Anyone who’s ever watched, read or even just heard about the Harry Potter tales will have imagined the magic of receiving your letter inviting you to attend Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Well, now you don’t have to dream, as you can visit the original movie sets themselves on the Warner Bros Studio Tour, all incongruously housed in an un-prepossessing hangar in Hertfordshire.
If your kids are Potter-maniacs, or if you sneakily watch your Potter box-set more than you’d like to admit, this is an unforgettable day out. We think this attraction will especially suit kids over 10, as there’s a lot of walking and more observing rather than ‘doing’.
Starting with the Great Hall, scene of so many feasts and good-versus-evil showdowns, you walk through a series of real sets peppered with character costumes, realistic props and clever little animatronics which make cauldrons stir themselves or owls turn their heads.
Explore the Ministry Of Magic, the Gryffindor Common Room and the Weasleys’ kitchen, then head outside to visit No.4 Privet Drive and Harry’s birthplace in Godric’s Hollow. You can taste Butterbeer – it’s a sickly sweet acquired taste, but kids will love it – have a ride on Hagrid’s flying motorbike and take your picture on the Knight Bus.
Walking through Diagon Alley, full-sized and incredibly detailed is certainly a highlight, as well as Dumbledore’s office filled with all his gadgets – oh, to have a go on the magical Pensieve.
If you’re prepared to brave the queue, your kids can ride a broomstick in the green screen area, which cleverly transposes them onto a scene of their choice (£12).
Don’t miss: The most gasp-inducing section by far is the 1/24th scale model of Hogwarts itself, which was used for all the exterior shots of the castle in the films. Unbelievably intricate, with changing LED lights that take it from dusk to dawn and back again, it’s the size of a house and can take up to half an hour to walk around and take in all the detail.
Top tip: The staff are friendly and very knowledgeable about the making of the films – and will even let you hold the original Tom Riddle’s diary beside the entrance to the Chamber Of Secrets.
How to get there: Located 20 miles North-West of London and less than 3 miles from the M1 and M25 motorways, the postcode for your sat nav is WD25 7GS. Alternatively you can catch the train (unfortunately not the Hogwarts Express) to Watford Junction.
There are direct, fast train services from both London Euston (20 minute journey) and Birmingham New Street (1 hour journey). A regular shuttle bus service runs from the station to the studios.
More information: Tots under 4 years can enter for free, £21.50 per child (5-15) and £29 per adult, with family tickets for four at £85, it’s comparable to a day at a theme park without the rides.
Note: All tickets must be bought in advance online at Warner Bros Studio Tour.