Note: This is the first in a year long series of posts chronicling my attempt to accomplish 52 bucket list items within 52 weeks. You can view the entire bucket list here.
For the last four years, I’ve been traveling to Orlando at least once a year to visit my friend Annie. Annie has worked for Disney World since 2008, and each time I come to town, we visit the Disney parks. But never the “other park” (a.k.a. Universal). In fact, if you bring it up, she responds with “You must never go there” (yes, the line from the Lion King). For this reason, I have never once mentioned my desire to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Two weeks ago, Annie sent me a text asking when I would be coming to town for my annual winter trip. The next day, I hopped on to Priceline.com and won my very first “Name Your Own Price” bid (If you’ve never done this, what are you waiting for?!). Three days later, as the first snow of the year started to fall, I was packing my bags and wondering how I could possibly check “Go to Hogwarts” off my list without deeply offending Annie or spending money that I didn’t have.
Then, I got a call from Annie’s husband, Simon. “Annie asked if I could track down some tickets for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But I wanted to check your schedule. How’s Friday looking for you?”
I was in shock. Did he just say that? There’s no way he just said that.
“Wait, what?” I replied. “For real?… You can do that?… She’ll let you do that?… Seriously?… No, really?” Then I squealed. I squealed in the exact same way I did at age 7 when my parents announced we were going to Disney.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this!” I said when I finally saw Annie.
“Well, how else were you going to make it happen?” she asked.
Completely serious, I answered, “I was just going to keep tweeting @JKRowling. That seemed more probable than asking you.”
It was the most fabulous and magical day you could imagine.
We saw the Knight Bus and the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix (A.K.A. Number 12 Grimmauld Place). We went to Diagon Alley and Gringott’s Money Exchange. We tried Butterbeer Ice Cream at Fleurean Fortescue’s and tested out Sirius Black’s motorcycle. When we went to ride Escape From Gringott’s, we were sent to the front of the line twice (but we only got stuck once).
We “accidentally” wandered down Knockturn Alley and into Bourgin and Bourke’s. We considered adopting Pygmy Puffs while shopping at the Magical Menagerie and checked out the dress robes at Madame Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions. After that, we met Olivander, the famous wandmaker, before heading to King’s Cross Station. It took almost an hour to get to the Hogwarts Express, but I suppose that’s because none of the platform attendants seemed to know how to get to Platform 9 3/4.
In Hogsmeade, I had the chance to interview the conductor of the Hogwarts Express. Then we cheered on Harry in the Triwizard Tournament. After that, we stopped to pick up some postcards for some of my friends, resisted temptation at Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop, snacked on potato wedges, and sampled Butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks.
As the sun began to set, we headed to Hogwarts where we not only got to skip the line again but also received a private guided tour of the castle (shout out to Alex!) that included Dumbledore’s office, the dungeons/potions classrooms, the mirror of Eristed and even the mandrakes growing in the greenhouses.
Every single moment we were made to feel like VIPs, and truly none of it would have been possible without the help of my friends (and their friends)! So in the spirit of sacrifice and generosity, what is one way you can help a friend make a dream come true? Share your ideas and comments below!
Acknowledgements: Annie and Simon, thanks for putting up with my crazy, out of control, excitement. I know it wasn’t easy. Dawn, thank you for blessing us with the tickets that we never could have paid for. McKenna and Holly, thanks for “geeking” out with me! You are one beautiful bunch of people!