I have a confession. I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie. But I have read all the books. My kids haven’t seen the movies either – I won’t let them until they read the books (my daughter is partway through the third, and my son is listening to the first on tape).
With that in mind, I took them to the Harry Potter exhibit in Times Square, hoping it would inspire my kids to plow through (note to readers – my son is now on the 5th book and we’ve seen the accompanying movies – he now wants to go back to the exhibition AGAIN). And even though I haven’t seen the movies, the scenes are so vivid in my mind (and the movie actors so ingrained in our culture) that I was interested in seeing the recreation.
The exhibit officially opens on April 5th at the Discovery Times Square exhibition center (that’s where Pompeii is currently showing). They have several hundred costumes and props from the movies. When you get in line, you’ll find that the ushers/ticket takers all have British accents. It was sort of amusing. Once there’s a critical mass of tourists, they admit you to the sorting hat room, where a caped Hogwarts staffer asks for volunteers. As the sorting hat is held over the volunteer’s head (hopefully they don’t transmit lice that way), a voice announces which Hogwart’s house they’re sorted into. It was very cute. Especially for the kid we saw who was celebrating his birthday at the exhibit, and he was wearing a Gryffindor shirt. He was magically sorted into Gryffindor. Amazing how that happens (My 7 year old announced loudly: “they just push a button depending on what house the person wants, and the speaker announces that one”).
You’re then ushered into another room with maybe a dozen television screens, flashing scenes from the movies, and ending with train windows whizzing by. The doors are dramatically opened, with smoke pouring out, through which you can see the Hogwart’s Express train. That was my favorite part of the whole exhibition – it was very well done, and you walked through by there, feeling like you were on the train platform. After going through some authentic-looking archways, you end up in the hallway to Gryffindor. Some of the paintings there “move” and come alive, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s like a television screen. Kind of disappointing. The fat lady at the end, however, was very amusing as she tried to break a crystal glass with her voice. I won’t spoil it for you, but do take the time to watch her whole performance.
As you move through the exhibition, you’ll go into several scenes from the movies, starting with the Gryffindor areas, like the common room, and Harry and Ron’s dorm room. How I would love to have lived in a dorm room like that! In each area, you’ll see scenes from the movies on a television screen. My 9 year old daughter Dori ‘s favorite setting was the Forbidden Forest, with its creatures (the giant Buckbeak with hand-painted feathers), and models of the Acromantula, centaur and a Thestral. Hagrid’s Hut shows his giant clothing, a dragon egg about to hatch (you can watch it shake) and a Hagrid-size chair you can sit in. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos in there or I would have shown you my kids in the chair.
Dori also really liked the Quidditch area, where they had Ron Weasley’s costume in addition to some from the International championship. They had a Quidditch set and the rules posted (along with a movie scene). And then you could try your hand at throwing a Quaffle into the hoop, which was much the same as throwing basketballs through a hoop at a carnival game (only easier). It was fun to see Harry’s Nimus 2000 broomstick, and one other (I think it was Draco Malfoy’s).
The other interactive setting was the mandrake exhibit (above), where you could pull the mandrakes out of their pots and hear them scream. I liked that one a lot! There were other fun settings, including the Yule Ball with the fancy costumes worn, the Triwizard cup, some of the candy confections, an area about the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort, plus wands for all the major characters. I liked seeing the Maruader’s Map, of which 30 had been made up for the movies (because they were sometimes shoved in pockets or got worn out). You can buy a nice-looking version in the gift shop. The map hasthe locations “drawn” with lots of tiny words. The gift shop, by the way, was VERY well stocked with anything you can imagine (including wands – and no, Ron’s is not broken). The shop is set up like you might imagine it would be in Hogsmeade. Scarves, ties, lapel pins for each house, LEGO sets, maps, stuffed animals, posters, and more. As you enter the shop, after leaving the ball room, you’ll get peppered with questions from those working there: Did you like the exhibit? Did you like the exhibit? How was the audio? They were very attentive.
The exhibition was really well done. They had a lot of fun things to look at, and movie fans will be excited to see the items, from clothing to wands to animals, in person. The exhibit organizer did a great job with the ambiance, and the effort didn’t wasn’t wasted. I appreciated the interactive elements, which made it more fun for the kids since you can’t touch most of the items there.
We had the audio guides ($7 each), where you punch in the number by the exhibit to hear more about the items on display. I did not think it was worth it. For the audio, prop masters and producers talked about some behind-the-scene stories of creating some of the items, and of figuring out how to portray certain emotions or story themes in the movie. I didn’t find it that helpful or worth the money, and it was difficult to hear them (even with the volume button). The exhibit itself has some background music, and there are movie clips playing too. Try listening to the audio device with all that going on! My kids gave up on the audio after one or two selections – they weren’t interested.
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The audio did give me a few interesting nuggets: the guy responsible for Harry Potter’s glasses went through several versions, and Danielle Radcliffe was allergic to the metal in one of them (he got redness from wearing them). As for the wands used in the movies, each character had at least 6 of them. And as for the glass ball, where they looked to see the future, they had to make a rubber version of it because it was going to fall down the staircase. Only the rubber version bounced a lot (I got that tidbit from the catalogue, though maybe it was also in the audio).
By the way, if you’re in New York on Monday night, April 5th at 6:30, you can catch the grand opening, where the movie stars will make an appearance.
DETAILS FOR GOING WITH KIDS
The guide tells you that it takes about an hour to go through the exhibit – we probably spend 90 minutes – though I can’t remember if part of that time was spent in line waiting to enter the sorting hat area. Between the exhibition and the gift shop (and you may have to wait up to 30 minutes in line, even with timed tickets), give yourself at least 2 hours. Maybe you’ll be done before then. You’re not allowed to reenter the exhibit if you leave, so that means using the restroom before getting in line, and drinking/eating before as well. Strollers aren’t allowed in the gallery, but you can check them for free (and no tips accepted!). No food, drinks or photos inside. The coat check also accepts backpacks, shopping bags and coats.
Where: 226 W. 44th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues).
When: Daily from 10-8. Last entry is one hour prior to closing. The average visit lasts 60 minutes. The exhibition closes September 5, 2011.
Cost: Adult tickets are $26; kids are $19.50 and seniors are $23.50 (excluding tax/fees). Audio guide is $7.
Tickets: call (866) 9.TSXNYC. Tickets are timed – give yourself 30 minutes between your entry time and actual entry.
Discount tickets: If you’re looking for Harry Potter discount tickets for the Discovery Times Square Exhibition, here are a few:
-Get $4.50 off adult tickets ($2 off senior tix) for Monday – Friday entrance, (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) using the code STIXHPE through September 2, 2011. Excludes holidays. Eight tickets per order, not good for VIP/package deals. May have additional blackout dates. Discount works at broadwaybox.com and at the box office.
-When the exhibition was here last year, you could get Harry Potter Exhibition tickets, with audio for $24.99 at Costco. This is like getting the audio for free (for adults) and saving $1. You’ll still save a few bucks on the kids tickets (if you planned to also get them audio). If you don’t plan to get the kids audio, the Costco tickets are more expensive. If you don’t plan on getting audio yourself, this ticket is $1 cheaper than you’d pay at the box office or online without a discount code. I’ll keep an eye out next time I’m at Costco to see if they’re selling them again. I did not see it online in the tickets section.
-Get 10% off your tickets using the code CTMHPE. You can pick up the flyers that have this code at the kiosks with all the tourist flyers. We got ours at Port Authority bus terminal. Or just tell them the code at the box office or on the phone. (This code worked for the 2011 exhibition – not sure if it still works)
-Use code STIXHPE when getting tickets online and pay $20.50 for entrance. Tickets are valid Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (A reader reported using this code successfully for the 2012-13 exhibition run)
-Save up to 10% on Harry Potter the Exhibition tickets on Expedia. Good for visits through September 5, 2011. Adult tickets are $24.50, kids’ tickets are $20.47.
-If you’re going with a group, you can get a group discount.
-You can also get discounted combined Harry Potter admission with Pompeii.
-Use any American Express card to purchase tickets to either exhibition, and get a free audio tour ($7 value). If you are a Gold, Platinum or Centurion card holder, you can get a reserved ticket during peak times (Friday-Sunday).
All photos (except the top one) are used with permission, courtesy of Harry Potter ™ & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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