We recently returned to the Harry Potter Studios Tour London for their Goblet of Fire Event. We have visited the tour many times before, only this time, we brought along our eight-year-old, newly minted Harry Potter fan for his first trip.
The Goblet of Fire Event
The main reason for this trip was to experience the Goblet of Fire special event which is running at the Harry Potter Studios Tour until September 23rd. Special events are a regular occurrence at the tour, with an annual Dark Arts event over Halloween and Hogwarts in The Snow over the winter holiday season. Each event scatters special features throughout the tour in order to make your every visit a little different.
The most obvious Goblet of Fire addition to the tour, apart from the gigantic Triwizard Cup in the lobby, is the Goblet of Fire itself which is located inside the Great Hall. The cup stands inside an age line and if you stand close by you might just be the lucky person who catches a piece of parchment flying out from inside during a special effects demonstration. If you’re not the lucky one, don’t worry, you can pick one up from a box in the next room to take home.
Some of the other Goblet of Fire items on show for the first time ever are the magical, multi-colored taps from the prefect’s bathroom, Tom Riddle’s gravestone, and the pensieve – be sure to look deep inside that one, and keep watching… There isn’t really enough new material on display to warrant a visit purely for the Goblet of Fire event, not unless you’re a true die-hard Potterhead, but as with other events they add a nice twist for returning visitors looking for new things to spot without completely overtaking the experience for first-timers.
Visiting the Harry Potter Studios Tour with a Child and The Potential For Spoilers
Although we are regular visitors to the Harry Potter Studios Tour, this was our first time with a child in tow. I had been unsure about bringing my son to the tour for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t entirely sure if my fidgety eight-year-old would actually enjoy it all the way through, after all, large parts of the tour involve simply standing and looking at static sets from a distance.
I needn’t have worried on this point, he was enthralled from the moment we set foot inside the building and is already asking to return again soon. The one area of the tour he was unsure about was the Forbidden Forest, easily the scariest section for kids and adults alike. In the end, he decided he wasn’t going to visit Aragog’s lair but this wasn’t a problem because the tour is designed so that the Aragog section can easily be bypassed even while still visiting the rest of the Forbidden Forest.
Second, there was the spoiler situation. My son is currently halfway through the series and is about to start Order of The Phoenix, which means there is a lot of potential for spoilers.
For the most part, we did OK on this front. While there are a few sets specifically from the later films, notably Malfoy Manor, Umbridge’s Office, and the Ministry of Magic, none of these really gave away any important plot points and we were able to walk through them without problems. The only set that provides a notable plot spoiler is in Diagon Alley where my son immediately picked up Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which members of the Weasley Family are the most likely to open a shop like that at some point…
My son did get caught out by two fairly large spoilers for The Deathly Hallows during the tour. The first was an image of Hogwarts on fire which he came across while flipping through pictures on an interactive display about special effects. The second came courtesy of a video screen I hadn’t spotted which was playing a loop of some scenes from the later films, I had been trying to steer him away from the screens whenever I spotted scenes he hasn’t come to yet. Realising he was suddenly acting morose, I asked what was wrong to learn he had caught sight of Dobby in Harry’s arms at Shell Island.
Keeping your kids completely spoiler free for the later Harry Potter stories is virtually impossible these days now that we are well out of even the most generous spoiler-free grace period. However, it goes without saying that by visiting the Harry Potter Studios Tour before finishing the series, they are almost guaranteed to come away having spotted at least a few spoilers, so take this into consideration when deciding when to visit.
Broom Flying and Other Photo Experiences
Having a child along for the trip made the Harry Potter Studios Tour new again for me, despite this being my fifth visit. His presence made us join in with a lot of the activities we would usually skip, key among these being broom flying. This is easily the most immersive and thrilling experience at the tour for kids (and plenty of adults too) as it allows you to climb aboard one of the broom rigs used to film the flying sequences in the films.
Before your broom flight, you get to pick out some official robes to wear. The photographers have all sizes available from teeny tiny kids robes to full-sized adult ones, and yes, they have them in all four house colors. In fact, I noticed more people mounting brooms in Hufflepuff robes than any other color while we were waiting in line. Once you have donned your new robes, you are led to one of several green screen booths where you mount your broom and take off on a flying visit over London. Screens are located directly in front of the person flying so they can see themselves in flight, and also outside the booths so the rest of the group can also watch, although this is one of only two areas of the tour where photography and video are not permitted.
After your experience, you can take your ticket along to the photo desk and purchase either a still shot or a video of your flight. The Harry Potter Studios Tour had kindly provided us with photo vouchers so we were able to bring home one of the still shots on this trip. Usually, the photos cost £14 each, two for £20 (three different backgrounds are available), or £25 for a USB or DVD of the two-minute film of your flight across London. Additionally, purchasing a photo gives you a code to download a digital copy of your photo for social media, this is a nice touch as many tourist attractions charge extra for digital copies.
There are two other green screen paid photo opportunities in the Harry Potter Studios Tour.
The first comes while you are in line for the broom photos and is a simple photo with a green screen background which can either be done as a group or individually. This picture is then framed in the classic “Have You Seen These Wizards” wanted poster style frame seen in the films. The final green screen photo opp is on Platform 9 ¾ where you get to sit inside a replica Hogwarts carriage. You are talked through an action sequence and get to watch some countryside speed past the window. Later, you can purchase a photo of your group sat in the carriage with a choice of scenes outside. Again, thanks to the Harry Potter Studios Tour providing us with vouchers, we were able to bring home some copies of these.
Other Fun Activities For Children
As well as looking at the sets, lots of fun activities are scattered through the tour to keep younger visitors entertained. Upon arrival, kids (and adults if they wish) receive a small, free, Passport booklet. There are six stamp stations throughout the tour which emboss designs into the pages of your passport, although younger kids might need the help of an adult because pushing the stamp down with enough force to leave a good impression can be tough.
The Passport also lists the locations of the hidden Golden Snitches which kids can check off as they spot them. Caution: you will need a good set of eyes, those are some sneaky Snitches! Finally, the Passport has questions kids can answer by finding out information on the tour (or by turning to the back page should you miss any.)
Some of the other activities that will interest kids throughout the tour include learning some wand dueling techniques from the choreographer who designed the wand fighting style for the films, using motion capture to make Dobby dance, and learning to levitate a broom. While these activities might be primarily aimed at kids, there are no age restrictions on anything and adults are actively encouraged to have a go as well.
Many of the static sets also have interactive elements and screens nearby that kids can use. The Weasley kitchen has four different points where you can wave your hand to make a knife chop carrots, a scrubbing brush clean a pan in the sink, or perform other chores. If only it was that easy in real life.
Finally, the Backlot Cafe serves Butterbeer, both in drink and ice cream form. Both my husband and I find the Butterbeer drink far too sweet for our tastes, but love the ice cream. My son didn’t like the ice cream very much either but was content with some donuts from the hot food counter. All our food was complimentary on this visit, but a portion of mini donuts and dip will usually set you back £4.50 while Butterbeer ice cream costs around £4 for a cone or £7 for a souvenir dish/tankard with similar prices for the drink.
Of course, all good tourist attractions end with a gift shop, and as the Harry Potter Studios Tour is a better attraction than most, it has three. The shop at the end of the tour is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen with beautiful themed displays and every type of item you could want from clothing to toys to replicas to a fully stocked larder of Honeydukes treats. It’s also as expensive as you’re imagining so budget accordingly, we ended up dropping £20 on a plush Crookshanks while a single (although admittedly life-size and solid) chocolate frog will set you back an eye-watering £9. Many thanks to the Harry Potter Studios Tour for providing my family with a chocolate frog each on this visit!
This shop is dangerous. On our first two visits we ended up spending in the triple figures and we didn’t exactly have a huge amount of items to show for it. We have noticed that the merchandise hasn’t changed much over the years though, so repeat visitors should find their bank balances won’t be quite as drained on return trips.
It’s also worth noting that while much of the merchandise on offer is unique to the Harry Potter Studios Tour, a lot isn’t. The shops sell items including Funko Pops, copies of the books, and various games, all of which can be purchased elsewhere, often at far lower prices so I highly recommend saving your money for the unique items.
While the main Studios Shop at the end is by far the biggest with the widest selection, there are two smaller ones earlier on, both of which contain unique merchandise not available anywhere else, including at the big shop at the end. The first shop is at the end of the Forbidden Forest section and contains lots of dark creature merchandise (stay out if you have severe arachnophobia), while the second is on Platform 9 ¾ and is a Hogwarts Express lovers dream. If you want something from these shops you need to buy it while you’re there because the tour runs on a one-way system and you won’t be able to return later on.
The Future of The Harry Potter Studios Tour
Since it opened in 2012, the Harry Potter Studios Tour has undergone several expansions beginning with the addition of Platform 9 ¾ in 2015 and continuing with the Forbidden Forest in 2017. The location looks set to continue this growth very soon, as visitors are currently greeted by the sight of massive construction work taking place and a third building being erected. There is no official information available about what this new building will contain (my family has guessed at Gringotts, Hogsmeade, or a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them building), but I’m sure we will be visiting again to explore the new expansion no matter what goes inside it!
The Harry Potter Studios Tour is easily my favorite attraction in the UK. Yes, it is expensive, both in terms of entry cost (£41 per adult, £33 per child) and the food and merchandise inside, there is no getting around that point. However, for Harry Potter fans, it is simply amazing and easily as good as the American theme parks. I’m already itching to visit again, but for now, it’s Mischief Managed once again!
GeekMom received entry to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and extras for review purposes.