Bucket List Worthy
With the opening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them less than a month ago, many millennials who grew up living and breathing Harry Potter have been encouraged to go get their wands out of storage. Yes, they might re-read the series every once and awhile, but there’s nothing like a new story to set their imaginations wild again. Thankfully, for young travelers who want to prolong the adventure, there are a number of ways to immerse yourself. If you need a little childlike wonder back in your life, check out these two Harry Potter-themed getaway destinations.
Universal Studios Hollywood opened up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ as part of the Universal Studios theme park in April earlier this year. You may be sweating by the time you reach the snow-capped roofs of Hogsmeade, but aside from the (wonderful) LA heat and the cargo-shorted & wand-waving hordes of fellow fans, it might be difficult to tell that you aren’t in an ancient town somewhere in the UK at Christmas.
Yet here there are familiar names: Zonkos™, Honeydukes™, even an interactive wand-choosing ceremony at Ollivanders™. The movie magic perhaps reaches its pinnacle at the Flight of the Hippogriff™ ride, where you wander through a re-creation of Hogwarts before donning 3D goggles and joining in an adventure with Harry Potter himself by broomstick.
But perhaps the best part of this Harry Potter experience is that you can get your fangirl/boy, your chic, your weird, and your beach-bum kicks all in the same place—L.A. has no shortage of things to do and see, and boasts some pretty amazing weather when you need an escape from your winter blues. Whether you stick to the nearby fluorescents of Universal City or head over to Santa Monica to watch the sunset from the beach, the trip is sure to have you feeling rejuvenated and believing in magic.
Edinburgh cannot boast L.A.’s wonderful weather: when you see snow-capped roofs here, your teeth will really be chattering. However, the city’s cobbled streets and coal-stained ancient architecture have a way of helping you forget about your frostbitten cheeks. Have some scotch to tame the shivers: it’ll warm you up, and you might just find yourself forgetting that you aren’t a wizard.
Beyond the magical ambiance of the city itself, Edinburgh hosts sites like the place where Tom Riddle was “buried” (thought to be extremely haunted) or the school that is suspected to have inspired Hogwarts. But perhaps the most special destination the city has to offer is Elephant House, the unassuming little café where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book.
The café seems to have remained delightfully untouched any commercializing hand: instead of becoming a shrine to the book, the café has instead appeared to retain total authenticity. More than just a name, the coffee shop boasts a grand collection of over 600 elephants, from small statuettes to carved chairs. Look carefully, however, and you will notice a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone—signed by J.K. herself and dedicated to the café owners. But surprisingly, it’s a visit to the washrooms that will ignite the heart and mind of the Harry Potter fan: on the walls of each stall are scrolled the words of the thousands of fans that have made the pilgrimage here.
Most know that the Rowling was broke at the time she began to write the series that would change her life. Beyond the clichés about writers and coffee shops, frequenting the Elephant House was a practical decision for Rowling: buying a cup of coffee and sitting in the shop to drink it was cheaper than heating her apartment for the day. Yet it was there, at her own self-proclaimed “rock-bottom,” that she would pen the beginning of a series that would change thousands of lives—just take a look at those bathroom walls. If you’re feeling in need of some inspiration this holiday season, pull up a chair.