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Staunton’s 2023 Queen City Mischief & Magic Festival

Staunton IS magic! Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Staunton boasts a gorgeous, historic downtown full of charm and character. And do the characters ever shine more than during the weekend of Queen City Mischief & Magic (QCMM). Plan to spend the whole weekend of September 23-24 to experience more magic and mischief than a muggle can manage in 48 hours. Thank goodness we wizards have our time turners to help us do it all! Here is your insider’s guide to the biggest, most magical weekend on this side of the pond.

About the Festival

Since 2016, this home-grown fan festival has celebrated everything that is mystical and magical. Much of downtown Staunton transforms into an enchanted village. Visitors can explore hands-on activities, demonstrations, themed dining and shopping, and meet their favorite characters. And while you don’t need to come in costume, it’s definitely encouraged!

QCMM celebrates its 8th year in 2023. This is the year of Buckbeak the Hippogriff, Hagrid’s feathered bestie, Sirius’ hero, Malfoy’s nemesis, and a gorgeous creature inside and out. Buckbeak is loyal to a fault and able to sniff out evil-doing from miles away. Plan to snap a pic with our favorite equine eagle while exploring the streets of Staunton.

Enjoying the Festival

Find Houses and Characters

Each block of Beverley Street is themed as a Hogwarts House. They’ll all host magical pop-up events such as potions class, wand dueling, music, and dancing. Look for LARGE creatures, ample selfie spots, hanging dementors, and chances to meet your favorite characters! This year brings more characters than ever, including all the usual suspects as well as a bevy of bewitching Beauxbatons and a gang of Durmstrang! Special guests will be arriving or departing by train at the Staunton Train Station / Platform 9¾.

  • Ravenclaw block features the Arcadia Project’s mysterious twister maze. Brave it if you dare to master the third task of the Triwizard Tourney. How many creatures lurk inside? Count them all and win a prize! 
  • Hufflepuff block has Gringotts Bank & Dumbledore’s Office. It’s easy to find – just look for the dragons!  
  • Slytherin block will have two character spots where guests can meander through different scenes featuring their favorite characters from the beloved books. 

Run in the Firebolt 5K and Race of 100 Harrys

Early risers should register for the 6th annual Firebolt 5k and Race of 100 Harrys in scenic Gypsy Hill Park. Race festivities begin at 8 am on Saturday. Firebolt 5k runners will compete with their house for House Cup Points awarded by QCMM. A new three-year Deathly Hallows-inspired medal series begins in 2023. The Race of 100 Harrys is an “almost 1k” for wizards 10 and under. Finishers receive a sweet Chocolate Frog-themed medal at the finish line. Following the races there will be free train rides on the Gypsy Hill Express, photo ops at our 9¾ platform, free duck and fish food, and plenty of shade and space to hang out.

Use Your Powers for Good

QCMM is a great opportunity for Staunton’s biggest-hearted non-profit types. Do Good Alley will once again be packed with local charities that have new fun ways to share what they do with a magical spin. There will be free crafting activities provided by the festival and supervised by Virginia Alliance for Education. Look for face painting, house sorting, mermaids, and quidditch how-to camps. 

Attend the Feast

The annual Hogwarts Reunion Banquet with official QCMM characters will be held Saturday night in Trinity Church’s gorgeous Parish Hall. If you can’t make it to the dinner feast but would like a similar experience with our characters, Trinity has added two pancake breakfast feasts on Sunday morning!  

A few other don’t-miss activities during QCMM:  

There’s so much to do at QCMM! Some activities are ticketed, but much of the festival is free to guests. Check the schedule for full details. Here are some highlights:

  • Night brings darkness and the baddies come out. There will be a baddies parade, so beware and stay alert as the sun goes down on Saturday. 
  • Attend the Siren Splash with glowing sea creatures or the adults-only Dementor Dance Party after dark

Your Weekend in Staunton

Where to Stay

Many wizards arrive on Friday so that they are poised to catch every minute of fun on Saturday. Staunton boasts hotels, motels, B&Bs, and small inns located both in the downtown area and a short drive away. Lodging fills quickly, so reserve your home base ASAP!

Where to Park

  • Visitors should plan to park at the shuttle lot at 90 Lee Jackson Highway and take the free shuttle to the festival.
  • Shuttles will start running from the shuttle lot at 9 am on Saturday. There will be 4 shuttles running every 20 minutes.
  • Habitat for Humanity will be there with everyone’s favorite house elf and lots of other fun diversions to make waiting to board the night buses more fun.
  • Handicapped parking is available in the City National Bank and Central United Methodist Church lots between Central Ave. and Lewis St. Look for the VWIL Cadets in fatigues to gain access. 
  • Street closures have been uploaded to the Waze app. 

Where to Eat

  • You’ll find lots of tasty festival food at QCMM, and downtown Staunton bustles with restaurants, many of which will be running QCMM specials. Plan accordingly as lines may be longer during peak festival hours. Here’s a list of Staunton restaurants including those outside the festival footprint.

More Information

Stay tuned to the Queen City Mischief & Magic Facebook page for details and the most up-to-date information. The festival will use the sched app again this year to help visitors find out what is happening at any given time. The QCMM website will have street closure maps, updated FAQs, and other useful information. 

This is just a tiny sample of your options for this year’s QCMM celebration! We can’t wait for you to make new memories with us here in Staunton!

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