Wands at the ready everyone: The forested trails of FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights have transformed into the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience. If you dare enter, you’ll encounter characters, creatures, and favorite scenes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series. Utilizing a magical combination of spectacular lighting and sound effects, this walk-through experience transports visitors to the Wizarding World and even allows guests to conjure a little magic of their own.
Read on for our full review, and be sure to book your tickets to the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience soon, as it’s only in town for a limited time!
Subscribe to our newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.
As you enter the trail, it feels immediately like you have entered another world, with mist rising from the ground and color-changing lights illuminating the forest. Background music and animal sounds add to the mysterious ambiance. Along the trail, you encounter owls, mysterious glowing eyes, and various sign boards with warnings such as “Beware, Strange Creatures are Active at Night” and “Escaped Screwts in this Area.”
Come toe-to-toe with Buckbeak the hippogriff, who bows to all who bow to him.
Highlights include encounters with favorite, familiar characters, like Hagrid, the caretaker at the edge of the forest, and the animatronic, motion-activated hippogriff Buckbeak, who bows in return to passersby.
The forest floor comes to life during a mushroom-powered light show.
Some of the effects can be spooky for little ones, though my 7-year-old wasn’t fazed by the glowing eyes and growls emanating from the forest. Most of the creatures are not scary, however, and the effects are quite impressive, from a mushroom light show to a unicorn walking through the forest. It’s amazing to see how the effects are integrated into the natural forest setting, making them seem even more lifelike.
Kids and adults alike can enjoy a wand duel, which uses a touch-sensitive display, as well as cast voice-activated spells to turn lights on or off or conjure a patronus, which takes the shape of a different animal spirit for each visitor. This illusion is especially impressive as you shout “expecto patronum!” and a light projection of the animal magically appears in the air before vanishing into the forest.
Your journey through the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience is mostly self-guided, but at each of the interactive stations, there are attendants ready to help you cast the spells, so no need to memorize them all. My son loved the wand duel the most as a colorful lightning effect occurs when you touch your wand to the display.
Give tired feet a break—and a beverage—halfway through the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience.
Halfway through the trail guests can take a pit stop with bathrooms, picnic tables, and a place to grab a treat, including sweet and savory pastries, non-alcoholic butter beer that tastes like butterscotch soda, and hot chocolate. As an added touch, the baristas add sprinkles to your hot chocolate in your house colors—mine was red for Gryffindor, of course, but my son wanted Slytherin. After that, the trail continues through the forest with more creatures and displays, including an optional encounter with Aragog, the giant spider, and more spiders that drop down from the trees above.
The finale of the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience is probably the most impressive, with a spectacular light show reenacting one of the most famous scenes from the series, but I won’t spoil it here. At the end of the trail, which loops back on itself, there is a small village display with vendors selling food and drinks, as well as a gift shop to buy some keepsakes.
The whomping willow and Weasley’s car make for a fun photo at the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience.
Know Before You Go to the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience
- The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience is located in the back portion of FDR State Park. There is an exit marked “FDR State Park” directly off the Taconic parkway, between the Baldwin Road and Route 202 exits. This exit takes you to the park entrance. From there, continue straight past the lake toward the back of the park. Parking is available in the large pool parking lot.
- The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience trail is a dirt road, which is pretty packed down and stroller friendly.
- The on-site bathrooms are port-a-potties, and there are no changing tables.
- Dress warm, as the display is entirely outdoors.
- Ticket prices vary by day, but are cheaper on weekdays. Find complete pricing information and book your tickets here. Children ages 4 and under enter for FREE.
- For the best availability, book far in advance. The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience runs through late January 2023.
Photos by the author