As we were driving, I saw a blue glow in the sky. At first it gave me an eerie feeling, but as we got closer to the park I came to the conclusion that the glow was from the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience. Then the spooky feeling turned to excitement.
Usually I review movies, but yesterday I went to a Harry Potter event, which I think qualifies as something relevant to discuss on a movie blog. I was surprised when I found out that a Harry Potter event was taking place in my area (FDR State Park, New York state) and bought tickets as they were quickly selling out.
What To Expect:
The event takes place outside, rain or shine, and the night that I went happened to have a 100% chance of precipitation. It was nearly freezing, but not quite, so it was raining not snowing. I think I would have preferred the snow, since by the end of the night my coat and sweatshirt were soaked through, and I could not move my hands.
Light displays are scattered throughout the state park as audio from the beloved Harry Potter films play in the background. I appreciated that you get to walk at your own pace through the forest and are not rushed through. Because this event takes place in a state park, it’s not surprising that the path was not paved. It was rocky and muddy, but not too difficult to navigate in the dark. I did not trip once and I am a clumsy person. I recommend that you wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
Some of the path was icy, but there was a worker nearby to warn you to be extra careful on those parts.
What I Liked:
The different color lights evoke a whimsical mood and reminded me of the coloring of the Harry Potter films. I liked seeing Hagrid, Buckbeak, Hagrid’s half-brother, and Aragog’s lair. I also really enjoyed seeing the flying Ford Anglia, although the car looked slightly different than the one in the movies.
Aragog’s lair was especially exciting because of the spiders that dropped from the sky, in a kind-of creepy way. But they warn you about the spider scene ahead of time, in case you have a fear of spiders.
Overall, my favorite thing about the night was the ending scene. The finale. Projected on a sheet in between trees is the scene of Harry casting away dementors to save his Godfather. While Harry himself is not seen, the lighting conveys enough of the story for you to know what is happening.
A few more good things: plenty of restrooms, the staff was enthusiastic, and the event was well organized. Along the path, there was staff to direct you to queue if you had to wait a few minutes to interact with a display, like when you can have a wand battle and cast your patronus. This is also where you could ask questions if you have any.
What Could Have Been Better:
It was so cold and there were no heat lamps. No place to warm up. Halfway through the trail, there is a place to buy warm drinks and use the restroom, but there is no place to warm up! In the fall time this would be ok, but on a rainy thirty-three degree night, a heat lamp would have been legendary. Bottom line, if you’re going to have an event rain or shine in the middle of an East coast winter, you should have a heat lamp. At least one, come on.
Also, none of the main characters made an appearance. No Harry, Ron, Hermione, Malfoy, Luna, Dumbledore, Neville, or any of the Weasleys! You see Hagrid, but from the back, you don’t even get to see his face. Some of their voices are projected from speakers scattered about the path, but these main characters are not in any of displays.
Additionally, the experience would have been more immersive if there were actors along the path. Or, even if the workers were dressed in some kind of wizard garb and not just in their work uniforms. These small changes could have really enhanced the experience. Having some kind of sorting hat would have also been fun and exciting.
Finally, the first stop after leaving the forest is the gift shop. You have to walk through it in order to leave the path and event. Everything inside is very overpriced, a simple t-shirt was $46, a scarf $86, a hoodie around $86, a hat $25, and gloves $28.
Once you leave the gift shop, there are food stands with more overpriced treats. From fried foods (including a vegan option), to hot chocolate for each of the houses, and Butterbeer, there is something for everyone (unless you have several food allergies like me, then you’re out of luck due to cross-contamination).
How much does it cost?
I bought the tickets during Black Friday and we chose a time in the middle of week in the later hours of the night, which helped lower the price of the tickets.
Ticket: $46 each
Booking Fee: $6 / ticket
Parking : $8 / car
Total: $197 for 4 people after the Black Friday discount
First of all, if the weather was not so rainy I think that would have affected my rating of this experience. Towards the end of the path, I couldn’t move at the slower pace I wanted to enjoy the scenes because my body was so cold and I just needed some warmth. Keep in mind I wore a coat over a sweatshirt, over two shirts. And a hat and 2 scarves.
Considering I got a discounted rate for my tickets, I think it was mostly worth it. I would for sure have thought it was worth the price if they had at least 2 heat lamps somewhere along the forest path.
I also enjoyed the event because it was outside, which limits my exposure to Covid. As someone with a compromised immune system, I deeply appreciate events that I can still attend.
While I did not get to see the main Gryffindor trio, I enjoyed the audio from the movies that played throughout the trail. There was something magical about listening to the voices of my favorite characters while walking through a forest at night, seeing a magical creature here and there. I felt like maybe I was in a Harry Potter movie for a few seconds, until I saw the workers in their Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience uniforms, and I was taken out of my fantasy. No one in the Wizarding World would wear a windbreaker.
Should I go?
That depends on how much you love Harry Potter. The event takes place rain or shine, so your scheduled night might be pouring rain. Do you love Harry Potter enough to walk through a freezing forest in the middle of the night to see some lights and a few characters?
Also, the price is not cheap for an event that is around an hour long. I have seen the price of tickets settle around $75 before booking fees. As I am writing this, the remaining tickets are getting sold out as this event only goes until January 22nd, 2023. Right now they have an additional 10% off discount, but I do not know how much longer they will have this promotion going on.
In the end, if you can find a good deal on the tickets and are up for the drive (if you live a good distance away), I would say it’s worth it. As someone who cannot get myself to Florida or California to explore the Wizarding Worlds there, this was a nice taste of that, without the enormous cost. However, if you live over an hour-and-a-half away, I’m not sure it’s worth it. I would say a 90-minute drive is about the max I would drive to see this event.
And if you’re like me and are extra careful about your health, this is an event you might feel safer going to because it’s outdoors. Yes, that means it’s cold, but you can’t always have cake and eat it, too.