Harry Potter and the Millenial's Mom
Harry Potter and the Millenial's Mom
by Joey Green
Can a middle-age mom and her millennial daughter explore a Harry Potter Theme Park together without driving each other crazy?
My wife Debbie has read all seven Harry Potter books not once, not twice—but three times each. Excessive? I think so. But Debbie sees herself as bookworm Hermoine Granger, and she loves J.K. Rowling’s eloquent writing and bold insights about human nature. Or perhaps re-reading the books is her uinque way of telling me, “Not tonight, I have a headache.”
Our daughter Julia, a millennial who grew up with the Harry Potter books, has also read all seven volumes— just once. But like her mother, Julia has demonstrated her fervor for everything Hogwarts by camping out at the front of the line at our local movie theater for the midnight release of each Harry Potter movie. For each premiere, she dressed in the appropriate Gryffindor scarf and wire-frame glasses, a lightning bolt etched on her forehead in black eyeliner—joined by her mother, who loved experiencing the frenzy and passion of the teenage crowd, much to Julia’s teenage embarrassment.
But now that Julia is a college freshman in Boston, Debbie decides to invite Julia to spend Spring Break on a mother/daughter trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida.
Will Julia willingly sacrifice a week of beer pong and wet T-shirt contests on Ft. Lauderdale beach to stand on two-hour lines in the Florida humidity with her overzealous mother to experience a ride simulating a game of Quidditch? My guess? A resounding “Eat slugs!”
But when Debbie facetimes with Julia to invite her on this magical quest, Julia’s response shocks me. “Gulping gargoyles!” she exclaims. “Yes!”
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually composed of two separate lands located at two separate theme parks, requiring two separate admission tickets.
The second park is Hogsmeade, located a mile away at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Hogsmeade is home to Hogwarts Castle, which contains the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.
The Hogwarts Express Train connects the two separate worlds.
But here’s the catch. If you want to buy your own wand in Diagon Alley and look into the Mirror of Erised in Hogwarts Castle, you’ve got to buy two admission tickets, my dear Muggles.
“Who came up with that little scam?” I ask.
“Voldemort,” quips Julia.
“Ah, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” says Debbie.
Julia rolls her eyes, compelling me to ask the obvious question: Is this mother/daughter escapade doomed from the start?
Will Julia and Debbie stick together like bowtuckles on doxy eggs? Or will Julia ditch her mother and hop the Hogwarts Express Train to Hogsmeade, leaving Debbie to explore Diagon Alley by her lonesome, drowning her sorrows in butterbeer? Will they ever speak to each other again? Or will the magic of Harry Potter cement their mother/daughter bond for a lifetime?
And can a theme park in Orlando, Florida (make that two theme parks with two separate admission prices), where all the Harry Potter sets are 100 percent phony, possibly meet their high expectations?
After all, the filmmakers used a wide variety of castles, colleges, cathedrals, and classrooms throughout Great Britain to create the grandeur of Hogwarts. Platform 9¾ was filmed in London’s King’s Cross Station. The spectacular West Highland railway line, which travels across the twenty-one picturesque arches of the Glenfinnain Viaduct in Scotland, stars as the Hogwarts Express train. The Hogwarts Library is actually Duke Humfrey’s Library at Oxford University. And the interiors of Hogwarts’ Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut, Diagon Alley, Dumbledore’s office, and Gryffindor Common Room were all shot at Warner Bros. Studio in London—not Universal Studios theme park in Orlando.
To make matters worse, Debbie decides to dress up like her favorite character, Hermione Granger, complete with a the gray sweater and striped necktie. When they get through the entrace to Diagon Alley, Debbie forces Julia to help her buy a wand at Ollivanders, “makers of fine wands since 382 B.C.”
Debbie chooses an interactive wand from Gryffindor.
“Hold your hippogriffs!” yells Julia. “Everyone knows the best house is Ravenclaw. Mom, you can’t walk around with a Hermoine Granger wand!”
Every time Debbie stands on a gold marker in front of a shop window, she waves her Gryffindor wand and casts a spell, causing a suit of armor to assemble itself, a skeleton to dance, or a jewelry box to pop open, revealing a frog. Delighted, Debbie giggles with glee, entertaining a bunch of six-year-olds standing nearby. Julia cringes, ducks into the nearest gift shop, and pretends she doesn’t know her own mother. “I won‘t go near her with a ten-foot broomstick!” she says.
If her mother identifies with Gryffindor, Julia decides to ally herself with Ravenclaw. In the gift shop, Julia buys the same Ravenclaw lion’s hat worn by Luna Lovegood in the books and movies. She gives her mother a gag gift: a “Prefect” lapel pin to let the world know her mother is a bossy know-it-all, just like Hermoine Granger. Debbie defiantly wears the pin as a badge of honor.
Excited that they can buy actual butterbeer, Debbie and Julia drink ice-cold slushy butterbeers, which, like Slurpees at 7-Eleven, give them both brain freeze. Despite their icy headaches, they hop aboard the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, soaring above Hogwarts Castle. They get incredibly nauseous and nearly loose their butterbeers in the middle of the ride, creating their own Hogwarts Spring Break tradition. The close call forges a deep bond between them.
Will they ride a Hungarian Horntail dragon or a Chinese Fireball dragon (two glorified rollercoaster rides whose twisting loops interweave)?
“Both,” says Julie.
“But maybe not right after lunch,” suggests Debbie.
So, how does a visit to The Wizard World of Harry Potter compare to a visit to the real-life sets? When I ask that question upon their return home, Julia smiles widely. So does Debbie.
“The park captures the magic of the Harry Potter experience,” says Julia. Debbie nods in agreement. They high-five each other.
I smile too. After all, if the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can bring a mother and her teenage daughter this close together, a trip to that amusement park is magical indeed.
Copyright © 2015 Joey Green. Photos Copyright © 2015 by Debbie Green.
All rights reserved.