IN THIS POST: Trying to visit all the literary stops in New York City in one weekend is impossible – especially if you have a lengthy list of other interesting sites to visit. This post narrows your list to three must-see literary spots in New York City.
It would be impossible to visit all the places of literary significance in New York City in one trip. Shoot, it would probably be impossible even if you lived there for a year. On our recent weekend visit I knew there were just a couple places I wanted to check out for their literary prominence.
To be fair, it would also be impossible to visit all the historic sites or architectural sites or artistic sites…you get the point. New York City is huge and deeply appreciating one niche could take you a long time.
Each stop on this list has a different vibe and purpose. If you’re strapped for time, then choose the one that most resonates with your type of trip. I only had two of these on our original itinerary because I had been to one on an earlier visit. It was just fortunate that we could fit all three into our schedule – I do love when that works!
Harry Potter Store
A relatively new addition to the New York City landscape, the Harry Potter store is a tribute to all the wizarding wonderous-ness of Harry Potter. No surprise that this Potter-loving family had this high on our list of places we wanted to visit.
Unfortunately, the more research my husband and did about visiting the store, the less likely it seemed. We kept seeing articles about how difficult it is to get in. And, my research about their virtual queue seemed to indicate that if we couldn’t get to the store in the early morning (which our schedule did not allow for), then we would not get a spot in line.
The Bummer-Factor was palpable in the house.
If this might be you – depending on the season or timing of your visit – here’s what helped us.
Tips for Getting Into the Harry Potter Store
Follow Them on Social Media
I followed the store on Instagram, and they gave updates about their virtual queue line about halfway through the day.
Plan Your Visit During a Weekday, M-Th
After I followed the store on IG, I noticed a trend. Their posts during the week often said that there was no line, and that they were open for visitors. Perhaps those days are less busy or in less demand. Again, it depends on your travel time and the season, but being able to track access was super helpful in our decision-making.
Or, Plan to Visit in the Evening – After 6 PM
A quick peek at Google every now and then indicated that the evening hours were not as busy.
We arrived around 2 PM on a Friday and had a 45-minute wait. We made it!!!
One More Option
If you purchase tickets for one of their VR experiences then you automatically get into the store at the time of your reservation. We weren’t able to do this because our youngest was not old enough, but it could be a cool option if you’re traveling with older children.
Make sure you read their terms. For example, you can’t buy tickets for two people in your group and everyone else in the group gets to browse the store at the same time. They have to go through the virtual queue.
The Harry Potter Store Experience
It’s a store. Make no mistake that the main goal is retail. Having said that, they have done a great job making it an experience to remember. I loved the book arch they had on the lower level, but my favorite part was standing next to Hagrid in a pair of his shoes. I’m on the upper-end of the height scale for women, and I still felt small!
There is a giant griffin at the center of the staircase and a wall full of wands. Candy, clothing, stuffed Knight buses, and tchotchkes of all sorts abound. There is cool memorabilia displayed around the store as well – don’t miss the Firebolt downstairs!
Tasting Butterbeer is also a must-do experience. It is a super sweet drink with a frothy foam. We all took a sip, but the girls much preferred the Butterbeer ice cream – which they said tasted very different than the drink!
Such a fun, family-friendly (potentially expensive) adventure and easy to see why it is one of the must-see literary spots in New York City.
This was my second visit to Strand. We decided to walk to it while we waited for our spot at Harry Potter. I’m not sure I’d recommend walking between the two spots for everyone, but the weather was beautiful, and our legs were fresh since we had just stepped off of a four-hour train ride.
Strand Bookstore is ah-mazing! They have been around for almost 100 years and their iconic sign claims 18 miles of books. I believe it!
Levels upon levels of books are crammed into the bookstore. A wide selection of contemporary offerings, a well-stocked children’s section on the second floor, and antique and collectible books are throughout. Plus, don’t forget the necessary tote bags, magnets, journals, etc. It is a maze to move around book stacks and book nerds but worth it!
New York Public Library
As you might imagine, the New York Public Library is a massive system. In the case of this must-see literary destination in New York City, I’m referring to the main branch known as the Schwarzman Building.
This stop is best suited for architectural nerds, bookworms, and general library aficionados. Say hello to the iconic lions Patience and Fortitude out front. (For a fun picture book about these lions, check out Lost in the Library by Josh Funk.)
Prepare to stand in awe at the front entrance as you take in the scale and grandeur of this massive historic library. Climb the winding staircase and stand in the center of the building to look down.
To the left is another set of stairs leading to the McGraw Rotunda. Dark wood ceilings and massive paintings depicting the evolution of the written word create a brooding and pensive atmosphere.
The Rose Reading Room is accessible only through a tour. We were not able to get in on a tour, so I didn’t get to see the beautiful space. If the Rose Reading Room is on your must-see list for the library, then keep an eye here for information on tours.
Even a quick look at this space leaves an impression. It is a stunning tribute to learning, community, and reading.
For an overview of this iconic branch and details about its history and structure, my husband and I enjoyed this YouTube video from Architectural Digest.
Other Must-See Literary Spots in New York City?
I’m not sure when we’ll be back in NYC, but I have one more must-see spot to add to this list. I didn’t include it with the others because I still haven’t visited it personally yet, but I have no doubt that it is worth a visit for bookish types of all varieties.
What spot am I referring to? The Morgan Library & Museum. What began as the personal library of Pierpont Morgan is now a public institution for scholars and researchers. The pictures are breathtaking. I mean, just look at this brief tour from their website. Swoon! Definitely a must-see literary spot for New York City booknerds!
What about you – have you visited somewhere in New York City that you would add to this literary list? Suggestions? Please leave your ideas and experiences in the comments!
More Literary Travel Suggestions
I’m not sure how my literary travel interest developed, but it has become a staple of my travel plans at this point (much to my family’s chagrin). For some more places to visit with a bookish vibe, check out these other posts: Charleston, New Orleans, Boston, and Washington, DC.