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Welcome to the wonderful wacky world of Harry Potter!
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Member Name: Mummy_to_2
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Advantages: Where do i start?!?! The gift shop, The tour, The ButterBeer, The excitement and It's Magical
Disadvantages: Could get expensive
***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 :)
Summary: A truly magical day out!!!
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