I’m not really sure what a traditional birthday celebration is when it comes to turning 21, other than just somehow including alcohol. But I knew for me I had my eyes set on going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in Orlando, Florida. For my nineteenth birthday I had asked for a birthday cake inspired by Harry’s in the first movie (think lots of pink frosting and misspelled green lettering) and so this seemed like a natural upgrade.
So for my week off from my summer program (and there’s a belated blog post I need to work on) and flew down to Florida to meet my parents. In between visiting grandparents, we slid in a trip over to Universal and began the day. Biggest tip I can give – if you go on your birthday make sure to tell them. Not only do you get a pretty sweet pin (the guy did have me write it myself since he figured I had better handwriting), but while we were walking around every single employee wish me happy birthday when they passed me. It also resulted in me getting selected in the wand selection demonstration at Ollivander’s! After all, the wand does choose the wizard.
In case you’re wondering, I now am a proud owner of a vine wand with phoenix feather core.
As most kids my age, I grew up with Harry Potter. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read the books and I can quote the movies as I watch them. I’ve been two separate characters for Halloween from the series and I was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore. In short, Harry Potter has been my life. I kept telling people I would cry when I would first see everything and people just kind of laughed. But then I did cry. A lot. Thanks Dad for catching my reaction!
I can’t give JK Rowling and Universal enough thanks for all of the detail that went into building the parks. There is no actual way to describe the detail that went into everything. As we walked around I was rattling off facts about everything, citing the books, movies, and even some of the computer games. There was no point that we noticed a spot that they decided to slack off. There weren’t any gimmicky parts. You couldn’t buy the DVDs or the books and there weren’t just characters walking around (no offense Magic Kingdom a la DisneyWorld). You were truly in the world of Harry Potter and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Stores that I had only dreamed towered over me and I finally got to learn what Butterbeer tasted like. The Sorting Hat talked with me and Stan Shunpike wished me a happy birthday.
We did all of the rides except for the actual roller coaster one because my family is less-adventurous let’s say. We entered all of the shops and chatted with employees. Lunch was from the Three Broomsticks and let me just say that those were the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to England).
I wish I could include all of my photos and videos in this post but alas I’m cheap and not paying for my WordPress account. I’m torn between being able to write a novel about my experience and not having the right words for it. At no point during the trip do you feel like you are outside of the world of Harry Potter, and for a day I was living my dream. My childhood was immersed at Hogwarts, through every possible way. I became a child again there, and had flashbacks to rereading the books late into the night and excitedly waiting for the movies to arrive in the mail, to play the computer games and pretending that I was Harry, running through the castle.
At the end of the day, my whole family was exhausted and pretty sunburned, but it was absolutely worth it. I’ll never forget it and I hope at some point I can go back and hang out some more there (and possibly explore the rest of Universal).
After all, as JK Rowling said,
“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
All in all, I would say it was a pretty magical start to adulthood.