H.M. might be a little late for her acceptance to the best school of witchcraft and wizardry in Europe, but, then, she feels that some things are worth waiting for. When most people think of the happiest place on earth, they think Disneyland/word. I get it. Disney is pretty cool.
I also understand that there are some of you who hate Disney, etc. I even understand why, but I suspend that sort of thinking, as I have two small children who really wanted to go to Disney to meet some of their favorite characters. I don't hate it. I think that there's a lot of imagination that goes into such an endeavor, and I appreciate imagination, as a true believer in creating fictions that awe people. That said, it's certainly a trip that I'd not take too often, as the crowds get to me.
However, H.M. here has been waiting for 5 years to go to Harry Potter world. I wanted my kids to be old enough to at least have listened to three of the books. I've been reading the books for the last year to them, and we are on number 5 (The Order of the Phoenix). We took the kids to Disneyland for two days. It was great to see my kids so thrilled to be in a place where their imaginations are active and happy. It allowed them a place to see dreams walk, and I think that was important.
But I have to say no one was more enchanted by anything as I was with Harry Potter world in Universal Studios. Most people have asked me since coming home how it was to finally get to walk into one of the books that made captured me so completely as a youth and hold me still today, and, cliche as it is, all I can manage so far is, "Magical."
However, having had time to rest my feet and my mind, I think I can manage a little more than that, as a supposed writer. For those who have waited to go to Universal Studios and Hogsmeade/Hogwarts for whatever reason, allow me to drool over my screen for you.
Part of the magic of walking into Hogsmeade for the first time is the entrance that perfectly frames Hogwarts in the background. The eyes are immediately and ingeniously called upward, to a school that most of us in our mid-twenties/early thirties have wanted to attend since we were in Jr. high school. I don't know properly how to express the sense of joy that happened when I finally made it to the entrance of Hogwarts. But I think these pictures, might express some of that for me:
My heart felt so light, I think it may have caught in my throat. I am not a person who is easily excited. My answer to most people, when I've been asked, "Aren't you excited?!" is to feign excitement, as the sensation has literally only hit me about four times in life. But I can genuinely say that the sense of excitement that washed over me when I stepped under the giant wrought iron and stone entrance was an almost new sensation. For a person whose imagination was formed through books like Harry Potter, the snow capped, stone buildings, peeked in Gothic-style lines and splashed with whimsical, old fashioned colors and displays made me shiver with excitement. Tears sprang to my eyes. Quite embarrassed by just how emotional I was over this "child's" story come to fruition, I quickly drew a shaking hand over my eyes and steered my smiling, almost as excited children to Honeydukes. HONEYDUKES!
Oh, readers, the shops! You're lucky H.M. came back with any money. I am exactly the market for all of the shops. I wanted all the things! I did fairly well, however, and mostly splurged on the kids, living vicariously through them by taking them through Olivander's wand experience (which, is, indeed, an experience, not just a shop). The preview of Olivander's was so special. My daughter's eyes glowed with a curious light as "Olivander" helped a young wizard find the wand that was meant for him. When we made it into the wand shop, my little girl said, upon swishing and flicking several wands, "I feel that this wand chose me, mom." The wand that chose her was a bendable vine wand, with a grip that she described as, "Made for my hand." My son, being a big fan of Harry, went directly for the character wands, but my daughter, wanting the full experience of the choosing took her time and, in that way, made it impossible for me not to spend the money on a wand that chose her. Both of the kids having been chosen by a wand, we were delighted by a Butterbeer stand outside. The smooth, buttery and slightly fizzy taste of butterbeer is far beyond what my imagination could have concocted. Like a dessert all it's own, my cup of Butterbeer was light and sweet upon my tongue and cooled and filled me on the inside. My son did not care for his mug, but I think he must have a broken tongue.
Each shop was like drifting into the pages of the books I've loved for much of my life. The detail, from the drinks, to the cobblestones, to the Gilderoy Lockhart books winking at me from the bookstore front, to the way my children could practice spells with their new wands in the front of the stores all over Hogsmeade, to the hearty, dark, stark interior of The Three Broomsticks and Hogshead bar was so fantastically done that I felt almost completely transported. I felt as though I was given permission to visit Hogsmeade for the day and that I'd lost complete restraint. Having lost said restraint, I may have purchased two school robes, unused, for my little Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. I may need to work late hours this week, all, but we Con a lot, so they will be well used. Having grown up quite in the same way the Weasley family grew up, I felt blessing of my ability to take my kid to this magical place and splurge on things that will help us remember the journey for years to come. I felt like Ron when he got to visit the pyramids with the rest of the Weasley family, and I'm sure my friends and family will feel quite like Ron's family about my talking about it constantly for weeks after.
Universal Studios did something very smart with Harry Potter world. I understood that my emotions and my connection to this place were being manipulated in a way that would make someone very rich richer. I completely understand where my buttons were pushed and why. I usually care about things like that. It was dangerous how much I didn't care in this case, but I realized that it was okay. It was okay to be surrounded by things that brought me joy, to splurge for the experience of it, and to not worry about the motives of others for a few, out-of-this-world hours. So I did. And I loved it. If I never do it again, I will always remember our trip to Hogwarts as one of the treasured times in my life, and that, dear readers, is so important that the motivation of the creators of this fantasy land meant very little to me. I have to think, however, despite the clearly monetary gain of such an endeavor, that those behind Harry Potter World created this place out of of the same place of affection I hold for the books. Every detail bespeaks a desire to create Hogwarts and Hogsmeade correctly, to draw people into the world (not create an unbelievable facsimile), and that, to me, was comforting. Those who re-created the world I fell in love with all over again, put so much artistry and care into it that I very much believe they loved it, too. And I thank them for that care and will pay for the experience. I won't pay for many things: a fancy house, ridiculously expensive cars, marble counter tops, etc. But life is about experiences, and I'll happily save and splurge for those.
If you're wondering whether you should, I can't give you advice there. Or I won't. I can only say it was worth it to me.
H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.