The magical world created by author J.K. Rowling whose stories about a school for witches and wizards have captivated millions of people is one that fans worldwide would do anything to dive right into and explore.
One of the best things about the stories is that they all take place in the real world. From wild dragons in the mountains of Romania to secret shopping districts mere steps off the well-trodden London cobbles, there is something about the book's stories being so tantalizingly close to reality that stokes that desire inside every Potter that dares to wonder if the whole thing might actually be true!
While most people are happy to accept the fact that the magical world in the books and movies is one of pure fantasy, for those not willing to accept that, there is a whole world of Harry Potter-themed locations to explore beyond the Orlando Universal Studios theme park, which you won't find on this bucket list!
11. Bad Owl Café, Las Vegas, U.S.A.
“Espresso Patronum!” the ultimate morning spell for any wizard who might have over-indulged at the Three Broomsticks last night! Whether you like your coffee milky, or prefer to take it (Sirius) Black, this Vegas establishment will have the perfect “brew” for you.
Their food menu is packed full of Potter-themed items such as Padfoot’s Pumpkin Waffle. Every table has a unique quote from the series, or a playful pun guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of every Potter fan – no matter how cranky they are before their first coffee of the morning!
10. Annual Harry Potter Festival and Quidditch Tournament, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Every year, Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia makes an insane transformation, turning into a Hogsmeade-like village, welcoming thousands of Potter fans from around the world to party all day. With a ton of family activities such as a straw maze (a la Triwizard Tournament), shops selling magical wares, fortune telling, a sorting ceremony, and lookalike actors for photo opportunities, this festival is a genuinely immersive experience, and enough to leave any fan feeling very satisfied!
For those fans who are over 21, there’s also an infamous Harry Potter Pub Crawl which sells out well in advance every year and includes a costume competition and all the butterbeer you could wish for– let’s just hope you can hold your drinks better than a House Elf!
There’s also a Quidditch Tournament in which a handful of University Quidditch teams battle it out to be crowned the ultimate winners and take home the trophy.
9. College of Wizardry, Czocha, Poland
This fully-immersive magical experience is pretty unique on this list. It's one for anyone who wishes they could have taken magical studies at school, as over the course of four days, students taking part in this LARP event (live action role play; where people dress in costume and assume the role of a character) get to take classes in a real-world castle and feel as though they've been transported into the books themselves.
Students stay in Czocha Castle, a genuine 13th-century building, where they board overnight just as the students in Hogwarts did, and experience school life just as Harry Potter did.
Organizers of the event have created their own wizarding world with in-depth magical lore surrounding the castle and its teachers and students. Everyone visiting the school gets sorted into one of five houses before they start attending classes, exploring the castle grounds, and playing games with fellow students. Attendees are encouraged to stay in character throughout their time at the school, which helps to add to the immersive nature of the four days!
The castle, built almost 800 years ago, is full of surprises – harbouring secret passageways and rooms waiting to be discovered by the players staying there, so everyone experiences their trip back to school in a unique way.
8. King’s Cross Station, London, U.K.
Every Harry Potter fan knows how to get to Hogwarts, at least in theory, and we’re sure many have tried their hardest to get there – through the solid brick wall between platforms 9 and 10 at London’s King’s Cross Station.
Station owners have now created a magical ode to the franchise, with their very own portal to Platform 9 ¾ for superfans to get that little bit closer to making it to the train that would take them to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Fans can pose with the luggage trolley which appears to be going through a solid brick wall, and are even invited to wear a scarf of their Hogwarts House to add to the realism. Be warned though – the queue has been known to be over half an hour at peak times!
7. The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Missions and Quests, London, U.K.
Escape rooms have been gaining popularity in recent years, so it was only a matter of time before a magical Potter-themed room would surface! In London, England, a company called Enigma Quests has opened the doors on its magical escape room (and then closed and locked them behind you).
Once inside, you have just 60 minutes to solve the puzzles and find out how to escape! The details of what goes on inside are a closely guarded secret as organizers don’t want the magic to be ruined! Without Hagrid around to accidentally let any secrets slip, this is one you'll have to discover for yourself!
By working as a team and keeping your wits about you, you should join the wall of fame of teams that made it out in time! Just don’t take any Hufflepuffs in there with you…
6. Leaky Con, various worldwide locations
Along a similar vein to Comic Con, this Harry Potter convention is a must-see for any die-hard fans of the franchise. Every year it takes place in a different location, but previous iterations have been held in California, and Ireland – they like to spread the HP love around the whole world!
The aim of Leaky Con is to bring fans worldwide together in one place to revel in all things magical. Much like the pub in the book, the space brings magical-minded folk to one location where they can revel in their mutual love of everything magical!
Each year, visitors attend panels hosted by actors from the movies, and authors who have written about a variety of elements from the books. They also have live musical performances so you can create some magic on the dancefloor.
5. Chestertown Harry Potter Festival, Maryland, U.S.A.
This weekend-long festival takes place every October in Chestertown, Maryland and is popular with adults and children alike! Each year the festival features different activities and attractions, but usually, attendees can watch Quidditch matches, take part in magical classes, and indulge in some Butterbeer!
The festival coincides with Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday which is celebrated at the festival with a huge party full of dancing, trivia, and Pin-the-head-on-the-Nearly-Headless-Nick! Fans are also invited to attend seminars and discussions on various magical subjects, enjoy the very British tradition of high tea at Madam Malkin’s, take part in the dueling club, find the perfect wand, or go on a scavenger hunt across the whole town.
The festival takes over the town, sprawling across a number of the streets there and there is so much to do, you will surely be returning the next year to try and cram a little more you’re your experience!
4. Watch The Cursed Child on London’s West End, U.K.
Set some years after the end of the last book, this theatre production’s plot is shrouded in mystery as audience members are encouraged not to tell anyone what goes on on-stage during the two-part play.
The show is a must-see for anyone who’s desperate to know what happens next in the plot, and the show does not disappoint, with fans and critics giving reviews that glow so brightly, you’d think someone had cast Lumos Maxima!
It is based on a story written by J.K. Rowling, and was adapted for the stage by playwright Jack Thorne and has to be seen to be believed – no spoilers here! Alternatively, if London, England is a bit of a stretch for you, you can always buy the book, presented as a script, so you still get some closure on some of the book's characters storylines.
3. The Lockheart Bar, Toronto, Canada
Another one for the adult fans of the books, this Harry Potter-themed bar has to be seen to be believed. The brick walls are covered in magical artifacts, there are bottles of potions in amongst the bottles of liquor, and there’s even a “Have You Seen This Wizard?” decal over one of the windows, creating a real-world version of the magical moving photographs from the books.
All of the cocktails served at the bar have brilliant Potter-themed names such as the Gin Weasley and Dementor’s Kiss, their kitchen even serves Honey Fried Horntail (no dragons were harmed in the making of this chicken-based dish!), and they hold Harry Potter trivia nights twice a month!
2. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, London, U.K.
The film franchise that brought the books to the big screen is quite possibly one of the most successful of all-time, and under strict instruction from J.K. herself, was filmed predominantly in the UK, with many scenes taking place on-location in the very places they were written into in the book.
As such, it was the Warner Bros. film studios in London, England that played host to the creation of the wizarding world, and following the success of the movies, the studio has opened its doors to invite fans to see the film’s sets, props, and costumes.
It is a truly fascinating experience for any fan, you can walk down the flagstones in the Great Hall, following in the footsteps of so many great wizards, peek into the dank potions classroom, complete with self-stirring cauldrons and plumes of smoke spewing from a potion gone wrong, or explore the winding streets of Diagon Alley – remembering throughout that these are the real places in which the movies were made!
Whichever elements of the movies best captured your heart and imagination, you’ll not leave this experience disappointed as the sheer number of artifacts crammed into the studios is enough to leave you feeling like you’ve been confunded and in desperate need of a Butterbeer, which you can pick up on your way around the tour!
1. Harry Potter and the Transfigured Town, Goderich, Canada
This insane Harry Potter festival takes over an entire Canadian town as was so popular; tickets sold out faster than organizers could keep up, so they had to release a second batch of tickets further down the line!
The entire Ontario town of Goderich is transformed into a magical village for the long weekend, with art galleries becoming quill shops, muggle banks turning into Gringotts Banks, and the Huron Historic Gaol in the town transfiguring into Azkaban complete with Dementors for any rule-breaking witches or wizards!
Visitors to the town can shop for all their wizarding wares needed for entry to Hogwarts, enjoy a Quidditch tournament, magical arts and crafts stores, scavenger hunts, and live musical performances by The Lovegoods and Tonks and the Aurors to round off the experience.
Now, we just need to find a way to break into Gringotts to afford all these around the world flights! That, or a few well-placed port keys! So, who’s up for an adventure?