Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando

Unless you've lived near the United Kingdom's Leavesden Studios over the past 10 years, the chances of you ever coming close to the set of 'Harry Potter' are now zero, since filming for the series' final installment (in theaters Jul. 15, 2011) wrapped on Jun. 12.

But thanks to the production team behind the films and the marketing geniuses at Universal Studios Orlando, Potter fans around the world can still experience Hogwarts for themselves at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. So if you, like yours truly, have young Potterheads at home, here are 10 reasons to take them to Hogwarts, so they can feel like budding witches and wizards surrounded by J.K. Rowling's creations.
Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando
Unless you've lived near the United Kingdom's Leavesden Studios over the past 10 years, the chances of you ever coming close to the set of 'Harry Potter' are now zero, since filming for the series' final installment (in theaters Jul. 15, 2011) wrapped on Jun. 12.

But thanks to the production team behind the films and the marketing geniuses at Universal Studios Orlando, Potter fans around the world can still experience Hogwarts for themselves at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. So if you, like yours truly, have young Potterheads at home, here are 10 reasons to take them to Hogwarts, so they can feel like budding witches and wizards surrounded by J.K. Rowling's creations.

1. Entering Hogwarts Castle
After wandering through the Islands of Adventure's other lands, like Seusstown, you are quickly transported to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where Hogwarts Castle is the main attraction. On your way in, you'll see a replica of the Hogwarts Express -- a great photo-op for the family. But you may want to run straight to the castle, where upon entering you'll feel like you too have received a special owl on your 11th birthday. As you wait in line, you'll notice the amazingly detailed touches, like the moving portraits of the school's four founders (house points if you can name them), and a thorough look at Dumbledore's office, where the headmaster himself welcomes you to Hogwarts.

2. The Forbidden Journey
Once you've made it to Hogwarts, Dumbledore will make you think you're going to hear a boring, Professor Binns-style lecture on the history of the school. But then, out pop Harry, Ron and Hermione, who will entice you to follow them instead. Thanks to them (and yes, it's a video of stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), you'll get to see a closer look at the Gryffindor common room, the Sorting Hat and the elusive Room of Requirement, the ride's entrance, which is the highlight of the park. There, you'll swoop along as Harry guides you through various obstacles and familiar Hogwarts milestones until you land safely back at the Castle. If you only do one thing in the Wizarding World, make sure it's this (and then go have some butterbeer).

3. Wands at Ollivander's
One of the most unique experiences in the park is the trip to Ollivander's, where one lucky guest is chosen as the special witch or wizard to receive their wand, just like Harry did in 'The Sorcerer's Stone.' A role-playing Wandkeeper has the chosen person try out spells with a few wands ("Wingardium Leviosa!") before the perfect wand chooses them. After the wand selection is done, everyone has a chance to select their own wand (they're around $29) to take home, which range from character-specific replica wands to ones based your birthday on the Celtic calendar. Even if you're not fond of Potter paraphernalia, it's enchanting to experience Ollivander's first-hand.

5. Butterbeer
I've mentioned it a few times already, but butterbeer is honestly creamy, frothy, butterscotchy liquid goodness. I have no idea what the exact recipe is; Universal isn't telling. (To be honest, I always imagined that butterbeer was more like hard cider than cream soda.) But whatever is in it, this non-alcoholic beverage is delicious -- a magical antidote to Central Florida's 97-degree humidity. And for those families who can't wait until they arrive to taste Rowling's legendary drink, you can check out one of many homemade recipes here. Meanwhile, for juice fans, there is bottled pumpkin juice available throughout the park (but it's not nearly as addictive as the butterbeer).

6. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
Everywhere you turn, you'll find a place Rowling mentions in the series, from Ollivander's, Honeydukes and Zonko's to the Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head, Gladrags, Dervish and Banges. Not all of them are actual stores; some are just for window shopping. But every display has something to stare at, and any observant fan will recognize the goods being sold.

Zonko's6. Sweets at Honeydukes
One of my son's favorite parts of the series was the description of Honeydukes -- especially as it was explained by sweets aficionado Ron Weasley. Inside, you'll find all of the Trio's favorite goodies: collectible chocolate frogs, which contain a special Hogwarts Founder card; sugar quill lollipops; canary cremes; Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans; and licorice wands, just to name a few. And once you've stocked up on enough chocolate frogs and sweets to make Ron proud, you can head next door to Zonko's, where a collection of Wheezes awaits.

7. Sending Owl Post
A good place to unwind is at the owlery right outside of Ollivander's and Dervish and Banges. There, you'll find a kiosk, where you can purchase special 'Harry Potter'-themed postage, as well as a place to write out postcards or letters that a witch or wizard will stamp with a one-of-a-kind Hogsmeade logo. Observant kids will enjoy staring at the owls perched on the ceiling beams; if you pay close enough attention, you'll see them move. The "muggle owls" make perfect keepsakes for Potter fans, both young and old.

8. Coaster to Coaster
Die-hard roller-coaster junkies may not be as excited about Dragon Challenge, the main coaster in the Wizarding World, as it's actually an existing coaster that Universal re-themed to fit into the Potterverse setting. Luckily, most visitors won't know the difference; they'll just think it's a thrilling ride inspired by 'The Goblet of Fire.' The wait in line offers a chance to spy the Triwizard Tournament's "actual" Goblet, and then, riders can choose whether to go on the Hungarian Horntail or the Chinese Firedragon. I can't tell you much about the actual ride, however, because my eyes were closed the entire time. (Sorry, folks, I had consumed way too much butterbeer to keep my eyes open.)

butterbeer9. Feasting at the Three Broomsticks
The food at the Three Broomsticks may not magically materialize like it does at Hogwarts, but your kids will be delighted to sample some of the Potterverse cuisine. The food is comprised of English cuisine staples, like Cornish Pasties (or as I like to think of them, British empanadas), fish and chips and shepherd's pie. Plus, any excuse to order butterbeer is a good reason to stop by. Families of four can even order the Hogwarts Feast, which has enough chicken and ribs to feed Hagrid, his dog Fang and his host of magical creatures.

10. Movie Memorabilia
Throughout the park, John Williams' distinctive score can be heard playing. You'll also find mementos from the various movies scattered around Hogsmeade. Among the items you'll find: The dress robes and flowing gown Harry and Hermione donned to the Yule Ball in 'Goblet of Fire'; a replica of the Ford Anglia that Ron and Harry crash into the Whomping Willow in 'Chamber of Secrets'; real Quidditch gear; Professor Gilderoy Lockhart's best-selling books; and performances by the Frog Chorus and the visiting students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. It's all there to delight movie fans and amuse those who can't tell a horcrux from a hippogriff.

Ultimately, most kids -- even those who aren't particularly enchanted by the Potter books and films -- will have a magical time at the park. And everything will be worth it, if only to get a taste of that, you guessed it, frozen butterbeer. Accio butterbeer!