Whoops! I intended to post this a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. Better late than never?
When I first heard of the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival, I had assumed that it was going to be a small, local festival with a few hundred people tops. Little did I know that over 9,000 tickets had been sold to the event and the city had capped tickets due to being at capacity.
Fortunately for me, after my meltdown during the Unicorn Frappuccino disaster of 2017, my husband was pretty darn determined to get tickets. He eventually was able to procure some, forever increasing his good-husband status in my book. After attending, I decided to write a review of the event.
Atmosphere. I would give the atmosphere of the event an 8/10. A lot of local stores and restaurants got in on the act and decorated. Each Hogwarts house had a “common room” that was decorated with the house colors. Street windows had Harry Potter signs and patronus cut-outs. They could have used more Harry Potter music; there was a ’90s cover band playing instead which my husband and I suspected was contracted with Roanoke City to play on Saturdays. A Harry Potter soundtrack would have really helped the atmosphere, though.
Food. I would give food an 10/10. Lots of local restaurants had Harry Potter themed menus. There were also Harry Potter vendors selling Fish ‘n Chips, Butterbeer, Butterbeer ice cream and snow cones, and more. There were also local food trucks with non-Harry Potter fair like burgers and ice cream.
Activities. Unfortunately I have to give this one a 3/10. There wasn’t much to do; my husband and I really stretched our time to even stay there three hours. There were some classes based around Harry Potter literature, psychology, and the like that seemed really, really, interesting, but they were all sold out. There was a performance of a Very Potter Musical that we saw a little snippet of, but unfortunately it took place behind a loud generator and the students were having to shout over that. We also saw a snippet of a quidditch match, but it would have been nice to have an announcer or a scoreboard for that, especially for people who didn’t know the rules of the game. I am hoping that next year there will be more to do and that the activities they had this year would be more accessible. Trivia in the Ravenclaw commonroom, maybe? A scavenger-hunt around the city? A school house relay competition? An owl raptor show? It would have also been helpful to have a more detailed brochure; we had to look up a lot of additional information online.
Shopping. I give this one a 6/10. There were, I would guess, 10-15 kiosks set up selling brooms, mugs, jewelry, and other fantasy-themed memorabilia. Living near that area though, I would have LOVED to have a tshirt, keychain or mug with the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival logo. The logo was super cute. I suspect that a specific Roanoke Harry Potter Festival kiosk would have been a HUGE hit.
The verdict: I wouldn’t have driven out of state for this festival, but since it was local, it was nice to spend an afternoon eating fish ‘n chips, watching a quidditch match, and trying butterbeer ice cream. I give it a 6/10 BUT with the hope that, since it’s the first year, they will have some kinks to work out before next year and will be better organized. I got the impression that this was intended to be a very small event that quickly got blown out of proportion. If there were more accessible activities next time, I would definitely go back.
I will also say that, while the big, well-funded Harry Potter tourist destinations are certainly magical, there was something particularly charming to me about how all the shop and restaurant owners in a small downtown area got in on the act and used their own creativity to transform their spaces into something magical. If that doesn’t represent an Enchanted Outlook, I don’t know what does.