Harry, has it really been 20 years?
Yes, it’s been that long since we met you and Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and your professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in J.K. Rowling’s book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Twenty years since anxious readers waited in line at midnight for your next adventure and dressed as you for Halloween.
That first book was released on June 29, 1997, and was followed by six others, an eight-part film series, a play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” also published as a script, and two Wizarding Worlds at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood. The series is considered the bestselling in history.
So it’s no surprise that Britain is planning a lot of celebrations in Harry’s name. The good news for all of the fans on this side of the pond: It’s an excellent time to visit London and beyond. Post-Brexit (Britain’s vote to leave the European Union), the dollar is the strongest it’s been against the British pound in many years (one U.S. dollar equals .82 British pounds), which means your money will go further.
As a result of the weakened pound, an American family of four could save at least $140 a day on hotels, tickets to a major attraction and even a West End Show, according to calculations from visitlondon.com.
At the same time, you might be able to score a discount fare. For example, British Air has some round-trip, seven-day fares to London starting at $473 from New York (visit britishairways.com and click on “find our cheapest fares”).
Guided tours by Brit Movie Tour, London Walks and Discovery Walks of London will take you around familiar Harry Potter film locations, either by foot, boat or bus.
DESIGN YOUR OWN TOUR
Stay at the Georgian House in Pimlico for a Wizarding Chamber hotel experience. The room is concealed behind a bookcase door in the 19th-century hotel and has caldrons in the fireplace and stained glass windows.
First on a Potter fan’s list must sure be the chance to go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films outside London at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter. Opening in time for Easter, a new permanent expansion was created by members of the design and construction crew who worked on the original film sets. Step over the twisting roots of 19 giant trees, come face-to-face with Aragog the Acromantula and take control of the weather in the mysterious forest. Another “Wizarding Wardrobes” exhibit will be open this summer. (Some hotels, like The Grove, have packages that include the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.)
You will also want to:
- See “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two” at the Palace Theatre. The play is set in the years after the final novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
- Take Bridge Selfies. Tour the Tower Bridge Exhibition. In “The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry flies along the Thames and over Tower Bridge on his broomstick. Lambeth Bridge is where the Knight Bus squeezes between two oncoming double-decker buses in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Walk across the pedestrian-only London Millennium Bridge. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opens with the bridge collapsing.
- Platform 9 3⁄4 at King’s Cross Station is where the Hogwarts Express departs. Platforms four and five were used for filming and, today, there’s a photo app that lets you push a trolley through the wall marked Platform 9 3⁄4, and there’s also the Harry Potter Shop, built to resemble Ollivander’s wand emporium.
- Leadenhall Market, the covered Victorian market in the City of London with cafes and entertainment, was used for Diagon Alley. Look for the blue door of the opticians in Bull’s Head Passage — it was the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron.
- Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s busiest and most iconic squares, is where Harry, Ron and Hermione run when they flee the wedding of Ron’s brother, the Death Eaters hunting them.
- The London Zoo Reptile House is where Harry discovers his gift for talking with snakes in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” It’s home to more than 650 different species.
- Surround yourself with original artwork and props from the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” movies at a free exhibit at the House of MinaLima. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima were the designers behind “Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movie artwork.