NEW YORK (AFP) - Wearing Hogwarts robes and witches' hats, hundreds of Potterheads sipped Butterbeer and posed for photos in Hagrid's giant shoes as New York's long-awaited Harry Potter store, the biggest in the world, opened on Thursday (June 3).
Fans of the boy wizard queued for hours in heavy rain to be among the first inside the three-storey shop in Lower Manhattan that hosts the largest collection of Potter products anywhere.
"It's really magical," said Ms Margaret Suarez, whose boyfriend arrived at 6am (7pm Singapore time) to hold a spot in line four hours ahead of opening.
Ms Suarez, 30, quickly eyed a wand belonging to witch Bellatrix Lestrange to go with the patronus charm memorabilia and funko pop figures that were already in her shopping bag.
"In my heart, I'm a wizard," Ms Suarez said. "I really want to get a wand and personalise it so I can live my best fantasy," the New Yorker added.
Mr Ruben Juarez, 27, and his wife travelled from Dallas, Texas, for the grand opening of the 21,000 sq ft store that is near the Flatiron building.
"We're excited to be here. I love everything Harry Potter," said Mr Juarez, wearing the scarlet and gold scarf of the house of Gryffindor.
Large crowds gathered outside the store throughout the morning, with even a few police officers called to ensure order was maintained, as Potterheads waited for their timed ticket entry.
Inside, fans of J. K. Rowling's magical world snapped selfies in front of a red telephone box like the one that transports witches and wizards to the Ministry of Magic, and bought fizzing whizbees candy.
They tried on knitted quidditch jumpers, flicked through copies of the best-selling book series in history and sampled the wizards' favourite drink at the Butterbeer bar.
"Butterbeer is like cream soda but with a kick to it. It's unlike anything, honestly," said 21-year-old Emilee Rodriguez.
The flagship store was due to open last summer but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
For 19-year-old Alexandra Ewing, the wait for her first visit to a Potter store was worth it.
"I'm having the time of my life. I'm fighting back tears this whole time. I'm loving it," she said.