Since then we’ve visited the Studio Tour an amazing FIVE more times – which should tell you just how much we love it there.
Each time we’ve visited, there have been some new attractions and exhibits to see, sometimes seasonal events. It’s always new!
For this visit Flea and I were joined by some friends – Annie (11), Harry (8) and Jim (46). I’d tell you how old my sister-in-law is, but she might shoot me.
The Studio Tour is essentially two huge sound stages and a back lot.
As a visitor, you can see many of major interior and exterior sets for the Harry Potter movies, along with props, costumes and special effects displays. You can even have a go at riding a broomstick of a flying car, thanks to the magic of green screen technology. I don’t want to spoil too many surprises but if you’re curious, there are some photos from our trips to Hogwarts over on the blog Facebook page.
Top Tips for a day out at the Harry Potter Studios
Book Early in the Day
First up, you need to book ahead, and book a timed ticket slot.
Bit of nerdy trivia – the Studio Tour admits 590 new guests every hour, but because people like to dawdle, not all of those people will leave the tour in the 2.5 hours Warner Bros estimates you’ll spend wandering around. You can EASILY spend four hours here, longer if you stop to eat at the on-site restaurant.
So as the day goes on, the number of people in the tour gets higher and higher. By the time we left at 4pm it was extremely busy and a bit chaotic in the main lobby. If you want the best experience, my advice is to book early.
Try and Visit at Christmas
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is amazing whenever you go, but we reckon that the most special time to visit? Is Christmas. Hogwarts in the Snow has some wonderful special exhibits. We’ve found it’s a lovely way to make the time between Christmas and New Year feel REALLY special.
That said, the Harry Potter Studio Tour has regular seasonal promotions. We had a lot of fun visiting at Halloween, and also during the Back to School period.
Pick up Potter Passports
When you arrive on site, pick up Potter Passports for your children. They’re free, and include a treasure hunt for kids.
Let them ‘stamp’ their passports at key points around the tour. It’s a little thing, but all three of the kids with us thought they were great fun, and they make for a great souvenir.
Go Left, Go Left
When you go into the tour, you’ll be taken first into a dark room with screens on the side. If you can, head for the door on the far wall, left hand side and stand there. This ensures you’ll get the best seats in the house for the next stage of the experience.
Spot the Details
The first set you see is The Great Hall. My favourite thing is spotting all the things that never really got featured in the films but were made anyway.
The attention to detail in the Potter movies was amazing. Check out the carvings on the back of the giant fireplace, the house point counting machines behind the teachers’ table, and the detailing on the pitchers and crockery on the long refectory tables.
Ride a Broomstick
When touring the interior sets, don’t miss the opportunity to ride a broom in front of a green screen. Don’t be afraid to REALLY over-act. The photos are so much more fun if you adopt a terrified face, or an evil face (in Flea’s case) which can be super-imposed on to a cloudy sky with the Dark Mark leering in one corner.
Another quick tip: don’t wear a straight skirt, everyone waiting in line will be able to see straight up it when you sit on the broom.
If you prefer not to ride the broom there’s an option to go in the flying car or be pictured on a ‘wanted’ poster. A little later in the tour, there’s a really fun green screen experience on a train, which makes for the BEST photos on the tour, I think. The train green screen is opposite the Hogwarts Express and is SO much more fun!
Be sure to ask the guides lots of questions because they REALLY do know their stuff. We’ve found they love to share their geeky knowledge, from which buttons to press to make the flying car invisible, to which masks were worn by which death eaters.
Food at the Tour
Halfway through the tour is an huge cafeteria selling a range of hot and cold food. There’s also a smaller stand where you can get JUST Butterbeer.
We found the food really good quality, and can recommend the fresh sandwiches, hot dogs and chicken goujons for kids. I might have also stolen Flea’s Macaroni Cheese. It does get very chaotic though, and it can be hard to find a seat, so allow some extra time if you’re going to eat on-site.
You can also bring your own picnic and eat it outside at one of the picnic areas. I’d recommend this because the queues for food are long, and can be slow – although the queue for just Butterbeer is much shorter.
Butterbeer tastes… Interesting
If your kids want to taste Butterbeer, I’d recommend bringing along a bottle of water, too. It’s an acquired taste (shall we say) and none of our three kids liked the taste of their Butterbeer! It’s quite sweet, a cross between butterscotch and caramel.
For my money, the frozen Butterbeer ice cream is more palatable. If you buy the souvenir cups for your drinks, don’t forget to wash them at the supplied water trough, because they’re really sticky! Oh, and the ice cream comes in a very cute souvenir cup.
Save Plenty of Time for the Second Half
Save plenty of time for the second half of the tour. This covers all the creatures and monsters of the films, and the castle itself. You also get the chance to walk up Diagon Alley. There is a lot to see and my prediction is that you’ll spend at least four hours on the tour, all told.
There is a room holding a scaled-down model of the castle, which was used for all those sweeping exterior shots. While it’s fun to gaze at the model in awe, the touchscreen computer displays allow you to do so much more. Our kids learned so much about how the films were put together, and what goes into making certain shots and effects happen.
Budget for the Gift Shop
Prepare your kids for the Harry Potter Studio Tour gift shop. We set our kids a budget before we arrived on the day, so they knew what they could spend. That’s important when a Hogwarts school jumper costs almost £60 and a set of robes is £79! Even the wands are around £25 each.
Of course, the quality reflects the price and there are some truly wonderful souvenirs, but you could easily spend a fortune here. Some of the best budget buys are things like magnets and key-rings, and of course chocolate (but avoid the jars of fancy packaged Smarties at £9 a jar). There is also a really sweet new range of charm bracelets that children can add to over time.
Get Photos on the Train Platform
There are LOADS of places to have photos done around the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The most popular is by the broomstick and flying car green screens. The queue here is always MASSIVE.
Here’s a top tip – if you wait and have your photos printed around the corner by the train platform, the queue is way smaller, and you can get virtually all your photos printed here.
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