Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Philadelphia, PA, USA
by Katie Aiani
From February 18, 2022, to September 18, 2022, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was its eighth North American stop and 22nd stop overall.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia feels as if you really were transported straight into the wizarding world. Between the wide variety of detailed, well-lit displays of props and costumes, the goal is to include evolving displays in the future of the tour and the immersive design experience – you do not want to miss out on this new attraction.
After arriving at the Platform 9 ¾-themed check-in area, input your name, Hogwarts House, choice of Patronus, and favorite wand from a specified list. Take your profile photo too. Each visitor is given a unique Golden Snitch-themed RFID bracelet which will activate their profile choices throughout the tour.
Special, captivating, and magical, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a great destination for the entire family. Expect to take your time interacting with your personalized journey, following the Golden Snitch wall symbols through the tour and scanning your bracelet in each room to experience the magic being brought to life. Visitors can defeat a boggart, repot mandrakes, write a proclamation at Umbridge’s desk, practice spell movements, and even crawl into the cupboard under the stairs.
One particular interactive space is dedicated to the Marauder’s Map, with the intricate Hogwarts grounds design from floor to ceiling. When you scan your bracelet at the entrance, your name will appear on the map, revealing your location inside the castle. Later in the tour, you will discover costumes and props from the Fantastic Beasts films, including a set with the Bowtruckle tree and the inside of Newt Scamander’s suitcase, where you can learn about a variety of magical creatures.
With props from the films around every corner – and there are more corners than Diagon Alley in the 20,000-square-foot space – the exhibition’s developers truly did their homework. For example, the Ravenclaw House mascot and colors now reflect the Harry Potter book descriptions, and in the Deathly Hallows artifact display (featuring the Elder Wand prop and the Resurrection Stone), the Invisibility Cloak has just an empty display with a description tag. These details, and so many more, are what will attract both Potterheads and their friends and family members to the exhibition.
One of my favorite things about this experience is how much it feels like Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Each room feels like you’re walking onto the Wizarding World sets in some way, with the added bits of history and interactive components scattered throughout. If you are a cosplayer, love to dress up for social media, or are interested in unique family photo ops, this will immediately become your new favorite destination.
A gift shop awaits you at the end of the exhibition with bottled butterbeer and new merchandise available that was developed uniquely for the relaunched Harry Potter: The Exhibition. MinaLima, the graphic design team behind both the Harry Potter franchise and the Fantastic Beasts franchise, has a variety of artwork for purchase within the gift shop. This includes two collectible prints, of which only 500 premium prints were made and signed, featuring the special Philadelphia-specific design.
I had the privilege of interviewing Tom Zaller, President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, Inc., the company that partnered with Warner Bros. to help redesign the exhibition, who shared his excitement for Harry Potter: The Exhibition.
This is what we do for a living. […] The hardest part was probably the last week of getting it all together, but that’s always the end. Working with Warner Bros. and their partners made it possible.
Zaller also emphasized that this new version of the exhibition will be unlike anything fans have seen before.
The [Wizarding World] brand is so powerful and so strong. People love it, and I think we give them a place to share that love. […] You won’t get this anywhere else in the world. […] We are our own unique thing. I think that we were able to do things that people haven’t done.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition opened on February 18, 2022, to the public at the Franklin Institute. Here it will host visitors through September 18, 2022, when it will begin traveling internationally to Latin America, the Asia Pacific Region, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
For more information about tickets, hours, and pricing, please visit the Franklin Institute.