For fans of the Harry Potter movies and books who wish they could step into the potions classroom at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the historic Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, may be the next best thing.
The Apothecary Museum, which dates back to 1792, is one of the oldest pharmacies in the nation and offers Harry Potter fans a chance to step back in time and see the pharmacy exactly as it was when it closed in 1933. You’ll also learn about the real-life ingredients used throughout the 1800s that are “potion” ingredients in the Harry Potter books and movies.
As fans get ready for both the highly anticipated release of J.K. Rowling’s new book, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II”—the script of a play by the same name opening this summer in London—as well as Harry Potter’s birthday on July 31, here are our top five reasons why you will love the Apothecary Museum.
1. Visit a real-life apothecary (dragon’s blood is real!)
Click and drag to look around. Image credit: M Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
You know of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary and Slug & Jiggers Apothecary, but did you know you can visit a real-life apothecary? At the Apothecary Museum you can see ingredients dating back to the 1800s that were mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies, including dragon’s blood, mandrake root, lavender, castor oil and valerian, and learn about their real-life medicinal uses and origins. You’ll even get the chance to hold a piece of dragon’s blood! What does mandrake root do? The American mandrake, also known as podophyllum, is used to treat warts and is found in a cancer drug.
2. Time travel like a Gryffindor
Image credit: Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (left); www.erikpatten.com (right)
Like Harry and Hermione, you too can time travel. Be transported back to 1792 to one of the oldest pharmacies in America and see thousands of curious objects, herbs and remedies intact as they were in 1933 when the apothecary closed. Famous historical figures who made purchases from the apothecary include Martha Washington, Nelly Custis and Robert E. Lee. These elixirs may not have promised luck to the user, but many were considered “cure-alls” in their time. The apothecary’s gothic-style architecture is also reminiscent of many scenes from Harry Potter.
3. Try to spot the trapdoor
Image credit: M Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
While on the Apothecary Museum tour you’ll head upstairs where the majority of the Harry Potter ingredients are housed. On your way be sure to look down to see the trapdoor that was used throughout 1800s as a freight elevator. Don’t worry, Fluffy’s nowhere to be found.
4. Test your magic, create a potion
Image credit: B Fink for Visit Alexandria
For those desiring an even more magical experience, the apothecary offers an hour-long “Potions and Lotions” program for groups. Visitors tour the museum and then mix their own bottle of lotion to take home using a mortar and pestle. The program is perfect for everything from birthday parties for kids to a girl’s day out for teens or adults.
5. Attend Harry Potter’s birthday party
Image credit: R Nowitz for Visit Alexandria
Visit the museum on July 30, 2016 and July 31, 2016 for “The Real Science Behind Harry Potter,” to join in on its 5th annual celebration of Harry’s birthday. Saturday features adult-only tours ($15), a Harry Potter-themed adult beverage and fun photo opportunities leading up to the big midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II” at local bookstore Hooray for Books. Sunday afternoon is a family-friendly celebration of Harry’s birthday including a special take-home activity book and trivia run by local business Hooray for Books. ($6 per person ages 5 and up). All weekend compete in a themed scavenger hunt for prizes. Tickets are available online at shop.alexandriava.gov.
To learn more about the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, visit www.apothecarymuseum.org or call 703-746-3852.
Header image credit: M Enriquez for Visit Alexandria