For any Potterhead who’s stood outside book stores to get the first copy, dismissed the movies initially but gradually fell for the charm of the lead actors over the years, followed Pottermore obsessively, yearned for any trinket of news from JK Rowling, and still awaits that letter from a Hogwarts barn owl (any moment now), New York — while perhaps not hitting the heights of Potter fandom that London offers — is still candy land for aspiring witches and wizards visiting from all over the globe.
But for a city that offers much to even the most disparate of minds, does limiting the journey to just experiences that revolve around the world’s most famous boy wizard make sense?
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On Harry Potter’s 39th birthday (July 31), we give you a quick rewind of a recent Potter-themed weekend in NYC that brought every childhood fantasy to life. Here are our best picks when you visit the city that never sleeps next:
Watch ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ at Broadway
W hen the script of Cursed Child was released as a book a few years ago, it drew universal flak from fans for being too derivative and reading like fan-fiction. How very wrong we were.
When translated onto stage, the play is an awe-inspiring world of theatrical wizardry, and answers even the pickiest fans’ criticism.
The show is the most awarded play in theatre history, winning 25 major US awards, with six Tony Awards, including Best Play and it’s clear to see why: breathtaking production design with a fine-tuned cast that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the two-part duration (no, don’t skip either).
The story follows present-day Harry Potter as he navigates being a father, husband and overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic. As Harry struggles, his youngest son must also deal with the weight of the family legacy that shows just how the past and present can fuse together.
Revealing anything more would be a spoiler, and fans are asked to ‘#KeepTheSecret’ by the makers, a vow that every member of the audience takes quite seriously. Search online for more details? You’ll find none.
Tickets start from $69-$99 per part at the Lyric Theatre in New York, and seating capacity is 1,622 per show. For the full Cursed Child experience, you can see both parts on the same day or consecutive days. Both parts run once a day on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Play a game of real-life Quidditch
L et’s face it: most of us, at some point in our lives, have wanted to don the Seeker robes and zoom around on a Firebolt in search of that pesky little winged sphere. Well, actually flying atop a broom might be a tough ask, but a close second would be taking part in this version of the magical game.
US Quidditch is a full contact, competitive, mixed-gender sport inspired by the Harry Potter series, which began in 2005, and since spread to over 300 colleges, high schools and community teams nationwide. Teams compete in one of two divisions: collegiate and community. In New York, most activities happen on weekends. In lower Manhattan, go to East River Park on Saturdays to watch teams like the Macaulay Marauders, Warriors, Rogues, and New York University practise. If you find yourself in Brooklyn, the Atlantic Dragons practise at Prospect Park. Want to try the sport yourself? Contact the brand new team Nocturns Quidditch. They offer workshops for kids and have open practices on Saturdays that allow anyone to pick up a broom and learn how to play by joining drills and scrimmages!
The sport is played with seven players in a team, all mounted on brooms. Three Chasers score goals by putting the Quaffle (a volleyball) through any of three hoops at the opposite end of the field. A Keeper defends the hoops, while two Beaters throw Bludgers (dodgeballs) at opposing players to temporarily knock them out of the game. Meanwhile, each team’s Seeker tries to catch the Snitch: an autonomous yellow-clad athlete who has a tennis ball in a custom-made Velcro tail hanging from the back of his/her shorts. A game of Quidditch ends when the Snitch tail is caught. For details, log onto: https://www.usquidditch.org
Become a Potions student for a day — and mix cocktails in cauldrons
Call ed ‘The Cauldron’, this immersive pop-up in New York City is every adult fantasy fan’s dream — wands pour pints of beer from a 15-feet tree growing out of the central bar, guests don robes and take instructions on mixing magical ingredients inside cauldrons, complete with exotic fragrances and incantations — and the best part? You get to drink it all and leave with a heady buzz.
The wands are imbibed with IoT (Internet of Things) technology and let you swish and flick at will, surprising you with what follows. There’s even a Snape-like Potions Master (just kidding, he’s a sweetheart) guiding the ‘students’ and making sure the concoctions are being brewed perfectly. These molecular cocktails include creations such as The Spaniard’s Revenge, Time Transfixed, Botany Brew, and The Blood Boiling Curse.
In Cauldron 2.0 that is launching this September, there’s even more on offer, says co-founder and molecular mixologist David Duckworth. “We are debuting a tactile, multi-sensory drinks experience that encourages customer exploration — yes, your magic wand is the control device for summoning drinks, stirring liquids, and illuminating cocktails, but we’ve also got touchable magic mushrooms that emit ultraviolet light for glow-in-the-dark drinks, while real plants glow and sing when stroked!”
Attendees to The Cauldron are encouraged to bring their favourite childhood book, which The Cauldron donates to Teach for America for classroom libraries.
Tickets start at $44.99 and are for sale atthecauldron.nyc for people who are aged 21 and over.
Are you a proud Hufflepuff? Ditch Broadway and attend a performance of PUFFS instead:
Hufflepuffs notoriously get a bad rap in common culture for being… well, there’s another phrase for it: satisfyingly average. Come on, do you really grow up wanting to be sorted into Hufflepuff?
If the answer is yes, then this Off-Broadway play will validate every bit of your existence. Matt Cox’s Puffs , or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is a funny and endearing tribute to Hufflepuff students over generations and puts Harry, Ron and Hermione in the shade, focussing instead on… average American wizard Wayne (who is also an orphan) and his friends. Friendship is at the core of this charming comedy, and there are some hilarious references to the most famous Puff of all: heartthrob Cedric Diggory who leaves everyone swooning.
Though not strictly a parody, PUFFS aims a lot of jokes at hardcore Potterheads, which are wildly witty and inventive, at the same time packing a lot of heart into its duration. The cast members are uniformly excellent and even the most savage of Slytherins or Gryffindors will have to break into a smile watching this jolly lot.
The bad news? After three glorious years, PUFFS will stage its final performance on August 18.
(PUFFS is staged at New World Stages, Off Broadway. Tickets range from $39 to $82.)
Wind up the day with themed shots at Barcelona Bar
This Hell’s Kitchen dive bar at 923 8th Ave, went viral a few years ago, when a guest posted a video of someone ordering the Harry Potter shot — and fans around the globe wanted a taste of it.
Though offering a lot of other pop-culture-themed drinks — from a Pokemon shot to a Game of Thrones one — the most popular one is undoubtedly one that pays homage to Hogwarts, complete with props, theme music and cheerful staff that makes sure the night never ends too quickly.
Guests are subjected to a Sorting Hat that ‘picks’ one of the four Hogwarts houses they are to be sorted into, and then are given scarves and glowing wands, while the shot is being duly administered by a singing bartender. Each bartender has his own flair and sings along, while the other guests at the bar join in enthusiastically, take videos and selfies, and there’s drunken cheering all around, making the whole experience quite a spectacle.
The shot is vodka-based and flavoured to taste like Butterbeer, the poison of choice for wizards in Hogsmeade.
For Potterheads around the globe:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka
The ultimate Potterhead experience for fans across the world can be had at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Found in three locations, two in the US and one in Japan, the Potter-theme
d sections are a treasure trove of nostalgia. Starting with a ride on the Hogwarts Express, the experience takes one to recreated iconic locations such as the Hogsmeade Village. Apart from a variety of rides, one can also shop for Potter merchandise till you drop at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, select a wand at Ollivanders and unwind with some butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks.
Tour for Muggles, London
The walking tour, which costs £14 per head, will take fans through filming locations and London landmarks from the movies and books. The two-and-a-half-hour-long tour is peppered with stories from the making of the movies, painting a rich picture of what went on behind-the-scenes in the much-loved franchise.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour, London
The Making of Harry Potter studio tour is a must-visit for any fan whilst in London. It brings alive many spots such as the magnificent Great Hall, Diagon Alley, the Forbidden Forest and even Privet Drive. There are plenty of props from the movies for fans to check out. The studio also hosts themed events such as the Yule Ball.
Welcome to Harry Potter: The Exhibition, currently in Valencia, Spain
The travelling exhibition, currently in Valencia, Spain, allows visitors to get an intimate look at the legendary props and costumes that appeared in the films. The exhibition is set in locations across Hogwarts such as the Great Hall, Gryffindor Common Room and Hagrid’s Hut.
The Elephant House, Edinburgh
The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh is the place that birthed the series. The Harry Potter universe was conceived of by JK Rowling over many long days of writing at the café. As a single mother under financial duress, Rowling was often found toiling hard here. The Cafe thus holds a very dear place in the hearts of Potterheads, the world over.
Platform 9 ¾, London
Head to the King’s Cross station in London with your bags, ready to leave the muggle world behind. The gateway to the Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 ¾ has been specially created with a plaque and luggage props for fans to have the perfect photo op on their visit.