I really, really wanted to go on the Harry Potter set at Warner Brothers’ Studios near Watford, but for once I was a little worried about what Weasel might think. Normally I wouldn’t care – she’d enjoy herself with some random set of steps or jumping on paving slabs as per usual. But with the cost (£29 age 16+, £21.50 age 5-15, 4 and under free but requiring tickets), the fact that she hadn’t seen the films and the potential for being a wee bit frightened by abso-friggin-lutely everything at the moment, there was a slight hesitation when we were invited.
The Weasel prep began by telling her the basics of the story – wizard school, flying brooms, lots of owls. We moved on to showing her the first film. I’m sure that one wasn’t scary right? Not much Voldemort, no Death Eaters, mostly owls and buying wands right? Should be fine? A pre-screening would have been recommended as we now have a child frightened of giant trolls. In her books they were little things living under bridges and eating goats. Now they’re bloody great big monsters destroying bathrooms. Great. By this point, already booked, so we would forge ahead.
Was Weasel interested? Actually yes. We weren’t sure if a 2.5yo could be interested in a school-based wizard film. She unexpectedly loved quidditch and was entranced by the brooms in front of the green screens and all the footage. She developed an obsession with where Harry Potter was, pointing out in all the models where his bedroom was according to her. It was lovely to see her wandering around (well, as much as she could ‘wander around’ on Husband’s shoulders) with her mouth agape, really genuinely in awe. She doesn’t yet understand the difference between reality and film, so to her, this genuinely was where Harry Potter lived despite the missing walls and tiny models. And a passport book to get stamped at various stations was always going to be a hit.
Was Weasel scared? Not really. Thankfully there didn’t seem to be any troll-related bits. Even the monster room, with all the animatronics, masks and costumes didn’t seem to phase her. I know many adults who wouldn’t have been able to walk under the giant spider, but she was excited by it all. She did get a bit pissed off that she couldn’t go into Harry Potter’s childhood home (see, obsessed with where he lived, but an odd place for her even to remember from the film).
Pushchair Access – This is a bit of a sore point with me. The WB website says only a certain number are allowed in at a time and that it’s recommended that everyone check them into the cloak room before entering the studios for their time slot. As it takes about 3 hours to go around, this is a massive feat when you have 2 under 3’s and all their related paraphernalia. But we did it. We checked the damn thing in despite Suvester’s screaming about going in her new Ergo carrier through the whole queue. What did we find in there? Ramps to every damn thing and the only thing that might have been difficult to board would have been the triple-decker Knight bus on the backlot, which we didn’t go onto anyways. No matter what you do, take your damn pushchair in. Given there was like 1 other baby there amongst hundreds of people, something tells me they don’t exactly reach their limited pushchair allowance ever.
Food – Not as expensive as I was expecting it to be. They did have a magical skill though of taking what sounded and looked like great food taste of absolutely nothing. We paid like £5 for a pork and Asian salad dish and it literally tasted of nothing. I would rather pay twice the price and have something where I could have told the difference between eating it or Suvster’s plain rice cakes. They managed to make a bacon baguette taste of nothing too. That’s some serious magic to erase the flavour of bacon. Take a picnic, or some hot sauce. Thankfully friends provided some snuck in cake. Yum, flavour to get me through!
No, she won’t take the damn sunglasses off for lunch.
It was one of those days where both wanted to sit on Husband’s lap at lunch instead of eating, leaving me secretly pleased I’m the least favourite parent.
Changing: They definitely had facilities, although we only used the ones just before we went in, next to the cafe. There were loos everywhere for your toddlers too including some in the monsters room and in the giant main set.
Butterbeer! My conclusion is that if you’re American you will like it. They serve it at the stand out on the backlot and it’s a lot like cream soda. We got one between us, but I’m wishing we would have ordered 4 for me to finish them all off. It turns out I was definitely in the minority of butterbeer lovers. Weasel on the other hand thought we were trying to trick her into something and cried whenever it came near her.
So why the (not quite so) Latin-y title? Due to lack of pushchair and a sleepy Weasel, she demanded to be carried for 3 HOURS. Three Damn Hours. Thankfully I had the other lump on me, saving myself a whole 8 pounds difference in weight lifting. Poor Husband. And then there was the giftshop. I was looking forward to all the HP stuff in the giftshop. I was thinking I might find a ‘Team Weasely’ kids t-shirt or kick-ass babygrow for the lump. But no, sadly it was all proper stuff and the internet is more of a treasure trove for anything for young kids. We promised Weasel a wand, and to be honest I was happy letting her pick out the wand she wanted from the display, even at £25 a pop. It’s special right? That’s until a) she picked out the one she could most likely kill a small sister with (Voldemort’s of course, she is called Weasel for her dark side) and then screamed repeatedly “GIVE ME THAT WAND NOOOOOW!” in front of like 50 people, most of whom looked at me to see how I would react to this diva-like behaviour. For sheer embarrassment factor she’s lucky she didn’t get dragged out right then. She ended up with the cheap pen version of Harry Potter’s wand that comes with bookmarks that they keep next to the till for £10 instead. Make the terrible 2’s end soon please….