Last summer, while our family was living in New York, I had the opportunity to be one of the first people to try out the new Harry Potter VR experience at the newly-opened Harry Potter Store.
The virtual reality experiences had just opened while we were there, and we were able to snag tickets for Wizards Take Flight. You can read that full review here: Taking Flight: Our review of the Harry Potter New York VR experience
Fast forward to September 2022, and I happened to be in NYC again. I used a free evening to finally go experience Chaos at Hogwarts — and it was absolutely amazing!
VR at the Harry Potter New York Store
I booked the last time slot of the day since I was busy earlier in the evening, but the store was still bustling when I arrived around 8pm. Harry Potter fans should allow at least an hour, but probably closer to two hours, to browse both levels of Harry Potter merchandise, take pics at various photo ops, enjoy a treat at the Butterbeer Bar, and discover other hidden magical experiences within the store.
I had already combed through the whole store on my last visit, but I had time for a quick walk around, noting some new product lines that are currently being featured.
Right now, there’s a line of Diagon Alley-themed products that caught my eye:
I was also drawn to these white and gold Hogwarts house designs:
But I wasn’t there to shop that night. I was there to SAVE HOGWARTS!
Or something like that.
When you have a VR experience scheduled, you’ll want to check in at the signpost/giant wand on the street level floor.
There’s usually an employee there who will check your reservation and probably tell you to stay nearby until the full group has arrived. Then you’ll be sent downstairs for Wizards Take Flight or upstairs for Chaos at Hogwarts!
Chaos at Hogwarts or Wizards Take Flight?
So what’s the difference between the two Harry Potter VR experiences?
Wizards Take Flight is the less-intense experience of the two. You have less gear — just hand trackers, the VR mask, and a wand — and you’re seated on your “broomstick” for the duration of the experience.
Chaos at Hogwarts is a little more involved, and you are up on your feet. You’ll put on hand trackers, foot trackers, a backpack, the VR mask, and eventually add a wand. You’ll be walking around, but it’s all within a relatively small area, and it’s not too difficult to navigate. More about that below.
If nothing would thrill you more than flying on a broom around iconic locations in the Wizarding World, go for Wizards Take Flight. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a student at Hogwarts, wishing you could walk up the magic staircases, cast spells, and explore various rooms of the castle, you’ll want to try Chaos at Hogwarts.
How long is each Harry Potter VR experience?
Both Harry Potter VR experiences last about 10 minutes once they actually begin (it’s closer to 30 including instruction time, gearing up, and gearing down), and both have fantastic visuals and special effects.
Harry Potter VR Experience Review
I think I’m a fairly adventurous person, but the idea of doing a VR experience where I had to interact with other people and walk around an unfamiliar room with a VR headset on was a little intimidating to me. Not to mention I was on my own this night!
Luckily, my fellow VRers were a lovely, friendly family who chatted with me and made me feel welcome. They said they actually joined my time slot instead of a completely open one, because they wanted to do the experience with as many people as possible (you can have up to 6). We had a fantastic time!
And it turned out that I didn’t really need to worry. I was imagining wandering around a giant space, bumping into things, and not knowing where to go or what to do. In reality, (not to be confused with virtual reality), the room is small and the VR story is constructed in a way that it guides you seamlessly from one scene to the next.
So what actually happens in the story? Well, you’re off to Hogwarts! Before you gear up for the experience, you’ll go to a room that looks like Kings Cross Station in London to await your guide.
Then, you’ll be taken into the gear up room, resembling a train compartment, where they’ll help you get your VR gear on and choose your avatar. You’ll also leave your belongings in this room.
For your avatar, you’ll choose your Hogwarts house — Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin — and one of four skin tones (the characters wear hoods and scarves to appear androgynous). My group of four all chose different houses, so they were all represented in our adventure!
Once in the VR room, you’ll put on your headset and the magic begins. First, you’ll push your trolley through the platform at 9 and three-quarters and catch the Hogwarts Express. Well, okay, you’ll miss your train. But no worries, Dobby is there to help!
But if you know Dobby the house elf at all, you’ll know things don’t always go quite right when he’s around. Soon, you’re in the castle trying to tame pixies, catch a niffler, and battle…other magical creatures.
I don’t want to spoil the ending (though there are more than one!), but here are a few of my favorite moments.
Getting our wands — You might think that the VR participants would all be bumping into one another, considering how everyone is wearing a mask. But you can see the other “students” in the game, so it’s actually pretty easy to manage your space. One of the first things you do is pick up a wand (yes an actual wand that you can “see” in the game and feel in real life), and it was easy for us to see the four different wands and each go to a different one.
Riding the magic staircase — the stairs at Hogwarts are known to shift and you’ll feel like you’re actually on the stairs as they move. Don’t forget that the VR is 360, so make sure to look up, down, and behind you to see all the details.
Taking the elevator — I honestly can’t tell you how this part worked, but it really felt like we were on an elevator at one point. I know you can do a lot with visual effects, but I have to wonder if the floor was also moving under us at all. It happens quickly, so I’ll definitely have to go back for another visit to catch all the details.
I’ll also share a small spoiler at the end of this post, for anyone who wants a little tip on how to get the best ending. But for now I’ll just wrap up by saying that I’m thrilled I got to experience both Harry Potter VR adventures, and I will absolutely be back for round two of both of them the next time I’m in New York. I can’t wait to take the whole family!
Harry Potter VR Tickets
Now that the Harry Potter VR experiences have been open for a while, it’s not too difficult to snag tickets. But I do recommend making your reservations at least a few days in advance to have your choice of day and time. If you’re headed to the city during the summer or the holidays, I’d suggest planning a few weeks in advance.
How much does the Harry Potter VR experience cost?
Tickets for both Chaos at Hogwarts and Wizards Take Flight are $37 per person, per experience.
Head to the official Harry Potter New York website to get your VR experience tickets, and have a fantastic time!
Leave now if you don’t want to read my spoiler! If you haven’t read them yet, head to these posts next:
Chaos at Hogwarts Spoiler
At the end of the experience, you’ll need to use the reparo spell, along with the rest of your fellow adventurers. If you see a virtual line connecting your wand to the object, then you did it right! In my group of four, two of us got connected and two didn’t, so we didn’t get the best ending. My wand connected so I couldn’t do much else other than encourage my teammates. If you really want to get the best ending (and your group is okay with spoilers) it might help to share this information ahead of time.