First and foremost, before you read this, please check out The Trevor Project. Read their site, learn some new stuff, share their materials, and if you can, donate to them. This project helps LGBTQ youth through hard times and helping fight back against anti-trans hatred, like the stuff JKR spews, is very important. We highly suggest reading Daniel Radcliffe's response to Jo on their site.
Your life matters no matter your racial, gender, or sexual identity.
Harry Potter NYC is a two-story shopping destination located south of the Flat Iron in Flat Iron District. The store features all sorts of merchandise you'd expect if you have visited the Universal parks in the past 20 years plus higher-priced items like Le Creuset cookware, jewelry, and Vera Bradley bags. This is New York, after all. Potter fans will also appreciate the exclusive MACUSA merch (hahah sorry I couldn't type that without laughing) and HP NYC branded items (which are very very cool). I personally bought some exclusive candles for myself and my sister. In addition to the merchandise is a small cafe selling Butterbeer at $10 a pop, Butterbeer soft serve, and other pastries.
The real unique factor are two virtual reality (VR) experiences offered at the store. One, Wizards Take Flight, is a simulated broom ride around Hogwarts and through London. The second, Chaos at Hogwarts, takes you from Platform 9 3/4 into Hogwarts as you help Doby deliver a suitcase to Dumbledore. Both experiences are booked online prior to visit and cost $34 plus tax per person.
The VR is designed by Dreamscape, a Los Angeles-based company with physical locations around the world, with special effects done by Technifex out of Santa Clara. Each experience features a VR helmet, hand tracker beacons, and a wand- Flight also features a broom you ride on while Chaos includes a computer backpack and feet tracking beacons. These beacons track your movements through the attraction - for Flight it tracks your hands, head, and wand while Chaos is full-body tracking through the experience. If you are familiar with at-home VR experiences you know what to expect from this.
The check-in for the experiences is on the first floor near the Hogwarts House merchandise in the main room, next to a giant Elder Wand. Flights take place on the bottom floor, Chaos entrance is on the main floor then heads up to the second floor for the experience.
Each experience is run by several employees, with one being the experience host. They layout any story beats, offer guidance, help with equipment, and will assist with any issues you are having. Before each experience guests will also pick an in-game avatar and Hogwarts house, this will change your face and scarf appearance to others. We are also instructed on how to cast spells, a simple karate chop motion while holding a wand will suffice to cast (take that Flitwick).
Wizards Take Flight
My first of the two VR experiences was Wizards Take Flight, a simulated broom flight. The holding area is themed to a broom dispatch center, but the gear up is themed to a quidditch locker room. Upon strapping on your hand trackers the experience guide will inform you of a mass break out of Death Eaters at Azkaban (again). But not to worry, the best wizards are on the case and there is nothing to worry about.
We the next proceed into a large room with six "broom" simulators: think a bicycle seat with footrests and where the front wheel and handlebars are is a broom handle. To the right is a small stand holding a wand vertically, on the back of the broom simulator is your VR helmet. The broom handle articulates at a point located between the knees - pulling up on the handle raises your in-game character while moving to the left or right steers them in that direction. Somewhat understandably, but still disappointing, you cannot control the speed of your broom, so no crazy swooping dive maneuvers around the Quiddich pitch.
Once you put on your helmet you will find yourself in a dark field house alone. Of course, everyone is there too, setting up, and once everyone is engaged the experience guide will "remove our invisibility cloaks" (aka activate the in-game avatars) and we soon see the whole group on our brooms. The field house door creeks open and soon we are out in the broom training yard where we soon take off. During this time we are allowed to fly around the Hogwarts grounds and get accustomed to our brooms. After a few minutes of flying Dobby apparates onto our brooms (in easily the most startling aspect of either experience) and takes us to Knockturn Alley for a special mission.
In Knockturn we find the familiar motorbike, Dobby, and our wands floating in front of us. The wands we saw as we mounted the brooms are now floating in front of us, either held using a magnet and a guidewire or employee. It's the simple things, ya know. Soon Hagrid comes out and informs us that we have a special delivery to make but he needs backup as the death eaters have escaped Azkaban.
Soon we are off, with Hagrid on the motorbike leading the way, leaving Diagon Alley and into London. We zoom along the River Thames past the Palace of Westminster and London Eye (which suggests Diagon Alley is located in the Westminster section of London, FYI). As we make our way Death Eaters start attacking and we must fend them off before we fly into a storm cloud that will dispel them all. Soon we are back at Hogwarts, slightly damper from the wind and rain effects, as we make a victory lap around the school and back into the field house.
Wizards Take Flight fulfills the dream of flying on a broom but falls a little short of expectations. Due to game design we don't really have control over our speed or pitch, going up and down is more like an elevator rather than a rollercoaster. If you have been on Forbidden Journey the sensation of flying through the Quidditch pitch and caves is more intense than this experience, for better or for worse. If you find yourself getting motion sick I'd suggest skipping this attraction and doing Chaos at Hogwarts instead.