Originally Written: November 9, 2018
A highlight of our second London vacation was visiting the Warner Brothers Studios and walking through the Harry Potter exhibits. The location is about an hour outside the city center but was easy to access through the overground train system.
At the train station, a charter bus runs visitors to and from the studio for a nominal fee, making the arrival and departure process simple and accessible for families with young kids. You are required to buy your tickets in advance and must show proof of them to get on the charter bus, and once dropped off at the entrance there were kiosks set up to the side that allowed us to print out a more official ticket card.
Everyone must go through a quick security check, follow a long hallway, walk through a cafe, and into a large atrium. Straight ahead lay the gift shop, to the right the audio guide pickup window, and to the left the entrance queue.
Once through the ticket checkpoint, groups are led to an introductory room followed by a theater room where everyone is given some content made and shown only for the tour. This was the only part where having young kids could get hairy. It was a part that required silence and little ones could get antsy waiting and sitting in the chairs.
Fortunately, it’s not that long and everyone is brought in to the set of the Great Hall. Because we were there in October, Alex and I were treated to the hall being decorated for Halloween. Floating pumpkins hung from the ceiling and favorite wizard candy covered the long tables.
Here, a tour guide spoke briefly about some of the costumes on display and gave a few tidbits of information on how Hagrid’s character was portrayed, then announced when our time in the Great Hall was up. This was the only place where there was a set time limit, and it was necessary because they needed to bring the next group through.
Walking through a doorway the tour led into one of the sets. The indoor building was absolutely massive and housed more artifacts than I have time to notate. Anything and everything that was seen, used, or worn throughout the movie franchise seemed to be there.
Simple items like jeans Harry wore during a fight scene with displays to show they were distressed.
To the invisibility cloak:
To the Mirror of Erised:
Props of all kinds hung out in glass cases, the coolest in my opinion being the horcruxes:
Popular settings were available to gaze upon and get a clearer vision of how they came to life through film.
Throughout the room were several interactive activities to keep the kids entertained. For people who paid extra, they could ride a broomstick in front of a green screen. However, free of cost was a broom that everyone could use to practice grabbing and a wand technique class. Landon loved both of these and thought they were the coolest part of the tour. Give him a wand now and he’ll assume the correct stance, ready to disarm any opponent who crosses his path.
The tour leads visitors through the Forbidden Forest, where one can learn the tricks to making a Protronaus and how Aragog came to life in the second film.
Then, there was the Warner Brother’s rendition of King’s Cross station with the actual Hogwarts Express used throughout all the films. Everyone has the option of boarding and looking at carriages set to different movies or going straight to a cafeteria area.
From that point on, there’s one additional building dedicated to the makeup and special effects of the film. A lot of interesting pieces of information can be read on the placards along the way, and it really goes to show that the movies were a massive feat taken on by hundreds of creative souls.
The tour concludes with a walk through Diagon Alley, which admittedly is a little lackluster after visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and ends with a 360 degree view of the Hogwarts model.
Exclusively for the Halloween season, there were a few extra treats we were privy to on our tour. The kids got to talk to someone who taught them how unicorn blood and troll snot was made for the films and let them stir some. There were also Death Eater costumes on display and a battle against some Dark Arts lovers outside the cafeteria that everyone could participate in.
At the end of the tour, Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange’s costumes were out for show.
The tour is expensive and takes at a minimum three hours to complete, but I would say it is definitely worth it for any Harry Potter fan. The kids had a blast and once past the movie room, they never bored; Landon tells everybody it was his favorite part of the vacation. We had purchased audio guides but found there was so much information readily available that we hardly used the guides.
Would I make an entire trip to London just to go to the Studios? Probably not. But if I were already in the area and had kids that needed to be kept busy, this would be a fantastic idea.