For Holly’s birthday last year we decided to treat her to a trip to the Warner Brothers Studios where they made her all time favourite film series, Harry Potter. She’s wanted to go for ages but it always cost a little too much (and was too far away really) to justify the expense for just a normal day out. Unfortunately I didn’t realise how far in advance you needed to book to get a time that was halfway decent! Her birthday is in April, so I thought if I booked in March I could easily get a time for when we got back from holiday, perhaps a week or so after her birthday. HOW WRONG I WAS. I couldn’t book us a 10am slot until bloody JULY. Oh well, it’s only three months after her birthday..! Here are some photos and some tips for getting the most of your day at the Harry Potter Studios Tour.
Firstly, book well in advance as I’ve just mentioned. As we were travelling from Yorkshire, we had to stay overnight in a hotel nearby and I wanted an early morning tour so we could spend as much time we wanted there without being rushed through. We booked the Jurys Inn in Watford, which was cheap and cheerful. We then drove to Leavesden the next morning for our 10am tour.
Parking is free and plentiful on site. We were really lucky and managed to get quite near the door but the car park is humongous! We loved seeing the chess pieces out the front of the studios.
After you’ve queued up for a while, you are shown through into an area where there is Harry’s understairs cupboard. Here you queue a bit more before you’re shown into a room where there’s a short film. You’re then shown into a theatre to watch another short film about the tour, and then it starts to get really good, and the Tour really starts. The screen goes up and behind it are the doors to the Great Hall. The ACTUAL doors. Holly was so excited to get to walk through these doors, it was so cute!
To get photos of the Great Hall set and costumes without a load of other tourists in the way, hang to the back of the group. The staff will try and herd you through quickly as they have another tour booked in after. Most people will rush forwards to the next exhibit, but if you hover around near the back you can get much clearer pictures.
From the Great Hall you enter into a whole huge room which has many of the sets within it. The Gryffindor common room is amazing, as are the Yule Ball props.
Some of my other favourite sets were Dumbledore’s office (although trying to get round the Pensieve was especially taxing, as some people don’t know the meaning of the words “patience” and “manners”) and Snape’s potion classroom. The detail is incredible!
We were there not long after the opening of the new Gringotts bank display, which is absolutely amazing. You get to channel your inner Hermione-as-Bellatrix and walk through the bank! Not wanting to give away spoilers, but the dragon is brilliant as well.
We stopped off halfway for an overpriced snack and drink (£9 for two ice creams?!) and then carried on exploring the Night Bus and Number 4 Privet Drive.
The tour then delves into more of the animatronics and design of the characters and sets, which was really interesting. Holly loved operating the tiny Voldemort and the Mandrake!
Wandering up Diagon Alley was also a special treat. I love old buildings, and Diagon Alley is a magical set. You can see why people think it’s inspired by The Shambles in York!
The thing that amazed me more than anything was the scale model of Hogwarts Castle. The detail is just astounding! It certainly puts my dolls house to shame!
People have asked me if it was worth the expense, but it really is. It’s a great day out (we were there nearly the whole day) and there is so much to see. I’d definitely go again as I don’t think I managed to take it all in the first time! I’d make sure Holly steered well clear of the gift shop though – we had a slight falling out because I wouldn’t buy her a replica Hermione/Yule Ball dress for £70+ that she would only get to wear about once!
Despite this we had an amazing time and would definitely recommend the Harry Potter Studios Tour for a special treat. We’ve been to many Harry Potter themed days out in the past few years but this was definitely up there with one of the best.
Have you been? Do you hope to go? Let me know by commenting below!