We were invited to Leavesden to visit the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios. It was our third visit, H and I eagerly going along as proper Harry Potter fans. Shaun joined us knowing that it’s quite good fun and interesting, having surrendered to everything several years ago!
The Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios runs until September 2018. There are a whole load of new things to see while you’re there.
We found it was a good idea to watch the movie beforehand. It’s not often that a movie has its own exhibition which makes remembering and spotting things a lot easier. The thing I’ve found with the WB Studio tour is you see things you’ve missed on prior visits all the time. There’s always something new there.
The biggest change is the entrance – the large building (which we were told will be a Fantastic Beasts extension back in December) is well on the way. Nobody would confirm this on our visit, though it makes perfect sense, got to store the Nifflers somewhere, right?
Passport in hand, we entered the building making sure to stay on the left hand side of the room to get front row seats in the auditorium.
It’s all about the Great Hall though, those doors,
The first thing you’ll spot on the right hand side in the Hufflepuff section is Cedric Diggory’s jumper as worn for the Triwizard Tournament.
At the end of the Great Hall the Goblet of Fire was on display with a demonstration how it works, plus an additional ring around it so nobody can take some polyjuice potion and try and swing the result. It’s a nice touch having the Fred and George mannequins either side of the goblet!
You get souvenir parchment at this part too.
Once you clear the Great Hall you can do the tour in your own time. This means in H’s case you have to read every – single – thing. Again. Which is okay but the staff were closing areas behind us as we had a 6.45pm slot.
Other things on display include the taps from the prefects’ bathroom – so tiny in real life.
There’s a golden egg from the Triwizard tournament plus how they created it.
In the costume area you can see Fleur Delacour’s costume which she wore to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament.
Inside Dumbledore’s office you can look into the pensieve which was fun.
One of the most fun parts of the WB Studio Tour is the photographs. Within the broomstick area you can have two different photos (and a video) – one family shot…
Or maybe just a little bit of broomstick training.
Later on as we got to Platform Nine and three Quarters we got a family shot on the train carriage. [all photos were provided to us for free]
Tom Riddle’s grave is on the main floor and is the centrepiece of the area by the Forbidden Forest (it was on a ledge higher up in December). Obviously you need your photo taking with it…
The Forbidden Forest has plenty of sound and visual effects as well as the creatures who live there – particularly Buckbeak.
From there you’re into Hogwarts Express land…
With the Backlot Cafe the next stop on the tour. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and of course the obligatory Butterbeer. This time we all opted for ice creams and as a slightly dehydrated old lady, mine went down a treat in about ten seconds flat.
Once you’re at the Backlot Cafe you’re just over half way. You can sit and relax or just wander around outside taking in the Knight Bus (peeping at the beds inside), Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow.
There’s also the only section of Hogwarts Bridge made (the rest was special effects) which is fun to wander down, plus the motorbike and sidecar as favoured by Hagrid.
There’s also the Ford Anglia as driven by the Weasleys. Top tip – when photographing the Ford Anglia make sure you’re not too far to the right hand side.
The next area holds the special effects where H tried to get Dobby to do the Macarena again (he wasn’t playing ball) and dabbing (he did that). You’re soon at Diagon Alley and the tour is getting closer to the end.
A model of the Durmstrang ship which the Durmstrang Institute used to get to the Triwizard Tournament is on display. Of course, the final part is the giant Hogwarts Castle. At the front is a small model of the Beauxbatons carriage entering Hogwarts – keep an eye out!
As you enter the wand room you’re at the end. We spent ages looking for friends who worked on the films but only found Jarvis Cocker. It’s an impressive room with a wand for all the castmembers and people who were involved.
Oh, and right there, at the very end is the Triwizard Cup. One of several made for the films, it’s in a glass case and looks mighty splendid.
It’s also the point you’re about to enter the merchandise area. We spent a lot of money there in December so skipped this part, but for anything Hogwarts this is the place to spend your hard-earned cash.
The additions to the tour certainly do the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book and film justice. It feels like there is they’ve included everything.
The WB Studio tour has the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition until the 23rd September 2018 – tickets are available now. We’d recommend going for early slots to get maximum Hogwarts time there!
We were given tickets to see the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition at the WB Studio Tour. We also received photo passes, our butterbeer, food and a chocolate frog. We’ve visited twice before, so this didn’t affect our opinion in any way.
It’s New Year’s Eve and what are you going to do? Sit at home, relax, have a lie in, right? Or go to Hogwarts in the Snow at 9am that morning? Well of course we did the latter.
Hogwarts in the Snow is on at the moment at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden. We visited a year and a half ago and I felt like this was a big enough gap between visits. H has now seen all the films, with the Cursed Child play being the thing we haven’t seen.
Hogwarts in the Snow runs until late January and has the set decorated to look festive. There is also a chance to feel the different kinds of snow that was used when it was needed – as well as how fire and ice was made.
This consisted of boxes of the three different types of snow used in the films, the special effects used for ice, and how to recreate fire (which was slightly hot but not fire-hot). One type of snow was like grains of sand, whereas the more gloopy kind was the sort which you could make snowballs from. It’s another one of those things you wouldn’t think about when watching a film. A small part of Diagon Alley also had snow on it, showing some disappearing footprints.
For the first time, the set of the Main Hall is decorated like the Yule Ball, complete with Professor Flitwick and an orchestra.
The great thing about the Warner Brothers Studio Tour is how things change. The sets have been moved around to accommodate the Forbidden Forest since we last visited. It wouldn’t surprise me if things are changed around regularly, and indeed on chatting with a staffmember at the end, he confirmed that items from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies will be joining the Potter Universe. There’s an extension being built which will house it.
Let’s stop for a minute here. The last film was completed in 2011. Okay, so that’s only seven years ago – but everyone there was enjoying being there. Even Shaun! There is so much to take in that it’s impossible in one visit. There ware different exhibitions and features being added all the time.
The fact that something finished so long ago that still lives on, finding new fans all the time, well, that’s a great achievement.
I noticed changes from the last time we visited – just little tweaks but changes. H read absolutely everything again. Which took a long time – again! I’d love it if there was a guide you could buy at the end with all the information in there.
There were queues, but we were prepared for it after our last visit. I’d say we got through quicker in some areas too. We stopped for lunch at the Backlot Cafe whose only vegetarian burger option was a mushroom one (sob, not all vegetarians like mushrooms!). Fortunately there are sandwiches too.
As before, H got her passport to look for Golden Snitches and stamp each page when she had spotted them, and even though they were in the same places it still took a while to find them (another good reason to leave a gap between visits!).
The Forbidden Forest was great – and a welcome addition to the tour. Inside is a moving Hippogriff (of course) and several moving Acromantula. Not one for arachnophobics – fortunately we’re not!
Over in the second part of the studio tour was a section where it showed the different stages where Dobby was animated. I don’t remember from last time – and it was brilliant. Cue loads of happy kids getting Dobby to Dab. Try saying that quickly…
H got Dobby to do the Macarena. Or maybe it’s the locomotion. I have no idea which song was in her head at the time…
We managed to spend six hours at Hogwarts in the Snow in the end. The model of Hogwarts at the end all decorated in one of the types of snow used in the films was as ever, impressive.
If you plan to visit and haven’t been for a while, then I think you’ll get a lot from seeing Hogwarts in the Snow. I know we’ll be visiting again once the Fantastic Beasts ephemera has been added, and I can’t wait to see it!
What can I say about 2016? It has been a strange year, but one where we got things done. A year when friendships got stronger or just disappeared completely. Where we did things and they actually happened. It has been a good year with plenty of memories, and as a family, one I know we’ll remember. Especially H now she’s at the age where your memories stick with you.
Here’s our 2016 in review.
The 1st January was spent in Brighton. We traditionally go to the seaside at the start of the year to get some cold air and breathe again. We usually alternate between Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis and it’s usually very closed and quiet apart from the odd Fish & Chips place. I like it because it’s cold, closed, dark and fresh and crisp; nothing like bringing in a new year that way every year.
We took out Historic Royal Palaces membership and headed to Hampton Court early on in the year, showing H somewhere I used to love going when I was her age. My Auntie Florrie lived in Teddington and that whole area was somewhere we spent a lot of time when we visited London back in the seventies.
H had her first horse riding lesson. It’s too expensive to keep up, unfortunately. She loved it though.
I had always wanted to visit Kensington Palace as it intrigues me. You’re visiting somewhere next door to the almost-untouchable current Royals. Anyway, it was an interesting place. HRP membership covered that.
March and we were back to Hampton Court as my friend got an invite to preview the Magic Garden, so we popped along. It didn’t disappoint!
March also brought H’s first proper gig – Adele at the O2. It was both of our first time going there. I booked us a hotel nearby so we didn’t have to get all the way home afterwards – and had a brilliant evening. H loved it too! Adele is one of her favourites and I’ve enjoyed working on her records for these last few years.
The following day we took the Thames Ferry to the Tower of London using our HRP membership to get in free. Again, loads of fun and we got our money’s worth.
Easter was an Emmett’s Gardens and Chartwell visit, as our National Trust membership was getting a bit unused, and National Trust always have the best Easter Egg trails. It didn’t disappoint.
Our Merlin Passes were also quite neglected so we made our first trip to Legoland, choosing a rainy day which was a bit cold. It seemed to work, and we got on most rides without a queue. We even managed Mia’s Riding School three or four times in a row before I had to stop.
April brought the weird stuff. We found out we had a carbon monoxide leak at home, which explained a lot of things. Forgetfulness? Tick. Feeling sick a lot? Definitely. Just being sick without any reason? Been there, done that. Our boiler was taken out of action and a plan was set, to get central heating put in when we went on holiday in July. Mainly as it would be so disruptive so we wanted to be away from it all. Every morning I had staggered to work like I was hungover, wondering when the virus would shift. It had never occurred to me it was this. Once the boiler was shut off I never felt like it again. We’ve since bought more carbon monoxide alarms. Too close a call. But why did it affect just H and I? I think because Shaun falls asleep downstairs and would often leave the heating on. I’d go to bed at 11pm and eventually come downstairs to shut off the heating at 2am. Because the leak was in the loft, both H and I were exposed to it more than Shaun as he was downstairs.
That’s my only explanation.
I got out to some gigs in April too – Lush reformed and I had a rare night out. Just getting onto a train and going across London was making me pretty nervous. It was a great night, I had far too much to drink, and the night was to be repeated a month or so later but with Shaun while H went on a sleepover.
Getting to work became an issue. Southern Trains were becoming increasingly rubbish and I was having a lot of palpitations. One day I got into work and burst into tears which isn’t like me at all. One word – perimenopause. I’ve done several things to calm the symptoms, they still happen especially the anxiety, but I’m learning to control it. I had a Mirena fitted which is helping a lot too. I had a journey home with the best train driver ever.
May also brought our annual trip to Wembley to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final. It’s good fun, cheap and I’ve already bought tickets for next year – they’re on sale now – and kids go free. It’s a great atmosphere!
We popped to Kew to view Kew Palace on our HRP membership. Don’t forget to print out your 2 for 1 vouchers beforehand like we did… you don’t get in free to Kew with HRP, you get a discount. 2 for 1 works out a bit cheaper too – meant we had more money to spend in the shops there!
June brought our second trip to Wembley. I bought tickets for England’s last friendly before the World Cup. H has finally seen Harry Kane play football (and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker). Next season we’ll try a Tottenham game. We missed the National Anthem thanks to it taking forever to get into Wembley, but caught the majority of the game.
June also brought our trip to the WB Studio Tour. H is a fully-fledged Harry Potter convert now – she has seen all the films and knows more about each character than me. She has also read my books more than I have… We all really enjoyed it – even Shaun who tolerates it (and usually falls asleep in the films). We’ll be going back when we can save enough money – maybe for Hogwarts at Christmas in 2017.
June also brought a trip to Southampton to see the touring production of Mary Poppins on stage. The production was nowhere near London so we decided to make a night of it, and booked into the Ibis there (which H loved as it had a bunk bed over our double bed). We had seen it way before H was born, and loved it again. Zizi Strallen is an excellent Mary.
June also brought BritMums which I really enjoyed, hanging out all day with Mary who is excellent company.
July brought the Bottersnikes and Gumbles preview where we interviewed one of the characters and found out the recording didn’t work. My memory was still a bit rubbish so I can’t remember anything he said either. I fail. H was interviewed for CBBC but it wasn’t used (I thought that might happen, she was quiet).
July was also the start of our holidays, heading to Cornwall again. We stopped in Weston Super Mare on the way down, wandered around there and made the most of late evening beach walks, donkey rides, fish & chips and relaxing.
The following day we arrived at Hallagenna Cottages in St Breward, and had a lovely week there discovering loads of new places. Up the road at Coombe Mill The Boy and Me gang were staying. H and The Boy both got on famously, so next year we’re going back to Coombe Mill to stay!
I love Cornwall. Great beaches, great weather and having a proper holiday is always a good thing.
On the way back to London we stayed in a Yurt at the Kingsmead Centre which was loads of fun!
We used our Merlin Passes and visited Weymouth Sea Life on the way back to London.
August arrived. We had a short break to Paris planned which didn’t break the bank. We stayed near the Eiffel Tower for a couple of nights. After that we headed to Disneyland Paris and H didn’t have a CLUE! She also got in for free as if you’re six, then that’s what happens. She was seven the following day – and it counts from check-in date. We also managed to do Jedi Training Academy. So that was her surprise 7th birthday treat. We had glorious weather and needed a month to recover afterwards.
In September H moved up to Junior school. She has settled well and is loving it. Her confidence is growing too which is great. She also started Brownies and had moved up a level in swimming at the end of summer to Stage 5.
At the end of October we headed back to York to see my mum, staying there for the first time in a long time. H loved spending time with her nana, and I loved stopping and recharging my batteries. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the whole of half term off, so we took H out of school for two days so she won’t get her 100% attendance this term.
We visited Fountains Abbey with my sister and her boys too.
We also found time to visit Alton Towers which I’d spent plenty of time at in the eighties. I recognised parts, but not that much really, although I’d occasionally have moments where I’d say “Hang on? Wasn’t The Corkscrew there?” and be right.
November was Bonfire Night which was fun – we stayed by our local ponds and had great views, rather than enter the park and have some views. The end of the year is all about saving money! I booked a ticket for Blogfest earlier in the year and attended but it wasn’t the same. I don’t think I’ll be going next year.
We went to Epsom Downs and saw the supermoon which gave me lots of silhouette photos I do love to take. We planted Miffy Tulips, and got some mesh to put over our plant pot so the foxes won’t dig it up. H did her Brownie promise and remembered it, and I wore my leaders uniform for the first time and felt like I had confidence to do it.
December. We had the school fair (which H helped me on the stall with – see, this is a new confidence she’s found. She used to hide behind me), she has moved up a level at swimming to Stage 6. She has lost two more teeth taking it to 10 total, and is almost there with her handwriting at school, holding out for a pen licence.
Completely unexpected, but H was Star of the Term as voted for by her teachers. She ran up to me incredibly proud in the playground. Their note sums it up. I love that the unexpected things make everything feel even better.
We went back to York for the York Panto which was Cinderella. H got her name read out in the shoutouts part of the production which she loved – and she got a Wagon Wheel! I am still persuading her not to eat it…
We had two visits to see Father Christmas. One was at Chessington Garden Centre and the other at Tottenham’s ground. Of the two, the Tottenham one was the best – he was really warm, fun and engaging and had H chatting. I asked him if he could make sure Tottenham win the league for my present and we all left feeling cheery (but I don’t think he’ll have much luck with that, another good season would be good).
We’re finishing the year off inviting neighbours around to our house. This is a big one for us – until now I’ve felt like our house is too small, though a friend did it last year and made me realise it could be done. Then we had H’s party which proved over 20 people could be in our house with room to spare. My biggest problem had been our heating. It was fine us living here with the crappy heating which I always hated and felt like it only warmed the landing upstairs and our front room – but now we have proper central heating. This house is welcoming again… though I suspect our 1st January trip to the seaside may need to be postponed by a day… that and I’m sure our car won’t make it there and back!
So what will 2017 bring? I know my aches and pains and anxiety aren’t going to go away, but I’ve found if I keep myself busy it helps it not be at the forefront of my mind. I’m going to progress with my training to be a Guide Leader though I’m still not sure I want to be in charge. But we’ll cross that bridge…
We’ve taken out Historic Houses Association membership so at some point we’ll get to Hever Castle which we’ve wanted to visit for a while. We’ll probably need to buy a new car as ours is on its last legs.
W recently made our way to the Warner Brothers Studio to see their Harry Potter Tour. To say we were excited would be an understatement!
The Harry Potter tour is unmissable if you’re a fan of the films. We booked the tickets way up front and got a 9.30am slot. Parking is included with your ticket, and we arrived with plenty of time. Fortunately within the studio is a cafe to the left of the building as you enter where you can wait for your slot to open and wake up with a coffee or two.
I don’t want to spoil the tour (too much) for anyone reading this who might be going. I really just want to include practical information, though pictures will give some things away. I’ve tried to be good!
The Harry Potter tour exists as the films were being made before the books had ended, so props and scenery were kept in case they would be needed for later use. When production ended they had a load of super cool stuff which nerds like me have been desperate to see for a LONG time.
When our first opportunity to go arose, H was way too young. I wanted this to be an experience we’d enjoy as a family. Right now H is starting Book 5, and has seen all the films up to the Half-Blood Prince (and knows way more about it all than I do).
So what do you get on the Harry Potter tour? A fairly long queue at the start, but some fun stuff on the way. Groups are ushered into a room where there are three doors (hint – go for the left hand one if you can). The queue leading to this room goes quite slowly. Once you’re in there you’ll start the tour and can go at your own pace from a certain point.
The amount of detail that has gone into everything is amazing – and there is a LOT to see. The main area you go through houses almost everything you can think of. You could easily spend at least three hours in here. In fact, we only stopped as we needed to get something to eat and drink. A 9.30 slot got us inside by 10am, and eating by 1pm.
For kids there’s a complementary passport you can get stamped in a specific area while following a Golden Snitch trail – this was good for H and a major distraction too. She’s so obsessed with Harry Potter she wanted to read every-single-thing. We could have spent 13 hours (the current record for the amount of time spent there according to our guide) in there were it not for the passport.
Quite often we’d find a snitch and then say “ooh, maybe it’s out here!” and distract her enough that she’d forget about the reading. There is a 15th Anniversary coloured badge you can get too, of which only one was available yesterday (Gryffindor) though if you check ebay some people seem to have them for sale… I’m guessing they offer a different colour every day maybe?
In the main area of the Harry Potter tour it is sectioned into scenes and areas. There are costumes in one part, you’ve got some Quidditch stuff going on. Your child can even pick up a broom (free) or ride on one (around the £40 mark). I love the interactive parts too. You can wave your hand above a sensor which makes the knitting knit in the film when they get to the Weasley’s house in Book 2. There are also options to chop some vegetables and stir a pot doing this!
After you’ve left the main area you head to Platform 9 and three quarters which has the first gift shop you’ll come to. This isn’t as big as the main shop but does have quite a lot. Next to it they have a green screen area where you can create a film going to Hogwarts which we did but didn’t watch (we’d already spent too much money paying for the Broomstick one – it would be great if this could be added to the existing USB so you’re only paying a big price the once).
To the side of this area is the main eating area. There’s a lot of space, and we got a seat easily. Butterbeer was bought, of course which reminded me of a cream soda float. We got one in a commemorative cup and two plastic ones at approx £15 total.
We took our own packed lunch which saved us a bit of money too, it looked like they had a good choice of food there.
When you’re in the food area, you’re right by the outside set area. 3 Privet Drive open when we visited, and the front room was as it was when Harry’s first letter(s) to Hogwarts arrived in Book 1. We also got a replica envelope like the ones used and were shown a demonstration of how they did it. This exhibition has now finished unfortunately!
In the outside area there are two vehicles – the motorbike and sidecar, plus the Ford Anglia where you can take free photos. There is an opportunity to have your photo taken on a green screen and be placed in the Ford Anglia – but this of course, costs!
It’s also around this point you realise you can’t go back.
When you do the Harry Potter tour you’re going round in your own time which works well (we got lots of photos without people in the background despite there being so many of us) – and you really felt like you had your own space.
Onwards to the next area, where it goes into the masks used throughout the film. They also explain how Robbie Coltrane looks so big and what they did – I’ve always wondered! Then you’re entering Diagon Alley, some more models and then the very final room. I’ve seen many photos of this room and I wasn’t prepared for how incredible it was!
After that you enter a room full of boxes. But then you look… those boxes are wand boxes. With the cast and crew’s names on them. Many many boxes…. it was a real treat, spotting the names…
So finally you end up in the main shop. I spent another £15 on merchandise, but bought H a fabulous Time Turner which was £8.95 and looks really nice and sturdy and not like it will fall apart (which if you know the time turner, you’d wonder).
So is the Harry Potter Studio Tour worth almost £100 for the three of us?
Definitely. I’m glad we booked way up-front as it meant the tickets were paid for which freed up money for the extras. I’m a sucker for all that. Some parts were spoilers for H (the Horcruxes) so I steered her away. A short clip from Deathly Hallows has made her want to hold off from seeing the film, though she did have a sneaky read of the book not that long ago.
As a long-standing fan of the books and the films it was a fascinating experience. I just want to talk about it! But you can’t say a lot as I think knowing only what you need to doesn’t spoil it for others. (all food places take cards, there’s one cashpoint by the entrance, there are loads of toilets, nothing seemed too scary)
Will I be going back? I would love to! We have no plans, however I’m now left wondering if parts of Fantastic Beasts will make their way into the tour. After all it doesn’t actually say the Harry Potter tour. Just the Warner Brothers Studio Tour…. hmmmm……
In addition, one thing I’d wondered. If you get one of the final slots of the day, I’d wondered if you could get everything done. Well, the studios don’t close until 10pm, so in an ideal world, you should be able to!
You can book your Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour tickets here. Look out for lots of fabulous 15th Anniversary events throughout the year!