Article by Ithaca Voice Contributor Adriana Darcy

ITHACA, N.Y. — The magic is back. Wizarding Weekend is returning this weekend for the fourth year. For the next three days, Downtown Ithaca will be packed with costumed visitors and activities for all fans of fantasy and science.

This year’s Wizarding Weekend will kick off Friday at 3:30 p.m. and take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Friday’s events will include pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating and classes while Saturday and Sunday will be the street festival.

Visit the Wizarding Weekend website for a schedule and details on all events

Admissions to Wizarding Weekend is free, though some activities have a fee. Participants can buy tickets or passports to pay for activities in advance. The different passports go from $15 to $85 and provide access to various activities. All proceeds will go toward local nonprofits.

Here are some of The Ithaca Voice’s top picks to look for at this year’s Wizarding Weekend.

Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice
Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

1 — Find a Familiar: See owls and other birds of prey up close

Participants can learn about different birds of prey and see them up close in person. The program was established in 1993 to promote the conservation of these birds. The group holds various events throughout the year and will be present at Wizarding Weekend.

Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice
Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

2 — Try out a new identity with the Costume Contest

Get creative! Whether you want to take part or just enjoy the show, the costume contest is one of the highlights of the festival. The costume contest theme is magic, science fiction and fantasy, but following the theme is not mandatory. Contest categories will be Best Mashup, Best Duo or Group and Best Original Creation. The winners of each category will receive a cash prize.

Participants can pre-register online or register during Wizarding Weekend for free. There will be a contest for adults and teens age 13 and up held on Saturday and a contest for kids under 13 held on Sunday.

3 — Learn at GorgeKeep

GorgeKeep. (Photo provided by Wizarding Weekend)

GorgeKeep is Ithaca’s own school of magic and is a key part of festival lore. Its motto is, “Partum Et Vires Per Civitatem/Strength Through a Creative Community.” The school opens for two days in October. In a previous interview with The Ithaca Voice, festival director Darlynne Overbaugh said she and the other organizers have spent time imagining what a school of magic would be like in Ithaca. GorgeKeep has guardians and people have to go on quests and work with the guardians to gain admittance to the school.

Participants age six and up (or under six with supervision) can participate in the GorgeKeep Guardian Quest to receive their GorgeKeep Journal of Magic and be admitted into the GorgeKeep School of Magic. The quest includes four challenges; Flitspark’s Spell Discovery Station, Koltarn’s Labyrinth, Lilican’s Waterfall and Tathom’s Metal Machinations.

Once admitted into GorgeKeep, participants can join the GorgeKeep AR Portal where they can use their AR-compatible device with the free app. Participation at GorgeKeep is free. Learn more about GorgeKeep here.

4 — Meet special guests!

Special guests including actors like Holly Marie Combs from “Charmed,” Erica Cerra from “Deadly Class” and “Battlestar Galactica,” and Scarlett Byrne from “The Vampire Diaries” and “Harry Potter” will visit Ithaca this weekend for the festival. Fans can get autographs, photos and selfies with special guests.

Literary guests like New York Times Bestselling Author Carrie Vaughn of the “Kitty Norville Series,” Rose Catherine Khan and Lillian Oake will also be in town. For the details on all guests visiting, go here.

Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice
Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

5 — Crafts and activities

Magic, science and fantasy really come together with the wide range of crafts and activities available at the festival. Attendees can make slime potions, vials of fairy dust or a galaxy in different craft activities for five activity tickets each. Another fun event you don’t want to miss is Human Chess. The classic game comes to life with a life-sized version of chess. 

6 — Glam up at the City of Magic Ball

Attendees can dance and enjoy drinks at the gala. There will be a costume contest and an exclusive raffle. Dance music will be provided by DJ Gunns. There will be a cash bar with the most famous local ghost, Edward Rulloff, pouring drinks. There will also be a chance to meet actresses Holly Marie Combs, Erica Cerra and Scarlett Byrne. Tickets for the City of Magic Ball are $40.

Curious about more Halloween activities? Check out our rundown of events happening all weekend here.