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Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Member Name: jimmychoogirl
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Advantages: lovely staff, amazing experience, nothing else like it in the Uk
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!
Summary: Secrets have been revealed!
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