The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour: Warner Bros. London

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour

In June of 2014 my family spent a month traveling through Spain and London. Each week I’m highlighting our individual destinations, giving you tips on traveling with kids and sharing some of the best things we discovered. You can find previously published travel posts on my Travel Page. You can find all the photos from our trip on my flickr page. 

If you have two kids that are both smitten with all things Harry Potter, you can’t very well take them to London and not pay a visit to the place where all the movie magic began. And so one of the very first things we did after booking our flights to London was to buy tickets to The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour at the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden (about 20 miles northwest of London). Needless to say, the kids were more excited about this aspect of the trip than any other, and will tell you that it was the best part of the entire vacation.

All eight of the Harry Potter movies were made at the Studios, which gives you an amazing and unique opportunity to not only walk where the actors walked, but to see the movie sets first hand. Beyond that, you are treated to an astounding collection of film props, costumes, artifacts, art and graphics, as well as intimate looks at special and creature effects. Like the movies and the books, the studio tour is done to perfection.

The Great Hall Harry Potter

You begin the tour by watching a short movie about the making of the films. Once that is done, the movie screen disappears and you find yourself walking into the Great Hall. You get a short speech here, and then you’re set free to explore the rest of the Studios at your leisure. There is so much to see and do, with lots of interactive stations to keep younger fans happy.

Hagrid costume Warner Bros Studio London

Gryffindor Common Room

Golden Snitch

About halfway through the tour you can explore some of the bigger props and sets outdoors, including an exact replica of 4 Privet Drive, the Knight Bus, and the Weasley’s infamous flying car! You can also grab some butterbeer if you’re thirsty.

The Knight Bus Harry Potter

Weasley's flying car

We all audibly gasped when we walked into this room, featuring the 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts that was used for filming many of the exterior shots in the movies.

Hogwarts model

The end of the tour has you walking through the gift shop, of course, but it’s home to some of the coolest Harry Potter merchandise you’ll ever find. Elena found a Ravenclaw shirt that was making its first appearance in the shop that day. She loved the idea of having a Harry Potter shirt no one in the States had yet! Eli took home his very own wand. Elena got hers at Universal and he’d been envious of it ever since. (Funny story – Mike was in charge of bringing it back to the States, and it was the only thing he got pulled aside for at customs! They were very suspicious of it and thought it was a weapon. A weapon of the dark arts, perhaps! Thankfully they let him bring it home.)

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

Part of me wished I had let Mike and the kids enjoy this together while I stayed in London and visited a site or two they weren’t particularly interested in (Hello, Westminster Abbey! I’m coming back for you!). I’m one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t read the books yet. You see, all these years Harry Potter has been something very special between Mike and the kids. He’s read the entire series aloud to Elena, and is working through them again with Eli. It’s kind of their thing, and I want to let them have it all to themselves for as long as possible. I have seen the movies, though, and so from that aspect the tour was very interesting. As much as I would’ve liked some extra time on my own in London, I can’t help but be grateful for being able to tag along on this Harry Potter adventure. Seeing the joy in their eyes, watching them take it all in together, and having the opportunity to capture those special moments as the fourth wheel was certainly a blessing. It truly is a special place for any Harry Potter fan, and if you can fit it in your itinerary you won’t regret it.

Ollivanders Wand Shop

Tips for Your Visit

Tickets: You must purchase your tickets ahead of time. You cannot buy tickets at the Studios. If you’re staying in London, you are looking at a bit of a commute to get to the Studios (about an hour and 10 minutes from central London), so keep that in mind as you purchase your tickets and choose a time of day to visit.

Getting There: Many, many thanks to Mackenzie for giving us the lowdown on how best to get to the Studios if using public transportation instead of driving there yourself. I’m simply repeating what she told us, which worked perfectly:

Make your way to Euston Station. There are lots of ticket kiosks inside, but pass those by and go to one of the ticketing agents instead. Ask for the fastest train to Watford Junction. You’ll end up purchasing a roundtrip ticket, and it was very reasonable, around £30 for the four of us. The train is comfortable and fast, about 20 minutes to Watford. Once you get to Watford Junction, you’ll leave the station and turn left. You’ll see some covered awnings, which is where the Harry Potter tour bus picks up and drops off. If you’re not sure, just ask. It seemed like 90% of our train was headed to there as well! You’ll buy another round trip ticket directly from the bus driver (£2 per person). The bus arrives about every 20 minutes and the ride takes about 15 minutes. You also have the option to book transportation through Golden Tours, which picks you up in London, but it will cost you at least double.
At the Studios: As soon as you arrive at the Studios, you’ll need to walk up the the ticketing windows outdoors and exchange your online reservation for actual tickets. There’s a nice little cafeteria inside, so I went to get the tickets and Mike and the kids went to have lunch. If you need to have a meal or a snack before or after your tour, this is actually a decent place to eat. There’s also a Starbucks, if you feel like paying the equivalent of $8 for a cup of coffee. You have a set time for your tour. You need to be there at least 20 minutes before, but I’d give yourself at least an hour. Busses and trains can run late, and all. You can also visit the gift shop while you wait, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you get there early. Plan on spending about 3 hours at the Studios before returning home the same way you came!
The day after our Harry Potter tour we bid goodbye to London and headed back to sunny (and – thankfully – much warmer) Spain. Next up: Barcelona!
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Best Doggone Tradition Comes Back

Netflix Stream Team Mini Milestones

When Elena was around 4, we started a family tradition of Fridays being family movie night. It was a wonderful way to reconnect as a family after a week of work, school and errands, and a fun way to kick off the weekend. We always ate pizza on the family room floor and had a special treat as well. Sometimes we let Elena pick the movie (is there a special award for suffering through those Barbie movies?), other times we picked out classics we’d loved as kids, and some Fridays we’d finally get around to seeing a new release. I really cherish those memories.

Then Eli came along, and in the chaos of having a new baby, movie night fell by the wayside. Elena probably watched a lot of movies on her own, or with me glued to the divot I’d made on the couch from endless hours of nursing, but we got away from movie watching as a family.

I’ve tried to revive it from time to time, but having kids with a 5-year age span in between them made it difficult. Choosing titles that appeal to a preschool boy and an older elementary girl is hard! But I really, really missed those Friday evenings when we all sat in one place, enjoying the same movie and bumping hands in the big popcorn bowl.

Last month I was asked to be a member of the Netflix Stream Team, and it was like they read my mind and knew I needed that last little nudge to bring movie night back to our family. Each month for the next year I’ll be writing about a family-related theme and sharing ideas for ways you can connect in your own families. I’m very excited about it, and hope you’ll enjoy the series as well.

The theme for October is Mini Milestones. Some families are so good about celebrating milestones, whether it’s as big as a first birthday or as small as a first goal in soccer. I’d say we fall somewhere in the middle. I know Mike rolls his eyes sometimes when I make a big deal about our quirky milestones. But in my mind, why pass up an opportunity to celebrate, especially if it means an excuse to go out for ice cream!

Old Yeller Movie Night

Our special milestone isn’t so mini, though, at least not like he was when we first got him in August! I thought it would be fun to celebrate getting our first dog. Gus might have been mini at one time, but he’s growing like crazy! I don’t know exactly how much he weighs compared to when we got him, but I do know he used to fit in his beanbag like a baby bird in a nest. And now? He hangs off the edges!

Gus

I wanted to make our first movie night extra special, so I chose a dog-themed movie that neither of the kids had ever seen before: Old Yeller! It might be nearly 60 years old, but it stands the test of time. I guess the story of boys and their dogs never gets old.

Halloween Puppy Chow with Nutella

You can’t have movie night without a proper snack. And if you’re going to be watching a movie about a dog, how can you night snack on puppy chow? My friend Rachel, of A Southern Fairytale, has the perfect twist on puppy chow for the fall: Halloween Puppy Chow with Nutella! Once you try it, you’ll be celebrating many more milestones with a batch of it.

What milestones are you marking off this month? And how do you celebrate them, big or small?

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Insta-September

SeptemberIG

1. Aren’t my parents the cutest? They’ll celebrate 55 years of marriage at the end of this month. Every day I count my blessings to have them so near and in good health. And, of course, for the wonderful example they set for me when it comes to honoring your marriage vows.

2. I rarely treat myself to pedicures and never treat myself to manicures, so I jumped at the chance to check out the new Beauty Bar at Geist. It’s a gorgeous, full-service salon, but even better? You can enjoy an adult beverage while getting pretty. It was 11 am, so I stuck with coffee, but trust me, I’ll be back!

3. I had so much fun partnering with Comcast Xfinity to host a viewing party for the Colts home opener against that one guy named Peyton and the Broncos. I made my friend, Will Carroll (better knows as injuryexpert), take a selfie with me to distract myself from the losing score. If you have SiriusXM you can catch him weekday afternoons on Bleacher Report Radio from 3-6 pm.

4. I took Eli to meet Colts’ tight end Coby Fleener. I was hoping we’d be BFFs after I casually mentioned that we’ve both written for the Monday Morning Quarterback, but sadly he was not impressed. Or maybe he was just distracted by Eli’s choice of a Detroit Lions hoodie in a sea of Colts gear. And to answer my sister’s question, I am not standing in a hole. Coby is enormous.

5. We ended up at Culver’s on kid’s night. Eli asked if he could get his face painted and I said, “Sure!” and sent him on his merry way. He came back to the table 15 minutes later and I nearly choked on my cheese curd. It was the most terrifying example of face painting on a kid I’ve ever seen. Of course, he loved it.

6. I came across this Dr. Who calendar by a local Indianapolis artist at the Twisted Sisters shop. I know a certain 12-year-old girl Whovian that would love it for Christmas!

7.  On a gorgeous fall evening I hosted some of my favorite people for my first ever attempt at paella. I’m happy to report it turned out great and we didn’t have to order pizza! I’m not so happy to report that the reason for the gathering was to say goodbye to Katy. Did you know we met on a blind date? It’s true! Now she’s off to Boston and I’m terribly sad and stubbornly in denial.  Thanks for a wonderful evening, Sacha, Suzanne and Erin!

8. We had very few requirements when we started looking for a dog. What we did know for sure was that having a dog that didn’t do car rides was a deal breaker. We once had a dog that would start foaming at the mouth at the sight of a car, then proceed to vomit the entire trip (super fun on a 8 hour car ride to Cleveland). As you can see, Gus likes the car, which means he can stay.

9. We spent the last Saturday in September with the lovely blogging community behind Indiana’s Family of Farmers. After a tour of a local cattle farm, we spent the evening in this beautiful little corner of rural Indiana. We feasted on pulled pork from a hog that had been roasted earlier in the day, stuffed ourselves with s’mores, fished, and chatted with friends. As if it wasn’t already a perfect evening, I won a quarter of beef from the Mahan’s cattle!

If you’re not already following me on Instagram already, please do! You can find me there as (the one and only) AngieSix.

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