anne mikolay 2012 120If you’re scrambling to think of an original Christmas gift for that special Downton Abbey fan in your life, never fear! NBCUniversal International Studios and Imagine Exhibitions provides the solution in their traveling Downton Abbey Exhibit now open in New York City.

The Downton Exhibit, which debuted at 218 West 57th Street (between Broadway and 7th Avenue) in November, is based on the well loved PBS television series. According to the Downton Exhibit website, the interactive display “transports you to post-Edwardian England where the characters and iconic house come to life. You will be immersed in the fascinating social history, culture, and some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six season run.” The exhibit fulfills its promise and does not disappoint.

downton wedding gowns

PHOTO: Wedding fashions from Downton.

The exhibit is well designed. Ticket holders gather in the lobby and are enthusiastically greeted by a hostess, who explains the facility and the display before opening the double doors into the exhibit. (Though only a certain number of attendees pass through the doors at the same time in an effort to maintain an even flow through the three-floor display, the queue backs up quickly.) Inside the double doors, fans are welcomed by Downton butler, Mr. Carson, via screen; viewers then disburse to follow the remainder of the exhibit at their leisure. Photography is allowed and encouraged.

downton lady ediths dress

PHOTO:  Lady Edith's dress 

The exhibit is three floors. The first floor displays the set of the Downton kitchen, dining room, Mr. Carson’s pantry, and Mary Crawley’s bedroom. The remaining two floors feature the fashions, costumes, and jewelry featured in the television show. It becomes evident rather quickly that the actresses, lavishly dressed in elaborate costumes during the broadcast, were all of petite stature! Also apparent is the power of the television camera to diminish the costumes’ true colors; what appears to be bright blue fabric in person, for example, comes across as an entirely different color on the television screen.

downton diningPHOTO:  The Crawley dining room.

The exhibit can be viewed in sixty to ninety minutes. Coat check, elevator, and bathroom facilities are available, as well as a pricey gift shop. Tickets are available on-site or via the exhibit’s website; group rates and gift cards are available. An adult ticket is $30; child admission is $15. $49 buys a VIP ticket valid for admission on a selected date any time during regular operating hours and includes a complimentary multi-media device to guide you through the exhibit. If you are attracted to the VIP ticket for the personal multi-media device, don’t be. I attended the exhibit with a VIP ticket. The multimedia device, in my opinion, is not necessary; the exhibit is self explanatory. However, the VIP ticket has the advantage of allowing you to enter the exhibit at any time on your specified date, while general admission ticket holders must adhere to the hour they purchased their ticket for. Be cautioned: the building is very warm. In fact, a common criticism of the exhibit is the uncomfortable temperature throughout. There is a convenient diner next door if you want a quick bite before or after enjoying your visit to Downton.
If you want to “experience the house, the fashion, the history!”, you can do so daily from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm through January, 2018. The last ticket is sold one hour before closing time. Most weekend dates are sold out; weekdays are available.

For more information or to purchase tickets: