harry potter toronto

Why Toronto is so obsessed with Harry Potter

Toronto might not be part of the Harry Potter universe, but the city is feeling awfully magical nonetheless.

Lately, it seems like the Statute of Secrecy has been thrown out the window here as Harry Potter-related events, shows and trivia nights have become more commonplace in Toronto.

Of course, the new 2016 additions to the Harry Potter cannon - including the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie and the rather lacklustre Cursed Child script - have helped keep Potter in the public eye.

But here in Toronto, this newfangled Pottermania started earlier, when The Lockhart, the city's unofficial Harry Potter bar, opened on Dundas West in September 2015. The local watering hole got international media attention and it naturally attracted lineups around the block.

Since things have cooled off a bit, co-owner and general manager Matt Laking says he and his team have been able to introduce magic shows and trivia nights on certain nights of the week.

Of course, these events are popular with Potterheads, but Laking enjoys introducing the Potter universe to the uninitiated too - some patrons walk in without realizing the bar's magical roots.

Laking, who grew up reading Harry Potter, thinks the bar gives Torontonians the chance to tap into something from their past. “People obviously have a very personal connection to the wizarding world, he says.

And he's not the only one celebrating this connection. The Appreciation Society, based in Dublin, is behind the upcoming Harry Potter Party at The Phoenix.

However, it's part of a series of events happening across the globe, from Toronto to Tel Aviv. Turns out that even though the Appreciation Society's based in Ireland, it connects with Irish expatriates to throw parties around the world.

“There are a lot of Irish scattered all over the place, Rory Dinnigan on the phone from Dublin, commenting on the tendency for Irish millennials to leave home.

Dinnigan's been planning events for about six years and lately, he and his team have started producing parties that seem to tap into our collective desire for nostalgia.

In Toronto, and around the world, nostalgic events - such as 90s and early 2000s dance parties and emo nights - have grown in popularity.

It's this sense of nostalgia that seems to be driving plenty of Harry Potter events forward, as well as a certain 1990s aesthetic that seems inescapable both offline and on social media.

“Nostalgic things seem to work,” says Dinnigan. “You know, where people can kind of be brought back to their youth and then enjoy a modern setting of a party.”

Last year's Harry Potter party, organized by students in George Brown's event management program, sold out and the Comedy Bar bought back its PotterProv improv series for a second season.

Even the popular wizarding sport Quidditch is picking up steam in Toronto. The co-ed Valhalla Quidditch team, which practices at Riverdale Park in the warmer months, is Eastern Canada's first community Quidditch team - the others are affiliated with universities.

Team manager Jessalynn Tsang reveals that not everyone on the team identifies as a Potterhead - she hasn't even read the books, for instance.

“There’s sort of been a push to move away from the Harry Potter association,” she says. But at open practices (the next one is Feb. 19), she notes, Potteraficionados tend to come out.

That's because whether on the Quidditch pitch or at a local bar, you don't need to catch the Hogwarts Express to do magic and relive your childhood in Toronto.

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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