A visit to The Franklin Institute for Harry Potter: The Exhibition in Philadelphia is more than worth the price of admission for anyone who has fallen in love with the wizarding world created decades ago by author J.K. Rowling.
As self-proclaimed Harry Potter experts and devoted fans, my family has visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando several times. We love the stunning recreations of Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts there, so our expectations were high for the Philadelphia exhibition.
As a family, we were blown away by the Philadelphia experience. The amount of detail and thought put into this exhibition is jaw dropping and would please even Hermione Granger.
Probably the best aspect is the multiple interaction points. You don’t just walk through and see movie props and costumes. Fans get to interact with a number of the exhibits via a wristband you can customize upon entry.
Guests enter the self-guided exhibit through (where else?) Platform 9 3/4 where visitors use touch screens to select their House (Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin or Gryffindor), wand and Patronus spell form. The first stop is an entire room dedicated to the magical parchment The Marauder’s Map that Harry used to sneak around the castle (mostly) undetected. If you ever dreamed of seeing your own name on it, here is your chance. By touching your wristband to a scanner in the room, your name gets added to the map.
The next station is dedicated to the houses. Guests can view props and costumes worn by actors and actresses in the Harry Potter movies. A fun stained glass photo opportunity is available for each house. You even get to stop off in Olivander’s wand shop to learn how to use the wand you chose at the beginning of the experience.
Guests can take in several wizarding classes including Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology or Divination, which offer a number of interactions that I won’t spoil. The line for Potions can get extremely long, so be sure to check out the other classrooms because their lines are usually shorter.
Costumes and props from the fourth movie, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” are up next. Check out the Tri-Wizard cup, a golden egg used in the first task and some of the costumes used by all four champions. A stroll through Hagrid’s hut is followed by an opportunity for guests to try their hand at the sport of quidditch by throwing quaffles through three large hoops.
Props from the series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” are also on view, including costumes and wands.
My personal three favorite photo spots are toward the end. First is Dolores Umbridge’s office, bathed in multiple shades of pink and complete with framed moving cat pictures. You’ll also see “I must not tell lies,” written on the wall, which is the sentence everyone’s least-favorite professor made Harry write repeatedly.
The second photo opportunity is the Dursley home, where Harry must travel every summer to live with his relatives. Folks can see Harry’s tiny bedroom under the stairs and go inside for a quick picture.
The final spot is the large entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. If you stand there for a few seconds you can see the message ‘The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir …beware” slowly appear above the door in blood red.
The exhibit comes to a close with some props from the final movie installment including horcruxes such as the Hufflepuff cup, Ravenclaw diadem and the Slytherin locket. A final photo opportunity ends the exhibit as folks can choose the good or bad side and battle it out with wands.
Once you’ve finished the exhibit, which will remain in Philadelphia until September, be sure to check out the remainder of The Franklin Institute, which focuses on science and technology in the spirit of the Founding Father the museum was named for and his passion for inquiry and discovery.
By Gina Gallucci-White