Last night we had a chance to check out the new Harry Potter Exhibition at the Franklin Institute. My daughters loved this exhibit so much, and they were asking if we could go again this weekend. If you have been wondering if it is worth the trip for your family, I have a full detailed review below.
Is the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Franklin Institute worth it?
Short answer, it depends on your group's love of Harry Potter. My oldest just finished the second book and has seen all of the movies. She is a huge Harry Potter fan with her room fully decorated in Harry Potter and her future birthday party inevitably Harry Potter themed. She would go back today. My wife, also a big Harry Potter fan, went to the midnight releases for the books and movies. She was glad she went, but thought once was enough. I am a casual Harry Potter fan having read the books and seen the movies when my wife and I first started dating. While I think they're good, I don't know all the Harry Potter lore; I was surprised Luna Lovegood was featured in the Ravenclaw section and assumed she was a Gryffindor. My youngest is four and liked it, but she's an easy win.
At the end of the day, it was enough for us to renew our membership at the Franklin Institute (we do love the museum) and I'm glad we went. To me, it was like paying the adult prices for visiting Sesame Place--a theme park that my kids got way more out of than I did. I'm glad we went, glad we got pictures, and glad my Harry Potter obsessed daughter and wife got to experience it. I thought it was a nice experience, but the huge Harry Potter fans in my family loved it.
If I was an adult that grew up with Harry Potter and loved it today, it would be a no brainer. You'll love it. If you and your family are just casual Harry Potter fans or you don't have all of the books/movies under your belt, I would skip the hefty price tag and crowds.
What is at the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Franklin Institute?
The Harry Potter exhibit has movie memorabilia, props, photo opportunities, and a few interactive experiences. While I know many parents are planning to go, I do think the millennials that grew up with Harry Potter or kids that are super fans will get more out of it.
Costume Displays at the Harry Potter Exhibition
A big portion of the exhibit is displays of costumes and props (although I don't recall if they are original costumes or replicas). My daughter did squeal in delight at seeing Bellatrix's costume and wand, but merely shrugged off the minor character costumes like Victor Krum or Cedric Diggory.
Each dedicated room seemed to have some glass enclosed costumes. In the first main room with the houses' insignias, costumes were on display beyond the crests. The formula for most rooms seemed to be photo opportunity, a little interactive piece, and costumes. By the third room, my daughters were no longer interested in reading the cards associated with the costumes. Again, I do think adults that are super fans will appreciate these parts more.
The exhibit had smaller sections devoted to the Fantastical Beasts sections and the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Again, if Harry Potter is a huge part of your life you may also be familiar with these. As a casual Harry Potter fan myself with a daughter still reading the books, we were not.
Interactive Elements at the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Franklin Institute
There are several interactive elements at the Harry Potter exhibit at the Franklin Institute that can feel magical. Each visitor receives a magical snitch bracelet that allows you to interact with things throughout the exhibition. You fill out information at the beginning of the exhibition, and scan your bracelet throughout. This includes things like: seeing your name appear on the Marauder's Map, seeing your fortune in a crystal ball in the Divination Class, seeing a memory come up when you reach the pensive, and even casting a patronus of your own.
Much like the rest of the Franklin Institute, a lot of the interactive spaces do require reading and sometimes lifting of small kids. I say this because my four year old is both small and unable to read, so she didn't get much out of it. My oldest loved these and it felt magical to her.
My daughters' favorite part was the Quidditch portion where you could throw a quaffle through a hoop. A note for parents, this is pretty much a board walk throwing game and the hoops are high. My daughters did have fun, but it was built with adults and older kids in mind. They did not make any of the shots.
The final interactive piece was the biggest hit. Wands are set up for the epic battle between Harry and Voldemort. The screen in the background had the wands magic colliding in that final showdown.
Photo Opportunities at the Harry Potter Exhibit
There were so many photo opportunities at the Harry Potter Exhibit. The people who made this put a lot of work into the details. My personal favorite was the door to the Chamber of Secrets. My oldest really loved Madame Umbridge's office. When photographing my youngest in the under the stairs bedroom, she cuddled up in the blankets--this skeeved me a bit, but she thought it was hilarious.
There were at least 15 unique photo opportunities. The exhibit features so many iconic Harry Potter settings from the whole franchise. The Herbology class even had Screaming Mandrakes you could lift from the pots. I think the strongest part of the exhibition was the many photo opportunities.
Is the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Franklin Institute good for kids?
Yes, but it is better for older kids. My oldest daughter is a few weeks shy of 8 and loves Harry Potter. She loved the whole experience and wants to go again ASAP (she does not know we are going to Universal Studios in a few weeks for her birthday). My youngest is soon to be 5 and has seen the movies. She found it fun, but couldn't fully participate in several interactive pieces. My youngest also found parts of the exhibit like the Forbidden Forest section scary. Most of the exhibit is dark, and that section has some spook sound effects.
I know many parents of younger kids are reading the books with their children now. The exhibit includes experiences from the entire franchise. If you are not watching the movies until you finish the books, you may want to wait. While there are no spoilers, your children may not understand many of the references, scenes, or props. Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and the Half-Blood Prince all have their own photo opportunities. There is also an interactive element referencing the final showdown between Voldemort and Harry from the final film.
If I was to go again, I would plan on going during the day with full museum access. Our kids love the Franklin Institute. We can, and have, easily spent 3+ hours there. Especially if I wasn't a member, I would choose the full priced ticket over the $30 night pricing. Most of the museum is incredibly fun and interactive for kids. You can easily make a whole day out of the trip. The museum itself would make this a more well rounded and kid friendly experience for the whole family, in my opinion.
Harry Potter Exhibit at the Franklin Institute Pricing
Daytime pricing, which includes museum admission, is $39 for children 3-11 and $43 per adult (museum admission is typically $19 per child and $23 per adult). Nighttime passes that do not include admission to the Franklin Institute are $30 per person. Member prices, regardless of timing, are $20 a ticket. Parking is not included, and garage parking is $20 ($15 for members). The garage is small and could be filled--especially on busy weekends.
The cost of a family of four to get the museum + Harry Potter pass and park would be $184. A family of 4 membership is $149. If you buy a membership, go to the Harry Potter Experience, and pay to park, it will cost $244. We go to the Franklin Institute at least 4 times a year, so it is worth it for us to be members. The Franklin Institute membership is also a part of the ASTC Passport Program which is great for families that travel.
You must buy your tickets for a certain day and time. The Franklin Institute is a little flexible with lateness. For instance, we had a 6:30 ticket and they were calling for people with a 6:00 pm ticket up until 6:30pm. I would call, however, if you are going to be later than a half hour window.
How long will the Harry Potter exhibit be at the Franklin Institute?
The exhibit debuted February 18, 2022 and will run until September 18, 2022.
How long does it take to do the Harry Potter exhibit at the Franklin Institute?
This depends on the time and crowds. With us going at 6:30pm with two children, we spent exactly one hour in the exhibit with minimal lines. We arrived 20 minutes before our tickets, were towards the front of the line that formed, and we were allowed in at 6:25pm. I heard the weekends are packed, so I would plan on more time during the busier hours.
While most of the exhibit was easy to get through with almost no lines, we did occasionally have to wait about 5 minutes for some photos. The museum did do a great job with pacing the crowds during our time there.
Is the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Franklin Institute Accessible?
The space is wheelchair, stroller, and crutches accessible. Several interactive pieces, like the Quidditch game and Divination Class, may be difficult in a wheelchair. Many photo opportunities do seem to involve being able to get out of a chair and into another or on the floor (Hagrid's house, Umbridge's office, and Harry's Bedroom).
The exhibit is pretty dark at times, but a smooth and flat floor. We went at 6:30pm on a weeknight and it was not very crowded. If I was bringing a stroller or had a guest in a wheelchair or crutches, I would try to avoid the crowded times. I do not remember seeing anywhere to sit during the exhibit.
Final thoughts about the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Franklin Institute
I thought this Harry Potter Exhibition at the Franklin Institute was fun. If you or a loved one loves Harry Potter, you should definitely go. If you are attending with children, find a time during the day where you can get to experience the whole Franklin Institute. The Franklin Institute has been our favorite museum to visit with our kids for years and it is well worth planning a whole morning or afternoon there.
Thinking about other travel with kids? Check out my review of Hershey Park with kids under 5.