This June marks the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” the first in a series of one of the most beloved stories of the modern era that spawned the wildly popular film franchise, a play, and multiple theme parks.
So where should fans go to celebrate this most momentus of occasions?
Diehard Potter-heads know the best place to celebrate all things Harry this year is in Great Britain, where there are all kinds of celebrations and special exhibits. Since last summer’s Brexit vote, the dollar is the strongest it’s been against the pound in many years. According to VisitLondon.com, an American family of four could now save up to $140 a day.
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You can visit Harry Potter locations with guided tours in London including Brit Movie Tour, London Walks and Discovery Walks of London
But it may be more fun to design your own Harry Potter tour. Here are 11 best bets:
1. The official filming locations. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, 20 miles from London, gives visitors the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films. See the original Hogwarts Express and the newest permanent expansion, Forbidden Forest.
The Wizarding Wardrobes exhibit, opening July 21, showcases never before seen costumes and details how they were designed. It’s easy to get here via public transport, with a shuttle bus from Watford Junction train station; there are also bus tours from London with Golden Tours. The Grove hotel is one offering tour and hotel packages.
2. Edinburg, Scotland is where J.K Rowling famously wrote the first book in a coffee shop and the final book in the series at the Balmoral Hotel. She is said to have gotten some of her inspiration here—Victoria Street resembles Daigon Alley, for example, and Hogwarts is said to be modeled after George Heriot’s School, many believe. There are many tours including the Potter Trail, complete with a robed guide.
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3. The turreted Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which has been owned by the same family for 700 years, will be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter films as it was used as a location. Ready to join the new Dragon Quest, facing a series of challenges and coming face to face with a fearsome beast?
4. Enjoy the theater. The award-winning and enormously popular Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part One and Part Two at the Palace Theatre in London is set in the years after the final novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The script has been published as a book. Be forewarned: tickets can be tough to get!
5. The London Zoo Reptile House is where Harry first discovers his gift for talking to snakes. It’s home to more than 650 different species.
6. Platform 9 ¾ really exists? Visit the station where students would jump on the Hogwarts Express. Platforms 4 and 5 were used for filming and today, there’s a photo app to push a trolley through the wall marked Platform 9 ¾. There’s also the Harry Potter Shop, built to resemble Ollivander’s wand emporium.
7. Leadenhall Market, the picturesque covered Victorian market in the City of London, is known for its cafes and entertainment. It was used as the location for Diagon Alley in many of the films.
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8. Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s busiest intersections, will be familiar as the place where Harry, Ron and Hermione run when they flee the wedding of Ron’s brother, with the Death Eaters hunting them down.
9. The pedestrian only London Millennium Bridge is where “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opens with the bridge collapsing.
10. The House of MinaLima exhibits original movie artwork today. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima were the designers behind the Harry Potter series and “Fantastic Beasts.”
11. St. Pancras International Station is where Harry boards the Hogwarts express. Harry and Ron park in the courtyard during the “Chamber of Secrets” and later fly over the station.
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.