This Christmas we had an amazing family day out being complete Potter geeks at the Warner Bros. Studios Tour!
Look away now if you haven’t visited and don’t want any spoilers as I have lots of photos to share…
The husband and I had been before when it first opened – it was actually one of our first days to ourselves after having Little H. We are big Potter fans – we did once go to the supermarket at midnight to get the latest book. Little H is following in our footsteps though at 5 she’s only seen the first 2 films so far. She absolutely loves them and wants to be Hermione.
Last summer we went to Orlando and of course visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (I wrote about our experience here if you’d like to read about that). When we were there we promised Little H we’d visit the studios tour in London as she was too small for the rides.
So the day before new year’s eve, Little H put on her Gryffindor cloak and tie, grabbed her wand, and up to Watford we went!
Off to Hogwarts we go…
As you park in front of the studios you see the giant movie posters and wizard chess statues out the front. Unfortunately it was the foggiest day ever so I don’t have many photos of outside to show.
The shop is in the entrance so you can stock up before you go into the tour. Little H bought her cloak and wand at Universal Studios but chose to spend her Christmas money on an owl (named ‘Owlbert’) and a Gryffindor scarf. The prices in here are extortionate so make sure you save up before you go!
The wait was about about 35 minutes – they let big groups in every 10 mins so the queue moves pretty fast. Make sure you allow enough time to queue before your time slot though.
Next to the queue is the staircase set from the Dursley house, with the famous ‘cupboard under the stairs’. The kids all loved looking at this and it kept them occupied while waiting.
The Great Hall
The main thing that Little H wanted to see (and us too) because it wasn’t at Universal, was the Great Hall. This is the first stop on the tour.
December at the studios was “Hogwarts In The Snow” and the hall was decoratedbeautifully for Christmas. There’s a big group of people in the hall at the same time so it’s quite packed. You don’t get very long to look around either before they usher you out to get the next group in.
This is obviously the real Great Hall set and was amazing to see, especially with the mannequins around the room wearing the costumes from the films. The hall isn’t as big as I’d imagined, probably because it doesn’t have the enchanted ceiling, though the doors really are as big as they look!
The Sets and Props
As you walk around there’s a lot of facts and information about all the props, costumes and sets. When you have a 5 year old with you it’s hard to stop and read everything but you can learn a lot of things about the films.
There are also lots of staff members around who are more than happy to talk to you and answer any questions.
It’s amazing to look at the props and costumes up close, especially when you see how much detail went into everything. My favourite though was the sets, these are the parts you know so well from the films. Little H desperately wanted to go in the Gryffindor Common Room!
Some of the sets have interactive buttons to make things move like the washing up and iron in The Burrow. Little H waved her wand and pretended she was making it all move with magic.
All of the sets are so detailed you really do feel like you’re at Hogwarts, especially in the potions classroom. Professor Snape is a bit intimidating even as a mannequin.
There are lots of things to ‘do’ here from a broomstick ride in front of a green screen that you can buy on DVD, to an interactive wand demonstration. The photos and DVDs are expensive – £20 for the DVD of the broomstick ride and £14 per photo so just bear this in mind before you promise the kids a video of them flying a Nimbus 3000 around Hogwarts. You don’t have to buy any of it though so it’s still fun for the kids to have a go.
The Hogwarts Express
When we visited back when the studio first opened there was no Platform 9 ¾ or Hogwarts Express so this bit was new to us. When you walk into the station you can pose at the wall with your luggage trolley which Little H loved.
The train doesn’t move but you can walk through and have a nose in each carriage. They’re all set up with props from different films.
On the other side of the platform you can sit in a carriage in front of the green screen and have photos and video taken to make it look like you’ve really been on a journey on the Hogwarts Express.
Next we stopped for some lunch and a Butterbeer ice cream before heading outside where there was pretend snow falling down which really did make it feel Christmassy.
All Aboard The Knight Bus
The Knight Bus is outside and you can stand on the back to have a look inside the bus. The Weasley’s flying car and Hagrid’s motorbike are also there and you can sit in both of these.
You’ll also see the Dursley’s house, as well as the Potter’s house from Godric’s Hollow. Little H was most disappointed that you couldn’t go inside the houses!
The Hogwarts bridge was also outside but because of the weather we couldn’t walk across it. It was absolutely freezing so we didn’t hang around outside for very long.
The next section of the tour had models of characters like the goblins, dragons, and other magical creatures. Little H thought some of them were a bit scary so we walked quickly through this bit, just stopping to say “Hi” to Dobby on our way past.
Little H was very excited to walk through Diagon Alley and see all the shops, but again was disappointed when she realised she couldn’t go in. I love the detail in all of the windows, you could stand and look at everything for ages – if you didn’t have a 5 year old with you.
If you want to buy anything like the famous sweets from the films or items from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes then you can get it all in the gift shop at the end. We didn’t make the mistake of buying Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans again – yuck!
Obviously they save the bit that everyone wants to see the most until last – the Hogwarts Castle. It is an absolutely amazing model, incredibly detailed and you really could stand there for hours looking at it from every angle. Little H was a bit confused as to why it was so small (not lifesize!) but even she said it was “awesome”.
And then that’s it, and you’re back at the gift shop wanting to go round again!
All in all we spent 4 hours on the tour, including lunch, which I was pretty impressed with since we had a child with us. There’s quite a few interactive bits for children to do, and if you visited a few years back then it’s definitely worth another visit to see the new additions.
For a 5 year old Little H was really interested in everything and didn’t complain once. However I do think that she was under the impression that she was going to school at the real Hogwarts castle! She wasn’t too disappointed though and she said that she had a great time and would like to go again.
I would definitely recommend a visit to all Harry Potter fans. If you have children younger than 5 I’d probably leave them at home, otherwise I think you’ll end up annoyed if they don’t want to spend time looking at everything.
Have you been before? If so, what did you think?
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