The New York City Subway can’t quite compare to the Hogwarts Express. (The subway’s only possible advantage? When you see a rat on the subway tracks, you can be pretty sure it’s not actually a transformed Death Eater.) Yet, for New York residents — not to mention any magically inclined tourists — the Wizarding World is now just a MetroCard swipe away. On June 3, the Harry Potter Store will open its doors in Midtown Manhattan.
Located at 935 Broadway (right behind the iconic Flatiron building), the Harry Potter Store is 21,000 square feet of wizardry. SYFY WIRE got the chance to explore the store the day before it opened, and although this press preview was almost certainly the least crowded the store is going to be for the foreseeable future, we got a pretty good idea of what visitors can expect.
Upon walking in the front doors, visitors will stand underneath a 220-pound likeness of Fawkes the phoenix, who soars over a table full of Wizarding World merchandise that’s exclusive to the New York Store, like branded sweaters, mugs, and other goodies. It’s a fitting welcome to the store, which boasts both plenty of merchandise and collectibles for sale as well as props and displays that make a visit exciting even if you’re not planning on buying anything. Throughout the store, visitors can find nine authentic props from the Warner Bros. films, including several characters’ wands, Harry’s Firebolt, and Tom Riddle’s basilisk-punctured diary. The Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw is also there, and it’s actually quite easy to find, as it turns out. Should visitors download the Harry Potter Fan Club app and scan codes for all props they find, they'll obtain “secret keys” that contain clues to a secret word, enabling them to use that word to get a little prize upon check out.
The merchandise is arranged thematically in various rooms that all flow together. There’s a room that’s dedicated to the various Hogwarts House themes and gear (go Ravenclaw) right by the entrance. A massive section of the store is devoted to magic wands, as shoppers can purchase replicas of pretty much every characters’ wand as well as several other designs that are inspired by Hogwarts, the Dark Arts, or the four houses. One design, based on a Golden Snitch, is exclusive to the New York store. All of the wands (along with several other items in the store) can be inscribed and personalized at the “things that must be named” customization area downstairs. The wands have a nice heft to them, and they’re quite fun to wave around, though some characters have better-balanced wands than others. (The wands do not have any special features or abilities the way some of the fancier ones do at the various Harry Potter Worlds at Universal theme parks.)
There’s also a vaguely Hagrid-themed nook where stuffed animals and toys live and a Honeydukes-inspired candy wing (complete with Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, chocolate frogs, and individual Butterbeer bottles with a New York-exclusive design). If you venture downstairs — which you can do either by descending a spiral staircase that weaves around a moving replica of the griffin statue in Dumbledore’s office or by taking a floo-powder-themed elevator — there’s more to find. There’s a section devoted to Dark Arts merch, if you’re maliciously inclined. You can buy copies of many Harry Potter or Wizarding World books while standing underneath a canopy of moving, “flying” books, get swanky jewelry, or make your interior decoration more magical (MinaLima, the graphic design duo who masterminded the various graphics and prints from the Harry Potter movies, has opened a New York outpost downstairs).
Additionally, there are two VR experiences, but neither was up and running when SYFY WIRE toured the store, so we can’t speak to them. “Wizards Take Flight,” a VR broom-flying experience, won’t be open until July. Alas.
There’s one other nifty feature at the Harry Potter Store — a Butterbeer bar. On the ground-level floor, there’s a little cafe where visitors can buy Potter pastries and order up a glass of Butterbeer. (Basic Muggle coffee and other cafe standards are also available.)
The bathrooms at the Harry Potter Store are just normal bathrooms. I was half-expecting a Moaning Myrtle hologram, but I supposed being able to do one's business in peace is preferable.
It is a testament to the magic of Harry Potter that even a Potter cynic will find something to be charmed by. Folks who are tired of the Harry Potter discourse can appreciate the store as a neat attraction, one that has enough going on that it feels like a worthwhile destination without being so jam-packed, chaotic, and overstuffed that you’d need a Time-Turner to manage it. It’s just a store, albeit one that embraces the magic of the world J.K. Rowling and the many people behind the movies created. (Rowling herself, for those wondering, is not a major presence in the store aside from her bylines on the books.)
Perhaps the best thing at the Harry Potter Store — if you’re willing to look for it — comes from other people. The press preview SYFY WIRE attended mostly involved adult journalists or social media influencers exploring the store. However, one attendee brought her two children with her, and one of them, a young girl, got visibly excited when she recognized that the railing around the spiral staircase was made of oversized metal recreations of iconic magic wands.
“That’s the Elder Wand!” she said. “That’s the one I want!”
That’s the magic of the Harry Potter Store. It’s not so much a tourist trap as it is a place that traps just a little bit of the wonder of the franchise, and makes it manifest into joy for fans who venture inside.