I’ve gotten to do some seriously cool things since I started blogging – VIP movie screenings, designer clothing reviews, and even a press trip to the stunning Windjammer Landing Beach Resort in St Lucia. I know – so lucky!
But I’ve rarely been as excited as I was the other week when I got an email from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour team. I’ll come clean; I’ve seen bloggers in the past talking about taking the Harry Potter tour, and burned with jealousy (yes, I’m looking at you, Tara Cain from STICKY FINGERS).
Why can’t it be me? Why, why WHYYYYYY?! I screamed (on the inside).
And then – with the ping of an electronic mail – I was invited for a sneak peek at their new ‘Sweets and Treats’ special feature. The Hogwarts God had smiled on me. Finally.
Like most of the universe, I absolutely adored the Harry Potter books, and felt genuinely bereft when I finished the last one. From the moment Big Sis was born I was counting the days until I could re-watch the movies with her. I waited. And waited. And waited. Seven long years it took, but the day had arrived.
As soon as I got the email I search Sky and discovered the Harry Potter movies were being replayed right from the beginning, starting that weekend. It was fate. That weekend we snuggled up on the couch and watched The Philosopher’s Stone. Big Sis loved it – like I always knew she would. Even Lil Sis joined us for the un-scary parts. We watched one each weekend, until the day of the tour arrived.
I didn’t tell the girls where we were going, they were completely in the dark until we pulled up outside the huge sound stage. ‘We’re going to see another Harry Potter movie!’ they squealed, spotting the images of Harry, Hermione and Ron on the outside. ‘Maybe…’ I replied. ‘Let’s go in and see…’
First we were shuffled into a small screening room, where we watched a short ‘behind-the-scenes’ film by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. Then something happened that made the girls’ mouths literally drop open. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it was so cool!
Next, we entered the famous Great Hall where we watched prop artists create some of the realistic dishes that make up the magnificent Hogwarts’ feasts.
Then it was time to explore the sound stages. Yay! Walking inside you feel a strangest sense of de-ja-vu – to my right was the gorgeously frothy dress Hermione wore to the Triwizard Tournament’s Yule Ball. Up ahead was the mammoth pendulum that swung behind Dolores Umbridge as she oversaw students sitting their Ordinary Wizarding Level exams (OWLs).
Everything was so familiar, and you instantly felt that magical ‘suspension of reality’ the books and movies invoke so well. The girls were transfixed – running from one set to another, ooh-ing and aah-ing.
‘Mum!’ Big Sis called. ‘Look – it’s the Potions classroom!’
I think the biggest ‘WOW’ moment for me was turning the corner into another sound stage, and seeing the Hogwarts Express steam train. Is it weird that I got a tiny bit emosh? Probably, but it was the HOGWARTS EXPRESS STEAM TRAIN!
Of course, no trip to the studio tour would be complete without a trip to Platform 9 3/4…
Our next stop was the outside sets to knock on the door of 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey – otherwise know as the home of Vernon and Petunia Dursley. They weren’t home, so we enjoyed a frothy glass of butterbeer, before continuing on our magical adventure.
Another absolute highlight for me was Diagon Alley; it’s just crazy how much detail is in these sets – from cobblestoned streets, to shop windows filled with quirky curiosities, to authentically peeling paintwork. I could have wandered up and down all day if the girls hadn’t been rushing ahead, desperate to discover what lay beyond the next corner, like this familiar sight…
Finally, a visit to Ollivanders where Harry famously found his perfect wand, with a holly and phoenix feather core.
I was in total Harry Potter heaven; I’m already planning to go back again and enjoy the tour at a more leisurely pace (I’d LOVE to see the Great Hall all dressed up for Christmas) as this is definitely somewhere you’d find something new and different with every visit.
A huge thank you to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour team for giving us such a magical experience.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR DAY:
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, opened its doors on 31 March, 2012. After filming wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2010, the production crew was left with thousands of intricate and beautifully-made artefacts. Usually destroyed after production, these were considered too magical and too important to lose. The decision was made to preserve and showcase these iconic props, costumes and sets so that Harry Potter fans could experience the magic of filmmaking first-hand. So treasured were these items, that many of the original cast and crew returned to reassemble the sets and record their memories from filming.
• WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR LONDON is located on Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR. It’s 20 miles north-west of London, and less than three miles from the M1 and M25 motorways. The nearest railway station is Watford Junction; from there you can catch a 15-minute shuttle bus to the studio (£2.50 return – cash only; you need a valid ticket or booking confirmation to board).
• Opening and closing times vary though out the year, you can check them all out, HERE.
• Tickets cost £39 for adults, and £31 for children (under fours go free), or you can pick up a family ticket (two adults, two children, or one adult, three children) for £126. You can pick up discounts by selecting special Saver ticket sessions; more details on those, HERE, and can also buy gift tickets for those Harry Potter fans in your family.
• Enhance your visit with a digital guide, translated into nine different languages. Kids can pick up a special passport, and collect stamps from six different stations dotted around the tour.
• You can also ride a broomstick or the Flying Ford Anglia from Chamber of Secrets in front of a green screen, which then superimposes you on to a Harry Potter-themed background.
• Don’t forget to check out the gift shop where you can buy wands, authentic Griffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw clothing, and even boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans.
• There is also a studio cafe and a Starbucks by the main entrance, where you can buy refreshments. There is another cafe in the backlot area, halfway through the tour. Alternatively, there is a picnic area adjacent to the carpark.
• Throughout the year specialist ‘behind-the-scenes’ exhibitions are opened for limited periods of time – past features have included Directing Dobby, Wizarding Wardrobes, Dark Arts and Hogwarts in the Snow. As of 31 March, 2017, a new permanent expansion will be unveiled, allowing visitors to explore the daunting depths of The Forbidden Forest. All of these special exhibitions are included in your regular ticket price.
• disclosure: we were very excited guests of the WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR