Because my husband is amazing, he booked us a trip to Orlando to visit Universal Studios in celebration of the completion of my novel, Life without Harry. Why would two childless adults want to visit Universal Studios, you ask? Well, because Harry Potter is there, as well as a cast of creepy characters whose sole purpose in life is to scare the afternoon beer right out of you.
Located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been open since June of 2010. I know, shocking that it took us two years to get there! Located within a full reconstruction of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the masthead ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” There are also two rollercoasters and a full reconstruction of the town of Hogsmeade, complete with many of the shops mentioned in the Harry Potter books (including, of course, Ollivander’s, where you can get your very own magic wand).
When I first spotted Hogwarts from afar, I was so excited, I warned Jake I might explode. The entire experience was overwhelming, down to the smallest detail. We had breakfast at the Three Broomsticks (where we had our first taste of Butterbeer, mmmm) before setting foot in the full-size, exact replica of Harry Potter’s famous school, where we received speeches from Dumbledore in his office, as well as Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom. Paintings on the walls moved and spoke to us. We were INSIDE FREAKIN’ HOGWARTS, PEOPLE!
I don’t want to give away too much about the Forbidden Journey itself. I will say it involves flying on broomsticks, being chased by a dragon, and a couple dementors. I will also warn muggles with motion sickness issues (like myself) that you will feel the urge to vomit when the ride is over. I suggest Dramamine. Trust me, take the meds, because the ride is worth is, as is the rest of the experience. They put on quite a show at Ollivanders, and Jake and I even tried a specialty beer made just for the Hog’s Head pub.
Sunday evening we were welcomed to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights 2012, now in its twenty-second year. The park closes for about an hour and reopens, reinvented as a world of tombstones, relentless fog, and monsters that jump out at you from dark alleys and street corners.
Horror Nights features seven different haunted house experiences, ranging from a dilapidated house filled with ghosts (set, of course, in Ohio) to Alice Cooper’s kinky “Welcome to my Nightmare.” Over the course of the evening, I was chased by prison inmates with chainsaws, harassed by an eight-foot skeleton with red eyes, and scared to death by a man in a bloody Easter Bunny suit. Lit Jack-o-Lanterns hung from the trees, and fog machines made it hard to see two feet in front of you. Did I want to pack my bags and move to Horror Nights? But of course! Halloween all the time; what more could a girl ask for?
I have to thank my hubbie for this amazing experience. It was his idea, and I can’t think of a better way to welcome the arrival of October, my favorite month of the year. You know what this means. It’s Halloween Time, officially. The decorations will soon go up in my house. The pumpkin candles will be lit. Horror movies will be watched repeatedly, and when the magic night arrives, I will scare little children with corpses in my front yard. Welcome to MY nightmare MWAHAHAHA!!