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Fantastic Tour of the Magical World of Harry Potter
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Member Name: rosaliecullen
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Advantages: Well put together
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!
Summary: A brilliant day out for all.
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