* Prices may differ from that shown
I have been a hp fan ever since i read the first book, and couldn't wait to see all of the films, however once the last film had ended I felt a little lost...that is until someone told me about the hp studio tour near London (please note it is not in London it is in Leavesden- only a 20 mile drive away from London)
When I was asked in March what I wanted to do for my birthday in August I knew that I wanted to go to the hp studio tour, and discover the magic behind the magic of hp! we decided that we wouldn't look on the website as we didn't want to spoil anything about it. By the end of June we thought we better look into the location and price of entry only to then see the words ADVANCE BOOKING ONLY we looked at my birthday and it was full as was the entire week, so my advice to anyone would be to plan early!! You not only have to book the day you want to go but also the time as it is booked in half hour slots- they advise that it takes on average 3 hours to complete the studio time and although entrance to the tour is staggered you walk round in your own time (it took us just under 3.5 hours and we didn't read everything) the only time restraint being when the studio tour closes (the following is taken from their website as I couldn't remember the exact times) "Depending upon the time of year, the first tour starts between 9am - 10am and the last tour between 4pm - 6:30pm; closing time is 3 hours after the last time slot. We are open 7 days a week, all year round, except on Christmas Day and Boxing Day."
They advise not taking a pushchair as spaces are limited and you may have to leave them in the main area, we chose to take our lg in a carrier/ walk round, however we saw many people with pushchairs and they didn't seem to miss out on anything or have to leave it anywhere.
Cameras are welcomed and encouraged
I then looked at any other way of getting tickets in that week, I was informed that if people change their slot then sometimes slots become available agin and discovered that you can not only book them through the official website but you can also book through third parties entrance with a hotel stay, or transport to and from the venue (however they only allow approx 3 hours to walk round before the return coach departs and we are glad we did not choose this option as we feel it would have been a rush as you don't know how much more there is to see) or you can pay for entry and food. We chose the hotel stay and feel this is the best option (for 2 adults and an infant we paid £109 for entry and a stay at a hotel only 20 minutes away including breakfast) we felt tired after doing the studio tour and if you are further than a couple of hours away I think it would be very hard to drive to the tour, go round and then drive home all in one day.
Finally d day arrived and I was so excited, we plugged the address into the sat nav and were surprised to be directed through a housing estate to a giant yellow air hanger. We were met by very friendly and enthusiastic staff who directed us through the large open air car park to a particular space. (Our time slot was 1:30 so we took a space which had been vacated)
The building is very large, a lot larger than expected, and is yellow with the unforgettable hp logo as well as large pictures from the films outside in addition to so e of the props from the wizard chess.
There are lots of windows as you approach the tour with more friendly staff waiting to see you (this is where the feeling of being in America begins- which just excites me more)
This is where we collected our tickets (as we had confirmation via the website which we had to show and in exchange we received tickets with a character on)
A fantastic tour for hp fans or those interested in films in general as a lot of what you are shown applies to work and the thought process of all films
I would recommend coming with a lot of money for the shop as the items are expensive compared to a normal gift shop but go in with an open mind as they look exactly like the movie and it really depends on what you buy for example the food items such as chocolate frogs are almost £9, however you can buy a pop up book for just over this, I also purchased a wand- a replica of hermiones for £35 and a book which tells you more about behind the scenes with loads of mini props for £25 which I feel was v reasonable ( the book contains the mauranders map which could be purchased on its own for over £8)
IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO READ SPOILERS ABOUT THE HP STUDIO TOUR DO NOT CONTINUE
As you walk to the main doors the anticipation gets even higher as you can literally see nothing inside. Once you reach the first doors there are the handprints of the 3 main actors/actress where you can place your hand in and see how theirs compare to yours.
As you go through the next doors the amazement begins- there is a large cafe to your left where you can get food and a drink before or after, to the right are kiosks where you can purchase audio guides (as we wanted to talk to each other we didn't purchase these) then further to the right is the shop- it is tempting to look before going into the tour, however you will be brought into the shop at the end of the tour where it has more meaning) and in front of you is the queue with ropes. All around the room are pictures and props (including the blue flying car from the second film- which really confused our lg who was asking why the car was flying!)
As we started towards the queue we were stopped by a lovely lady with a microphone who offered our lg a hp passport (free of charge) which had spaces for the child to stamp as you went around the tour (word of warning they are not a stamp as such and are in fact embossed onto the pages as you stamp- we couldn't see but the lady we asked was very helpful and suggested when we get home we colour it with a wax crayon and then it will be more visible which it now is)
You are called forward to join the queue by your time slot, however the queue was quite low when we entered and they said all times could join the queue. (They recommend arriving 20 minutes prior to your tour time) you wait in the queue for approx 20 mins but there is so much to look at it really didn't feel like long at all, in fact there is also a member of staff positioned at the end of the ropes who clicks you into the next section of the queue- the man when we went was FANTASTIC, there was a little boy in front of us who had purchased a wand and was saying "expelliarmus" to the worker who played along with the boy for several minutes, he spoke to each person in turn as he checked their tickets and wished you a good day (again this felt very americanised, we couldn't fault the passion of the staff)
The cupboard under the stairs prop is in the queue and you can see exactly how hp lived in the films
You then enter a confined area (they only let so many people in) with lots of screens around the room where they play a small film to you before opening the doors in front of you and ushering you into a cinema (no recording or pictures are to be taken in these two areas) after the short film which invites you to join hp, Ron and hermione in the great hall the cinema screen lifts up to reveal giant doors which lead you into the great hall!
In the great hall a member of staff talks to you and your time to explore in the great hall is limited. There are the tables from the films, and several props of different characters cloaks/ clothes and the teachers cloaks at the other end of the great hall. There are snitches all around which older children would enjoy looking out for throughout the tour
Once you leave the great hall you are able to explore the rests of the studio tour in your own time and the props really begin to come thick and fast, most props have a brief description with them and there are several scenes to explore, such as dumbledores office.
As well as there being lots of props and sets to explore and view there are many interactive pieces too- for example you can queue to ride a broomstick with a green screen which you can purchase at an additional cost as a picture or a movie. There are several screens around on the inside which tell you how they filmed quidditch and other green screen scenes etc.
You can see the staircases up close, make professor lupins trunk open and close, make the knitting needles and other items in the Weasleys house move round magically and much more!
There are several toilet stops dotted around so you don't need to worry about rushing around and at the halfway point there is a beverage stand. (This is also outside)
There is a stand where you can purchase drinks and from memory food (although I, not sure about this) you can also purchase butter beer! It's hard to describe butter bear but it's very sweet and I would recommend buying it, they sell it in 3 different sizes and there is not much difference in price for one in a logo'd tankard which doubles up as a souvenir (there are even 2 tankard washes to rinse them out before taking them home)
You can see the scene of privet drive, the night bus, other vehicles from the films and the other houses in the films here. These are all interactive but we didn't wait more than a few minutes for anything.
There is a wobbly bridge you can choose to walk across and a large area of wizard chess with remorse controlled pieces (controlled by a member of staff) which chase you around
You then enter a second hanger which is the more characters and in depth prop area e.g buck beak, voldemort, the owls etc, there are more screens which tell you about the various stages of making the different props.
Continuing forward you enter diagon alley (it's worth taking your time here as you aren't able to go back on yourself from here) in my opinion this was my second favourite but seeing all the shops on the rickety street, there was also a demonstration of how they lit up the wands for use in the dark alley ways.
After diagon alley you see artists impressions of various objects and you can fully appreciate all the work and details which went into making the films, further on still there are cardboard scaled mock ups of the owlery, the bridge, hogwarts etc.
A member of staff ins then at the end next to a double set of closed doors who opens the door for you and said "welcome to Hogwats" where you enter a massive room with a huge scaled version of the castle! This is my (and everyone else I know who has been) favourite bit of the tour, there are several computers where you can find out various facts about how it was made, see a sped up version of it being made etc. the castle is not lit up and the room has lights on then suddenly it is dimmed and you can see hogwarts at night! It is amazing, you follow a sloped path which takes you round the model allowing you to see all parts of the model, you enter ollivanders wand shop and then the tour is over and you are in the shop
Harry Potter has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have always been a huge fan and grew up reading the books, even making midnight trips with my mom to Asda to buy the books the minute they came out! - I am definitely part of the 'Harry Potter Generation'. I absolutely fell in love with the story and the magic of Harry Potter and I really hope my children will love it as much as I did (and still do). You can imagine my excitement when the films came out, meaning I could hang on to Harry Potter for that little bit longer! I regularly re-watch the films and have re-read the books several times (This is a bit more time consuming - Have you seen the size of some of them!?). I have included this information in my review to try and give an understanding of just how excited I was to go to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers studio tour to see for myself how and where the magic happened! I am not ashamed to say that at the age of 22, with my 25 year old sister in tow (also a big fan) we were beside ourselves!
Planning your visit
Tickets for the tour need to be booked in advance and can not be purchased on the day. You will need to book a date and time slot, this ensures there are never too many people on the tour which is quite important for an enjoyable, worthwhile visit. If you are interested to know what the ticket prices are, to save you going on the website I will list them here:
Adult (16+) - £29
Child (5-15) - £21.50
Family (2 adults, 2 children) - £85
Family (1 adult, 3 children) - £85
The complete studio tour package (this includes ticket, souvenier guide and digittal guide):
Adult - £38.95, Child - £31.45
Children under 5 go free but need a ticket.
It is open from 9 am - 7pm, 7 days a week, all year except Christmas day and Boxing day. The studios are located in Leavesden, Watford, 20 miles north west of London and can be travelled to by rail, road or shuttle bus and information on how to get there is available on the website.
When you go into the building you enter the lobby where you queue up to go through to the tour, here you can also purchase digital guides to take around with you. I didn't buy one as to be honest I didn't need one, but this is a fantastic option for those who aren't as familiar with the story. I think this would also be great for parents, who could tell their children the interesting information they hear. From the lobby you can also enter the cafe or the gift shop (more about that later).
Now the good bit! I am only going to give a general overview of what is on the tour and my opinion on it so as not to spoil it for anyone wanting to go, I don't want to reveal too much. After getting your tickets, you are taken into a cinema room, where the three stars of the films - Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint introduce the tour. I think using the actors themselves is a great little touch, sitting in the cinema waiting to go through is very exciting. The three then welcome you to the first room of the tour....
The Great Hall
A key set in all of the Harry Potter films is the Great Hall. As soon as I walked in I was mesmerised and found myself saying silly things like "It looks exactly the same!" ... Well of course it does, it is the same! Lots of scenes that took place here came flooding back to my memory and really brought it all to life. In here you can see the tables they sat at, the uniforms they wore and more! From here you go into...
The Big Room
The Big Room is where you can see settings for lots of different places used in the Harry Potter series, these include- Snapes classroom, The Burrow, Dumbledores office and many more ( I do want to keep some things a surprise) You can't actually go onto the scenes but you can view them closely and there are interactive things you can do. There are also green screens where you can have your first flight on a broom stick or your first ride in a flying car! Very entertaining for young children especially. You can also see lots of famous props, wigs and costumes Next up...
Taking a walk to the outside exhibits you can see different kinds of transport used in the films, including Mr Weasleys flying car. These are things you can get in/on if you want to take any photos! I found that getting a photo on these was quite difficult as I don't think people realised that just because I'm an adult doesn't mean I don't want to have a go - haha. I was definitely more excited than some of the children there. You can also have a look at some of the houses used for Godrics Hollow and Privet Drive. Here is also where you can have your first try of some Butter Beer! At a price of course, I can't remember the exact price but it was quite expensive for a small cup. After a few sips the butter beer becomes quite sickly, I'd describe it as a mix of caramel and coca cola. I had to have it though, as it is one of only two places in the world where you can get it! - The other being Harry Potter World in Orlando.
Next up is a room where you get to have a look at all the things used to make all those weird and wonderful creatures in the films and the effects used to make them look so real. It includes goblins, hippogriffs and even body casts which are unbelievable life like. I was impressed with these in particular and found myself staring at them almost expecting them to start moving! It's so interesting listening to the ways the effects were created and you'll find yourself saying "oh so that's how they did it!" lots of interesting tricks.
One of my favorite parts of the tour, taking a stroll through Diagon Alley, past Ollivanders and Gringotts bank etc. It looks absolutely fantastic and you really feel like you're in the film! You can't go into the shops but it is enough to just walk through and take some photos outside your favourite shops! It's amazing to think of all the scenes that have been shot right where you are standing.
This part of the tour features artwork of characters and places in the films. I'd say this is definitely more interesting for adults than children. It shows how things can go from being just a pencil sketch to what they become and is very impressive when you think about it. It's great to see how things start off as when watching the films you forget that all of this had to be designed, drawn etc. before it could come to life, it doesn't just come from nowhere and it isn't magic!
The Model Room
Now this part was my personal favorite. I have always found the Hogwarts castle so beautiful, enchanting and magical so this I absolutely loved this room. It holds a huge model of the Hogwarts castle which is used in the films and is absolutely incredible to look at and think of all the work that has gone into it. As in all the rooms, there are interactive screens which can tell you more information about how it was built etc.
This is the end of the tour and you can now enter the gift shop which contains everything 'Harry Potter' you can think of : wands, chocolate frogs, bertie botts every flavour beans, robes and more. It is fantastic to look around and I couldn't resist buying a few things but as you can imagine it is very expensive. So if you have kids and are taking them here, Good luck!
Throughout the tour you can take as many photos as you like and spend as much time in any room as you want to which is great because it means there is no rush. It is a fantastic place to take children and it was so lovely seeing them all arriving in their hogwarts hats and robes full to the brim with excitement! You also get a little card 'hogwarts passport' which you can stamp at various places round the tour, which is also great for the kids and they can take it home as a souvenir if they wish to. For those just going for the kids, you will enjoy yourself to as it is so interesting seeing how everything is made and is just a brilliant, fun family day out. I would 100% recommend it to any Potter fans or parents of Potter fans! I would even go again. The whole tour just had me thinking 'I wish Hogwarts was real!'
The magical world of Harry Potter
The studio is situated in leavesden, post code for sat nav is:- WD25 7GS
I am and always have been and always will be a huge Harry potter fan, I still re read the books and watch the films. I'm a little excited to be writing this review to be honest with you.
9am- 6.30pm times may vary depending in the time of year you visit. Open 7 days a week except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Ticket price 2013 :-
Family (2 adults, 2 children or 1 adult 3 children):- £85.00
You can also get a disabled ticket or group tickets, I'm unsure as to how much these are sorry.
Adult Complete studio tour package :- £38.95
You get the entry ticket, souvenir guide and digital guide
Child complete studio tour package :- £31.45
Adult Ticket and wand deal for £60.00
You get the entry ticket and either a Harry,hermione, Ron, Dumbledore or Voldermort wand and first class post
Child ticket and wand deal for £52.50
When choosing your ticket you also pick the day and time you wish to go wihich in my opinion is excellent means, you are not queuing for too long when you arrive.
I purchased the adult complete studio tour package and I would recommend it for any big harry potter fans because it's just amazing, the digital guide explains in full detail about everything that went on behind the scenes and gave a few extra hours of information that you wouldn't have gained throughout the tour. The official guide is full of high quality photos of the whole tour with added information. It's a memory that will last forever.
I arrived at the tour before my allocated time and was pleased that we were allowed to join the queue on e picking up our official guides. We queued for about half an hour. I was very excited, more so than the children there. While queuing there is a cafe to the left and the gift shop to the right and if you look up you can see big portraits of the characters.
You open the doors to the great hall and that is when the adventure starts.
It is set out like it would be in the film you start off in the great hall but with two large long tables, nothing is missing except all the students and the noise, there is a house point counter (good to know Griffindor are in the lead) the owl podium was one of my favourite probs with Dumbledore and the other teachers standing behind. You learn about the props, enchanted ceiling, the chocolate feast and the floating candles. You then move on round to the Gryffindor common room and the boys dormitory which is full of fun facts. Dumbledore office and potions class are also very exciting to see and learn more about. Hagrids hut was a very nice treat, you learnt about the special effects and hidden information
There are many if not all the costumes used from the teachers to the students, my favourite was hermione so dress from the Yule ball even to this day I want it. I liked seeing the difference in costumes from year 1 to year seven, the sizes and style as you can imagine has changed a lot.
My favourite place of all time I loved the Wesley's house if I honest with you I want to live There. Amazing does not describe the amount of detail and quirkyness was in this section. I could have stayed looking at it all day
Another very popular section on the tour, you learn even more about the magical sport which has taking the nation by storm some universities have actually started their own Quidditch team, mine introduced it the year I left so I didn't get to see what a muggle Quidditch game was like.
The ministry of magic and Umbridges office were very impressive and so was the backyard were you can walk over the hogwarts bridge, knock on the door of privet drive, enter the knight bus and have a butter beer -yuck! I did not like the taste at all it was far too sickly for my liking.
The last section of the tour was on the creature shop and how things were made from Aragog to the mandrakes and then you take a walk down Diagon alley, i don't need to describe this you've all seen the movies spectacular you cannot describe the wonders of Diagon Alley. There is also a model of Hogwarts at the end before you exit which shows every little detail of hogwarts
Before heading home I took a trip to the gift shop, I was like a child at Christmas I only purchased a chocolate frog as I had my official guide and I didn't want to spend too much as everything was so expensive but next time I visit I'll be buying more
You learn a lot about the visual effects, special effects, film effects as you can imagine there were a lot during the films.
I think as a viewer of the Harry potter films we take for granted the amount of hard work and effort and hours of work that go into each scene and prop, we might only see a prop for a second but the creative team would have spent days if not weeks/months making something look amazing
I would recommend visiting the warner bros studio if you are a fan or harry potter because I loved it, possibly one of my favourite places to visit. The average time it takes to look at everything is 3hours. Everyone will enjoy this place and you can take photos, I took loads of everything. They have special events on as well at different times of year
Ghostly goings on is 19th October- 3rd November
Hogwarts in the snow is 15th November- 6th January
I missed out on both of these unfortunately?
"The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." JK Rowling
Since the day I read the first book in one sitting I have always been a huge Harry Potter fan. I love the books and I loved the films. So as you can imagine I was just a little bit excited when my friend announced that her birthday present to me this year was to take me to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. I knew that various friends had been before and rated it highly so my expectations were high right from the start.
You cannot just turn up at the studio tour; tickets must be bought in advance. I think this is a good thing as it means that they only allocate a certain number of visitors for each tour time slot meaning that it is never going to be so crowded that you can't enjoy it properly. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling their call centre. A great feature here is that you can buy "gift tickets" so for example if you wanted to buy tickets for someone as a surprise gift without having to steal their diary/attempt to guess at a day they might be free you can do. You purchase the tickets and they can use the website to book their day and time slot.
If you are booking the timeslot there and then the website is easy to use and you will be send an email confirmation of the tickets. You can also opt for them to be sent to you. My friend booked ours online but somehow managed to delete her booking confirmation. She rung them using the number on the website and they were very helpful and gave her all the information she needed. It is also worth noting here that if you want to change the day of your visit once booked you can do but it will cost you a £10 fee to change the booking.
Adult tickets cost £30, children (age 5 to 15) cost £22 and under fives are free although you still need to order a ticket for them. There are some family ticket options available which cost £89 for 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. You can pay a bit extra for "The Complete Studio Tour Package" (£39 for adults, £32 for children) which includes a digital guide and souvenir guidebook. To be honest I don't think the digital guide is necessary as there is so much brilliant information around the studios and the staff there will tell you anything you want to know. We saw a few people with them but they almost looked like a bit of a hassle as to watch the videos you need to stand still and obviously find somewhere to do this without getting in the way of others. However, the guide is narrated in several languages so might be interesting for guests who would find it difficult to read all of the information around the studio.
The website is well designed and very useful as it explains how the tour works, what to expect and how to get there.
Getting there and Arrival
We live in Sussex (South East England) and according to the SatNav and Google maps it should have taken us around 2 hours to get to the studio tour which is in Watford (North West London). Our slot was at 2.30pm but we decided to leave at 10am to give us plenty of time to get there (they ask that you arrive 20 mins before your time slot) and time to stop for lunch on the way there.
We didn't want to be late as it does state that they cannot guarantee you entry if you miss your slot and with the unpredictability of the M25 we thought it best to leave plenty of time.
We made the mistake of going on a bank holiday weekend and ended up spending hours sat on the M25. As a result we didn't get time to stop for lunch and spend 4 hours in the car trying to get there in time. The stress of being sat still or moving at snail pace on the motorway was eased by our general excitement and the fact that I had brought a Harry potter and Ron Weasley cardboard mask for my friend and I which she alternated between whilst I drove to entertain our fellow drivers. We enjoyed making so many people laugh and smile and even managed to stop a couple of young children throwing tantrums much to their parents delight.
As we finally arrived at the studios (which was brilliantly sign posted) we were greeted by car park staff directing us to a space. The car park is huge and well organised. We headed towards the outside ticket booths where we could collect our tickets (there were also self-service machines). There was almost no queue as it was so well organised and we managed to collect our tickets quickly using our booking number. The only thing here that is not obviously mentioned on the website is that they ask everyone for ID when you collect your pre-booked tickets. Luckily my friend had some but she hadn't expected to be asked for it. The lady at the ticket desk was lovely and cheerful which just added to our already over excited state!
We made our way into the building and were wowed by the huge photos on the wall of some of the Harry Potter characters as well as the flying car suspended from the ceiling. Off of the foyer area there was a café which we just had time to grab a sandwich in. They did hot and cold food as well as a variety of drinks. There wasn't the biggest choice in terms of sandwiches but we both found something we wanted and it was pleasant and not insanely expensive. The café was busy but we managed to grab a space at a table. There are plenty of toilets available before going into the tour so no need to queue and they were perfectly clean. There is a kiosk where you can hire the digital guides as well as checking coats, bags and pushchairs into a cloakroom for a small fee (you can take buggies into the tour but they suggest you don't).
You can start queuing to enter the tour 20 minutes before your time slot. Whilst you queue you walk past "the cupboard under the stairs" where Harry slept in the first film. There is a real buzz of excitement and we didn't feel like we were queuing for too long before we were led into a large room where we were welcomed by an enthusiastic member of staff and shown a short video. It felt like there were about 100 of us but wasn't too cramped or crowded.
Next we were led into a cinema room with comfortable chairs where we sat and watched an introduction to the tour by some of the actors. This was interesting without being too long. It explained that all of the props, sets, costumes etc were from the actual film and that the studios were where much of the actual filming took place.
We were moved on through to the doors of the great hall. As we entered it, although it seemed smaller than it looks in the films, we were just filled with awe being there where so much action had taken place. A guide with a microphone gave some more information and pointed out some key features in the great hall. We were able to walk around and take in some of the detail whilst the guide continued to talk. There were some costumes in here and it was fascinating to see them up close. You can take as many photos as you want so we took a few before we were free to move on to the next stage of the tour.
From this point forwards to are free to go at your own pace. The next area is a large studio with hundreds of props, costumes, wigs etc as well as parts of the set such as Dumbledore's office, Hagrids hut and so on. There is plenty of interesting information to read and we found that although there were a lot of people, you didn't have to push your way to the front to see things and although it is behind barriers you are close enough to get a really good look. In this first studio there is also a room where you can pay extra to get a film of yourself "riding a broom" against a green screen.
As you move out of this section of the tour you are reminded politely by the staff that it is a one way system so to make sure you are happy you have seen everything as once you move on to the next section you can't go back. This makes sense and works well to ensure the tour does not get too congested whilst still allowing people to spend as much time as they want in each section. We moved outside to the courtyard which fortunately had some covered areas as it was raining. There is another café here and you can buy a butterbeer. There are only two places in the world you can buy an official butterbeer (the other being in Florida) so we took up the opportunity. It was pretty foul so we were glad we only bought one to share! In the outside area we were very excited to see the outside of Privet Drive as well as Harry's parent's house where they were killed by Voldemort. There is also one of Hagrid's motorcycle's (several were made for the film) as well as another model of the flying car here that you can get in to have your photo taken. Unfortunately some children were hogging it so we didn't get a turn! There is also part of the Hogwarts bridge that you can walk along.
Next you move into another studio where there are lots of the masks and some wax models used in the films (these are quite scary as they are so realistic). There were some electronics and information on how things work. There is also the HUGE spider Aragog suspended from the ceiling which was very unpleasant! There is plenty to look at here and again you can spend as much time as you want before you move on. As you walk through you find yourself in the set of Diagon Alley which is almost a bit overwhelming as you feel like you have actually stepped into the film. Next are some of the hundreds of sketches and designs from the films as well as some paintings and paper scale models. The next part of the tour is the scale model of Hogwarts. The model is just phenomenal and there is a real change in the atmosphere as you walk into this section as everyone is just in complete awe. You can walk around the model and read information about it. There is quiet music playing and the lighting changes which just make it even more wonderful. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of the tour as it is just so spectacular that it has to be seen to be appreciated.
Finally you walk into the inside of Ollivanders' wand store where all 17000 wand boxes have been labelled by hand. There is a wand for every member of the cast and crew and the staff in this area are amazing and seem to be able to direct you to the wand of any character you can think of.
You leave through the gift shop which is the only area of the whole tour that was ridiculously over crowded. It was unbearably busy so we only had a quick look before making our exit. It is a shame as everything seems ridiculously overpriced.
The tour is wheelchair friendly although you should let them know at the time of booking. There are plenty of clean toilets situated throughout the tour which include disabled and baby changing facilities. There are a few areas throughout the tour to sit down although the cafes can be quite busy.
They suggest that you should allow around three and a half hours to complete the tour. We were there for around 3 hours and enjoyed the fact that we could look round at our own pace.
The staff are brilliant, very friendly, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable They come across as being very helpful and there is always someone around if you need any help or extra information.
There is an extra charge for the green screen broomstick ride although it does look pretty impressive. We didn't do this as there was quite a bit queue.
We absolutely loved our afternoon at the studio tour. We were so hyped up before we even left that it could well have not lived up to our high expectations but it absolutely did. It was utterly amazing, breath-taking in parts and hugely interesting to a Harry Potter fan. When we got home we wanted to watch all of the films again to look at them from a whole new perspective. In fact we have now decided that we want to go again at some point as there is just so much to take in that you could easily do it a second time.
It's not the cheapest day out but it is incredible and in my opinion well worth it. The staff and atmosphere as a whole are fantastic and it is very well organised and managed which makes is completely stress free. There were quite a few children there who seemed to be interested and excited but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for younger children who probably wouldn't be able to appreciate it properly. However for any Harry Potter fans, I definitely recommend this as a wonderful day out that you will spend days raving about to anyone that will listen.
The only real negatives are that it took us so long to get there and that no one will ever want to watch the films with me again as I insist on pausing them every few seconds to look at certain things that I have seen a the tour or to share my newly acquired 'interesting facts'.
Have you devoured every page of the Harry Potter novels? Have you waited with great anticipation for each new film to be released? If so, the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio tour should be a must on your wish list of places to visit this year. To be honest even if you are just moderately interested in the series, I think that this is an attraction well worth visiting as there is so much to experience. With about 80% of the tour being indoors it also makes this a perfect winter day out - something for which I was extremely grateful when I visited on a freezing cold sleety Sunday in February.
What makes the tour feel so good is that you are in the actual studios where the vast majority of the filming of all eight of the Harry Potter films were shot. These are the real sets, the real props and the real costumes - no US style mock ups here and as Harry, Ron, Hermione or Draco lead you around the whole world of Hogwarts, Privet Drive and the Burrow, to name but a few, are really brought to life. I can't wait to watch the films again and spot the sets and I'm sure I'll see them in a new light now.
The Warner Brothers studios are located in Leavesden in Hertfordshire, just outside of Watford and are sign posted from junctions 19 and 20 of the M25, from which it is a couple of miles away. We found it easily using their sat nav directions, but there are also clear written directions. The huge creamy yellow warehouse type structures that form the studios are located on an old airfield site and there is therefore amply parking space right outside.
A word of warning - tickets must be purchased on line in advance, so don't turn up expecting to just go in as no tickets are sold onsite. Adults are £29 and children £21.50 with family tickets also available for £85. You can also buy a ticket that gives an audio tour and souvenir guide. You will need to select a 30 minute window timed entry slot and can opt for your tickets to be posted to you or print an E mail receipt and collect your ticket from machines in the car park. My opinion is that these prices are a little high, and although we spent nearly 5 hours here, it is an awful lot to spend for a family and as such only myself and my 18 year old daughter went as the rest of the family were not so keen so the cost couldn't be justified.
**You've arrived at the world belonging to Harry, Ron and Hermione**
The big decision we faced was whether to have an audio tour or not and then whether to have one each or to share. I'm glad we did opt to have one each as there is way too much information to share. They were easy to use and contained so much interesting information. However boards and TV screens around the various sets were also really informative, so they are not essential. I would only recommend the audio tour if you have about 4 hours to spare, are really interested and have no children with you as they will get bored. The other family that we visited with ended up moving at a much faster pace with their younger children, so we lost contact with them. If travelling as a group I would just use the onset information and this should be perfectly adequate.
Firstly you will be escorted into a welcoming area, followed by a cinema where Harry, Ron and Hermione tell you a bit about life filming at Leavesden and how it was home to them for 10 years. I was really interested to know how they managed their education as well as time on set here and how the crew were like family to them. And then the moment arrives when the doors to Hogwarts open and you enter the Grand Dining Hall, laid out for dinner with the staff (well models of them) on the dais at the front. It really is just as impressive as you'd expect it to be.
Up until this point staff have escorted your tour and they give more introductory information in the Hall, but once you leave the Hall and enter the main studio area you are free to roam at your own speed taking as long as you like to explore. The audio guides then begin, as do the children's' passports. The passports are a fun workbook for children to answer questions, spot golden snitches on the sets and collect stamps - I even had a go myself! Children particularly seemed to like the embossing stamp machines. A few of the displays have interactive elements and there is a fun area where you can fly on a broom or in the Weasley's blue Ford Anglia in front of a green background and have your photo taken (£12 each decreasing in price with multiple purchases). Children seemed happy but I can imagine that you would whizz around quite quickly with youngsters and not really get your money's worth. I certainly wouldn't take any child who doesn't know the films well.
The main studio is like a huge aircraft hanger and contains sets from all of the films and also many individual props and explanations of how things like the rotating stair cases work. My favourites had to be the boy's dormitory with Neville, Dean, Harry and Ron's beds in and the kitchen of the Weasley's home, the Burrow. I loved the fact that the characters / actors had personalised their bed areas over the course of their seven years at Hogwarts and found it really amusing to know that the set had been designed with beds to suit the eleven and twelve year old actors; by the time filming ended there was no way the now adult size actors could fit in their beds so they were always filmed in a curled up position.
The burrow was the most fun and interactive set as by pressing buttons you are able to set the knitting needles knitting all on their own, the washing up brush scrubbing a pan, the chopping knife cutting up a carrot and the iron ironing; lucky Mrs Weasley having these labour saving devices! This set was also the brightest and most colourful and included so much detail. I particularly liked the food boxes with names like 'Cheery Owls'. Even without audio guides there is a good hour and a half's worth of time to be spent looking around this area, but I won't spoil the surprise by including too much more about individual exhibits.
Only leave this area when you are totally sure that you have seen everything that you want as once you progress through to the backlot you won't be able to return. I was itching to get out to the backlot as through the glass doorway I could see the bright purple 3 story high knightbus and I really wanted to see this despite the sleet! You are able to stand on the conductor's platform and look into the beds but sadly can't go any further. The same with no 4 Privot drive, you may knock but not enter. You can however sit in another one of the blur Ford Anglias and pose for a photo - by the way did you know that 17 and a half of these cars were used in filming altogether! Hagrids motorbike is also great for taking photos in. The bridge which features in the later films is also here but we couldn't walk over it as it was too wet.
Back in the warm again you progress through the Creatures room. I found this fascinating, especially watching 3 films that show how various creatures used in the film are made. They are easy to watch films ideal for keeping children's attention and feature one of the dwarf actors who played a goblin in Gringotts bank. It was great to see how some of the animatronics work and how Hagrid appears so big and even Dobby is here to see. Don't look up to the ceiling if you're easily frightened!
Diagon Alley comes next. This set is still in-situ and ready to be used again if needed and is every bit as wonky and magical as I envisaged. Peer in the window of Olivander's wand shop or choose and owl, go to the apothecary and don't forget Weasly's bright red joke shop with its puking pastel figure out the front - gross!
The logo of the studio tour is 'where secrets are revealed'. The last point on the tour is the piece de resistance and I think visitors are supposed to keep this secret too, so as not to spoil the surprise for future visitors, so I won't reveal any more other than to say that it has a real 'wow' factor and is mightily impressive and was used throughout each of the eight films. You really should go and see what it is for yourself.
After seeing and hearing all that is on offer at the studios I can really see why these were such big budget films. Everything is made with such fine attention to detail and is so intricate.
**Can I have a souvenir please?**
I couldn't believe my eyes when I picked up something to buy in the shop. I'd planned to take some every flavour beans and a chocolate frog home, but at £8.95 and £7.95 respectively I quickly returned them to the shelf. These were small packets and I cannot see how these prices can be justified, except that there were queues at the tills so someone must be happy to part with their well earned cash. A few other examples are a robe costing £75, a small cuddly owl £12 and a mug £12. The shop is really big with pretty much any kind of souvenir you can imagine and you have no choice about going in as the tour exits through here. It may be worth priming small children first to avoid a tantrum or an expensive bill.
**Butterbeer or a cake please**
A good sized cafe is located in the entrance lobby with some lovely looking muffins and cakes for £2-3 and costa coffees and other drinks at about £2.50 for a small size. They also serve soups, salads and sandwiches. We chose to take a picnic as the time of our tour would mean that we were only in the lobby for what would be either a very early or very late lunch and there is a covered outdoor picnic area half way round. The tour is one way only so if you choose to go out to the cafe you cannot re-enter. There is also a small refreshment stall by the picnic area in the back lot. Again you cannot use this area, other than at the point where the tour passes through it. I really can't see why you can't walk to and fro between the parts of the exhibition, but I guess they are trying to control crowds and keep things moving. We brought butter beer from here, as that felt like an essential part of the Harry Potter experience - a strange somewhat sickly butterscotch kind of taste, but my daughter loved it. This costs between £2.50 for a plastic beaker to £6.50 for a souvenir tankard.
The main toilets are located in the lobby and there are others in the largest studio area, which seemed to be plenty, but I'm not sure what you'd do if you were taken short in the back lot of second studio area. Both times I went into the toilets there was someone wiping down the sinks and dryers and they were spotless.
Wheelchair access is good throughout the tour.
**Summary** A visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour gives a fascinating glimpse into the process of making a Harry Potter film. I totally recommend visiting here to anyone who loves the Harry Potter stories and has watched the films. Some sets are missing that I had really hoped to see, but they really have included a good amount to make your visit worthwhile and enjoyable. It is a shame however that the prices are so expensive, especially in the gift shop.
Unless you have been living under a stone for many years, you will know that Harry Potter is a fictional boy wizard who has 7 books and 8 films made about him. There is a major hype around anything to do with Harry Potter the books, the films, the merchandise etc. Then last year the theme park in Florida opened and this year the Warner Bros Studio Tour opened down near Watford, UK. I was thrilled with the latter as I had planned to save up to visit Florida.
I CANNOT STRESS HIGHLY ENOUGH THE IMPORTANCE OF BUYING TICKETS BEFORE YOU GO. There, enough capitals. Poor parents were consoling children at the gates when they tried to buy tickets on the door for that day. Yes you can buy tickets there but THEY WILL NOT BE FOR THE DAY. The guy said to us that they were booked up 2 months in advance at the moment so if you live close, go and buy them way before you want to visit or book them online as we did. You have to choose a date and time and you can alter these for £10 prior to the visit if you want to (we had to change the dates and were very happy to find that they were transferable). Aged 16+ prices are £28 per person, children are £21 and a family of four £83. It is not a cheap day out but I do hasten to add that you will be there for either a whole morning or whole afternoon so it is worth the money in my opinion. These prices will only get you in through the door nothing more.
We actually booked the "Complete studio package" which saved £4.95 overall, you get a digital audio tour (you can get them on the day but more expensive) and a souvenir book. The savings are worth it for the audio tour and we were glad we had booked them in advance. The book is nice but we really only needed one between us (it is not a guide, you don't pick it up until the end of the tour) so in that sense perhaps it would be cheaper to buy the audio guide on top when you get there?
It was a really easy drive to Leavesden Studios, just off the M1 motorway and just inside the M25 (but you don't have to go onto the M25). It is situated in a residential area of greater London and had ample parking. It is a bus ride away from Watford Junction train station which is about 20 mins outside of central London. They seemed to have some sort of bus service running from Victoria Central Station which more info can be found here: http://www.goldentours.com/partner/wbsstudiotour/
==What to see==
**Some Spoilers - I'll try and go gently though**
There are plenty of staff members all around to help once you arrive. There is a cafe, coffee shop, toilets, information stand, digital audio guide stand and a cloakroom in the main foyer. Lots of pictures and some props to look at in the main foyer. We arrived around 3.10pm for our entry time of 3.30pm, we got our audio guides, went to the loo and started to queue up for the first part of the tour which is guided (20 minutes). We queued for about 15 minutes, the queue moved quickly as around 200 people go through the doors each time. You go into a first room where you stand for 5 minutes watching some of the directors talk about the films then move on into a cinema style theatre where you watch Harry, Ron and Hermione talk about the films for 10 minutes. Then, the tour begins and you are free to roam around at your leisure.
There are 3 main sections, J-stage, K-stage and the Back lot. Some of the sets and props we saw in J-stage: Great Hall, Boys Common Room, the Yule Ball props, the Burrow, the Leaky Cauldron, Potions class, the Ministry of Magic etc. You couldn't physically stand in the sets but could get very close to them to take photos. We also saw the Horcruxes, portraits, broomsticks, wands etc etc. It was absolutely fantastic! I don't want to spoil it too much for others. We also learnt how many of the tricks were done with green screens and CGI which was really intriguing. At this point in the tour you can get a photo of yourself flying on a broomstick but the queue for that was quite long and you have to pay extra so we gave that a miss. Throughout the tour there are benches for you to sit down on but really it isn't very far to walk at all, although it does feel quite tiring as you are on your feet for a long time. We spent 2 and a half hours in J-Stage. You can do it as fast or slow as you want and there is no time limit. They reckon it takes about 3 and a half hours to complete the tour but we were there almost five hours. There are also toilets in J-stage and K-stage so no worries there. I saw a lady in a wheelchair whilst we were there and the whole place is wheelchair friendly and wide, there are no narrow bits and plenty of ramps and lifts where necessary.
We then moved outside to the Back Lot - not a huge amount of shelter when the rain came and everyone ran inside I must say ! There are refreshments here, a chicken and bacon sandwich was £5, a cheese was £2.50 so definitely not cheap and not a huge amount of selection but somewhere to sit and eat and have a little break. Also here is where you can buy and try Butterbeer! I won't spoil what it was like for people but it definitely needs trying!! Outside is home to the bigger props and bigger sets, we got to sit in the Ford Anglia, sit on Hagrid's motorbike and stand on the back of the Knightbus. It was really exciting! You will find that there will be mini queues for these and sometimes people jump ahead of you but it took less than five minutes to get a photograph with the props. We also stood outside 4 Privet Drive and outside of the Potter's house in Godric's hollow and in front of Tom Riddle's father's grave. We also got to see the Hogwarts bridge and wizards chess. This was one of my favourite parts of the tour as you could actually experience being in/on/in front of the sets and props.
We then moved into K-stage where we saw makeup and hair and lots of masks and animatronics...here we saw the Monster Book of Monsters, Grawp, Kreacher, Aragog, Buckbeak and more. Then we moved down into Diagon Alley! It was brilliant, my eyes lit up like a child! We saw all of the stores and props in the window. It would have been fabulous to go inside but alas the shops are mainly just facades. My only criticism of this part was that it was draped in a blue light which made it hard to take decent photos with the flash on or off. I know they do it for atmosphere but the blue was terrible for photos so our photos of Diagon Alley aren't the best.
We then moved onto the model room and art department where artists and model makers sketch out how buildings and scenes might look. This was the least interesting bit for me but was only quite short. We then ended in the final room which was a 1:24 model of Hogwarts castle. I couldn't imagine what size it would be but was NOT prepared for the sheer size of it! It is absolutely fabulous and a great way to end the tour! The tour then ends in the gift shop (conveniently - poor parents!). We found the gift shop hugely expensive - OK all of the collectables will be expensive but even sweets were £8+ for a tiny box which was outrageous. Don't forget to get your souvenir guide here!
One of the biggest things for me was the limited number of people who could be in there at any one time. The pre-booking of tickets worked really well and although we went in with a group of about 200 people at our time slot and there was another 200 people about 20 minutes behind us, it seemed to be nicely staggered so that it wasn't absolutely jam packed and people squished in and people fighting to take photos without other people in there. Our slot was 3.30-4.00 and I would say that was a great time to go -it wasn't even overly busy and it was a Saturday in August during the children's school holidays and the Olympic games. If it had been a "buy on the day" the whole thing would have been a nightmare and there would have been lots of pushing about. I felt like some moments had lots of people there and others I was all alone looking at something so it definitely came in waves. Husband who has been to Florida theme park version of Harry Potter said they had to queue for 50 minutes just to get inside one shop due to the volume of people, I'm so glad Warner Bros got it right on the ticketing front.
Overall the tour was done really well and we felt it was worth the money. We definitely think that the audio guide was worth it, there was lots of extra material on there that we didn't even manage to listen to/see all of it and we were still there for five hours. It is completely different to the Florida theme park I know but my husband (who has been to both) said that in terms of things for Harry Potter nerds and due to lack of overcrowding the Warner Studio Tour is by far superior to Florida. Save yourself a few quid and get down to Watford peeps!
I'm fairly certain that anybody that has read the books, or seen the Harry Potter films at some point has probably wished their school days had been spent at Hogwarts. I can clearly picture myself with a robe and wand merrily chanting incantations - "Homenum Revelio Justin Bieber! Accio pig! Wingardium Leviosa!" - I think I may have revealed that Justin Bieber is really human, then made a pig fly...anyway...after the book series ended and the magic of the films (I'm not apologising for that pun) that brought the amazing fantasy world of Harry Potter to life have since now pottered off (still no apology) Warner Bros decided to open up their film studio for "The Making of Harry Potter" tour as of Spring 2012 allowing people the chance to revel in nostalgia and experience the next best thing to actually being at Hogwarts.
The studio is located in Leavesden, Hertfordshire and the easiest way to get there is by an automobile, preferably via the M25 at either J19/J20 or the M1 at J5 depending on your travelling direction as the studio is but a short drive away from either of these motorways and is rather fabulously signposted so you shouldn't fail to find the place. Parking in a huge car park is free and you will be directed to the nearest vacant spot by a no doubt recently graduated student in a fluorescent safety jacket. If you don't rely on your own sense of direction then for SatNav use type in the postcode WD25 7GS and you should make it in one piece.
If you're coming in by train the nearest station is Watford Junction where you will find a shuttle bus that takes you directly to the studio with a 15 minute journey time, running about every 30 minutes, but allow yourself enough time to arrive before your ticket entry time. The buses run from Watford Junction between 9:20am and 5:20pm and from the studio from 11:55am to 9:35pm costing you £2 for a return or £1.50 for a single if you want to stay forever.
Unfortunately, apparating and disapparating is banned by the Ministry of Magic so please stick to conventional methods of travel.
Imagine chopping up an onion and you may have the same reaction to the studio ticket prices. Booking can only be done in advance online or if you are purchasing for a vast number of people via the call centre on 0845 084 0900, you must select your day and chosen 30 minute time slot and then it's like any standard website for paying online with a basket, the entering of payment and billing details and the extra delivery costs of £3.95 slapped on at the end just to make it a tiny bit more expensive (although you can collect on the day for free).
Ticket Type: Basic | Complete Package (includes audio/visual guide (normally £4.95) + souvenir guidebook (normally £9.95))
Adult (A): £28 | £37.95 - a saving of £4.95
Child (Ch) (Ages 5-15): £21 | £30.95 - a saving of £4.95
Under 5s: Free | N/A
Family Ticket (2 A + 2 Ch or 1 A + 3 Ch): £83 - a saving of either £15 or £8 | N/A
If you buy group ticket from 10-24 tickets you can get a £2 discount on every Adult and a £1.50 discount on every Child ticket.
I was stingy and didn't want to pay extra for the audio/visual guide or souvenir guidebook at the time of ordering the tickets - especially since I was buying 7 tickets and my credit card probably would have imploded but you can buy/rent them on the day and yet I still didn't want to fork out the extra cost. I had a good look at the guidebook and it is definitely a nice thing to take away with you with lots of information and pretty photographs that any fan will love, but I just felt it was a tad too expensive on top of the entry price. I also didn't go for the audio/visual guide as again I objected to the extra cost but I think that was potentially a mistake as watching the other patrons around me they looked to be fully engrossed in the wonderful film footage and interesting facts about the various props/costumes/sets as narrated by Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) so I would suggest not dismissing it on price as it seemed to reveal a lot more than was available just in the studio. But you can see how the costs would just start mounting up for a family getting one each and frankly with the price of entry I don't see why they shouldn't have been included free...grrr...
So what can you expect from the tour? The studio is divided into an introduction area followed by two main buildings separated by a courtyard, and it is effectively a one way system so you do want to make sure you've seen everything before moving on. Once you make it through a queue of about 15-20 minutes in the waiting area you are taken into the strange introduction room and given some basic survival information before being forced to stand for a few minutes to watch some randomly dull people related to the films chatting about them on screens haphazardly strewn about the room. You then move to a mini cinema (they're obviously starting with lowly stuff before gradually building up) where you get a short montage of behind-the-scenes clips from the films narrated by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint who then lead you (virtually) into the next phase of the tour which happens to be the instantly recognisable Great Hall where a tour guide will talk you through some of its finer points. It's incredible how much smaller the room is than it appears in the films and unfortunately there was no magical ceiling depicting the weather outside (huh...I totally thought that was real), but there is some amazing attention to detail with all the house logos affixed around their appointed locations in the hall, the fireplace, costumes displayed on mannequins plus some groovy gothic winged boar torch holders.
Next you move in to the first building where you are then free to roam without any tour guide restrictions. This is also where the hunt for the Golden Snitches commences for the kids who have gotten hold of the free activity passport. This area doesn't follow any obvious theme, you simply stumble around like a kid in a candy store looking at sets, props and costumes from an assortment of different films and there are a few video monitors showing short films on a loop and some information boards about the more interesting items for those that didn't opt for any of the extra guides, but it isn't really like an interactive museum, it's more like a showroom - you can look, but don't touch for fear of an employee using the Crucio curse on you. It's just simply great fun to wander about at your leisure reminiscing about plotlines from the books or picking up interesting facts about such things as Professor Umbridge's rather disgustingly pink and cat filled office, Professor Dumbledore's amazing office with books, portraits of past headmasters and other magical paraphernalia, Hagrid's hut as well as some fascinating and jaw-dropping props that made it out alive like the gates to Hogwarts with more winged boars, the massive clock pendulum, the Chamber of Secrets snake door, the imposing Magic is Might statue, creepy Death Eater masks, an assortment of stuff from the Room of Requirement and just so much more that I just don't want to spoil. There is also the opportunity to green screen it on a broom in full witch or wizard garb and have your photo taken (for another £12!) but the queues on a busy day can be up to 45+ minutes and it's probably one for the kids.
Next is the outside courtyard, and here are some of the bigger objects like the triple decker purple Knight Bus, the made up Hogwart's bridge that appeared only in the film for the Prisoner of Azkaban plus my personal favourite number 3 and 4 Privet Drive which was modelled on some houses from my beloved hometown Bracknell (Martins Heron) so it was like popping home briefly. There is also the very quaint, Tudor-like house of James and Lily Potter sadly in a state of ruin after Voldermort's handy work. Here you can also buy and try some Butterbeer, which I have been unable to find out the definitive recipe for but I think it's some concoction of butterscotch and butter with some cream soda added on top to create foam, which only grows the longer you leave it. This drink is simply delicious and incredibly sweet, but I fear a tad sickly sweet after a while and you'd be doing very well to finish one of these without digestive issues. Moving on past the enormous life size chess pieces you enter the final building which begins to focus more on the magical creatures in their various states of development with the hideous Inferi, goblin heads laid out like a production line, werewolves, Aragog, Buckbeak, the Basilisk and plenty of information about the techniques that went into their development and the special effects that brought them to life. My personal favourite thing that is the stuff of nightmares is the foetal Voldermort that if you press a button will start to twitch with hideous gasping breaths so look out for that little treat.
Moving on is one of the best complete sets yet and that is Diagon Alley with its entire other worldly atmosphere (apart from all the modern day people lolloping about) with cobbled streets leading up to such shops as Slug & Jiggers, Scribbulous, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and of course Ollivander's. My only disappointment was you couldn't go into any of the shops, which was sadly not feasible with the volume of footfall, plus there was probably not anything in them, but the outsides felt so realistic you could almost imagine being there in the film which gave a bit of a thrill. Beyond Diagon Alley you hit the final stage of the tour which focuses on the conceptualisation part of the film production from architectural designs, artist drawings for the magical creatures like Dobby (poor Dobby) and buildings like Azkaban, actual miniature models of, for example, buildings and the Whomping Willow and then one of the most astounding sights of all, a massive model of Hogwarts which was easily bigger than my house which you view from above and work your way around on a spiralling path downwards. This was one of the most captivating sights of the whole tour with such incredibly intricate detail you could stare at it for hours.
You are now at the end of the tour, and after passing through a fascinating room chocked from floor to ceiling with wands (if you spend some time looking at the names of them you'll spot some people like Ralph Fiennes and Rupert Grint so I think there must be one for anyone that worked on the films which is a nice touch) you then hit the gift shop or as I like to call it Rip-off City. There were some nice items available including the books and DVDs, sweets straight out of Honeydukes and Weasleys Wizard Wheezes although they did pale in comparison to the real things you've just spent the last few hours being bowled over by, but it was the sheer cost that was utterly ridiculous and put me off buying anything. Wands were about £25 as were stuffed toys, you could buy a Firebolt for about £250, Dumbeldore's cloak for £395, I quite fancied a Marauders Map until I saw it was £30 and in fact the cheapest item seemed to be a lollipop for £3.95. I felt this was all pretty insulting considering the entry price and extra costs everywhere, and I can just imagine little faces of excited kids desperate for some toys and the bill for the poor parents. Like they haven't made enough money from the films.
* There are toilets available outside in the waiting area and within the tour and the ones inside the waiting area were top quality - very clean, well-stocked with all the latest mod cons with motion sensor flushers and taps and those superfast hand-driers.
* The Studio Café is open from 9:30am and serves hot and cold lunches and snacks like soup, sandwiches and cakes as well as hot and cold drinks. When we arrived in the afternoon the place was absolutely packed so I think you may have a bit of a wait and a struggle to find a place to sit during the really busy times, so you might be better off having a picnic in the courtyard. There is also a Starbucks just outside the café if all you want is a coffee.
* There is a cloakroom to leave bags and coats and any other random bulky items you may have brought for "a small fee" whatever they consider to be small.
* There are baby-changing and milk warming facilities in the Studio Café. Buggies and pushchairs are allowed, but not double pushchairs, but due to limited numbers allowed you are recommended to leave them in the cloakroom.
* Disabled access - booking should be made through the call centre to make sure all requirements are met as there are a limited number of wheelchair users at any time allowed but the whole tour is wheelchair friendly. One free carer is allowed with proof of entitlement, and guide and hearing dogs are also permitted. Induction loops with the T-coil function are available for those with hearing aids.
"The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour" is without a doubt a haven for Harry Potter fans. Just walking around and admiring the magnificent sets, props and costumes with the thrill of nostalgia will take a couple of hours, and if you enhance your visit with extra audio/visual guides you're probably looking at 3 hours plus of childlike excitement. The studio have made a real effort to make life easy for visitors with great parking and shuttle bus transport, a café and other eating options, nice toilets and excellent disability facilities and every effort to make it as absorbing an experience as possible and all in all it is great fun for adults and kids alike. My biggest disappointment is the sheer cost of everything, dare I say the word extortion, which prevented me from enhancing my visit and taking any mementos away with me which I think is slightly taking advantage of the enormous fan base for evil monetary gain. That aside, this place is awesome.
Ok so this review will be slightly biased as I am a massive Harry Potter fan so I was always going to love this place no matter what, but I will try and give as much information as possible rather than just waffling on about how much I love Harry Potter.
So the tour itself is located in Watford, and is really easy to find. It does get a bit confusing as my directions from google told me to go one way and the brown attraction signs were telling me to go another - I decided it best to follow the signs and that took me right to it. As the place is so huge you can see it as soon as you turn onto the road aswell so you wont miss it! The building itself is also covered in huge Harry Potter posters so you will know what it is as soon as you spot it. As you enter the car park there are men at the gates who request to see your tickets, and then direct you to a parking space. The car park is enormous so you dont have to worry about not getting a spot.
You enter the building through some huge glass doors, with the Harry Potter logo above them, which leads you straight into a foyer, with a fancy canteen style cafe on your left and the Harry Potter shop on your right (I got there a little early and couldnt resist going for a bit of a pre-tour shop, but I will talk about the gift shop later). The excitement literally starts as soon as you enter the building, as you join the queue in the foyer you are surrounded by huge photo's of the cast along the walls, a blue ford anglia suspended from the ceiling and as you get closer to the front of the queue, you can have a look in Harrys cupboard under the stairs.
As the tour begins you are lead into a room with several small screens lining the walls where you watch a short video about the success of Harry Potter, after this you are taken into a small cinema style room and another short film presented by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Ruport Grint. After this film is finished the doors to the great hall are revealed (I almost cried with excitement at this point), and you are guided through these doors into the Great Hall. This is the only part of the tour which is guided, you are given a short talk in the great hall, then you are left to wander at ease through the rest of the studios.
After the great hall you exit into what is probably one of my favourite parts of the tour, which is a huge room filled with props and locations from the film - such as Dumbledores office, the Weasleys kitchen, parts of the Ministry for Magic among many other things (i dont want to give too much away for anyone who hasnt been yet). There is also the opportunity within this section to have your photo taken in Hogwarts Robes riding a broom!!
The next part leads you outside, where you can see privet drive, the knight bus, Harrys parents house etc etc. Here you can also purchse refreshments - including BUTTER BEER!! and have your photo taken on Hagrids/sirius' motorbike.
The next part is more about how props, characters and creatures in the films were created (including Aragog - which slightly freaked me out). Here you can see how all the goblin masks were make, how the mandrakes were made and the mechanics that went into making some of the creatures move. After this you are lead to a simply breathtaking part of the tour - Diagon Alley. You literally get to walk down Diagon Alley, look in the shop windows and be simply amazed at the detail that went into this place - including a fully functional and moving Weasley joke shop.
The last part of the tour is incredible, and houses the artwork and models and concept art created for the films. The little paper models of hogwarts and hogsmeade are incomprehensable and I've never seen anything like it. The concept art is also incredible and I wish I would own it all....the corridors showing all this off lead you however to the most breathtaking and best art of the entire tour (something which I was completely unaware of so this did literally make me cry and I saw it) - the 1.24 model of Hogwarts Castle and its grounds. This is simply spectacular - the sheer size and amount of detail on this model is rediculous and unbelievable. I took around 30 photos of just this model alone it is simply that impressive. After leaving this room your enter a small room which is filled with wand boxes engraved with the names of everyone that worked on the Harry Potter films, which finally leads you into the gift shop.
The shop itself is amazing and has such a wide range of products on offer from cuddly toys to jewellery to dvds and books to clothing to postcards and posters to magnets and keysrings to glasses and mugs to sweets and chocolate to wizarding coins and wands - I spent an abscene amount of money in this place and if I could I would go there again next payday - but unfortunatly you cannot gain entry to the store unless you have tickets for the tour.
Overall this is a truly breathtaking experience - not just for harry potter fans, but anyone who is interested in films and how they are made. It is not just a Harry Potter fans dream, but also a beautiful insight into how the props, costumes and creatures and everything else are made for these sorts of films. At aroun £28 for a ticket I would say it was well worth the price as the tour lasts for around 3 1/2 hours atleast and is a great day out for anyoneand everyone!
Get ready for a mammoth of a post. (This is ridiculous but I'm tearing up just at the thought of it)
As the grand opening of the studio tour was in my Easter break and very close to my birthday, I'd been begging and begging my parents to buy me tickets for months and the answer had always been the same - No. Then, on the day I returned from my excruitiatingly long and painful Duke of Edinburgh trek, my parents informed me that whilst I'd been away they'd been refreshing the website every day trying to get me tickets as there were none available for the opening month. Miraculously, as soon as I came to look at the website a spot became available for that very week.
The booking itself is very simple. All you have to do is select the date and time you want to go on the tour, enter the number of each type of ticket you want and then checkout. There is also the option to add on some extras to your package. You can pre-book a 'Souvenir Guidebook' and a 'Digital Guide', both of which supposedly enhance your experience. I opted for the 'Souvenir Guidebook', but not the 'Digital Guide', but in hindsight I should have selected both. The Souvenir Guidebook is a really nice booklet with glossy pages and big pictures. It is very well presented and serves as a lovely reminder of the things you've seen on your trip. You don't need to pre-order this book as it is also on sale at the gift shop at the Studios for exactly the same price. It is a bit pricey at £9.95, but for Potterheads it is well worth it. As far as I could tell (from jealously peering over people's shoulders), the Digital Guide was basically a device that looked a lot like an iPod touch that had extra snippets of information and videos on it. This costs around £4.95, though you do not get to keep it so it's not entirely necessary.
It appears that the intial rush to buy tickets is now over; however, I still recommend that you buy your tickets about a month in advance if you want to get the perfect time for you. If you're only available at the weekends then you definitely need to think about booking in advance because they weekend slots book up fast.
The Studio Tour is located at Leavesden Studios in Watford. Fortunately, I actually live quite close to this so it didn't take me long at all to reach there and with the help of a SatNav, it's fairly easy to locate. One problem I did encounter once I was a couple of minutes away from the Studios, was that the signs on the motorway were incredibly confusing. There was one pointing to 'Warner Bros. Tour' and one to 'Leavesden Studios'. As far as I knew, Warner Bros. Tour was located at Leavesden Studios so I got very confused as to why the signs were pointing in different directions. I decided to follow the sign that pointed towards 'Warner Bros Tour', though this actually led me in a pretty big circle which was unnecessary, though I can't say whether or not following the sign to 'Leavesden Studios' will take you on a shorter route. I highly recommend that when you see these signs coming up, you simply look out your window to spot the Studio and follow the road that leads to it (you won't miss it, there are absolutely huge Harry Potter posters all over the buildings). You will need to show your ticket in order to gain entrance and then you will be directed to a parking space. The car park is huge so I wouldn't worry about not finding a space, though my tour was the last tour of the day so the Studios were probably slightly less packed.
WHAT TO LOOK AT
The tour starts from the very second you hand your ticket over and join the queue. Whilst you're awaiting entry you will pass Harry's cupboard under the stairs - toy soldiers included - and many quotes from various people lining the walls to get you excited. First, you are led into a dark room with lots of screens and you are shown a quick film about Potter's history. My emotional rollercoaster started here as I was filled with fond, childhood memories. After this brief introduction, you are led into another room with a bigger screen, much like a cinema, and another video about the making of the Potter films is shown. I was crying pretty much the whole way through this. There are interviews with the cast, the crew, the directors, the author herself and lots of behind the scenes footage. When the film is over, a grand set of doors is magically revealed and the Great Hall lies in wait. The Great Hall is also incredible detailed and there are lots of costumes on display here, including Harry's very first uniform! There is a speaker for this part of the tour who gives an introduction to the tour and tells you all the interesting facts about the Great Hall - like the fact that the floor is made out of real paving stones.
After this, the tour is self guided and you are left to explore the rest of the tour in your own time. Some parts of the tour display props and costumes and others are the real sets. There is a spectacular show of the vehicles and bigger props used in the films and they are shown (moving) hanging from the ceiling, next to a large screen showing you exactly how this prop was used in the film and how special effects were used to make it realistic. This video shows you the extraordinary number of special effects that went into making these films. They even showed you how in one scene, Daniel Radcliffe was filmed walking on a treadmill in front of a green screen, but on film this was magically transformed into Harry walking through the snow at Godric's Hollow. It is absolutely incredible to see the transition from what was actually filmed and what we see on screen. In this section you can see The Burrow, the Gryffindor Common Room, Snape's classrooms, the Boy's Dormitory, Dumbledore's Office, Umbridge's Office, the Ministry of Magic, the fireplaces at the Ministry, Hagrid's Hut, the Griffin Stairwell, the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, Gringott's Vault Door and some others. There's also a huge display of props including the Philosopher's Stone, the Triwizard Cup, the snitch and other Quidditch equipment, the Goblet of Fire, the time turner and more. There is also a fantastic constume display to accompany each set and you can see clothes from all of the movies and see how the characters have grown! Lastly there is a stunning display of all the graphic designs and posters used for things like The Daily Prophet, the Quibbler, sweet packages etc.
When you've finished looking around the first building, about half way through the tour, there's the part of the tour which is outside and it is here where you will find the Knightbus, Godric's Hollow, the Ford Anglia, Hagrid's Bike, chess pieces from the Philosopher's Stone, Hogwart's Bridge and of course, Number 4 Privet Drive. This part of the tour is great because you can actually touch all of these things. You can sit on Hagrid's bike, get inside the Ford Anglia, stand in the Knight Bus and knock on the door of number 4 Privet Drive. This is another great photo opportunity so don't think that the weather doesn't matter when picking which day to book your tour! Possibly the most exciting thing about this section of the tour is the opportunity to buy Butterbeer. Personally, I really liked this drink. It's really sweet and fizzy with a thick layer of sweet cream on top - exactly as I'd imagined. Each cup costs around £2.95, and although it isn't large, it's definitely worth it! It even leaves you with that white moustache on your upper lip that is so often talked about.
The second part of the tour is a lot more about what went into making the films rather than the sets and props. Here you will find an amazing array of every single creature featured in the films and how they were made. You will disappointed to hear that in fact only the head of the basilisk was made. You can see each and every one goblin/house elf mask - they do look pretty grim - and how each of these were made and fitted the actors. After the 'Creature Shop', you are lead to another breathtaking part of the tour- Diagon Alley. I did not expect Diagon Alley to be, well, a real Alley! Each and every shop is properly decorated with detail with shop displays and it looks like a real street! All the shops from the film are here, though it is a lot more compact, and you feel as if you could actually just go shopping for a new owl or a new set of robes!
The very last room of the tour is the most spectacular of them all. It had been a highly emotional visit for me (for some reason anything HP related sets the waterworks off) so when I rounded the corner to see the 1:24 model of Hogwarts Castle, I was completely overwhelmed. It was the most beautiful and amazing creation I had ever seen and I was blown away by the detail that went into it. Everything was perfectly handcrafted to scale and real gravel and plants were used to for the landscaping. There are more than 300 fibre optic lights installed and these stimulate torches and lanterns to give the illusion of students walking down the hallways. It is the crown jewel of the Harry Potter art department - which isn't surprising given that it took a team of 86 people to construct the first version. Footage of this model was combined with special effects to create the incredibly realistic views of Hogwart's exterior which I had always believed to be comprised of real castles. This was a phenomenal end to the tour and was definitely the most memorable moment for me.
WHAT TO DO
There is an absolutely fantastic photo opportunity to be had during the Studio Tour where you are given the chance to ride a broomstick. Using CGI and a green screen effects, they make it look like you are actually flying and it is absolutely incredible. Firstly, you are given a set of Hogwarts robes (you can choose one from the four houses), and then you wait in line for your turn. There are a total of three broomsticks there so the waiting time isn't too long. When I first joined the queue, it said that the waiting time 'from this point onwards' was 45 minutes, and I wasn't too fussed about this because I was determined to get on that broom, but thankfully, it didn't take nearly as long as that. When it is your turn, the friendly staff member talks you through everything. You make yourself comfortable on the broom, and then the magic begins. Now, this isn't just any photo opportunity, because before your photo is taken, you get the chance to see yourself fly over London and Hogwarts. There is a small screen in front of you so it looks like you're actually moving and the broom itself isn't fixed so you can swerve from side to side and bob up and down. The member of staff attending to you will make sure you get the most out of your experience by giving you a few things to do whilst on your broom. When your 'flying' experience is over, there are a few quick snaps and then it's off to the counter to collect your photos. There are four different photos to choose from: hovering over Hogwarts, flying in front of some buses in London, flying along the Thames and flying along the water surrounding Hogwarts - the favourite of most people seems to be the one hovering above Hogwarts. There is also the opportunity to have your photo taken inside the Ford Anglia and you can watch yourself 'driving' it through the air. This photo is great for families as you take the photo with as many people as you can fit into the frame. These photos aren't exactly cheap, but they are definitely worth it. I'm not entirely sure what the prices were but I believe I paid £15 for two photos and they come in a lovely, glossy, paper frame (just like the sort you'd get at a theme park - but better, obviously).
Words cannot even begin to describe my excitement upon entering the gift shop. So I was always one of those children that spent the entire day out pushing and pulling my parents through the exhibitions just to get to the gift shop, but I guarantee that you will be blown away by it. There is a huge range of Potter products on offer, but I won't deceive you, they don't come cheap. If I had it my way I would've bought EVERYTHING in the shop, though of course, my mother did not allow this and so I opted for a Potter t-shirt (£32.95) and Hogwarts scarf (£24.95). It is a very large shop and products range from sweets to keyrings to clothing to stuffed toys to wall paintings to jewellery to uniform to notepads to magnets to books to wands to replica costumes - and more! It is literally my favourite shop in the whole entire world and if I could I would go there everyday, though unfortunately you can only get to gift shop after you've shown your ticket proving that you're actually there for the Tour (sad face). The queue in the gift shop is enormously long at times so I recommend you keep wandering around until it's a normal length.
I could say more, but I think that I've waffled on for long enough! The Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour is essential for all Harry Potter fans, and even those who aren't massive Potterheads will definitely enjoy a day out at Leavesden. Not only does it provide an incredible insight to a worldwide Phenomenon but you get to witness first hand the immense amount of detail that went into making these films. You can see the sets the cast walked on, the costumes they wore and the props they used. There is lots of behind the scenes footage and information so don't think that this is just a display of what you've already seen or read online - because it's so much more. All along the tour there is the Harry Potter sountrack playing in the background enhancing the atmosphere and making everything feel that much better. Do bear in mind that whilst the Tour is absolutely incredible, there will inevitably be a sense of disappointment as you finally realise that the magic isn't real and Hogwarts doesn't exist. On a side note, as I was casually scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed after I'd returned home, I discovered a photo of Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom) from the very same day. WHY DID I NOT SEE HIM?! WHY. Ok, outburst over. But seriously, why.
***As much as I want to tell you every single little detail, I don't want to ruin it for people who haven't been yet so I wont be telling you everything, some secrets you need to find out yourselves***
Since June 1997 Harry Potter, The boy who lived, has enthralled generations adults and children alike. The story of a normal 11 year old boy who finds out that he is a wizard on his birthday and then enrols in Hogwarts School of magic. Since then 7 books were written, and in 1998 J.K.Rowling sold the film rights (for just £1million) to Warner Bros, who the produced the 8 films we all know and love!!! These were all filmed at Leavesden Film studios in Abbots Langley/Watford.
In March 2011 Warner Bros/ Leavesden Studios announced that in March of the following year (2012) they would open the studio's that all the films were filmed in as a 'behind the scenes' tour, with the original props, costumes and sets. Tickets went on sale shortly after this, and this dear reader is where my adventure begins................
Adults and children over 15 - £28
Children 5-15 - £21
Children 4 and under are FREE
Family (2 adults and 2 children) - £83
Family (1 adult and 3 children) - £83
Complete ADULT studio package (ticket, digital guide and souvenir book) - £37.95
Complete Child studio package - £30.95
The digital guide and souvenir guide book are available separately (I forgot to order them) at £4.95 and £9.95 respectively.
Tickets can ONLY be bought from the official website www.wbstudiotour.co.uk, and you can choose to have them sent to you (P+P - £3.95) or collect them from the ticket desks outside the main building. We choose to have them sent to us, and they arrived within 2 weeks of ordering and were contained within a little folder bearing the tours name, it also had directions etc on, the tickets themselves each had a HP character on, there are 6 to choose from and we ended up with Dobby, a Mandrake, Fawkes, Nagini and Hedwig. You must also take you booking confirmation as this is needed to enter the car park.
In total the tickets cost me the grand sum of £80.95 incl P+P for 2 adults and 3 children, for 11 o'clock on the 10th of May 2012.
Secrets will be revealed..................
Sadly the local broom shop had rented all the brooms and floo powder for that day so we had to use our muggle car to get there (although there is a direct HP bus from Watford Station or WD25 7GS for sat nav users), luckily we were staying with my father in Wheathampstead 11 miles away, the studios are easy to find and well sign-posted, with a minor road going straight past the entrance to the (FREE) car park. Although we did not use the bus, I was told there is one every 10 minutes, and saw quite a few outside the tour before and after our visit (they are also photo worthy too!!!).
Parking was really easy and there were a few attendants directing people to where they should park, all the ones we met were very polite and friendly. There is plenty of parking available and also drop off points as well as a part dedicated to the buses.
(At this point my 6 year old was practically climbing out of the window to go!)
Walking up to the studio building there is the separate queuing area to collect tickets if you chose to collect there and also a automated ticket service, as we had ours posted we could walk straight in, just having the tickets checked by a woman on the door. Upon entering the first set of sliding doors there is the dedication to everyone who worked on the films and also a set of handprints of Harry, Hermione and Ronald taken from the last film, you are allowed to touch these and my lot loved being able to compare their hands to Harry's (his hands aren't that big actually), you then carry on through the second set of doors and then it hits you........... There is all its glory is the flying car!! Okay so there is also the entrance to the tour, the café, the shop and also the cloak(!)room and toilets, it is here that you can also hire/collect the digital guide (we didn't use these sadly but then I don't think I would like to hear Malfoy in my ears for hours), the entrance hall is beautiful with still images of all the characters around the top and also a few props etc.
As we arrived nearly an hour early we decided to tackle the dreaded gift shop first.
***The gift shop***
This, dear reader' is heaven on earth for any HP fan it sells everything and anything HP related, and we easily used up the extra time we had here. Some would say that it is expensive and over the top, I disagree there is something here for everyone and every price range, so luckily I needn't have worried about the children wanting everything..... Actually it turned out to be me wanting it all!!!!
They sell everything from Honeyduke's Bertie Botts every flavour beans (£8.95) to a full real Dumbledore costume (£495) and 'real' wands (£25); you can also pick up a copy of the guide book here too. As well as having your photo put on the 'undesirable no 1' poster and the Quibbler (£12 for 1, £15 for 2, 3 for £18 and 4 for £20).
In total I spent £122 in the gift shop (A mug, guide book, 2 wands, 2 x bertie botts, medallion, 2 photos' and a squashy scabbers) and yes I admit I nearly passed out at the till!!!
The shop also contains some props and artefacts from the films, namely a huge stained glass window, which is beautiful these also tend to be great opportunities for a sneaky photo (if you can get one with out all the people walking past)
Children are also given a 'HP passport' (FREE) these are little books that they carry around and need to get 'stamped' at certain points in the tour e.g. the Gryffindor common room they contain questions, colouring in and also the 'spot the golden snitch' game (finding the 15 'lost' snitch's around the tour'), my lot loved these as it gave them something to do and made a game of finding the stamp machines.
About 15-20 minutes before your actual tour time is the best time to start queuing up here you are greeted by two people who check and scan your tickets (giving them back of course) and direct you through a rope type queue system, while walking through this you get to see the famous 'cupboard under the stairs' incl stairs! What can I say this gets you more excited about the tour (if possible) and as you get so close to it, it shows you just how much attention to detail went into these, there is also a little board in front giving you some 'insider' knowledge about this set!
After queuing for an eternity (10 mins tops) the doubles doors open into a room with TV's on the walls it is here you meet the tour guide and a short talk is done explaining the worldwide phenomenon etc. It is from here that you take a small door into a cinema room and watched a 10 minute film about the making of Harry Potter, (at this stage I was slightly worried as there were no more doors in the room and I was hoping that this wasn't the only thing), upon the film finishing we are giving the first surprise (no I'm not telling) and the next thing I know I'm standing in the Great Hall!!! All I can say is WOW until you see it up close nothing compares to it, the detail is stunning and even a non HP fan cant fail to be amazed at the skill of the set decorators and artists, here the tables are laid and there are the house costumes (the originals) and also the teachers stage area, it is exactly the same as the movies but without the cast of course......... We spent a good 20 minutes here taking photo's, marvelling at the set before we had to move on ( the next tour group were coming), it is here that the tour guide leaves you are you are welcome to go at your own pace throughout the rest of the tour.
This is where the tour truly comes into its own, you are surrounded by the most beautiful sets, props and costumes and the size of some of them are staggering, split between two groupings you can wander freely around,
The first section
Here you will find the 'Potions' and 'Defence against the dark arts' classrooms (full size), the common rooms, as well as costumes, smaller props etc (I saw Horcruxes!) But the one that blew us away was Dumbledore's office, if you only see one thing please let it be that!!!! Although I'm in love with the Weasley's house too!!
Rounding the corner we come to the ministry of magic and the huge monument and also the offices this is also the part dedicated to the 'death' eaters and of course 'He who must not be named' and also the Floo network chimneys.
Of course I have only mentioned a minute part of this one as so not to ruin it for you all.
It is at this stage that you can go to the green screens, and have special photo's taken the queues were quite short and we were only in here for around 20 minutes (you pay for them there) all the staff are polite and friendly and are all quite good with over-excited children (and adults). One word of warning though, broomsticks are hard to control!
You are then able to go outside to continue the tour and this has to be one of the favourites because this is where you can get Butterbeer!!! It looked like a very strange fizzy brown liquid with mr whippy on the top! At £2.95 it isn't cheap but you get half a pint in a little plastic glass (we bought 2 to share amoung 5 of us), my lot loved it although im sure I have never tasted something so sweet! There is also a 'normal' refreshments bar selling pop, tea, coffee snacks etc. There is also a large seating area to enjoy refreshments etc This is also where you will find the 'Knight Bus', the 'Godric's Hollow', the 'covered bridge' and 'Privet Drive' and the 'Riddle' gravestone ( i found this a bizarre choice to use here) there are some fantastic photo opportunities here incl Hagrids bike, the flying car and also on the Knight Bus. Here is also the home of the huge life size Wizard Chess pieces.
The second section
Upon finishing said Butterbeer and having a stroll around we entered the next part of the tour, upon entering you are met with all the models made and the make up departments' props including the transformations into Goblins. Here you can also see how the werewolves are made, and also meet Dobby!! Walking through I turned a corner to be met by Aragon the biggest blinking spider I have ever seen, I would recommended not taking people afraid of spiders and also got to see a Hippogriff!
It's quite dark at this stage and as you walk through you realised the floor has turned to cobbles rounding the corner you are greeted by (yep that's right) Diagon Alley!!!! To be honest I was speechless is it amazing my 6 year old practically squeaked when he realised where he was, the attention to detail here is stunning and any photo you have seen of it does not do it justice, here you can wander at your own pace up and down and gaze lovingly into the (fully stocked) shop windows, it is rather dark so a flash camera is required, you can touch anything as there are barriers but it doesn't take away from the excitement, although my son wanted to go into Weasley's wizard wheezes store!
From here you are taken through the art departments set up here they have the first set ups of the sets, first drawing of the digital characters etc there are some guides here and the are friendly and full of little bits of information and they can also hold a 6 year old attention for over 10 minutes by telling them HP 'secrets'.
At the end of this it becomes very dark and following the path around to..........
The most spectacular prop, set ever used in Harry potter or any other film!!
I really cant say as it would ruin the whole experience, but I will say that it bought tears to some peoples eyes when the saw, it is it awe- inspiring and huge, and a brilliant end to the tour,
Although it wasn't truly the end as upon leaving this epic you come to the wand room (look closely at the names on this, you might be in for a surprise), and then you end up in the shop (convenient) and that marks the real end of the tour!
Considering the hype of the tour and the build up I wasn't sure if it would live up to the expectations of the fans and most importantly a 6 year olds imagination and innocence about film making and I can safely say in all honesty it well and truly smashed my expectations it was incredible and definitely worth the money spent, while it shows us the making of the films I do believe that it keeps a child still believing in the films. Throughout the tour there is plenty for younger fans to do and interact with and my children (6, 3 and 2) never complained about being bored, although how I'm going to explain no Hogwarts letter on their 11th birthdays is a mystery!
The staff we met were friendly happy and looked like they enjoyed their job, all worked well with children and adults alike. The whole tour is wheelchair and pushchair accessible as well. If you get a chance to go GO! You certainly won't regret it. Thank you for sticking with this epic, im off to polish my broomstick :)
Anyone who read my review on the Harry Potter book set will probably know by now that I am a massive fan and today (29/04/2012) I was lucky enough to go to the new attraction in London, the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. I had wanted to go to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando for a long time and having not been able to afford to go there I felt that this was the next best thing.
==~~What is it?~~==
The Warner Bros Harry Potter UK Tour, in the simplest form, is a tour of many of the sets and props of the Harry Potter films. It has many of the original sets where the films were made and many props, most of which being the original ones. It almost as if going through a museum of the Harry Potter films as it has props and sets from the first movie all the way through to the eighth.
==~~Where is it?~~==
The tour is in London, Watford. I travelled along the M25 to get there and it was minutes from Junction 19. It was very well sign posted, that were clearly labelled and therefore it was very easy to get to. It took my family approximately 2 and a half hours to get there and in my opinion it was completely worth it. Once you arrive there, there are people who will check you tickets before you are allowed entry into the car park and then they will direct you to a parking place. Parking is also completely free, so there is no need to worry about these extra charges.
There are some coach packages available if you do not fancy driving there, I am not sure whether these are available on the Warner Bros Harry Potter website, though they are on most of the larger coach brands websites.
==~~Pricing, Booking and Tickets~~==
The tour was not 'cheap'; though neither was it that expensive and I think it was relatively average for a day trip like attraction. The tickets must be purchased online beforehand as no tickets are sold at the tour. The tour is also fully booked for most weekdays and weekends over the next few months as well, so it is definitely worth booking in advance.
Adult ticket: £26.00
Child (5-16): £21.00
4 and under: £0.00 (though you still need tickets!)
Family (2 adults- 2 children): £83.00
It is cheaper if you book in groups for 10-24 people, perhaps if you are going as a big family or as a party. There are also 'complete studio tour' packages, which are what me and my brother opted for, which are slightly more expensive, though include a digital and souvenir guide.
It is easy layout as to booking your tickets as a month by month calendar comes up in which you have to select your slot. The slots seem to be every half an hour or so, though they do ask for you there to be 20 minutes early.
The tickets come in just under 2 weeks, also hence why you need to book in advance. They are fairly small tickets, though each has a different Harry Potter character (mainly animals/creatures) on the front including that of Nagini, Fang, Fawkes, etc. I would have liked to keep all of mine as I thought they were really nice keepsakes, however I only got to keep my actual ticket one and had to hand in both the souvenir guide and digital guide tickets.
The tour itself was amazing; I think whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, many people would appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into the films. I was a bit worried about it being overly busy and not being able to get photos of anything or of myself by anything due to it being just after a month of bring open, yet I was pleasantly surprised. They seem to have got the amount of visitors in each slot just right, there is not so many so that it is hard to move around or get photos, but is not so empty that if feels like you are the only ones there. Occasionally there were points where I did have to wait for photos, but this only took a minute or so and did not really matter. If you were after one of the more professional photos of yourself on the broomstick then this queue is a little longer, though seemed to go quite fast when I went and took no longer than 20 minutes.
You are guided around the entry hall, however then you can explore the rest of the tour at your own ease. The entry hall was absolutely amazing and there are many fine detailing that I never even picked up in the movie. The way in which the entry hall is revealed is the part that I really enjoyed as it was something I had not been expecting; though I won't go too far into this as it was a sort of 'surprise'. Although this part is guided so there is a time schedule you are allowed 10-15 minutes in this area (all of which a guide member is talking over, giving yourself some extra information) to explore the Great Hall and I felt this was plenty enough time to take it in and take some photos, without feeling like you are hanging around in there too long. The long tables are barricaded off, so you can not sit at them, though can get very close to it all and capture some really great photos.
From then on you are able to explore the tour at your own pace. There are loads of sets to explore and props to see, there was more than I had expected to be there. There is the Gryffindor common room, Boys Dormitories, Ministry of Magic and horcruxes to be name but a few. Looking at each of them close up really gives you a sense of the effort that went into the movies. My favourite was 'The Burrow Kitchen' in which there were 3 wands dotted around the outside in which you could 'perform magic' and in fact make the needle knit by themselves, clothes iron themselves and the carrot chop themselves. This may seem like an attraction for younger children, however just as many adults as children were using these wands and having their own go at performing a little magic. As I said, there are photo opportunities everywhere and if you wanted one with the whole family in, then the staff are more than willing to offer a hand and take a photo.
Most of the tour is inside and although it is in a warehouse I did not feel chilly despite wearing a sleeveless top on a day like today (windy/raining!). Some of the tour is outside however, including that of the Knight bus, Hargrid's bike, Privet Drive, Flying car and Gordrics Hollow. These sets/props were just as amazing, especially as you could have photos on Hagrid's bike of in the Weasley's car. You could also go right up to number 4 Privet Drive (though obviously couldn't enter) to have photos taken there and it was really amazing how much it did just look like a normal house and not all like a set.
Of course, you can also walk up Diagon Alley. This again was really lovely as you felt like you were a part of the movies. The shops cannot be accessed as it just a set, nonetheless it still feels just as magical and you feel just as much as part of it.
The Hogwarts model there is absolutely breathtaking, for some reason I had expected it to be quite a small model on table, but it was very large indeed, covering two floors and one whole room. Everything was done in such detail and whilst you are in the room the Hogwarts castle changes from day to night in that it starts with lights on in the room and Hogwarts lights off, yet after a couple of minutes the lights in the room fade and the Hogwarts lights come on. The scale of it and the work that has gone into this model is really amazing and it was yet another highlight of the tour. The only thing I found was that due to the lighting in the room, it was a little hard to get a decent photo and although this was eventually managed, it was perhaps not as clear as I would have liked it to be.
The tour took me and my family (with the shop included) around 3 hours, which was the estimated average time given. It does seem to go much quicker when you are actually there, but by the time that you have finished you do feel like you have seen everything and that you have had a really great 'day' out.
==~~The Souvenir and Digital Guide~~==
As said previously, I purchased the 'complete package' ticket and along with this came both the souvenir guide and digital guide. The digital guide can be used throughout the tour, where there are corresponding around the tour numbers to the guide in order for it reveal more information. It is touch screen, with headphones so you can go through the tour at your own pace and not everyone's will be in the same place at the same time. I personally didn't get on too well with mine and preferred watching some of the TV screens dotted around the tour with the information and interviews on there. That said, I did see many people using them and my younger brother in particular really enjoyed the use of his and actually said that he didn't think he would have enjoyed the tour as much without it. I may have liked it, if I had given it a better chance, yet I was so mesmerised with all the other stuff on offer I kind of forgot about it! These are not to keep and do have to be handed in at the end of the tour!
I was really glad the Souvenir came with this as it is a really nice keepsake. These can also be purchased separately in the shop for £9.95. It is of really high quality, thick paper and along the photos and pictures used are of really high, clear quality. The guide also reveals more about the films and the props and each double or page spread it devoted to its own thing, such as costume designs, how the props came about/were made, the different animals used, special effects, etc. I think much of the information of this was what was in the Digital guide, however this was in a printed form in which you could keep.
I did find that food and refreshments were very limited and in the tour buildings neither were allowed. There is a smallish cafe/restaurant when you first arrive, though I would say that the menu is fairly limited, though does cover food that would suit most people. The food itself is tasty and well prepared, though most of the menu is that of cold food and refreshments opposed to that of proper meals. There is also a tiny Starbucks inside the building, but again due to this being very small it is does not offer all their normal drinks.
Around halfway around the tour (in the outside bit by Privet Drive) there is a place where you can buy Butterbeer; the famous drink from the Harry Potter books. It does look fairly unpleasant- an orange/ brown fizzy liquid with a white froth on top, yet I was really pleasantly surprised at how it tasted. It was very sweet, yet had a slight caramel taste to it and wasn't overly fizzy. I would recommend buying one or two to share between a family though as they can be quite sickly. We bought one Butterbeer (costing £2.95) between the four of us and found this plenty enough to 'experience' Butterbeer before it becoming too sickly.
I often find with places like these the staff can either be extremely friendly and helpful or a little mopey and grumpy; I was happy to find that the staff were the first of the two. If anyone has ever been to DisneyLand or World you will know how well the staff are trained and how helpful they are and I would say that the staff here compare very well to those. They are happy to help and answer questions and are very polite. They are also knowledgeable on the sets and films so if you have any questions can more than likely answer them. The staff are all quite 'animated' and you can tell that they really enjoy working there, which always makes the experience a more pleasant one. I had no encounters with a rude member of staff or one that looked grumpy, so I would say that the staff have been very well trained and all have lovely manners.
It may be due to the fact that the tour has only been opened for 1 month, but the toilets were lovely and clean. They smelt fresh and clean when you walked and did not have that horrible public toilet smell that some attractions can. I did not find the toilets to be that busy, despite it being such a large attraction and not once did I have to queue to go to the toilet, which is always a bonus!
The shop was really amazing too and the staff were just as polite and friendly in here. You can enter the shop by choice on the way in, though when exiting you have to go through it so there is no way of avoiding it! They have lots of Harry Potter memorabilia, from tops and backpacks, to broomsticks and wands! Despite this, I found that somehow the choice was a little lacking. Although they had many key rings, most of them seemed to be house of Ministry of Magic related and I felt it would have been nice to have a Hedwig or Dobby keying. I was actually after one of their chocolate frog key rings and when asked about them they said that they had already sold out due to only ordering 100- this seemed pretty silly to me, as a large, new attraction for a worldwide famous book(s) is more than likely to sell out of 100 of each kind of keying. I also found out that they had sold out of the most popular wand (The Elder Wand) due to not ordering enough, which again was ever so slightly disappointing.
In the shop the prices ranged greatly, obviously I knew it wasn't going to be cheap before going there, yet was still shocked at some of the prices! I had really wanted to try a box of Bertie Botts every flavour beans and was very shocked to see these priced at £8.95 for a relatively small box, had they been £5 I would have still though them expensive, but more worthy of the money. It was really lovely to see all the famous Honeydukes sweets actually being sold though and you could buy some of the famous sweets in the movies. There were also many wand replicas in which you could choose, costing just over £20 each, which although isn't cheap I do not believe this too expensive as they are really well made and do seem to be really detailed. Of course, there were more expensive items such as a replica of a Firebolt broomstick priced at just under £250 and Voldemort's Cloak being around the same price (and a little more). There was also some cheaper alternatives, such as broomstick for £25 so I would say that the shop catered for most people's budget, along with key rings being sold for an average of between £5-£10.
==~~Would I recommend?~~==
In case you haven't already guessed, there is no question as to whether I would recommend it! I really loved every second of it and didn't want to leave, I would urge every Harry Potter fan (and even those who are not that into it!) to go as it really is an amazing experience. I think it is really nice thing to do with friends and family and is not something that I would have really liked to do on my own due to the fact it is nice to experience it with others. My Mum and Dad, who are both in their forties enjoyed it, as did me and my brother who are both in their teens, yet there were many younger children around the ages of 5-12 who seemed to be equally enjoying it, so I really think it is an age regardless attraction and people of all ages will enjoy it!
You 100% need a camera for this; almost everyone in the tour had one. I would make sure you have a decent memory card and it to be fully charged as I took over 250 photos, yet there were still some things I missed and that Mum managed to get on her camera. You don't need a really good camera, though I would say that you would get better results with those. Mum and I both have 'normal' cameras around the £100 mark and although most of our pictures are clear and are well in focus, due to some of the lighting and the darkness in some of the rooms, some of the photos aren't the best. Nonetheless, you really do need a camera for this tour as it is lovely to look back through them as I have already forgotten some of the stuff I have seen!
If you have younger children who may not necessarily be entertained by each of the props and sets, at the beginning they can be given a passport like booklet in which there are activities for them to complete. One of these is to spot the Golden Snitches (15 in total) hidden around the castle, another is to collect stamps that are at different points throughout the tour. I suppose this is just an added extra to keep them entertained as although they may be excited and love the tour, they may not want to spend as long at each section taking in the fine detail
Overall, today has been magical! It was lovely to see the sets that I have seen in the films for year's right in front of me and to think that the actors have been in the very same sets in front of you. There is no doubt over whether or not I would recommend it and it is something that I would even go to again! I know that it is a little pricey, especially some of the prices in the shops, though I do think this is only to be expected with large attractions like these and it is worth it for the memories. The cost of the tickets is definitley worth the experience you have there and to see all the sets first hand, having been there I would be more than willing to pay this price again and seeing all the behind the scenes bits that made the movies really makes the price worth it. As said, there were very diverse age groups and in that sense I think it will appeal to everyone. Of course, there will be certain props or sets that will interest some more than others, although the Hogwarts castle model seemed to be a winner in my family. would have liked there to be a little more on the side of food and refreshments (especially for those who will be visiting over lunch time) yet on the whole it has been an experience that I shall never forget! There were many people dressed up in Hogwarts cloaks or uniform too, so if this takes your fancy, you will not be the only one so go for it!
In conclusion, I have loved every minute of my day out today and anyone who is debating whether to go or not I would strongly urge you to- you will not be disappointed!