Calling all Potterheads! Take your tired ol' bucket list and toss it in the trash, because we're about to write a new one—the only one you'll ever really need. Why? Because, dear friends, ours is chock full of trips every Harry Potter fan dreams of taking in their lifetime.
Bless J.K. Rowling and her brilliant brain for creating a literary world so rich that it spilled into the real world, giving every single one of us a major case of Potter-inspired wander lust. So if you're planning your next big vacay, don't overlook the adventures on this list.
The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9¾, London
Hurry to King's Cross Station—after all, you don't want to be late and risk ruining your chance to hop a train to Hogwarts via Platform 9¾. Just outside the Harry Potter Shop, you can recreate the pivotal platform-crossing scene Harry experienced after being dropped off by Hagrid. Inside the shop (designed to look like Ollivander's wand shop, no less), you can stock up on house merchandise and more.
The ZSL London Zoo, London
Hopefully your encounter with a Burmese Python is every bit as magical as Harry's when you visit the famed Reptile House at the London Zoo, home to the snake that tipped Harry off to his Parseltongue.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Well hellooooooo, Hogwarts! Just think of the photo ops waiting at this historic castle which served as the iconic school of witchcraft and wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films. One of the largest inhabited castles in the UK, Alnwick IRL has been in the Percy family for the last 700 years.
The London Bridge Trifecta: Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and Lambeth Bridge
If you're a Potterhead who happens to love bridges, listen up. You can visit three memorable ones from the books/movies during your next London trip. First, check out the glass floor of the Tower Bridge, which Harry flew over as he rode his broom over the Thames. Then, head over to the London Millennium Bridge, which was tragically destroyed by Death Eaters. And lastly, don't forget about the Lambeth Bridge, upon which the Knight Bus mystically squeezed through two double decker buses.
Warner Bros. Studios Set Tour, London
For more than 10 years, the Harry Potter film franchise called the Warner Bros. Leavesden set in London its home. When production on the last film wrapped, the studio curated countless artefacts from the films into a special tour called The Making of Harry Potter that quite literally takes you behind-the-scenes—everywhere from Dumbledore's office to the Dursleys' house on Privet Drive. Bonus? You can even buy a frothy cup of butterbeer.
Let's be real: We've all dreamed of stumbling upon Diagon Alley. So why not make it happen? Well, sort of, anyway. You can always visit Leadenhall, a covered Victorian market in London that was the backdrop for Diagon Alley in the movies. You'll even see the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron!
The Harry Potter-Themed Hotel, London
Here's the good news: you don't have to present a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to sleep like a Gryffindor or Slytherin—the Georgian House Hotel in London boasts Harry Potter-themed Wizard Chambers for that. Furnished with canopy bed draped in tartan plaid blankets and a house crest hanging on the walls, these rooms are full of easter eggs sure to give any Potterhead sweet dreams indeed.
The College of Wizardry, Leśna
Alohomora… Wingardium Leviosa… Stupefy. Oh, sorry. I was just practicing my spell pronunciation for when I enroll at the real-life College of Wizardry. Held at the historic Czocha castle in Poland, this dream-come-true is a live-action role play (or LARP) where you can "attend classes as a witch or wizard and learn the magical arts." Sign me up!
The Hogwarts Express/Jacobite Steam Train
Are you sitting down? You should probably sit down for this. OK, ready? Here goes: You can actually ride the Hogwarts Express. As in, the actual train featured in the Harry Potter films. Known as the Jacobite Steam Train, it runs along an 84-mile stretch of Scotland's scenic West Coast. And, yes, this includes crossing the distinctive 21 arches of the Glenfinnan viaduct featured in the Harry Potter films.
The Elephant House, Edinburgh
For most people, this may simply be a quick stop in an otherwise adventure-filled trip. For a writer like myself, though, I would seek out a cozy spot at this favorite Edinburgh tea and coffee house and camp out… indefinitely. Then maybe some of the inspiration J.K. Rowling drew from it while writing many of her early novels would rub off on me.
In the United States
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando
Since my repeated attempts to blackmail my husband into taking me to Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter have thus far failed, I'm going to need y'all to go and report back so I can live vicariously through your magical experience. If doing me a solid isn't incentive enough, just think about the fact that on this hallowed ground you can visit the shops of Hogsmeade, enter the towering castle gates into Hogwarts, and hop on the Flight of the Hippogriff.
Harry Potter Festival, Philadelphia
Why yes, you can hop a ride on the Hogwarts Express here in the States. You just need to head to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station (no ¾ platform navigation required). There, for one weekend in October every year, you can catch a train ride to the annual Harry Potter Festival in Philly's famed Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Magical shenanigans whilst there include being sorted by the Sorting Hat, cheering on a Quidditch tourney and even practicing casting spells.
The Quidditch World Cup
Quidditch is no longer relegated to the pages of Harry Potter, my friends. Now it is a legitimate co-ed, contact sport played round the world—sans broomsticks, of course. This past year, the Quidditch World Cup took place in Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the spring, and the upcoming 10th World Cup of Quidditch will be played in Kissimmee, Florida, in April. If you keep an eye on the website, you can plan ahead and catch the Cup when it comes to a city near you.