First things first: unlike most of the places we tell you about, The Making of Harry Potter Tour at Warner Bros. Studios is not a hop, skip or even a jump from York. It’s a good three hours – more on a bank holiday (sigh) – but fans of all things Hogwarts won’t let a few hours on the road, or more than a few quid in tickets, put them off. So this one is for all you Yorkies who might be thinking of visiting.
Our seven year-old started reading the first Harry Potter in the new year and polished off all seven before we had time to say ‘stop if you find them too scary’. He’s finished them all and watched half the films, so we headed down south this May half term to see behind the scenes on the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Our expectations were high – with such punchy ticket prices, you’d hope it would be good! – but it was even better than we’d hoped. Here’s why we’d recommend it to other parents.
It’s full of incredible places and things that you’ll recognise
Even if you’ve only seen a couple of films, you’ll get a kick out of walking through the Great Hall, seeing Dumbledore’s office and getting up close to Harry Potter’s dorm. Visit Harry’s house on Privet Drive, climb inside some of the vehicles and see loads of props you’ll recognise. You can climb aboard the Hogwarts Express, look inside the Knight Bus and see more wands, wizards and whomping willows than you could ever imagine. It’s definitely not just for hardcore Harry Potter fans – even parents who are dragged along are pretty much guaranteed to love it because it’s so entertaining.
It’s an amazing insight into the movies
From the make-up to the costumes, animal training to animatronics, the tour gives an incredible insight into the teamwork and expertise that went into creating the films. We loved hearing all the first-hand accounts through videos dotted around the tour and the hands-on activities like this one. The whole experience definitely gave the kids an understanding that making a film is about much more than just the actors.
There are lots of free activities
Although there are plenty of ways for you to part with your cash throughout the tour, from videos of yourself riding a broomstick to photos of the family on the Hogwarts Express, these are definitely optional and there are lots of free activities. Pick up a Harry Potter passport (free) and tick off the golden snitches when you find them, and stamp your passport along the way. Our kids mostly loved pressing buttons to make magic happen, like getting a pair of knitting needles to knit a scarf entirely on their own in the Weasley’s house (above).
The new Forbidden Forest experience is fab
Not for the faint-hearted, the new Forbidden Forest experience was right up our eldest’s street. It’s dark, menacing and full of fantastical creatures. The two girls opted out, so we scooted them through to the fantastic Platform 9 3/4 area, but our eldest hung about a bit longer in the forest to encounter the terrifying beasts.
It’s really well organised
Given the tour was fully booked, and it was May half term, we’d braced ourselves for queues galore. In fact, the studios are so well run that we didn’t have to queue for anything and never felt rushed. Quite impressive, really, given the size of the place and how popular it is. We even had the spectacular Diagon Alley to ourselves for a while, which was a highlight in a day full of highlights.
Top tips for visiting Warner Bros Studio Tour London
- You have to book in advance. Don’t try turning up without a ticket! We booked at least a couple of months before we wanted to visit.
- Consider booking onto the earliest tour (9am) because you’ll be first into the studios when it’s relatively quiet. You might need to stay over somewhere close the night before if you don’t want a horribly early start.
- Save money by taking your own food. There are two cafes but they’re not cheap and the kids might be too excited to eat very much anyway. Ours were mostly fueled by adrenalin.
- Don’t go mad on the butterbeer! It’s an acquired taste, so maybe try one between you to check everyone likes it rather than buying one each and throwing half of it away.
- Visit before your kids turn 5! Most HP fans will be over 5, but they may have younger siblings. We visited before our two youngest turned five so we didn’t have to pay for them.
- Take comfortable shoes and make sure your phones are fully charged – you’ll be taking loads of photos.
Address: Warner Bros Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR
Prices: Family from £118 (2+2 or 1+3); 4 and under free
Time from York: 3 hours 20 (approx)
Website: Visit the website here