Fan Story: Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

There are three things I know for certain in my life.

Yoga always feels good post practice, so get off your butt and into plank.

Dogs truly are humankind’s best friend.

I will never feel again how I feel about theme parks.

From 1968 to 2003, it was difficult to be a Houstonian and not be a theme park junkie. Six Flags Astroworld was located just south of Loop 610 on approximately 57 acres of heaven, and residents of the Bayou City couldn’t get enough of rides like Thriller, XLR-8, and Thunder River.

Summers as far back as I can remember consisted of at least one trip to Astroworld, where I would never agree to a ride with any loops on the track, and where I practically soiled myself in line for the dark, enclosed roller coaster, the Mayan Mindbender, but always loved every second of the ride itself. I had visited Disney World before, but I was much younger and to this day hardly remember any of it. Astroworld was a constant from my childhood to my preteen years, and I always looked forward to hearing the iconic tune from the commercials on the TV to the ticket lines at the gate.

Similar to the larger, more well established parks of it’s time (ahem, Disney), Astroworld was home to plentiful plazas, squares, and valleys all themed after different parts of the world. Venturing from Alpine Valley to Modville to the Western Junction encumbered numerous rides, games, and cafes, and of course hours of entertainment for the whole family.

This Houston amusement park introduced me to just how much of an adventure parks of it’s kind could be, and like many locals, I was heartbroken to see it torn down.

But a trip to Universal Studios sure cured that heartache.

Vintage photo of myself in completely inappropriate shoes standing with my little brother next to Cap himself. How in the world did I manage to walk the park in flip-flops?

I distinctly remember two of my visits to Universal Florida. The first trip in my memory bank stands out as a bound into Marvel wonderland. We took pictures with beloved characters and ate at superhero themed cafes. The rides there are THEBOMB.COM including a 3D Spiderman battle and a coaster that rivals The Hulk himself. We also took a tour of Amity Harbor where we encountered the massive shark featured in Jaws, and were introduced to an even scarier foe on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. This particular trip opened my eyes to the world of movie rides, and thus the love of theme parks transformed into a passion.

By my next vacation to Universal Florida, I was itching, no, dying to return. Not only had my hunger for movie rides been starved for years, but by this time the The Magical World of Harry Potter had been opened, and by the power of Albus was I emotionally unstable.

Fangirling in the hotel lobby.

From the entrance featuring the Hogwarts Express, to the wizarding school itself, I was entranced. The experience is so overwhelming it’s hard to take absolutely everything in, but I sure tried my hardest. With little surprises around every corner, even in the restrooms, I had found my happy place. Not only is the decor fitted to the sets of the films themselves, but the rides, oh the rides. My brother and I were so in love with The Journey to Hogwarts, that we could have continued in that line all day. All weekend. All summer.

Outside my favorite castle, in what I hope was more suitable footwear.

Alas, one cannot simply live in the world of Harry Potter (though my every breath may beg to differ), and my family enjoyed the rest of the park the next day. Universal and Islands of Adventure are a movie ride lovers paradise, with exhilarating rides and spectacles like Revenge of the Mummy, Terminator 2, and Men in Black: Alien Attack, you’re bound to find just the right thrill for your thirst. My brother and I concluded our vacation with the dinosaurs, taking advantage of the short line and riding through Jurassic Park three times in a row.

It’s been four years since then, and I have yet to return. I did visit the California Universal location during my time in film school, but Florida continues to call my name. More now than ever with the opening of the second half of the wizard world park.

My love and affection for theme parks has grown from the seedling Houston’s Astroworld planted years ago, and what I wouldn’t give for another round on the Texas Cyclone or the Bamboo Shoot. But I imagine I’ll just have to settle for a future vacation at Gringotts. Oh darn.


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