by Lisa Galek, Ravenclaw
ORLANDO--Ever wish tank tops were part of the Hogwarts dress code? Do you long for ocean-side Potion lessons? Been dying to use that sunblock spell you learned last year? Then consider taking a summer class at Hogwarts esteemed American campus located in sunny Orlando, Florida! This reporter was lucky enough to be part of a wizarding convention there last week and has the full scoop for you on all the classes, shopping, and extracurriculars.
The first thing you’ll see when you arrive is a replica of our beloved Hogsmeade. You’ll be amazed at how close these American wizards have come to our own village. You’ll feel right as home as you take a stroll past the shops, buy a butterbeer in the street (I recommend the frozen variety), or enjoy a song performed by the frog choir. They have a branch of Zonko’s selling all kinds of magical mischief. There’s Honeydukes, too (watch out for the chocolate frogs – they not only hop fast, they melt fast). You can pop into Ollivanders to watch one lucky witch or wizard choose their very own wand. Or you can buy some quality Quidditch supplies at Dervish and Banges. If you want to write home to all your friends, stop at the owl post. There your letters will be postmarked from Hogsmeade, so everyone will know how you’ve been spending your summer.
Make sure you leave room for lunch, too! You can stop into the Three Broomsticks where house-elves are cooking up delicious British cuisine. It will run you a few Galleons, but it’s definitely worth it. Be sure to check out the Hog’s Head next door, as well. The barmen are very friendly, but the hog behind the bar has been known to grunt at patrons from time to time.
On the way up to the castle, you can stop for a quick ride with Buckbeak on Flight of the Hippogriff (approach with caution though… my hippogriff went soaring all over the place once I boarded!). For the especially brave, you can even race a Hungarian Horntail or Chinese Fireball on the Dragon Challenge. I chose the Horntail and I’m very pleased to say that I won… and survived.
Hogwarts castle is truly spectacular. As you walk through, you can chat with the portraits, get a peek into the Headmaster’s office, and even see some famous Gryffindor alumni in the common room. In the heart of the castle is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s a remarkable adventure… if you’re feeling up to chasing a dragon through the grounds. Watch out for the dementors (I had stowed my wand before getting on board, so I couldn’t even cast my patronus!) and spiders (I clamped my eyes shut the entire time we were in Aragog’s lair. One run in with a giant spider is quite enough for me). Oh, and one more warning – the ride feels a bit like disapparating for the first time. I had to sit down for a short while after I left the castle… but I soon recovered and, luckily, didn’t end up looking like the victim of a bad Puking Pastille.
The only real problem I had with the Florida campus is that they let Muggles in! Of course, the little dears can’t register for classes, but you’ll catch them aimlessly waving wands in the streets and gawking in the shop windows everywhere you look (it’s like they’ve never seen a mandrake before!). And the place is constantly jam-packed. Some would say this is excellent for promotion of cooperation between magical and non-magical peoples, but I doubt those people have ever had the hem of their brand new robes trampled on by a group of wide-eyed Muggle tourists.
All in all, a visit to Hogwarts’ Florida campus makes a fantastic summer holiday. My only question is: Do they accept transfer students?
Lisa Galek is the Thestral Gazette’s adventurous travel reporter. She spends her days up in Ravenclaw tower plotting trips with the help of Charles, her enchanted talking atlas. When she’s not busy seeing the world via broomstick, she blogs at Read. Write. Repeat.
Which part of Florida campus appeals to you most?