Virtual Reality Experience at Harry Potter New York

I was soaring on a broom over Hogwarts and could actually feel the wind in my hair then felt mist on my face as dark clouds suddenly engulfed the castle. I reached out and grabbed my wand, and then, out of nowhere Dobby the house-elf appeared perched on the end of my broom! No, this wasn’t a dream, and my senses were fully functioning.

Have I mentioned that I share a birthday with Harry Potter? Probably. I’ll pretty much tell anyone who’ll listen. That said, I love to find Harry Potter themed things to do for my birthday.

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One time it was visiting the Harry Potter Studio in London, another it was making a pink cake at home, and two years ago I had planned to treat myself to a Harry Potter filled day in London. That, of course, never happened. Luckily, since then, a couple of the activities I had on my list have opened counterpart locations across the pond in NYC!

Realizing I would be near New York City this summer, I decided to move my Harry Potter Day plans stateside. Not only has The Cauldron opened a location in NYC, but a new, three-story, Harry Potter store opened this summer in the city! The Potter shop comes complete with a MinaLima outlet, a Butterbeer bar, and virtual reality experiences.

I had managed to subvert the line to get into the store. I wish I could say it was a tale of flying a broom over the heads of the crowd and swooping through the open door, but the tale is much simpler. Currently, to maintain crowd control, the Harry Potter store is using a virtual QR code waiting list system. The QR code is activated at 7am every morning and the store opens at 10am. Visitors are asked to come to the shop, scan the QR code outside, and then they will be notified at some point during the day that they’ve got an hour to return to the store for their opportunity to enter. The QR code is turned off for the day when the virtual queue is full. This means you’ll want to get there as close to 7am as possible to ensure you get on the waitlist…

Virtual Reality Experiences

UNLESS you purchase a timed ticket to one of the VR experiences offered inside! This will grant you access to the store for your Experience and then allow you to browse through the shop at your leisure afterwards! Weeks before my visit, I had purchased sequential timed tickets to both VR experiences, first Wizards Take Flight, then Chaos at Hogwarts, so I was escorted past the line outside, And now here I sat on a broom! At least my senses thought so.

Wearing VR gear at Harry Potter New York
Wearing headsets, hand and foot sensors, and a backpack for Chaos at Hogwarts VR Experience at Harry Potter New York

VR Experience: Wizards Take Flight

In reality, I was seated on something like a stationary motor bike that leaned forwards, backwards, and sideways, and instead of handlebars, I had the front of a broomstick. I wore a headset over my eyes and sensors on my hands. And what I couldn’t see were the fans and water misters in the room around me and my 3 other temporary Hogwarts compatriots. I could see the three others’ virtual avatars flying over Hogwarts with me and I could control my flying by leaning in the direction I wanted to go.

I’d tell you what happened next, but Dobby swore us to secrecy, so if you read any further, don’t tell him I told you! Ok? Deatheaters showed up and we had to save the day by stunning them with spells shouted as we flew and cast our wands towards them! Dobby would rather not worry the rest of the Wizarding World that Deatheaters were on the loose, so you’ll have to keep mum about this!

VR Experience: Chaos at Hogwarts

After virtually saving the day, we once again found our escort who led us this time upstairs, out of the crowded shop and into what appeared to be a Kings Cross Railway waiting room. Again there were 4 of us. These experiences had only opened 3 weeks prior and apparently the programs kept crashing whenever they tried to add all 6 players, so for now each timed slot could only accommodate 4 players. This time, we were outfitted with sensors that slid over our hands and shoes, small backpacks, and the headset. We were led into a room about 20ftx20ft and told to don our headsets.

Again, we could see our fellow Hogwarts students’ avatars moving about the room with us. We were told to run through the barrier at Platform 9 ¾, which we did only to find the train left us at the station and Dobby the house-elf again greeted us in a panic. We proceeded through the Experience running from one room to another as various doors opened behind us and rooms materialized and even a dragon attacked! Staircases moved, elevators fell, and we felt everything. Wind, mist, and shaking. In reality, we must have just run back and forth in the middle of the room we’d walked into before donning our head gear. By waving wands and shouting spells, we helped Dobby save Hogwarts from chaos!

Butterbeer Ice Cream

Either because we’d worked up an appetite saving Hogwarts- twice, or because it was actually lunch time, it was time for a snack! Luckily, Harry Potter NY has the world’s only Butterbeer bar, and it serves Butterbeer flavored ice cream! This concoction flavored somewhere between caramel and butterscotch was delicious. If they’d sold cartons of the stuff I would have definitely tried to get some home.

Butterbeer Ice Cream at Harry Potter New York
Butterbeer Ice Cream from the Butterbeer Bar

The Store & Harry Potter Fan Club App Puzzle

I was so excited to explore the two stories of Harry Potter merchandise next. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Literally. I wanted at least one of every Honey Dukes Candy! There was also all you’d imagine and more to be found. There was apparel, books, toys, art, and every manner of accessories. Some of the merchandise came from brands that sell elsewhere, like Pottery Barn Teen, Lego, and MinaLima. However, some items are sold exclusively at Harry Potter NY. I stocked up on my Gryffindor apparel. I finally bought a quidditch sweater to complete my sweater collection, and then couldn’t pass up the matching nail polish and a hair ribbon. I was ready for my next Quidditch match!

Gryffindor Quidditch Sweater from Harry Potter New York
Ready for my next Quidditch match with my new Gryffindor Quidditch sweater!

However, merchandise isn’t the only thing to be found on the shop shelves! Hidden throughout the store are display cases containing original film props, and each prop case contains a clue to a puzzle! On each case is an “Enchanted Key”, or custom QR type code that can be scanned using the Harry Potter Fan Club App on your phone. Before you visit the store, download the app and set up an account (or use your old Pottermore account). Once at the store, use the app to scan each key to reveal an alphabet letter. Collect all the letters, arrange them into the correct word, and then collect a little prize from the cashier on your way out! 

Harry Potter Fan Club App Puzzle
Find all the clues in the store, solve the puzzle, and collect your prize at the store check out counter!

Before leaving the store, I had to pick up one final item, something I’d been waiting for since I was 11. Downstairs at the counter of “Things That Must Be Named”, certain items can be personalized. These include Quidditch shirts, and Hogwarts letters! I finally got my Hogwarts acceptance letter! Just 23 years late! Who knew all it took was $25 to get into Hogwarts!

My Personalized Hogwarts Letter
I finally got my Hogwarts acceptance letter! (Personalized at Harry Potter New York)

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Are you a Harry Potter fan? Which Hogwarts House do you belong to? Have you tried VR? Do you want to?

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