The best part of reading books is that they transport you to far off worlds, some even beyond your wildest imagination. But the worst part of reading books is also that they transport you to far off worlds, because then you miss your subway stop and you show up late to your office job, all sweaty from running ten blocks, and the cute guy in sales sees you with your hair all frizzy from humidity, and you can't help but think that this kind of mundane nonsense would never happen in Narnia. So here are some fictional places we wish we could travel to in real life.
Of course, there are plenty of fantasy worlds that I'm glad are only fictional. I don't think I'd really like to visit Neverland, with its roving bands of pirates, violent children, and insensitive portrayal of Native Americans. The lack of organized government and complete disregard for the laws of physics in Wonderland would probably be a headache. And you couldn't pay me enough to wade into that mess in Westeros.
But then there are some worlds that sound so fantastical, and some fictional towns that sound so cozy, that we wish we could actually go for a visit:
1. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade
It is simply impossible to read the Harry Potter books and not be filled with a burning desire to visit Hogwarts. It doesn't even matter that the school is nearly always in danger from evil wizards. We're all dying to have a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, cozy up to the fire in the Gryffindor common room, and eat treacle tart in the Great Hall. But, since Hogwarts is unfortunately fictional, we'll all just have to save up for a trip to Florida and make do with the theme park version.
2. Narnia (but only the nice parts)
As far as fantasy worlds go, Narnia seems like the best bet for tourism. Yes, there's the occasional cataclysmic battle, but all in all, it's a pretty good time. Animals talk and give you spiritual guidance, Mr. Tumnus and Santa Claus live there, there are gorgeous natural vistas, and, if you play your cards right, you might be able to finagle a royal position for yourself. The only downside is that you have to die in a train crash if you want to move there permanently.
3. The Emerald City
I don't know about Munchkinland or that one town where everyone's made of china—but the Emerald City sounds like it's worth the visit. Sure, it's ruled by a shyster and you have to wear those green tinted glasses, but it sounds like the most fun you can have in Oz without running afoul of a witch or her winged primates. Plus, unlike the more medieval fantasy worlds, the Emerald City seems like a place with up-to-code restaurants and running water.
Yes, the city-state of Ankh-Morpork is a mess, but if you're visiting Terry Pratchett's Discworld, you won't want to miss it. It's rife with violence and corruption, but in a fun way. You can take a class at Unseen University, or grab a drink at Biers ("where everybody knows your shape"). As the biggest city in all of Discworld, Ankh-Morpork is filled with all manner of humans, dwarves, wizards, and other fantasy characters, both living and undead. Just bring some hand-sanitizer, if you decide to make the trip.
5. The Shire
Look, I'm sure Rivendell is beautiful. But if I'm making the trek to Middle-Earth, I don't want to spend my whole trip staring ponderously out at trees with elves. I want to get messed up with some hobbits. J.R.R. Tolkien's Shire is a verdant, peaceful place to live. But it's also full of hobbits who know how to party, and who can appreciate a hearty second breakfast.
You can visit Canada's Prince Edward's Island in real life, but you're unlikely to find the fictional community of Avonlea from Anne of Green Gables. If you're not looking for a fantasy adventure so much as a restful visit to a sleepy island village, then Avonlea is the place to go. It's not flashy or especially magical, but Anne Shirley manages to find it charming and homey all the same.
Fantastica is the magical world of The Neverending Story, and it sounds like a blast. Well OK, the Nothing that is eating away at Fantastica isn't so great, but riding around on a luck dragon and having adventures in one of the most fantastic of fantasy realms is pretty fun. Fantastica is populated with all kinds of giants, dragons, centaurs, and ancient turtles, and it's built for adventure (as long as you can hold onto your memories).
8. The BookWorld
If you're a book nerd who hasn't discovered Jasper Fforde yet, you'd better get on that. The BookWorld from Fforde's Thursday Next Series is sort of like a backstage area for all of literature. There is a Great Library that acts as a lobby (the Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire is the librarian, of course), and from there you can hop into any book you like. There is also the Text Sea, where people trawl for words, and the rowdier Well of Lost Plots, where you can run around in all the unpublished fiction ever written.
9. Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory
Sure, Wonka's the ultimate capitalist, his factory appears to have no safety regulations, and I don't think he's paying the Oompa Loompas enough (he maybe pays them in chocolate?). But think about all that candy. It would almost be worth the risk of falling into a chocolate river to visit that factory and get that pure Wonka sugar rush. Plus, if you can survive the tour, you might get to run the place.
Camelot appears in a number of books, myths, and movies, and it's the ultimate fantasy castle and court for knights-in-shining-armor. In T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Camelot is an idealized kingdom, where everything is about as perfect as can be without modern plumbing (and then the queen starts sleeping with Lancelot, even though Lancelot is really in love with Arthur... but things are pretty good up until then).
Images: Warner Bros, Giphy (10)