"Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be follow the butterflies?” — Ron Weasley
We are so excited to share with all of you that we were able to visit the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience in Leesburg, Virginia over the weekend and had the absolute best time! Even though we only spent one night in Virginia, we made the most of it!
We started off listening to Taylor Swift and sharing how excited we all were to experience the Forbidden Forest. There were very little details shared on the website, and we refused to watch any TikToks or video about it so we could experience everything for the first time in person. The drive was about four hours, especially once we stopped for snacks half way.
Once we reached Leesburg, we freshened up a bit at the hotel and then decided to find some dinner before we headed to the Forbidden Forest for our scheduled time at 9. We drove around seeing what our options were since it was a Sunday night and we stumbled upon a Korean BBQ restaurant, GoGi92. Only Chelsea had tried it before, so we decided to experiment for dinner, especially since it was on Kelli's foodie bucket list! You cannot even imagine how excited Kelli was to finally get to try it!
Since we all had things we wanted to try, we did a small combo of meats, and then also ordered corn cheese, spicy rice cakes with cheese, and japchae. Also included with the meal were a few small dishes that consisted of kimchi, radish kimchi, radish, cucumber salad, jalapenos and onion, and a soybean/tofu type dish. Because the restaurant was so busy and short staffed, we got to experience cooking our food ourselves as well! Kelli has always wanted to try rice cakes, also known as tteokbokki, so she was most excited for that dish! And boy was it amazing!!! Everything was SO delicious - it's hard to pick our favorite thing!
And now for the main reason we went to Leesburg - The Forbidden Forest!! We somehow lucked out and got front row parking which was awesome since it was cold!! It was supposed to be in the 30s, so we were trying to decide if we wanted to bundle up or not since we would be walking through the woods. We decided lots of layers would probably be the best bet, and we set off! The first thing you see coming into the Forbidden Forest is Harry's Patronus. And it's breath-taking! His stag welcomes you to a tiny village area where you can buy butterbeer (which was Kelli's first time trying it - so of course we had to document it!), spiced mulled cider, and other yummy goodies.
While you're in the little village waiting for a guide to take you to the first stop, you get a sneak peek into the Forbidden Forest - plus you can hear the music which just gets you so pumped up to begin the experience! Once you're guided to the first stop, you get a brief rundown of the rules and what to expect, and then you're left to wander the woods on your own!
There were so many things to see. Truly, just the lights, music, and atmosphere is worth the experience. We all just kept swiveling our heads left and right taking it all in, not wanting to miss anything! The first person we ran into was Hagrid (and Fang, of course!). With each step, there was something new to see - Hedwig on a perch watching you walk past, Buckbeak standing by waiting to see if you are worthy of his time, and of course Mr. Weasley's enchanted car! Each set up was so detailed and beautiful. There were so many spots to stop and take pictures and videos.
Along the path, we came to quite a line. As we craned our necks to see up ahead what could possibly be there, we found out that we were in line to cast Expecto Patronum to discover our own Patronus! After you discovered your Patronus, you are a little more than halfway through the experience and come up to another village area to explore. Here you can find restrooms, drinks, and more hearty food options. We didn't partake in any of the food even if we wanted to try any because at this point it was 10:30 at night (just a little on the late side for a plate of bangers, mash, and mushy peas, don't ya think?!).
Once we moved past the village area, we came across an area where you could duel one another! We of course had to give this a try to see who would win... and of course on the first try Kelli held the wand upside down so it didn't quite work correctly, so we thankfully got a second chance.. and Kelli ended up winning! Muhahaha! After breaking a sweat dueling (hehe just kidding), we came to Aragog's nest. If you have any fear of spiders, they do have where you can bypass this experience, but we wanted to see it all! We entered the nest, and music played while Aragog slowly came out of his nest, all while his many children fall down from above! It was the coolest thing ever!
Our trek through the Forbidden Forest ended with a spectacular viewing of Harry's Patronus fighting off the dementors. It was amazing to get to see this up close and almost feel like you were experiencing it firsthand! The music, lights, and animation were out of this world. Once we made it out of the Forest, we made our way to the gift shop where we found clothing apparel, wands, and other little souvenirs from the experience.
To be honest, we only have two critiques about the Forbidden Forest experience - the food (or lack thereof) and the gift shop. There was a decent selection of snacks at the beginning of the Forest, but they had already run out of their homemade flavored syrups by 9:30 for the hot cocoa. There were food offerings in the village in the middle of the Forest, but it felt way too late to be eating such heavy foods. And the snacks and pastries that they had similar to the village in the beginning were all sold out by the time we got there. Most of it was shut down by the time we made it there, which was really disappointing. Although we had dinner, we definitely were in the mood for something sweet.
As for the gift shop, we just felt there weren't a lot of options. The shirt sizes were picked through and some of the choices for other houses weren't available in our house (like hoodies). Also, we thought there would have been more merchandise to choose from. However, neither of these things took away from how much fun we had. Our descriptions truly do not do the experience justice with just how breath-taking it all was. There was so much attention to detail with every character, creature, and set up we came across. We hope they continue the Forbidden Forest Experience, because we'd love to do this event again with the little tweaks worked out!
We ended our quick trip to Leesburg by shopping in the historic downtown area! We had planned to visit one of the local bookstores, but it was shut down because it was moving that week. We were so happy to stumble upon another one though! The shelves were PACKED top to bottom with books! We also spent the morning hitting up the little gift shops and found some cute souvenirs and mementos to bring home! We ended our visit with lunch at a local diner before heading home.
This was truly such an amazing event, and we are so thankful that we got to experience it! If you are able to check out the Forbidden Forest experience, we cannot recommend it enough! Even if you are not a Harry Potter fan, the experience is so worth it from the lights, music, and atmosphere.
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