A Fun-Filled Family Weekend Part 2 – Hollywood Bowl & Harry Potter

At the beginning of the Summer Holidays, my family and I bundled into three cars and drove down to Milton Keynes for such much needed family fun.  You can read all about the first day of our trip at Gulliver’s Land in my previous post.

Our accommodation for the weekend was the Redwings Lodge in Dunstable.  I had considered writing a review of the hotel, but to be honest there wasn’t that much to say and my Dad sort of beat me to it.  If you’d like to read my Dad’s review on his blog, you can find it here.

Our main planned activity for Day 2 was a trip to the Harry Potter studio tour (we have quite a few HP fanatics in the family) . As we weren’t booked into the tour until 3pm, we were left with time to kill so we decided to have a round of ten-pin bowling at a nearby Hollywood Bowl.

I’ve never been to a Hollywood Bowl before but I did really enjoy it.  The lanes were well spaced and had all the mod cons (including automated gutter guards which were a little temperamental).  The neon lighting gave the place a party feel and we easily passed an hour of two.  I never saw the official final scores but I think I came in the top 3 (not that I’m competitive!)

After a quick play on the arcades and a lovely dinner at Chiquitos, we were finally on our way to our main destination.  The Warner Bros Studio Tour or, as my girls decided to name it, Harry Potter Land.

We were booked onto the tour at 3pm, so we arrived 15 minutes early in order to get through the various ticket and bag checking stations.  Entry to the tour was smooth and pain-free and before we knew it we were standing front of the doors to the Great Hall waiting for the tour to begin.

I’ve been to the Harry Potter Studio tour a few times now and I really appreciated the fact that they keep it feeling fresh with expansions and new attractions.  They often have a themed exhibition running, which means there is usually something new to see.

On our recent visit, there was a new Goblet of Fire exhibition, with props, costumes, sets and tableaux taken from the fourth instalment in the Harry Potter franchise. (Incidentally, possibly my favourite of the films.

I particular loved these amazing brightly coloured taps from the scene in the Prefect’s bathroom.  The most exciting item of all though had to be the actual, fully functioning Goblet of Fire, which produced flames before spitting out a scrap of paper showing the name of one of the Triwizard Tournament champions.

The studio tour had expanded significantly since my last visit.  Most of the areas were larger than before and there were two completely new sections of the tour: Platform 9 and 3/4, complete with the Hogwarts Express and the spooky Forbidden Forest.

Platform 9 and 3/4 was easily worth the slight increase in the entry price.  The Hogwarts Express looked absolutely majestic – although it would obviously have been even better if we could have gone for a little ride!

As you walk around the tour there are plenty of opportunities to interact with your surroundings.  The girls particularly enjoyed having a go at duelling with wands.  Miss Mess was something of a natural and what Mini Mess lacked in technique she certainly made up for in enthusiasm and a violent need to destroy things.

If you were so inclined, there were also plenty of opportunities to part with your money during the tour.  There were at least 3 different set-ups where you could have a green-screen experience where you could create a photo or video to take home as a souvenir.  None of these experiences were particularly kind on the bank balance.

The girls desperately wanted to have a go on the flying broomstick experience.  It did look like a lot of fun, but at £20 for a 2-minute video clip, I didn’t feel like it was great value for money.  Luckily the girls had a very generous uncle who offered to pay for their videos, but I doubt everyone is in the same position.

If you get peckish or thirsty as you walk around there is a large cafe area on hte backlot, where you can buy light meals, snacks, desserts and drinks.  Most importantly, here you’ll find the famous Butterbeer and now, Butterbeer ice-cream!  Miss Mess and I shared a stein of Butterbeer (she loved it!) while Mini Mess tried the ice-cream (and didn’t share!)

The tour guides were all incredibly friendly and informative and extra merit has to go to the lady below (name unknown) who allowed  Freya to bombard her with questions about the prosthetic and makeup effects in the films.

Another very kind lady also allowed the girls to take control of the Hogwarts Express, pressing the buttons to produce the steam and the whistle, which they thought was great fun!

Before we could leave, we of course had to have the obligatory scout around the gift shop. (There are now 3 in the tour, but we prefer the big one at the end).  The girls were treated to a few bits by the grandparents and I tried hard to be very restrained and just bought a Ravenclaw Head Boy/Girl badge for myself & Mr Mess and some Hogwarts House notebooks which were on sale. (You can never have enough notebooks, right?

Overall, we had a simply magical (See what I did there?) time at the Warner Bros Studio tour and the girls are already asking when we can go back for another visit.  We were at the tour for around 4-5 hours, and if I’d taken the time to read and examine every single item I think we could have been there until they kicked us out.

Although after entry tickets, food, drink and souvenirs, the cost of the day can add up quickly, it is a great day out, especially if you’re a big Harry Potter fan.  There is also currently a Fantastic Beasts expansion under construction, so it just keeps getting better and better.

I’m hoping our next visit will be for Hogwarts at Christmas, when they cover the Hogwarts model in snow!  

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