We get invited to some fairly exciting places because of this blog, Flea and I.
But being invited to go and tour the sets of Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studios, which opens to the public next weekend, might actually have made Flea’s top three. And, because I’m such a sterling parent, I was prepared to take her. I know. I’m unselfish like that.
We spent around four hours at the studio tour, and there is LOADS to see – I don’t want to spoil all the surprises if you’re considering going with your own family, but what I will say is – it’s definitely worth the trek to Leavesden (aka 15 minutes off Junction 20 of the M25) and at around £95 for a family of four, it’s reasonably affordable. If you do want to see more pictures, I’ve put a selection on my Facebook page.
Our tips to make the most of a day at Making Harry Potter, the Warner Bros Studio Tour are:
- The experience is mostly a self-guided tour, and groups are admitted to the attraction every half hour and I’d say it takes a good three hours to see everything. I’d suggest booking on a tour earlier in the day if possible, as we visited on a press day but noticed the groups got larger and lines longer as the day went on.
- Make sure to get the children one of the Potter Passports – this lets them collect stamps as they tour the studios, and also has trivia questions and a Golden Snitch hunt – these are free, and Flea thought it was great fun.
- The first part of the tour allows you to see most of the main interior sets from the films. Do prepare your kids for the fact that Hogwarts isn’t real – we passed one or two weeping little ones for whom the revelation had come as a nasty shock.
- If you’re wondering how those wigs are made, or what the tiles are made of, we found the staff are incredibly knowledgable, enthusiastic and friendly. I loved that the guides were able to tell Flea exactly which button in the Ford Anglia made the car fly, and which spell would make someone turn into a cat.
- Give yourself LOTS of time to look at things – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film before where there is quite such attention to detail. Every wand is inscribed by hand, there are tens of thousands of hand-made books, and oil paintings and tapestries – all made just for the films. If you’re a Potter nerd, it really is completely, utterly spell-binding.
- There’s a great opportunity to ride broomsticks and flying cars but a tip for parents hoping to try this out – don’t wear a straight skirt. There’s no dignified way to ride a broomstick in a straight skirt and everyone waiting in line will be able to see your underwear. Just an observation.
- Halfway through the tour there’s a nice outdoor area where you can see some of the outdoor sets (including Privet Drive and a fabulous Potters Cottage, where two lovely workmen were still building the garden when we visited). This is a perfect place to stop for a picnic and a breather (it can get quite warm in the exhibition) – you can bring your own, or there’s a small refreshments stand selling fruit, sandwiches and (of course) Butterbeer.
- The second half of the tour is monsters and creatures – don’t miss the tiny foetus Voldemort that breathes and lifts its head when you push a button. Marvellously sinister. (as an aside, did you ever wonder where the REAL Whomping Willow is?)
- Save time for the final part of the tour and the model of Hogwarts that was used for filming – it really is quite breath-taking and the interactive video displays around the room let you see exactly how the model was used in filming.
- At the end of the tour, there’s a cafe – we didn’t visit but it looked very clean, and spacious. There’s also a small Starbucks concession if you need a caffeine fix before negotiating the M25 home.
- Of course, there’s a gift shop. It’s enormous and really very, very good. You can buy everything from chocolate frogs to Marauder’s Maps, school ties and replica wands – mostly great quality but NOT cheap. I can imagine lots of frustrated children this summer whose parents have refused to spend £74.99 on a set of Hogwarts robes.
If you’re considering a trip to the Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studions this summer, I would absolutely recommend it. I think this is a really amazing day out if you have Harry Potter fans in the family – young or old. There’s something really very special at seeing the craftsmanship and passion that clearly went into making the films, and it’s a brilliant opportunity to glimpse behind the curtain and see how all that magic was made.