It has been nearly two decades since the name Harry Potter was introduced to the world, and the phenomenon that was created after the wizarding world was transformed into films for the big screen has changed the lives of millions. Potter Heads flee to Universal Studios to live out their muggle fantasies in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Los Angeles, and even Japan but many don’t realize that there is so much more out there to help immerse fans into the world created by J.K. Rowling. That’s right, you don’t need to throw an entire paycheck away for tickets to these pricey theme parks to feel closer to your friends at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter themed hotels, bars, cafes, schools, and festivals have popped up all over the world, allowing fans to immerse themselves into the wizarding world without digging too deep into their wallets. Whether you’re interested in joining others in a game of Quidditch, taking a Spells and Potions class, enjoying a cold glass of Butterbeer, or finding a unique photo opportunity to show off your fandom, you don’t need to travel to Universal Studios to do it. These experiences are so legit, you’ll start to expect an Owl from Hogwarts with your own invitation to the school.
Mark your calendars, because some of these events only come around once a year and a true fan wouldn’t want to miss even a single event. So, pull out your wands and throw on your school colors because the second you read this list you’ll want to run out and find the Harry Potter experience near you!
15. The Wizardry School in Poland
If you, like most millennials who’ve attended college, find that your degree has proven itself useless then perhaps the College of Wizardry is right for you. This four day larp event, which is live action role playing for those of you who are less in touch with your nerdy side, takes place in Nibelungen, Poland. Those who attend stay in lovely fairytale castle with 135 other witch and wizardry hopefuls, taking classes and becoming fully immersed in this Harry Potter inspired world. Different from Hogwarts, at this school you will be selected to represent one of the five ancient Houses of Czocha Castle and be free to roam the castle grounds well past curfew.
Students are encouraged to stay in character throughout their stay, and often make life-long friendships during their experience. While you shouldn’t expect to have Professor Snape teaching any of your classes or to stumble upon the Room of Requirements, this school provides a whole new experience of a different school of wizardry and witchcraft. If you think you might be interested, better head to their website as soon as possible. They have a waiting list for 2017!
14. The Annual Harry Potter Festival and Quidditch Tournament in Philadelphia
Each October Chestnut Hill College transforms into Hogsmeade, bringing the wizarding world into the heart of Philadelphia. Thousands of fans head to the campus for a day of family fun or an evening of heavy partying. Aside from their infamous pub crawl, which is sold out fairly early each year, attendees can visit dozens of shops selling all things for muggles and wizards, get lost in the Tri-Wizard Straw Maze, have a cup of tea at Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, take a Defense Against The Dark Arts class, and even take a ride on the Knight Bus.
This Harry Potter festival is also known for their Quidditch Tournament, which you can either partake in or watch from the sidelines. Get your fill of Butterbeer while rooting on your favorite team, or try one of their other Harry Potter-inspired drinks such as Muggle Brew, PolyJuice Potion, Bertie Bott’s Beans, and more. Book your hotel in advance if you don’t live close by, as this festival attracts fans (as well as a few character look-alikes) from all over the country.
13. WB Studios in London
If larping isn’t your thing, you might be interested in checking out WB Studios in London. They allow fans to get up close and personal with sets, costumes, and artifacts from the actual movies. Visitors can check out the Hogwarts Express and shop for some trolley treats in their Railway Shop. Fans can stroll down Diagon Alley, take a peek into Dumbledore’s Office, explore The Great Hall, and relax in the Gryffindor Common Room. Each set also has mannequins dressed in each character’s actual costumes from the movie, making the set nearly come to life.
The studio also has a ton of props from the movies for fans to enjoy, including thousands of jars from Hogwart’s Potions classroom, the Time-Turner Hermione wore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and each of the main character’s unique wands. Visitors can learn about the special effects used to create different scenes, including how a green screen was used when Harry was up on his broomstick, and how many of the magical creatures were made to look to real on screen. If you’re a diehard fan of the movies, the WB Studio will reveal so many of the films secrets that you’ll begin to feel like you were an extra on set!
12. Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station in London
If you’re traveling around London, likely you’ll be at King Cross Train Station at some point, so it’s essential that you walk over to Platform 9 ¾. While there’s a similar replica at the WB Studio, there’s just something about being at the actual train station that makes this feel more legit. Aside from making a unique photo opp, King Cross Station is also home to one of the most unique stores inspired by the movie, The Harry Potter Shop.
Whether you’re team Gryffindor or team Slytherin, this store has some of the most legitimate apparel and accessories, including a Quidditch sweater that looks like it came straight off Ron Weasley’s back. The Harry Potter Shop is also one of the only places where fans can buy official replicas of movie props from the latest addition to the series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you don’t live near London or plan to visit the city anytime soon, don’t fret. They have an online store as well!
11. Whimsic Alley in Los Angeles
If you’re in search of a shop to find the latest and greatest wizardry tools and apparel on the west coast, then Whimsic Alley is the place to go. Not only is this “street” home to all of the best Harry Potter souvenirs, but there are also shops dedicated to some of your other favorite films and television shows. You can expect to also see unique art and props from Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Who.
What makes this store so special is their banquet hall, which is used to hold many events, some which are inspired by the Harry Potter series. Some of their recent events have been the New School House Pride Wizards Market, The House Elf Liberation Tea, and the notorious Hogwarts Yule Ball. They have events inspired by other well-known shows also, but it’s their Harry Potter events that seem to draw the biggest crowds. Their website seems to be under construction, but hopefully they’re working on bringing their unique collectors items to those who don’t live in the Los Angeles area.
10. The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Missions and Quests in London
Have you ever wanted to try one of those survival missions and puzzle quests everyone seems to be bragging about on Facebook? Well if you’re in the London area, Enigma Quests offers a Harry Potter-themed mission that will have you feeling like you’re trying to figure out one of the clues from the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
In this 60-minute challenge, you and a group of your friends will gain the skills and knowledge required of those who want to become witches and wizards and escape from the room. On your quest, you will work together to pass each level until you are equipped with the necessary skills needed to defeat the dark forces. While there’s no word on Death Eaters or Voldemort himself making an appearance, that’s likely more due to copyright issues. However, the group has done a good job keeping the details of each quest under wraps, adding mystery to the already alluring event.
9. Harry Potter-Themed Bed and Breakfast in London
Have you ever dreamt of spending the night in the Gryffindor common room? Well, now you can…sort of. A bed and breakfast in London called the Georgian House Hotel has created a way to make your Harry Potter-inspired travels even more worthwhile with several rooms inspired by the films that they’ve labeled the Wizard Chambers and the Enchanted Chambers. Both rooms will make you feel like you might peek over to the next bed and see Harry or Neville himself taking a nap.
The rooms each have a gothic feel with stained glass windows, stone walls, an open fireplace with a copper cauldron ready to mix up some potions, and large archways. What truly gives the rooms the Harry Potter feel is the four-poster beds that all lay beneath red velvet curtains. Adding to the magical flare, both chambers are concealed behind a bookcase and can only be found through a secret entrance and require a stroll down a candlelit hallway to access. Of course the walls are covered in creepy portraits, in true Hogwarts fashion.
8. Harry Potter-Themed Bar in Toronto
The Lockhart is a Harry Potter-themed bar in Toronto that fans just can’t pass up. Fairly new to the area, the small pub became an overnight sensation after an article written about their opening went viral. As you’d expect, their brick walls are adorned with wizardry images and quotes from the series and their drinks are labeled with cutesy names. The Gin Weasley, Better Beer, Obliviate, and The Dementor’s Kiss just to name a few. Even the tapas they serve are involved in the bar’s theme with salads called Herbology 101 and Forbidden Forest Salad, and a marinated chicken labeled Honey Fried Horntail.
It the drinks and appetizers don’t interest you, then you certainly need to stop by for one of their epic events. They hold a Harry Potter trivia night twice a month, brunch each weekend, and special events surrounding the wizarding world that include magicians and other magical creatures.
7. Free Muggle Tour in London
There are a ton of tours throughout London that take fans and tourists around to check out the spots where Harry, Ron, and Hermione filmed some of their most memorable scenes, but tours can be costly. This free guide is easy to download and provides a detailed route around London, even specific instructions on how to take the bus or “tube”. More than just a walking tour, the PDF also includes a treasure hunt to keep you and your group entertained, and stops at pubs and sweet shops that have embraced the culture of the wizarding world.
One stop on the tour is Shaftesbury Avenue, which fans will remember from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 after Hermione, Ron, and Harry narrowly escape the death eaters who showed up at Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding after the announcement was made that the Ministry had fallen. Fans might remember that Hermione had led them there, saying she used to go to the theatre there with her parents and the place just popped into her mind. This is just one of the many attractions to check out on this free walking tour.
6. The Chestertown Harry Potter Festival in Maryland
Each October, Chestertown in Maryland hosts a weekend-long Harry Potter Festival designed with both kids and adults in mind. With a slew of parties scheduled, the festival kicks off with a party at Hogwarts which includes music, performances, food, trivia games, and of course, Butterbeer. The festival events seem to change each year, but some highlights of this year’s event were a Quidditch tournament, a discussion led by the author of “Into the Pensieve: The Mythology of Harry Potter”, Olivander’s Wand Co-Op where fans can pick out their own handcrafted wands, a Deathday party from the one and only Nearly Headless Nick, and a Potions class.
The date for this event is already scheduled for next year so get out your calendars or your fancy smartphones and mark the dates October 6-7, 2017. Be sure to stock up on your house colors so when the time comes, you and your friends will be ready to hit the dance floor at their infamous House Party at Hogshead!
5. The Hogwarts Cafe in Islamabad
Similar to Hermione’s purse, the Hogwarts Café that opened in Isamabad, Pakistan appears small on the outside, but is actually quite spacious. Every corner of the café holds tribute to the series, and acknowledges the books as well as the films. Spells, iconic symbols, and sections of the novels adorn the walls, table tops, chalkboards, and even the benches.
Technically not a restaurant, the café surprisingly sells an array of full meals including burgers, steaks, and randomly, Chinese food. Also on the menu are classically named desserts and drinks inspired by the Harry Potter series, including a chocolate fudge cake labeled the Forbidden Cake, a dark chocolate cake called Hagrid’s Rock Cake, and the Imperius cake, which is plain cheesecake with a crunchy base. They even have their own Butterbeer, which they make by combining vanilla ice-cream butterscotch syrup, soda, and cinnamon. If you’re not sold on this place yet, they also have their own version of Platform 9 ¾ to give their guests the opportunity to take some fun photos before they head inside.
4. Leaky Con
Leaky Con, similar to Comic Con, is every Harry Potter fan’s dream. As it takes place in a different city each year, so there’s really no excuse not to check it out. This past year it was held in Burbank, California and the 2017 location has already been announced. Take out your calendars once again, because Leaky Con 2017 is being held in Dublin, Ireland August 31 to September 3.
The conference is held by the Harry Potter fan site, The Leaky Cauldron and aims to bring all fans of witches and wizardry together. They offer a ton of exciting events at their conferences for all kinds of Potter Heads including panels led by authors and actors from the series. Each year the schedule varies, but there are always three different types of programming: Lit Track, Mainstage Programming, and General Programing. Lit Track tends to be more for authors, aspiring writers, and book enthusiasts providing panels, signings, and events revolving around the written series. Mainstage Programming consists more of entertainment, including “Wizard Rock” shows and special guests and performances. General Programing is basically everything else, and consists of events and discussions inspired by the movies and books.
3. See Harry Potter and the Cursed Child On Broadway in London
Considered the eighth instalment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a screenplay that is performed in London at the Palace Theatre. Based on an original new story written by J.K. Rowling updating fans on the lives of our favorite characters, Jack Thorne wrote the now well-known screenplay, directed by John Tiffany. It tells the story of the famous trio, Harry, Ron, and Hermione as adults and goes more into detail regarding their careers and families, specifically Harry’s son Albus.
The play depicts Harry’s struggle working at the Ministry of Magic, as well as with his role as a father and husband. The story also follow Albus as he struggles with having a famous father, and the pressure to live up to his family’s legacy. If you don’t live near London, you can always purchase the book. Even though it’s written like a screenplay and might be different that the rest of the series, it’s certainly worth the read!
2. Bad Owl Café in Las Vegas
Bad Owl café not only holds a unique take on the Harry Potter theme, but they also brew some serious coffee. Located near Las Vegas, the Bad Owl café is the ideal spot to nurse your Sin City hangover. Whimsically decorated with wood panel walls and some of Hogwarts’ most famed owls, the menu also includes several Harry Potter themed items. Stop by to try their Black Forest Mocha, Butter Brew Latte, or the seasonally available Padfoot’s Pumpkin Waffle.
The café also offers a slew of other drinks to help you get your day going, including nitrogen infused coffee, which apparently gives their brew a sweet malty taste without adding any sugar. Each table is embellished with some of the most memorable spells and quotes from the series, but with a coffee-themed twist such as “Espresso Patronum”. Others include “I must not tell lies”, “Mischief Managed”, and one of Hermione’s favorite spells “Wingardium Leviosa”. Bad Owl also has their own Platform 9 ¾ replica that puts Hedwig on display and gives fans the opportunity to take some photos before heading back to the Vegas strip.
1. U.S. Quidditch Tour World Cup
It seems Quidditch has been a competitive professional sport for some time now, with the U.S. Quidditch Cup 9 coming up each spring. Being held each year in Columbia, South Carolina, 60 teams from all over the nation will compete to find out who’s the best. Spectators are welcome and are even encouraged to stay in the same hotels as players, so mark your calendars as the next World Cup will be held April 16 and 17, 2017. If you’re not in the South Carolina area or will be traveling relatively soon, the International Quidditch Association provides fans with a schedule of international games and events that you can attend all over the world.
While many Harry Potter fans find it hard to accept that the series has come to an end, it’s the small things like these places and events that demonstrate how truly widespread the Potter Head phenomenon is. By coming together to express our love of the series and the wizardry world created by J.K. Rowling, fans can forever stay connected to the characters that have changed their lives.