A couple of years after the final film in the series was released, Warner Brothers opened their Harry Potter studio tour at the Leavesden studios where the films were made in March 2012. With original sets, a huge number of props from the films, interactive sections, demonstrations and much more, the tour is an absolute must for Harry Potter fans of all ages.
Entry is by timed ticket, and to start the tour a group of you watch a short film before being taken into the studios by one of the guides, all of whom are wonderfully enthusiastic. I won’t spoil the surprise of where the tour begins, suffice to say the first stop is incredible and really sets the scene. The rest of the time is self-guided, as you make your way through two sections of studio buildings, with recreations of many different sets and exhibitions of props and original costumes. Between the two buildings is the back lot, containing some of the outdoor sets, a few exciting surprises, and an opportunity to sit down and enjoy a snack, including your chance to try the “Butterbeer” so popular with Hogwarts students. Extremely sweet but delicious!
The second section is more about the technical side of the films – the mechanical creatures and props made, CGI, visual design etc. and is absolutely fascinating, but still has enough interest and excitement for kids. One of the great things about the attraction is that you can just wander round and look at everything, or if you want more detail you can read the info panels and watch the film screens located in each section. Or, for the really in-depth tour, you can pay for the audio visual guide, which is an iPod like device containing not just commentaries on the tour (voiced by Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the films), but interviews with actors and film makers, along with short video clips demonstrating how the movies were created. I think the choice of how much detail you want is a big plus point, as children in particular can just enjoy exploring and seeing the amazing exhibits, while adults can get a bit more background if they want to. The technical information, demonstration films etc. and the sheer number of original items from the films on view are part of the reason why I believe the attraction is a great day for any film fan, even if they are not specifically Harry Potter addicts.
As with all such attractions, you exit through the gift shop. Here, you can buy pretty much anything Harry Potter related, from toys to costumes, to books, to wands. A great selection, although not much in the “pocket money” range or things you could buy as a little gift for several friends or family. The complex also includes an excellent snack bar and coffee shop, with an outdoor seating area.
The car park is huge, and the place is easy enough to find, situated just off the A41 near Watford, within a few minutes of the M1 and M25. There is a free bus service to and from Watford railway station, as well as buses from Central London. As you would probably expect, the tickets are not cheap – £28 for adults, £21 for children, and must be booked in advance online. But there is certainly enough to see and do to stay for well over half a day (they recommend a minimum of 2 ½ to 3 hours, but that would be quite a cursory visit in my experience). That, along with the sheer uniqueness and excitement of being on the sets of blockbuster films, make it relatively good value compared to other major attractions such as the big castles, safari parks, etc. that are the major competition for big family days out.
All in all, I would certainly recommend the studio tour – it is a must for Harry Potters fans of all ages, a great family day out, and a fascinating experience for film fans.
To find out more about the tours I offer and how to book them, visit my website.