To say this tour surpassed all my expectations would be an understatement. It was simply incredible! The amount to do and see makes the tour well worth the entry price and a must see for any Potter fan.
If you've got no idea what I'm talking about (where have you been?) the tour is a chance for fans to step behind the scenes of the film series and see the props, sets and costumes from the Harry Potter films. I won't spend too long talking about the tours layout and structure but basically after a short film and an introduction in the Great Hall you're free to explore at your own leisure. The tour, itself consists of three areas: Studios J and K (I see what you did there Warner Bros.) and the Backlot.
Studio J is made up mainly of different sets from the films adorned with props and costumes. This area was the highlight for me. Walking into the Great Hall was truly awe-inspiring and none of the sets disappointed. One thing which struck me was the amount of detail and work which went into making these films, much of which was barely seen on screen. As well as the sets, there is a section dedicated to the special effects of the different magical methods of transport, including a chance to ride a broomstick and the Ford Anglia. This is probably the main activity you can take part in and photos are reasonably priced (especially if you're with a group). Some of the other interactive elements of the tour include activating special effects in the Burrow and touch screens allowing you to really explore different sets up close.
The backlot featured some amazing features, including the Knight Bus and Privet Drive. However the main draw out here is the chance to try Butterbeer. This was something I was incredibly excited about after being told how delicious it is in Orlando. Unfortunately this was the one aspect of the tour which let me down. Although it was much cheaper than expected (only £3, compared with the £8 I heard online), I just couldn't drink it due to how sweet it was. But this might just be me as everyone else seemed to enjoy it.
After the backlot you step into the creature shop. This really illustrated the technical skill in the films from the animatronics of Werewolf Lupin to the special effects used in the Merpeople and dragons. There is so much to see in here but the most incredible had to be the moving Buckbeak model which was just unbelievable. Also, quick word of warning, if you're an arachnophobe (like me) look out for Aragog. It terrified me.
Next is the Diagon Alley set, which was breathtaking. I've already mentioned the incredible detail in this tour but this set really enforces just how much wok went into these films. Every shop is dressed meticulously with little homages to the books, much of which would be impossible to see on screen. For example, Florean Fortescues Ice Cream Parlour was built for the set and fully decorated, but never seen on screen. To truly appreciate the art an craftsmanship which was devoted to these movie you need to see this tour.
At this point things begin to wrap up with a gallery of gorgeous concept art, much of which I've never seen before, and intricate models of Hogsmeade and the Burrow. However the best is yet to come. After leaving this gallery you walk into a room with a huge scale model of Hogwarts castle. I was stunned! I'd heard about this beforehand but in reality it was much bigger than I expected. So much care and passion clearly went into designing this castle for the films and any Potter fan will be blown away by the craftsmanship and finally being able to see Hogwarts up close. Truly the perfect end to the perfect day.
Quick word on the gift shop, set a budget. Otherwise you may never leave.
Afterthought: It's just my luck that the day after I visit the Christmas decorations were put up. Oh well, gives me reason to visit next year!