From a cupboard under the stairs in England to the Great Hall of Hogwarts Castle, a transfiguration spell has been cast on the Franklin Institute, turning the Center City museum into a magical maze of wizarding wonder for the world premiere of Harry Potter: The Exhibition.

Running through September, the 20,000-square-foot show by Imagine Exhibitions is an interactive experience that gives muggles a chance to cast spells, play Quidditch, and immerse themselves in endless photo opportunities (go ahead and sit at Dolores Umbridge’s desk, if you dare).

Joining your Daily Prophet reporter (moi) on the scene for a media preview of the exhibit Thursday was 8-year-old Kieran Goh, an avid Harry Potter fan and proud Gryffindor house member whose mom, Kristen Graham, is an education reporter at The Inquirer.

“It was so cool!” Kieran said. “I love the potions room.”

While even Moaning Myrtle might have a hard time finding something to complain about the exhibit, there were still a few hiccups that seemed to be getting worked out Thursday. One or two of the interactive features weren’t clearly marked and some guests breezed through a room which, at first, appeared to be just an immersive Marauder’s Map, but later morphed into an enchanting scene of Hogwarts Castle through the seasons.

During his opening remarks, Franklin president and CEO Larry Dubinksi said ticket presales for this exhibit have already exceeded presales for all other shows at the museum since 2007, when the Franklin hosted the King Tut exhibit.

“Today is truly a magical day,” he said. “Let us all be very clear, the city of Philadelphia is open for business and this phenomenal exhibition will help. It will draw people from near and far to Philadelphia.”

The exhibit focuses mainly on the world created by the Harry Potter movies, the first of which premiered in November 2001. Very little is mentioned of the books that inspired the films, or of author J.K. Rowling, aside from a copy of the first North American edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is on display.

Rowling remains a controversial figure following a series of anti-transgender tweets she posted in June 2020. Many of the actors who worked on the Harry Potter movies have condemned her remarks, including star Daniel Radcliffe, who responded to Rowling’s comments in an essay for The Trevor Project.

At the Franklin Institute, guests enter Harry Potter: The Exhibition at King’s Cross Station, where they receive a wristband which is used to interact with Golden Snitch medallions in the exhibit. Visitors then pick a Hogwarts house, a wand, and a Patronus at a touch-screen kiosk, choices which are then associated with the wristband and appear throughout the experience.

While there’s no grand staircase to speak of, guests do walk down a hallway lined with paintings of figures that move, including one of the Fat Lady who guards the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. The hallway opens up to a small rotunda, where galleries for each of the Hogwarts houses are set up to display costumes and props from the movies.

But the real highlight of the exhibit are the Hogwarts classrooms, where guests can pot (and pull) screaming mandrakes in the Herbology Greenhouse or fight boggarts (shape-shifters who take the shape of one’s greatest fear) in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Each challenge successfully completed adds 10 points to a guest’s chosen house.

This Ravenclaw’s personal favorite was the Divination classroom, where you could swipe your wristband and see yourself and your house and receive a prophecy by looking inside of a crystal ball (”Your potential is as big as the gourds in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch”).

Kieran particularly loved the Potions classroom, where he spent time making potion after potion on a touch screen to rack up his score.

“I’m going to get as many points for my house as I can!” he proclaimed.

A game where kids are encouraged to throw balls through Quidditch goals could get interesting, depending on the number of kids involved, but Kieran quickly proved himself to be a Quidditch MVP.

Like me, Kieran was excited to see floating candles in The Great Hall, but he was less impressed with Hagrid’s Hut and the Forbidden Forrest, where it was unclear if there were any interactive features.

Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10 screaming mandrakes, Kieran gave the exhibit a solid 9.

“It was really cool and you got to have a wristband that let you touch the Golden Snitches and it was an interactive experience,” he said. “I would definitely tell my friends to come.”

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” runs through Sept. 18. Daytime tickets, which include general admission to the museum, cost $43 for adults and $39 for kids. Evening tickets, which do not include general admission, are $30 for adults and children. VIP tickets — which offer anytime access on the date chosen at purchase and include a photo op, an exhibition lanyard, and a discount on the audio tour — are $59 for kids and adults.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 215-448-1200.