Tina Goldstein, Newt Scamander and Gellert Grindelwald. Using our wristband to activate a screen, we were able to practice our spellcasting by copying the motion of the spell “wingardium leviosa,” earning points toward our house when done correctly. Throughout the rest of the experience, for every spell at the interactive stations performed correctly, a message would appear displaying the number of points earned for the selected house. On the floor tiles of the shop were images showing the wrist motion for casting different spells.

Our adventure continued with various themed rooms and interactive experiences, each capturing different aspects of the Harry Potter universe. The Great Hall lunchroom was re-created, complete with dangling candles and tables set with plates. A large screen showed food magically appearing, and we were taken through the different seasons and weather conditions of the Hogwarts dining experience. Gargoyles resembling dragons and snakes held candles, adding to the castle atmosphere.

Zack and Abie on Hagrid’s rocking chair.

Easily the most interactive part of the exhibition included several courses exclusively taught at Hogwarts. For our first class, Potions, we learned about brewing. We first selected a potion that we wished to brew on an interactive screen, followed by tapping the correct ingredients as instructed by a guidebook. Once the proper ingredients were tapped, above us, potion bottles lit up, and a quick scene from the movie about that potion was shown on the screen. The room was designed to replicate the potions room in Hogwarts, making us feel as if we were really in the castle. After Potions class, we sought our future in Divination class where the entire room was adorned with carpeting and red wallpaper. Multiple tables with crystal balls were set up, allowing us to peer inside them to see a hidden message. Mine playfully mocked Hermione’s skepticism of the course. The next course, Herbology, allowed us to repot the magic creatures’ mandrakes.

The room was covered with plants and smelled like a greenhouse. When we pulled out the mandrakes, they let out an extremely loud screech, forcing us to cover our ears (just like in the movies)! We then headed to the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, which had us use the Riddikulus spell to fight off a boggart inside a wardrobe, with each visitor getting to choose their own fear. I encountered a clown, while Abie faced a spider. On display was Dr. Lupin’s threadbare outfit he wore in the third film, portraying the effects of the toll caused by his werewolf condition.

Resting in Harry’s cupboard.

Moving on to the Hogwarts Ground, we entered the Forbidden Forest, where we cast the Patronus spell by tracing the motion again and my cute otter, Patronus, arrived to fend off the evil Dementors. The forest also housed The Triwizard Tournament section, showcasing a towering five-foot-tall Goblet of Fire accompanied by a magnificent dragon with its wings spread out atop a pedestal. The dragon fiercely guarded the golden egg, a crucial artifact from the tournament’s first challenge. We continued through the forest and entered Hagrid, the half-giant’s hut. Inside the hut emanated the odor of burning fire, and a plush rocking chair fit for the half-giant, but in place of the half-giant, Abie and I had the good fortune to sit in it!

For the remainder of the exhibit, we got to experience all different sorts of settings from the series. We played a variant of the wizarding sport Quidditch by throwing a Quaffle ball through a hoop. We went to the Ministry of Magic and stepped into some notable offices like a pink one belonging to Delores Umbridge. We tested our fears in the Chamber of Secrets, which contained a large snake vault door, where on display was the wicked wizard Voldermort’s Horcruxes (objects into which fragments of his soul were put) including his diary, Salazar Slytherin’s locket and Ravenclaw’s diadem. I even got to take a quick rest in Harry’s cupboard under the stairwell in the Dursley home. The final room was the Pensieve in Headmaster Dumbledore’s office, showcasing memories of famous scenes across all the films. To conclude the tour, the full house score standings were shown, and visitors had the option to purchase photos. Finally, we ended in the gift shop, where wands, merchandise and Harry Potter-themed swag were available for purchase. To my delight, a lot of the candy was OU Kosher certified! We each got butterbeer-filled chocolate and butterbeer chewable candies that were out of this world!

Candy time in the gift shop!

Especially good on a rainy day as it is completely indoors, “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” is an interesting and fun place for Harry Potter fans. I really appreciated how well-crafted the whole setup was, including having a blend of books, films and behind-the-scenes information about the cast all in one place. It was certainly interactive as many exhibits required multi-tasking. However, unlike the “Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience in Westchester” (see issue 456, https://jewishlink.news/features/54697-adventures-in-the-magical-harry-potter-forbidden-forest-experience), if you’re looking for thrills or mind-blowing effects, you won’t find that at this exhibit. This is more of a re-creation of the Hogwarts experience with real props from the films. Overall, as avid Harry Potter fans, Abie and I had a very enjoyable experience, so if you’re a fan too, I certainly recommend putting it on your summer bucket list.

Admission: $35 on weekdays, $43.50 on weekends

Address: 50 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001 (18-minute walk from Port Authority)

Hours: 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Wed.

Unique Feature: Real props from the movies as well as an interactive Harry Potter exhibit.


Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. In 2017, Zachary ran the Tiveriah Marathon. If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, please email him at [email protected].

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