My 8-year-old daughter and I had the opportunity to take a trip to Hogwarts last weekend, without ever leaving Northeast Ohio. How? At the Wizard’s Gathering at the Fieldcrest Estate in North Canton. For five weekends in October and November, Fieldcrest has transformed into the world of Harry Potter, taking inspiration from the books and movies for every detail.
After checking in, we took our ticket to the “train station” to be assigned a house (Gryffindor, of course!) and a class to take (Muggle Studies with Professor Hagrid). Then my daughter was given a rolling suitcase so she could get a running start to go through the magical Platform 9 3/4 and board the Hogwarts Express (a.k.a. the Fieldcrest Trolley).
The trolley took us up the hill to the main lodge, where the lobby had been transformed into Diagon Alley, the magical street of shops in the books. Ollivander’s Wand Shop was there, selling wands of every shape, style, and price. The Spirit Shop sold various Harry Potter gifts and souvenirs. There was also a sweet shop with many Harry Potter-inspired treats, including “golden snitch” candies and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (we passed on those!).
In addition to the shops, we had the opportunity to help Dobby the House Elf find his lost sock, and Luna Lovegood find her missing boot. My daughter found both, and was as pleased as Hermione to hear “Ten points for Gryffindor!” each time. We also met Rita Skeeter and read the latest edition of The Daily Prophet newspaper, took a walk through Knockturn Alley, and sampled a sip of “butterbeer” (which I think was cream soda) while we waited for dinner to be served in the Great Hall.
We were called to assemble with our house prefects before dinner. Ginny Weasly led the Gryffindor house in to the great hall. The professors were assembled at the head table, and the four house tables were set with a feast under floating candles and jack-o-lanterns. We were welcomed by Headmaster Dumbledore before eating our family-style Halloween-themed dinner, which included pumpkin soup served in real pumpkins and a “mummified” (pastry-wrapped) pork tenderloin.
After dinner, we were dismissed to our classes. Hagrid’s “Muggle Studies” class included lots of Harry Potter trivia, and correct answers were rewarded with 10 House Points, and an assortment of “magical” rocks to be placed in our small cloth bags. Our class was visited by Dobby, Dumbledore, and Rita Skeeter, and was a lot of fun!
Dessert followed our classes, and we returned to the Great Hall for an assortment of pies, cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream. Special wands were awarded for the best costumes, and the House Cup was awarded to the house with the most House Points after the evening…and Gryffindor won! My daughter was so proud to have contributed some points to the win, and super excited that we received a certificate and souvenir mug to celebrate our win. (“We got an actual cup when we won the House Cup!”)
Overall, I was so impressed with the attention to the details of Harry’s wizarding world. As a self-professed HP geek, I noticed so many little touches that were straight out of the books, and they created a really fun, immersive atmosphere. Those portraying the professors, students, and other characters did a fantastic job staying in character and knowing the different details of the stories (some of the accents were more convincing than others, but a little “suspension of disbelief” went a long way to enhance the fun!).
This weekend (November 9-10), the Wizards’ Gathering will host actual Quidditch teams from Ohio colleges, which will be putting on exhibition matches, among other events happening at the Estate. November 15-16 will be a Wizards’ Scavenger Hunt, which includes dinner in the Great Hall and much more. The event wraps up on November 23 with the elegant Yule Ball. Tickets to the events aren’t exactly a “Shoestring Budget” item, but they would be a really special treat for someone who’s crazy about Harry Potter (sometimes things like these are the reason we pinch pennies in the first place, right?)
Tickets to this event were provided at no charge by the Canton Stark County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but as always, the opinions expressed are honest and my own.