We’d been holding off on visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London until all seven Harry Potter books had been read and all eight films watched. Our older daughter was 7 at the start of this process, so it had been a long wait. The younger one hadn’t started yet, but we weren’t going to hang about any longer — she got dragged along.
Now, I have two pieces of advice for anyone considering going on the tour: Only go once you’ve consumed all the tomes and sat through all the movies; and don’t promise to buy your kids a wand from the souvenir store at the end of the tour. You need to know all the books and all the films inside out to get the most out of the experience; I wouldn’t bother taking anyone under 8 along. There were far more adults on our tour than children, because it is a fascinating insight into the world of modern-day filmmaking and the J.K. Rowling series.
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My youngest wasn’t scared by anything we saw there and she enjoyed the interactive parts of it, but the rest went over her head. We need to go back once she’s Pottered out — when she can marvel like her sister at being in the real Great Hall, at being able to knock on the door of 4 Privet Drive and at ambling up Diagon Alley.
This is not a theme park experience. You get to go on the sets, see the costumes and the props, try out the animatronics and understand the fine attention to detail that went into taking the story off the page and onto the screen.
It’s a dream come true for Potter fanatics. You can also see green screen technology in action and have yourself filmed flying over Hogwarts or playing Quidditch. Then out on the back lot you can peek into the Knight Bus, sample butterbeer and get behind the wheel of Hagrid’s motorbike.
It’s a fun half-day trip, from which you emerge amazed and smiling and almost believing in magic. Until you hit the store and discover that those wands you promised to buy are actually intricately carved specimens that cost £32 (around $42) each. I’ve yet to hear the end of that one. Suffice to say my kids are still improvising with chopsticks.
Though it’s billed as The Harry Potter Studio Tour London, it’s not in London. It just under an hour’s drive from central London during peak time. There is ample free parking, however, and a shuttle bus to the studios operates from Watford Junction station, which is a 20-minute ride from London Euston.
Even better, why not combine the tour with a stay at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire? Just a 10-minute drive away, this luxurious hotel gives you a real taste of rural England.
Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was provided with complimentary access to review the tour. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Anna Tobin.
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