'I took my kids to Yorkshire's unofficial Harry Potter day out and they keep asking to go back'

'I took my kids to Yorkshire's unofficial Harry Potter day out and they keep asking to go back'
-Credit: (Image: Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw)


If, like me, you have Harry Potter fans, you too likely live with the constant requests of "when can we go to Harry Potter World?!"

And as much as I'd love to take them for a family ticket for two adults and two children you're looking at £172 and that's before you've added on any of the extras.

Tally that with four train tickets to London, a hotel, food, drinks and spending money - you're talking at least a thousand pound for the privilege.

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And don't get me wrong, I have heard great things, wonderful things (sorry I couldn't help myself)... And I do hope at some point we will make it there, but right now with the six weeks holidays looming and a cost of living crisis to contend with, I was looking for a cheaper alternative, without compromising on entertainment.

Enter the beautiful city of York.

York is one of my favourite cities to visit for many reasons but it also happens to have connections with JK Rowling’s much-loved books and therefore tends to be a huge tourist spot for Harry Potter fans like my two!

And so I opted to take my two boys (aged 10 and 4) on a day trip to York as they'd never been before.

This gift shop, on York's famous Shambles, specialises in Harry Potter merch. The Shambles was thought to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley, in the film series based on JK Rowling's books. However, Rowling scotched this rumour saying she'd never been to or seen the Shambles
This gift shop, on York's famous Shambles, specialises in Harry Potter merch. The Shambles was thought to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley, in the film series based on JK Rowling's books. However, Rowling scotched this rumour saying she'd never been to or seen the Shambles -Credit:Google Street View

I was apprehensive I must admit, even though I had some ideas up my sleeve, it is still a busy city centre and that combined with two feral boys - who don't know how to move at any other speed other than lightening - worried me a little.

Initially my plan was to get the train but in the end I decided to drive just in case it was a total disaster and I wanted to leave earlier than the scheduled train home, however, I needn't have worried.

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First up on our agenda was a trip to York’s famous medieval street - the Shambles, the street is famed for it's likeness to Diagon Alley, the street where Harry and Hagrid famously go shopping for all of Harry's Hogwart's essentials.

Although none of the Harry Potter films were actually filmed in York, and JK Rowling hasn’t confirmed the link, it is believed to have been the inspiration for the street.

People queue for up to three hours to get into The York Ghost Merchants on The Shambles in York
People queue for up to three hours to get into The York Ghost Merchants on The Shambles in York -Credit:Yorkshire Live

On the iconic street you will find The Shop that Must Not be Named, although you usually see the queue first! People come from all over the country just to visit.

I'd expected to queue for quite some time given the reviews online, however, I'm not sure if we just timed it right but we only waited for around ten minutes before we were in - Jackpot!

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Once inside it's impossible not to be impressed, even if you're not a huge fan, the shop is filled with official Harry Potter merchandise, including a display cabinet of props used in the film, which my eldest son was completely in awe of.

There's a whole section of wands to choose from and the whole experience feels just like the film, from the themed staff, to the broomstick parking and eerie atmosphere.

'I took my kids to Yorkshire's unofficial Harry Potter day out and they keep asking to go back'
'I took my kids to Yorkshire's unofficial Harry Potter day out and they keep asking to go back' -Credit:Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw

The boys each chose a wand with help from the wonderful staff, we also picked up some treats including butter beer, a chocolate frog and some Bertie Botts every flavour beans - see who needs Harry Potter World eh?!

Both the boys absolutley loved the shop, my eldest has already picked what he's buying next time he goes (he better get saving!)

After that it was time for our booking with The Wizard of York - the magic hatter who brings his award-winning entertainment to the streets with The Wizard Walk of York.

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We were instructed, by means of our somewhat cryptic booking confirmation, to wait at the bottom of The Shambles by the church. We arrived and saw a few other people who also seemed to be aimlessly waiting around but there was nothing to be seen.

It was all a little bizarre and I wasn't sure what to expect, the boys kept asking me what was going to happen next to which I had no answer.

The Wizard Tour of York
The Wizard Tour of York -Credit:Yorkshire Live

All of a sudden a man dressed in red with a large wizards hat holding a brief case came and sat on the wall and asked one of the people waiting if they had seen a wizard anywhere, it set the tone for the tour as the children were in stitches laughing.

The tour began as a group of excitable children gathered round the wizard as he gave them their first clue before embarking on an exciting trip around the centre finding magical creatures.

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While my 4-year-old was hooked from the beginning, initially my 10-year-old rolled his eyes and declared "this is for babies", but he soon had to eat his words when he couldn't stop laughing at the Wizard's constant quips, that even had the adults laughing.

Of course there were tricks along the way too - my youngest was gobsmacked when the wizards wallet went up in flames! The whole thing was engaging, fun, magical and hilarious. It's no wonder it's dubbed TripAdvisor’s third Best Family Experience in the World.

It was education, fun and engaging for adults and children alike!
It was education, fun and engaging for adults and children alike! -Credit:Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw

We teamed this with the 'What a Hoot!' birds of prey experience at the medieval St. Crux Church shortly afterwards. The small-group private experience was fantastic, the boys got to get up close and personal with real life owls - just like Harry's. As well as a giant bird of prey - that was a little bit terrifying!

The two knowledgeable men holding the experience were really professional and great with the kids, who had one million and one questions! The boys learnt lots of interesting facts about the animals and got the opportunity to hold them for a picture.

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There was no up selling, no photographer trying to sell you a picture for £40+, we were able to take as many pictures as we liked on my phone in with the price of the ticket, which I thought was great.

It was really interesting for myself as well as the kids, as well as being fun and educational too! It's certainly a unique experience that I don't think they will forget in a hurry. And no we still can't have a pet owl.

The children loved the birds of prey experience
The children loved the birds of prey experience -Credit:Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw

The wizard tour cost £9 per person and the birds of prey experience is £8 per person, so for both the wizard tour and the birds of prey for three of us the total cost was £51, which given the quality of the unique entertainment I found to be really reasonable!

We finished the fun-filled day with a trip to Loopy Scoops on Church Street where we tried the exclusive Wizard of York Special Ice-Cream.

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The vanilla and caramel Butter Brew Ice-Cream comes in an sherbet cone in the Wizard’s trademark red, topped with a chocolate frog, chocolate wafer wand, golden goblin bank coin and magical moon and star sprinkles - cue the "wowwww" remarks from the boys.

The ice-creams tasted just as good as they looked and served as the perfect treat to end a truly magical day!

The wizard himself enjoying the exclusive Wizard of York Special Ice-Cream
The wizard himself enjoying the exclusive Wizard of York Special Ice-Cream -Credit:Wizard of York


All in all I spent just over £100 for the full day, a whopping saving in comparison to what I would have spent going to Harry Potter World.

We had a fantastic day out, it took less than an hour to get there and the kids haven't stopped talking about it since!

You can book the Wizards Walk of York and the Birds of Prey Experience online, here, and it certainly comes highly recommended from us!

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