So as big fans of the boy wizard, we have been eagerly awaiting the latest attraction devoted to our hero, the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. But unlike all the other Harry Potter themed days out, this is the real deal: the whole experience has been created using genuine sets from the movies.
If you have been glued to the screen from The Philosopher's Stone to the Deathly Hallows Part II you cannot fail to be thrilled to tread the stone floors of the Great Hall, all set for a feast. Or to see the beds that Harry and Ron slept in, or the broken down sofas of the Gryffindor common room.
I found myself rushing round with even more enthusiasm than my sons, Jacob, eight, and Max, six, who were initially more engrossed with the task of spotting all the hidden Golden Snitches to note them down in the free passports given to all child visitors. I hardly think this was necessary as most children don't need extra diversion when they can peek into Hagrid's Hut, or gaze at the murky bottles lining the walls of the Potions Classroom.
The tour is split into three sections. The first houses the most iconic sets including the Great Hall, Dumbledore's Office, the Ministry of Magic and Hagrid's Hut – though don't miss the broom cupboard that served as Harry's bedroom during his spell at Privet Drive, which is set up in the queuing area.
In this section of the tour you will also find the Quidditch flying experience. We visited on a preview day, but even so the queues were long and slow moving. The experience itself – you get to sit in the Weasley's Ford Anglia flying car and then on a Nimbus 2000 against a green screen to see yourself 'in flight' onscreen – isn't worth the wait.
The effects are flaky and the pictures you can buy for £12 afterwards are static and not that impressive. Even the boys said they wished we hadn't wasted an hour there. That said perhaps the slow speed was due to early teething problems and if there was no wait it's fun to discover how the effects work and to see yourself skimming the turrets of Hogwarts.
Next up is the outdoors section where you will find the triple-decker, purple Night Bus, the real Ford Anglia, Hogwarts Bridge, Privet Drive and the Potter's cottage from Godric's Hollow, complete with the damage wrought by the backfiring Killing Curse. There are lots of photo opportunities, but in common with the entire tour most things are cordoned off and it's look, but don't touch.
There aren't that many places to buy food and drink – a café and coffee bar with hot and cold food at the beginning and then a small snack bar selling sandwiches, ice cream and drinks in the outdoors area. But the snack bar does sell the famous Butter Beer – a creamy, sweet confection that defies description – it's a bit like a Tizer with butter icing on top – but not quite as revolting as that sounds.
The final section was our favourite. It has lots of detail including models and videos on how all the creatures were created, such as Dobby the House Elf and the scary monsters Harry has to battle in the films. There is a particularly creepy animated model of the baby Voldemort.
There is also an entire section devoted to the creative minds behind the sets and the detailed drawings used to create everything from the castle to the classrooms.
But top of all of our lists was Diagon Alley, which is a special as it looks on the films. Take your time to spot all the funny little touches, as there are plenty to make you smile. You can see the famous exterior of Ollivander's where Harry's wand chose him, as well as Gringotts Bank and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
The final showstopper is the model of Hogwarts Castle used in all the films. It is breathtaking in its detail and scale – it is the size of a house. It is probably worth visiting just to see this. Every tiny detail you see onscreen is faithfully created here and videos around the model show just how the castle was brought alive in the films.
As you file out, there is the inevitable shop with lots of expensive Harry memorabilia, plus a sweet shop stocking Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. Inevitably we left poorer, but happier for seeing all the sets from our favourite films up close and personal.
The tour isn't cheap at £83 for a family of four, but it is a must for all Harry Potter fans. It's already booked up for months so clearly the price isn't putting people off and while you can get cheaper days out, this is a really special one for the whole family – not just the children. You can expect to spend around three hours on the tour, but it's mainly self-led so you can spend as much time as you like there.
Tickets must be pre-booked and you can buy the via the website.
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