Ever since I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I’ve enjoyed the fact that I share a birthday with Harry and his creator, J. K. Rowling. This year my birthday celebration was extra special because I took my kids on the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London where we got to see some of the original sets, props and costumes that they used in the films. Oh, and drink butterbeer of course!
The kids and I are HUGE Harry Potter fans. I read the series on my own as the books were released, then out loud for each of them as they got old enough. They’ve read the books on their own as well and we can pretty much recite lines from every movie on command since we’ve watched the Blu-rays countless times. To say we were excited to be there would be a huge understatement.
Since it was my birthday, I along with another birthday boy, got to push open the doors leading into the Great Hall. I seriously almost started crying. It was so cool to lead the group into such an amazing set. And that was just the beginning.
Nearly everything on the studio tour is wheelchair friendly. Two notable exceptions were the Hogwarts Express replica and the bridge from the back of the castle where Neville helps fend off the Death Eaters during the final epic battle. If you can climb a short flight of stairs, then you’re in luck: you’ll get to go inside both places. Otherwise, you’ll have to just take photos of your companions from the outside. But don’t worry. There’s still plenty to see and do that is accessible.
The tour is an absolute dream for Potterfiles. Besides the Great Hall, you get to experience the Gryffindor common room, the Weasley’s magical kitchen, Hagrid’s hut, No. 4 Privet Drive, set pieces from the Yule Ball, the Ministry of Magic, the Mirror of Erised, and so much more. Every corner is filled with memorabilia: wigs, costumes, wax heads, architectural renderings, oil paintings — everything that went into creating authentic sets. To quote Ron, it was bloody brilliant.
We booked through Golden Tours which worked out really well for us. They have two pick up points in the city, and the buses have fold down ramps and a wide aisle on the lower deck, making it simple to get on and off. They also play a movie during your drive up from central London. The only drawback to booking through a tour company is that you don’t get to spend as much time wandering through the sets and displays as you would if you went on your own. But since I didn’t want to navigate unfamiliar streets while driving on the wrong side of the road, a tour company was the next best option for us.
And then there’s the butterbeer. The Warner Brothers Studio Tour is one of four places in the world where you can get it. We also tried butterbeer ice cream for the first time and I have to say it’s a little scoop of heaven. Unfortunately, you won’t find the wide variety of food, candy and drinks that they have at the theme parks, (no pumpkin juice or frozen butterbeer drinks here), but they do have a wide variety of gifts and knickknacks in the gift shops. Just be sure to leave enough time for shopping so you don’t miss your bus!
Accessibility: 4.5 out of 5. Aside from a few set pieces, this whole experience is wheelchair friendly and worth every penny. But if you use a tour company to get there, don’t bother buying your butterbeer tickets ahead of time. There’s no cost saving and we ended up paying extra to upgrade to the souvenir cups anyway. Ice cream was also an upgrade.