Destination: Hogwarts (and other places to suspend disbelief this summer)

Hogsmeade Village

I have a confession to make: I love Harry Potter. L-O-V-E. I’ve read all the books (highly recommended!), seen most of the movies (they just don’t quite measure up…), and even bought the merchandise (in my defense, that Gryffindor scarf really brings out my eyes). So, just like millions of other Harry Potter fans, I’d been anxiously awaiting the opening of Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter for what felt like a life sentence in Azkaban. When it finally opened on June 18, I was, unfortunately, there only in spirit. But I’ve been following the reviews and leaked videos – praise Dumbledore for the good people willing to take their camcorders along for the ride! – and it looks A-MA-ZING! I can’t wait to hear Moaning Myrtle’s wails in the bathroom, or have a big cold glass of butterbeer, or run into Harry, Hermione, and Ron while exploring Hogwarts. If you happen to be in or around Florida (the theme park capital of the world) this summer, do me a solid and check it out on my behalf. And while you’re at it, take a spin on the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and Revenge of the Mummy a few dozen times, like I would (and did last spring) if I could make it south.

Outside of Florida, you can still join in the theme park fun! Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia boasts one of the best 4-D rides in existence (toppled only by the aforementioned Spiderman): The Curse of DarKastle, a haunted trip through an ancient Bavarian castle. If you’re here in the city for the summer, pop up to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, and ride the Dark Knight coaster, which places you right in the madness of Gotham City as the Joker tries to take it over. If you’re on the west coast, hit up Disneyland and catch the recently re-opened Captain EO, an interactive film produced by George Lucas

Captain EO poster (1986)

and starring Michael Jackson. And to my peeps up in Toronto, recreate my childhood summers on the Mighty Canadian Minebuster at Canada’s Wonderland (although, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the Scooby Doo-themed Ghoster Coaster was always my fave).

The sun may be scorching, and the lines may be long, but it’s totally worth it. Pack your sunblock, get there early, and for the love of JK Rowling, let me live vicariously! If you make it to a theme park this summer, tell us about it in the comments!

**Bonus video! Watch as the Harry Potter actors tour the park a month before opening, complete with cameos by the Beauxbatons girls, the Durmstrang boys, and a Hogwarts sweater that would go nicely with my scarf….

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