This morning my Facebook memories greeted me with pictures from our 2013 Spring Break trip to Universal Studios Florida, particularly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Since it is Saturday, I figured that would be a fun kick-off to our Virtual Spring Break.
It is spring break week here in Ann Arbor. But, with stay at home orders in place, no one can travel for the spring break. So we are holding a Virtual Spring Break visiting a different destination or themed set of destinations each day. Be sure to check out our Virtual Spring Break article which will link to each place we have visited and include upcoming destinations.
Universal Studios Theme Parks
The Universal Studios theme parks in both Florida and Hollywood bring the movies to life. In Florida, it is split into the original Universal Studios park and Islands of Adventure park. A major draw in both parks is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Hogsmeade including Hogwards in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. As Harry Potter fans, we are focusing our virtual spring break on visiting the magical world.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
My husband and I have loved Harry Potter since a friend made us watch the first movie. The Order of the Phoenix book was released the week before we made a pre-move trip from Virginia to Michigan. We saved the book to read aloud in the car. We introduced the books and early movies to our daughter when she was still a preschooler. She read them herself starting in 2nd grade.
We have visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice. The first time was in 2013 when our daughter was tall enough for the Hogwarts ride. We visited again in 2015 after Diagon Alley opened.
I have tried to keep the activity ideas to things that most people will have around the house.
Before heading to Hogwarts, every young wizard needs a wand. Send the kids out into the yard to find sticks. Alternatively you can use plain pencils or disposable chopsticks. You can optionally decorate the sticks with hot glue (let it dry) and glue on jewels or yarn. If you have paint you can also use that. Or just let them use markers. Whatever you have on hand will work.
Does your child have a favorite Hogwarts house? My daughter is a Ravenclaw. Start the day with the sorting hat and see if they get sorted into that house. A witch hat from Halloween would be perfect as a sorting hat. You can also use any other type of hat or make a hat from newspaper. My daughter is definitely a Ravenclaw, so we skipped the sorting hat ceremony today.
Potions class can be a lot of fun. Make sure to prepare your potions lab. The experiments will use food coloring which can stain surfaces. Working outside, over an old table cloth, or on a cookie sheet are good options.
I have extra mason jars in both 4 and 8 oz sizes. I used these to hold some of our ingredients. We also used a chopstick as our wand for stirring.
For younger kids, you can fill several containers with water and add different food coloring dyes to each. Then they can mix the containers to make fun colors. I love this idea at this time because you are not wasting food supplies.
Small amounts of baking soda and vinegar can create a wonderful foamy reaction. Prepare the following ingredients. We placed them in small jelly sized mason jars and used our original containers for the dragon scales and basilisk venom:
- Wartcap Powder (baking soda)
- Basilisk Venom (dish soap – we used clementine Method brand, yours may be another color)
- Flaked Dragon Scales (any dried or fresh spice. You can also use grass clippings or evergreen needles – they are just for fun)
- Bubotuber Pus – vinegar with green food coloring
- Start with 1 pump or squeeze of Basilisk Venom
- Add about 1/2 tsp Wartcap Powder
- Stir clockwise 20 times
- Add a pinch of Flaked Dragon Scales
- Pour in Bubotuber Pus until it starts to foam
- Stir counter-clockwise 25 times
- Watch the potion bubble and expand
Note: This is NOT an edible potion.
Harry Potter Digital Escape Room
Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, PA created a Harry Potter Digital Escape Room. It is done in a Google Form. It took my teen daughter and I about 15 minutes to do the puzzle together. I expect it would take longer for younger kids.
Would You Rather?
My daughter and I spent quite awhile on this Would You Rather? game. We didn’t print them out, but just discussed them from the PDFs. One question we debated was:
“Would you rather have..from Sheet 7 of the Would Your Rather Game from Get Away Today
a Room of Requirement that Changes into Whatever you need
a Wand that Goes with you Everywhere you Go”
My daughter was advocating for the Wand – unless the room of requirement could produce one for her. I figured I’d take the room since we aren’t going anywhere anyway. I asked if the Room of Requirement could produce a place I could meet with my friends and protect us from COVID-19. Or maybe it could produce a cure.
Many of the clues in this Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt can be done from home without anything special. There may be a few that you have to skip (for example Harry’s patronus) or alter slightly for what you do have around the house.
A History Of Magic
The British Library had a Harry Potter: The History of Magic Exhibit. They have made it available on Google Arts & Culture. As I came back to add this to our suggestions I got lost exploring the exhibit myself.
For meals, think British food. I checked the menus for Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks at Universal Orlando. Dishes include Bangers and Mash, Fish and Chips, Roasted Chicken, Shepherds Pie, and other British staples. For breakfast I remember having eggs and pancakes. By far the best parts of breakfast were their croissants and pumpkin juice.
We also enjoyed a trip to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream parlor with all kinds of interesting flavors. To replicate this at home, start with plain vanilla ice cream or another base of your choice. Allow it to soften and allow everyone to come up with their own flavors. We remember having Butterbeer ice cream and a Peanut Butter and Jelly ice cream.
There are butterbeer recipes around, but they mostly require cream soda which we do not have at home. Personally, I prefer pumpkin juice. I found this recipe which I have the ingredients on hand for (note in the comments it is clarified that it is one 15oz can of pumpkin puree, not 115 oz of pumpkin puree), but am planning to scale down.
We are planning to make these Butterbeer Cookies which use butterscotch pudding and chips both of which are in our pantry.
While the Harry Potter novels are always a great choice, they are long reads.
My daughter loves the shorter associated books like “Tales of Beedle the Bard”, “Quidditch Through the Ages”, and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (not the movie novelization). She also has a few spellbooks and books about the series.
We own all 8 Harry Potter films plus the two Fantastic Beasts movies and can watch them whenever we want. However, they are always on TV and they are my husband’s perennial pick whenever they are on. They currently rotate between SyFy and USA Network.
Other Universal Studios Themes
I know not everyone is a Harry Potter fan. Universal Studios lends itself to other themes to explore.
Islands of Adventures features a Jurassic Park section. So, make a Jurassic Park Day.
Break out the toy dinosaurs, and cars and make your own dinosaur park.
Take inspiration from the Flintstones and eat a Brontosaurus Burger. Or, have dinosaur eggs for breakfast.
My daughter read Michael Crichton’s novels Jurassic Park and Lost World that the movies were based on.
Younger kids can checkout the LEGO Jurassic World books, the Magic School Bus Dinosaur book, and the first Magic Treehouse Book – Dinosaurs before Dawn.
The Jurassic Park movies are sometimes on television.
- Jurassic Park – Available to stream from TBS until April 24.
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park II – Available to stream from TBS until April 24.
- Jurassic Park III – Available to stream from TBS until April 24.
- Jurassic World – Available to stream from FXM through April 1
Netflix has LEGO Jurassic World: The Indominus Escape.
The Simpsons episodes are available to stream on Disney+. I have never really watched the Simpsons, so I don’t have too many ideas. A few food items that I know about are donuts with pink frosting and sprinkles and Duff Beer.
For activities The Treehouse of Horrors Halloween episodes might provide some inspiration for some creativity. Or go skateboarding like Bart, or play a saxophone like Lisa.
Families with younger kids may particularly enjoy celebrating with a Dr Seuss day.
I found 20 Cat in the Hat Activities on Hands On As We Grow.
When I think of Dr Seuss, the first thing I think of is Green Eggs and Ham. This recipe from Instructables details how to make fried eggs with green yolks as pictured in the book (note they will only be green on the outside, the inside of the yolk is still yellow). Other recipes are just scrambled eggs with added green food coloring. If you don’t have ham, you can serve with bacon or even toast. The Green Eggs are the important part.
Books is an easy activity to cover for Dr Seuss. He has a whole collection of books. My favorites are Green Eggs and Ham, Cat in the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
There are plenty of Dr Seuss Movies and specials to watch. Personally, we love the original Grinch TV special. Our DVD copy also includes a short Horton Hears a Who special.
There are a number of options available for free on various streaming services.
- PBS Kids TV Series The Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That – Amazon Prime & Netflix
- The Cat in the Hat Movie – Netflix
- The Grinch animated movie – Netflix
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas live action movie – Netflix
- Netflix original series – Green Eggs & Ham – Netflix
- Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who animated movie – Hulu
- Dr Seuss The Lorax – 1972 animation – Hulu