Harry Potter turned 36 on July 31. Yes, I am acknowledging the birthday of a fictional character. Everyone is a nerd for something and my thing is “the boy who lived.” I am not alone in my fangirling for Harry Potter. My former roommate and close friend Amber is also a huge fan. We discovered our mutual love for Mr. Potter one night back in grad school when we watched an entire Harry Potter movie marathon together. So of course I chose Amber to attend an adult themed Harry Potter event with me.
The event took place at the Stablear-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Old Town Alexandria. In honor of Harry’s birthday, the museum holds an annual “Real World Science Behind Harry Potter” weekend event. It includes a tour of the museum, a specialty drink, and a chance to make your own potion for only $15. We started the night with a wine tasting at Sonoma Wine Cellar. A trip here is a priceless date on its own, a tasting of 5 wines ranges from $10-$15 and you can split a small plate for $20. There’s a patio area in the back called the “wine garden” which has a great ambiance. You should definitely check it out if you are ever in Old Town. But back to Harry Potter…
After a short walk in the rain we arrived at the Apothecary for our 9:15 tour. We instantly felt underdressed when we saw the other attendees wearing Gryffindor colors, round rimmed glasses, and the signature lightning bolt. Once we checked in with the front desk we were sorted into the Ravenclaw group. This was a bit disappointing because I know for a fact I belonged in Gryffindor. I felt better about it after a couple sips of the specialty drink called the Longbottom. Not only was the drink named after one of my favorite characters but also it tasted delicious.
A blue haired witch who began the tour with some Harry Potter trivia questions summoned our group. We learned about the history of the Apothecary and how it intersects with Harry Potter’s world. The cool thing about this museum is that everything inside is original. All the medicine bottles and their contents have remained since the building was saved by a group of citizens who later opened it as a museum.
From the first floor we went upstairs to do the craft, a sleeping potion made with vodka, hops, valerian root and lavender. I believe Professor Snape would have been impressed with my potion making skills. The last stop on the tour was the storage room above the Apothecary shop. This room was my favorite because it is where the ingredients referenced in the book are. Boxes labeled Dragons Blood, Unicorn Root, and Mandrake Root floated above us in the rafters. Taking the tour at night gave you the feeling you were in the movies.
For a moment I felt like Harry, Ron, and Hermione when they wandered the castle at night. Even though this event is once a year you can still appreciate the history of this unique museum. If you ever find yourself in Old Town Alexandria, check out the Apothecary and embrace your inner witch/wizard.