Utah mall transformed into ‘Harry Potter’-inspired village for Christmas

One-of-a-kind “Christmas in the Wizarding World” will be at The Shops at South Town through January.

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Young wizard Charlie Woolenzien, 7, is excited to finds a box of "chocolate frogs" at Warner Bros. Harry Potter-themed exhibit and shopping area in the Shops at South Town in Sandy. There are interactive activities in addition to "Harry Potter" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" merchandise.

Sandy • At the foot of the stairs in The Shops at South Town — in quarters a bit more posh than Harry Potter’s room at 4 Privet Drive — a piece of the wizarding world has come to Utah.

“Christmas in the Wizarding World,” an exhibition and shop inspired by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, opened in the Sandy mall Thursday morning and will remain there through Jan. 31. It’s open during regular mall hours, and admission is free.

In addition to a wide selection of hoodies, scarves, neckties, candy, keychains, ornaments, diaries, stuffed beasts, mugs, puzzles, gift wrap and other items from the “Potter” film series and its “Fantastic Beasts” spinoff, the experience includes a spot where shoppers can test their Quidditch skills, a photo station with a green screen that can place fans in Hogwarts’ Great Hall and other magical settings, and a cozy shop where a “wandmaster” assists customers in selecting wands like the ones wielded by Harry Potter, Newt Scamander and 10 other franchise favorites. The outside perimeter of the 1,500-square-foot space features whimsically animated storefronts from some of the most popular shops in Hogsmeade and London’s Diagon Alley — two of the retail districts from the series.

“It’s awesome! A-W-E-S-O-M-E!” exclaimed early customer Charlie Wollenzien, 7, as he took inventory of his haul with brother Jack, 11.

The installation, created by Warner Bros. Consumer Products in collaboration with event-management firm GES, is the only one of its kind, and most of the merchandise on offer isn’t available anywhere else. Robin Stapley, creative director for GES,said Utah got the gig because of its “great family market and big fan base.” Sets were built in Warner Bros.’ scene shop and set up over the course of about a week by local contractors. A staff of 20 local actors — chosen by audition and approved by Warner Bros. — runs the shops. “It’s like a childhood dream come true,” said Kenneth McCormack during a break in the action at the cash register.

Heather Nash, the mall’s marketing manager, said curiosity from shoppers and on social media has been high during the installation process. She noted that although Christmas in the Wizarding World occupies the space traditionally held by Santa Claus, “We will still have Santa.” His station will open the day after Thanksgiving on the mall’s upper level, near the food court.