It's Harry Potter: The Exhibition time at Pacific Science Center (apparently, occlumency is gaining legitimacy in the science world)—and for the opening night reception, the Center is decked out. This creates a bizarre juxtaposition: People in fancy party clothes and/or wizarding garb—little black dresses plus Gryffindor ties, a grown man in a purple cloak—sit at banquet tables, eating shepherd's pie and petits fours, listening to chamber music. Behind them, a 15-foot praying mantis waves its jagged arms, while a person-sized bug in a lab coat welcomes us to the buffet line.

There's a line for the Potter exhibit, so partyers wander around the hissing cockroaches and naked mole rats. We play a game where you stick plastic cafeteria food on lunch trays as they whir by on a conveyor belt. (We lose.) Inside the butterfly exhibit, a blue morpho lands on my head, and I'm advised thusly: "Take it from a married guy, your wedding day is nothing compared to the day a butterfly lands on your head."

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Finally, just inside the doors of Harry Potter, a woman in black robes calls out, "File right on in!" in a faux-British accent. Kids get sorted by the sorting hat, malodorous smoke billows out of the Hogwarts Express, squeals of delight fill the air—and then we're in. Stuff that's inside: Buckbeak. Fawkes. Various dragons/thestrals. Outfits. Brooms. A pull-up-your-own-mandrake-root station (it screams!). Petrified Colin Creevey. Tom Riddle's ink-stained, Basilisk-fang-impaled diary. Dumbledore's Army T-shirts. Then we escape into the night, still buzzing, surrounded by partially submerged orcas and strangely aggressive ducks. Hooray for "science." recommended

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