Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Harry Potter NY VR Experience Review


MBE partnered with Harry Potter NY for this story

New Attraction Arrives Via Broomstick to New York

I didn't have to ask twice. My two millennial sons Rafi and Jacob, both Manhattan residents and dedicated Potterheads since the first book, jumped at Warner Bros. hosted opportunity to represent MBE at the press preview of both VR adventures offered by Harry Potter New York Virtual Reality Experiences. The two different experiences, Wizards Take Flight and Chaos at Hogwarts (each requiring advance ticket purchases), open to the public on Thursday, July 15 at the Harry Potter NY store, 350 Broadway in the Flatiron District of New York City.

New York City Manhattan Skyline Aerial
Photo by Ashley Winkler

Behind the Scenes at Harry Potter NY VR Experiences 

Since they got a sneak peek and tried this out, Rafi and Jacob have been talking about how cool this new multi-media VR presentation is. Keep reading to learn in-depth about what the experience is actually like, what they enjoyed most, and what Harry Potter enthusiasts can look forward to as you immerse yourselves in this all-new exciting world of high tech wizardry. 

Harry Potter NY Store Free Photo Booth Opps
Photos by Raphel Elspas and Jacob Elspas

So let's get on with it: Here, in my guys' own words as told to their Mom, are their unique impressions of the Harry Potter NY VR Experiences. Join them now for a virtual insider's guided tour through their stories and photos.

Rafi Elspas, The Engineer - The Nuts and Bolts of the VR Gear

Big brother Rafi works as a computer engineer for a multinational aerospace company, so he is equally enthralled with technology hardware, gadgets, and computer coding. He's also a serious Harry Potter fan which he recently proved by joining in a Harry Potter movie marathon to rewatch all eight movies with some friends.

Raphael Elspas Harry Potter NY Store Firebolt Movie Prop
Photos by Raphel Elspas and Jacob Elspas

Wizards Take Flight - Flying on a Broom Above Hogwarts

"During this experience you are seated the whole time, but feel as if you're flying on a broom inside Harry Potter's fantasy world," Rafi explains. "Starting in the equipment room -- which has the vibe of a locker room -- a helpful VR team member will outfit you with hand sensors and goggles to allow you to see in VR; there are also props of what you'd expect Hogwarts students to wear when flying during Quidditch. Once you're all geeked out with gear, staff will show you how to use the buttons and controls.

"After you know what to do, you move to the VR experience room where there's a trial run to practice and get the feel of taking off and flying on your broom. Then you're all set to explore via a fantastical VR experience. Over about 15 minutes, your small group of participants will have the sensation of soaring above Hogwarts and around and about in a few more scenes. No spoilers but what I will tell you is that you'll encounter some special effects, and a familiar character or two who engage with you. You'll also have opportunities to point your wand and cast a spell or two."

Raphael Elspas Jacob Elspas Harry Potter NY VR Experience
Photos by Raphel Elspas and Jacob Elspas

Chaos at Hogwarts - Walking around the Castle

"The preparation for this VR experience is similar to Wizards," Rafi says. "First the staff, dressed in character, assists with putting on your equipment such as feet/hand straps and a laptop size computer backpack; they'll also show you how to operate all the gadgetry. What's different is rather than riding on a broom and flying, in Chaos at Hogwarts you have the ability to stand and are free to walk around, while exploring the VR castle.

"There's also a wand you wave, saying a magic word to cast a spell to cause a certain effect. Sensory special effects, like water, are also part of the journey. Running about 15 minutes, this experience creates the illusion you're walking around Hogwarts, experiencing sensations like climbing stairs, entering/exiting rooms, and more. Walking around seems like you are moving over greater distances, when in reality the actual physical space is around 20x20 squarefeet, give or take. The thing I liked best was that there are alternative endings, depending on whether you succeed at different tasks, both having to do with a dragon."

Jacob Elspas, the Computer Coder - How to Maximize Your Experience

Jacob, just one year Rafi's junior and the youngest of triplets, is a coder for one of the world's largest companies. He not only is fascinated by pop culture and virtual reality experiences in general, he loves to read (especially the genre fantasy) and you'll rarely see him without a book in hand. He's also extremely knowledgeable about Harry Potter  trivia as he has read all J.K. Rowling's books (and seen all the movies) in the series multiple times. 

Jacob Elspas Potterhead at Harry Potter NY Store
Photos by Raphel Elspas and Jacob Elspas

Come to think of it, Jacob knows a whole lot more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter than I do. He was immensely helpful in educating me while writing this review about characters and details, especially when it comes to magic spells and what they do, like Alohamora (to unlock doors), Reducto (to cause an explosion), and Incendio (to set things on fire), to name a few.

"I can't tell you which ones, " Jacob alludes, "but trust me, you will be excited to become immersed in your favorite parts from various Harry Potter films whichever VR experience you choose. From gearing up and receiving instructions through the end of the actual experience, total time was just a half hour, but this was such a full and thrilling adventure it seemed longer. 

"Both experience versions were truly interactive: Not only are you enabled to see and do your own tasks within the VR world, you also have the ability to see, touch and assist with other members in your group, creating a sense of comraderie. Those who I think will appreciate this the most are teens and adults who are already fairly familiar with Harry Potter. 

Harry Potter NY VR Photo Opps Hagrid ButterBeer
Photos by Raphel Elspas and Jacob Elspas

"While I enjoyed both experiences, I think I preferred Chaos at Hogwarts slightly more since there seemed to be more things going on and different scenes to visit. Pre-opening tickets have been selling quickly, so this is likely to be very popular event for months to come, so if you have your heart set on a certain date, it's probably a good idea to reserve your tickets now.

"If this is your first time here's great tip to enjoy the overall Harry Potter vibes even more," Jacob adds. "Before and after your VR experience be sure to allow extra time to check out the new Harry Potter NY store which opened in June. As you can see from the assortment of images in this post, there is an immense comprehensive collection of Harry Potter-themed merchandise to shop. Lots of fun Instagram photo opps to take advantage of, too, so make sure you bring along your fully-charged smartphone to snap pictures and memories like we did."  

More About Harry Potter NY VR Experiences

When you reserve and buy your timed tickets for this experience, you will have the option to choose between  two very different, but equally exciting Harry Potter VR adventures: Wizards Take Flight and Chaos at Hogwarts. From start to finish, including putting on and removing the gear, each of the two experiences lasts approximately 30 minutes. 

Admission is $34 per person per experience and you are only permitted to reserve one option in advance at a time. Minimum height for guests is 48-inches tall; kids must be at least 10 years old, plus all participants under 13 must be accompanied by a ticketed adult. Photography is permitted in the store but is not allowed when during the actual Harry Potter VR experiences. Timed tickets for the new VR experiences are available now, to purchase and for date availability check the Harry Potter Store NY site.

NOTE: Tickets for bookings from August 16 to September 15, 2021 will be released soon - Check the Harry Potter NY website for details.

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