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Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It’s 15 years since the film Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out and having watched the film recently with the twins, it is still as gripping and fascinating as it was the first time I watched it with Tommy and Megan.

J.K Rowling really did have an excellent idea the day she wrote her notes down on a scrap of paper whilst sitting on a delayed train. She has captivated the world with her stories ever since and I love watching the twins work their way through her books. Alice is currently on the 4th book, The Order of the Phoenix and Bessie is polishing off  the 3rd, The Goblet of Fire. We keep on at her to finish so we can sit down and watch the third film together.

As a special treat for the girls I arranged with Warner Bros to take the girls to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford. They are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film and as you can imagine there are a lot of extras to be had on the tour.

The twins were wowed from the car park onwards and didn’t tire of touring all day long. In fact they are still talking about it now and took their Harry Potter passports into school to show their friends.

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What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a trip behind the scenes to see the sets, make up, costumes, props and the area of creativity where the filming took place. It was an amazing day out and one I am sure we shall repeat at some point as the girls work their way through the other books.

From the moment you start your tour you are guided through the history of the film making by tour guides who are incredibly knowledgeable and can answer all of your questions as you follow the tour.

harry-potter-cloaks-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It all starts with a film and explanation, the history is just as fascinating as the sets themselves, there is so much to take in you certainly won’t be bored.

The tour leads you through the sets and in celebration of the 15th Anniversary there are special extras on the way through. The girls were intrigued to see how the letters flying through the letterbox of Privet Drive was created and they got to take a letter home each with special Hogwarts seal on it too.

Harry Potter Passports

The girls were handed a passport each at the front desk and told to look out for hidden snitches as we followed the tour around. This made the tour even more interactive for them. They also really enjoyed finding the machines to get their passports stamped although dad and I had to step in to make sure they embossed the pages properly.

What does Butterbeer taste like?

butterbeer-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

I was determined to try it and we decided on one glass of butterbeer and two butterbeer ice creams for the girls.

I really enjoyed it although the girls and dad didn’t. The way I’d describe it is a sweet fizzy drink that’s not over fizzy with a similar taste to cola and on top a thick creamy head that lasts right to the bottom of the glass. Think of a coke float but the cream doesn’t melt. If I return I shall definitely order another and maybe even get a souvenir glass next time.

The Broomstick video

Harry Potter Studio Tour review

This was another must on our first visit and both twins thoroughly enjoyed it. First we had a photo taken with our cloaks on and wands and then we followed the queue around and the girls got to sit on a broomstick and make their own video. Be warned this is not cheap though. We payed £60 for the two USB sticks and one photo.

The Harry Potter shop

honeydukes-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It is a huge shop and if you don’t stay together you will likely lose each other. You can find all sorts of memorabilia from wands (£26.95), to clothes to notebooks, to fridge magnets. There is something for everyone including a lot of sweets from Honeydukes. This then brings you out to the entrance hall where it all started.

Our verdict of the Harry Potter Studio Tour

EXCELLENT. Top marks from all of us, dad grumbled about the prices in the shop. He also grumbled at the queues for the various photo stops and broomstick flying but he always does that.

In his defence, if you can go on a school day I imagine it would be much quieter, I’d also advise being on the first tour or one towards the later part of the day. Our tour started at 10am and we didn’t exit the tour until gone 2pm. We stopped for lunch in Backlot Cafe and ordered mac n cheese for the girls and hot dogs for us (go easy on the mustard as it is hot!)

One tour guide told us the longest amount of time some guests stayed on the tour was 13 hours and you will see some hardcore Harry Potter fans whilst you are there.

Disclosure: We were given a family entrance ticket to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.

natural history museum london

The Natural History Museum is always a good idea and it’s somewhere I hadn’t taken the girls to so we were incredibly excited to visit recently and take in the Colour and Vision Exhibition before it closes on the 6th November.

The Colour and Vision Exhibition is the tale of the evolution of colour and vision and it explains how the earliest life on earth evolved into the enormous variety of colours we see in the natural world today. It shows rare species and specimens that demonstrate how colour is used in nature; a warning – the black stripes on a snake, a disguise like the chameleon or as a method of attraction, yes those wild colours on faces and bottoms that are quite unbelievable.

colour and vision exhibition

The girls were equally intrigued and repulsed by a creepy wall of real eyes that showcased eyes from all types of animals with a list to refer to to discover who the eye belonged to.

There were also three LG OLED 4K TV screens displaying images of the human eye as we walked around the exhibition, you could scan your own eye and add it to the 4K photography exhibition.

 

There is a lot of technology behind the exhibition and the above video shows the LG OLED tunnel which is really fascinating to watch and must have been even more fabulous to see and walk through.

Natural History Museum

Anyway back to our day out, it started of course with the dinosaur in the main hall and can I say that I thought it was small? This is clearly because I have a memory of visiting as a child and the dinosaur towering over me and seemed to take up the entire hall. Now either I have grown up or they’ve changed dino since I last went! The twins were still impressed though and that is the important bit.

natural history museum dinosaur

From there we walked down to the Colour and Vision exhibition and spent a good half an hour roaming around taking in all of the interesting facts about the evolution of these senses. I was happy to see lots of interactive stations which kept the girls amused and switched on. The image below shows words and colours, you collected the colours from boxes on the wall and associated them with each of the words.

colour vision exhibition

We walked around the entire exhibition and then made our way through the Human Biology part which we all found really interesting. It’s a part of the museum I never tire of and the sensation of sitting in the womb is one I’ll never tire of.

We continued our journey into the centre of the earth and the girls were able to read about volcanoes, earthquakes and take a look at all the crystals and gems found on our planet – needless to say, thanks to the museum shop, we have a huge collection of crystals and ‘gems’ on the windowsill.

One of the most memorable parts of this area was the simulation of an earthquake where you enter a space and at a given moment it starts to shake and tremor as if you were experiencing a real earthquake. The set is a supermarket in Japan and you watch as products topple over on the shelves and you watch a video of shelves falling over. Big thumbs up for my two.

natural history museum

 

It was a truly memorable day out and I’m sure we shall return again at some point as it is impossible to see all of the museum and take it all in in one go. The girls loved it and so did we and although we visited on a Saturday there was still plenty of space to walk around.

natural history musuem

Top tips for visiting the Natural History Museum

  1. Arrive early, there is a lot to see and later in the day the museum will get busier.
  2. Do your research before so you have a clear idea of what you want to see first. You’ll be surprised how quickly time passes by.
  3. The museum is split into four colour-coded areas, there are plenty of maps and signs around but it’s worth looking at the map online to work out where you’d like to go.
  4. Print out the PDF from the website, as maps cost £1 once you are there.
  5. As with all London attractions, food and drink is premium so take water with you and snacks or treat yourself at the excellent restaurant or cafe.

Disclosure: We were provided with travel and tickets to the Colour and Vision Exhibition for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.

elveden Forest

If you could hear me I would have started this post with a sigh of contentment, a lovely relaxing ‘ahhhh’ which encourages a huge smile and all my facial muscles to relax.

Let me explain.

I have recently returned from a short break. I left my husband and family behind and together with some colleagues from work I headed off to the forest for a long weekend. It was a Friday, the girls were at school, husband at work, Tommy too and Baxter would be looked after by next door. As I sat in the backseat driving along the motorway, further and further from home, I allowed my excitement to bubble to the surface and I started to forget about packed lunches, spellings to learn, dance bags that needed washing and my weekly shopping list.

I hadn’t even arrived yet but I was most certainly in the short break spirit.

There’s something about a short break that’s almost as exciting as a holiday, in fact scrap that, it’s better as it’s a break in normality. It’s two fingers to routine, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s naughty. Like a secret indulgence that is to be savoured and remembered long after it’s been and gone.

elveden forest

On this occasion I was going on a girly weekend but it would be just the same if I was to travel with my family. It’s the getting away from it all that is key to the enjoyment.

It’s the leaving everything behind; the worries, the work, the washing, the ironing and the constant feeling of being on a treadmill that never stops.

It’s the ‘throw some bits in a bag and jump in the car’ escapism that adds to the thrill.

elveden forest

On that note, you can see it’s less stressful than packing for a two week summer holiday; will it be hot, do I need a cardigan, don’t forget your sun cream. This is a weekend bag, I need my toothbrush, a couple of changes and my coat. So easy!

Will it rain? Most likely yes, but on a short break it’s not a problem, we can sit in and light the fire, we can watch that DVD we’ve been threatening to for months. We can cook our favourite meals, or even take a walk in the rain.

Pack the wellies! A last minute thought but one that works, after all we’re going in the car and there’s plenty of room.

elveden forest treehouse

I cannot tell you how good I feel after my Center Parcs short break, we’re all still talking about in the office and everyone enjoyed it so much there’s already a conversation about repeating the experience next year.

In case you’re wondering what I got up to on my short break, well, I ate a super burger that was delicious and worth every penny. I walked for miles filling my lungs with the pine smell of the forest, I saw treehouses, squirrels, baby deer playing and birds, lots of birds. I went bowling and lost, I talked until gone midnight with a glass of wine in my hand (might have been two).

I ate Bouillabaisse and danced until midnight in heels – yes me in heels! Dancing!

I went on the most amazing Aerial Adventure and slid down the zip wire whooping at the top of my voice across the lake. An amazing experience.

elveden forest zipwire

I spent an afternoon in a spa floating from one steam room to the next, each one a different theme, Indian, Tyrolean, Balinese. I closed my mind and concentrated on me.

I vowed to do this short break lark more often.

Oh yes, go on a short break, you’ll love it.

Turner contemporary art

Turner Contemporary If there’s one thing you do visit whilst in Thanet I would make it the Turner Contemporary Gallery which sits at the beginning of the pier arm in Margate overlooking the long sandy beach. A contemporary white building that shines out over the bay and grabs everyone’s attention. I recently visited to take a look at the Seeing Round Corners exhibition and I wasn’t disappointed. The gallery is free to enter and explore and I am always in awe of the exhibitions and artwork laid out. This time was no exception and my tour started outside the building on my walk up the steps to the entrance where I spotted this fabulous interpretation of the Union Jack. I love how all of the different patterns fall into a perfect Union Jack which is immediately recognisable.

the new union jack

Yinka Shonibare

As I stepped through the entrance I found myself in a library. It was, in fact, Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library. On closer inspection, you could see that each of the books lining the shelves had been covered in brightly coloured fabric, a bit like we used to cover our school books back in the day. When you moved in even closer, names printed in gold could be spotted on the spines of the books, lots of very recognisable names.

Yinka-Shonibare-The-British-Library

Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library celebrates and questions how immigration has contributed to the British culture of today. Shelves and shelves of books covered in colourful wax fabric the spines bearing the names of immigrants who have enriched British society.

Yinka-Shonibare

Mark Batchelor

There are some steps leading to the upper level and these are never left without any artwork to admire on your way up. In fact this time I was smiling as I spotted the Mini Disco by Mark Batchelor hanging from the ceiling in perfect symmetry.

Mini-Disco-by-Mark-Batchelor

If you look even closer you will see that each disco ball is made entirely out of colourful plastic sunglasses, but aren’t they effective?

There is a great shop to visit which has so many wonderful things from jewellery to colouring books and I always come away with something no matter how small.

There are also workshops held upstairs for adults and children and I really want to take the twins along one day as I am sure they would gain enormously from being inspired by the work around them and just having a go at something new.

The exhibition is upstairs and includes all sorts of mediums, from art, to sculpture and also video and motion pieces. It’s really interesting and I always wish I could come up with some of these grand ideas that I see displayed.

Back down stairs I popped through the corridors to see what was hanging and was struck by these posters. It saddens me that people amongst us can be so cruel to say such things.

Turner-Contemporary-

Richard Long

As I exited the gallery and started to make me way over to Dreamland where dad was with the girls I looked back, and thank goodness I did otherwise I would have missed this enormous wall art called The Ebb Tide Circle Richard Long. It is painted on the wall and Richard Long uses his body to get the effect of movement. Fascinating.

EbbTide-Circle-Richard-Long

Keep up to date with the Turner Contemporary by checking their website (link at the top of the text) and their Facebook page

Hogwarts express

Kids love dressing up. Let’s be honest, adults love dressing up. In fact I’m not sure whether I know anyone that doesn’t love dressing up.

There are so few opportunities to don your favourite costume as you get older, but playing fancy dress can be a great activity for all of the family to enjoy. With that in mind, here are some fantastic days out for you and the kids where dressing up is fully encouraged…

The V&A Museum of Childhood
Whether or not you decide to dress up, this museum is more than worth a visit. Toys from the latest Pixar films share space with 1970s Barbie dolls and various Victorian creations. In fact, there really is something for everyone here. On top of that the V&A Museum regularly holds children’s activity sessions, including the chance to dress up as a true Victorian.

The Marvel Universe Live

Think of this like going to see an Avengers film at the cinema, except all the superheroes are really there and the CGI is replaced with some thrilling stunts and daring pyrotechnics. Of course, you don’t have to come dressed up as your favourite comic book character when it tours the UK, but don’t be surprised to find that you’re in the minority if you don’t.

Sutton Hoo

Two of the key players in the Marvel Universe are Thor and Loki, yet neither were actually invented by Stan Lee and are in fact figures from ancient Viking mythology. To explore more of this period you can go to Sutton Hoo, where there are ghost ships, ancient archaeological finds and ancient burial mounds to explore. Of course, there’s also the chance to dress up as an Anglo-Saxon villager.

Warner Bros Studio Tour

They say this is the Warner Bros Studio Tour. They say that if you visit you’ll get the chance to look at “sets” or “props”. But let’s call this place by its proper name. This is Hogwarts, or at least as close as you’ll get to it in the real world. And if you’re going to Hogwarts, it’s only right to be dressed in the appropriate school uniform. The real question is, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin?

Simon Plumb - lyme house

Credit: Simon Plumb

Lyme Park

Lyme Park is a stately home with all kinds of activities on offer, from Archery to adventures with Charlie & Lola. Perhaps most fun of all is the chance to dress up as an Edwardian and perform your own period drama re-enactments. The kids can join in as well, of course, or they can watch the Charlie & Lola show while leaving the fancy dress to the grown ups.

Nine Worlds

Another one for kids and grown-ups alike, this is a sci-fi convention with a real emphasis on inclusivity. There are games, talks and activities for all ages here and you can expect to find people in everything from Star Trek uniforms to full suits of armour wandering the hotel. It would be a shame if you didn’t all have costumes of your own, wouldn’t it?

Disclosure: A collaborative post