Wingardium Leviosa! Magical family days out for Harry Potter fans
Harry Potter changed children's reading habits overnight, I was teaching when the books were first published and every other student seemed to be reading Harry Potter in my English classes. The books have been devoured by the many fans and as such day trips out to celebrate the books and films are often high on the wish lists of young people. Here we round up some of the best days out that celebrate everything Harry Potter.
1. Warner Bros Studio have The Making of Harry Potter and this attraction is top of the list for many seeking a magical day out. It’s the place to step onto the famous cobbles of Diagon Alley, wander into the Great Hall and have half a pint of Butterbeer. The day out is pricey and often requires quite a bit of booking in advance but it is magical for real fans and a trip to remember. My children have loved having their photos taken in the key locations. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London Studio Tour Drive Leavesden WD25 7LR
2. A cheaper alternative is a walking tour in London. Companies like Brit Movie Tours offer walking tours that take in the iconic London locations and over the space of two hours they visit the site where Ron, Harry and Hermione infiltrate the Ministry using polyjuice potion from The Deathly Hallows, see the ticket barriers Arthur Weasley struggles to go through with Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and more. The tours will suit older children due to the walking involved and provide plenty of photo and selfie opportunities to share on social media.
3. If a walking tour is too physical -- and for my six-year-old it would be -- there are also bus tours that may suit younger visitors. Little ones like mine will still delight in the bus tours, which take in many of the landmark sights and promise you'll enjoy a fun-packed excursion through various locations from the films including Kings Cross Station with Platform 9¾. You’ll see a side to London you never imagined while reliving many of your favourite moments from the eight films in this fascinating experience to remember.
4. You don't need to be in London to celebrate Harry Potter: Gloucester Cathedral was extensively used during filming, and whilst filming took place, the cathedral was cloaked in secrecy. The Cathedral guides are very knowledgeable about what areas were used in filming and, again, it provides the perfect photo opportunity. Even when it comes to Harry Potter, the kids will eventually get fractious because of rumbling tummies -- whilst at the Cathedral do visit the coffee shop because they have a delicious range of homemade cakes and the famous Pilgrims Pie, all very reasonably priced. What we love about the Cathedral is that it is situated in the centre of Gloucester, making it accessible. There is also plenty of green space around for a play after a tour. We live in Gloucester and there is plenty more to do in the city after visiting the Cathedral including the Beatrix Potter Shop which is nearby. 12 College Green, Gloucester GL1 2LX
5. In Oxford you can book a variety of walking tours that take you to locations that inspired the films or are actually featured in scenes, including gorgeous Oxford University buildings (the cost of the entry fees to the colleges may not be included in the tour price). Check out Footprint Tours and Experience Oxfordshire, among others.
6. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is Hogwarts…or at least the exterior is. You can also see the courtyard where Harry hopped on a broomstick. It also brings history to life and gives visitors the opportunity to fly their own broomstick. This is available to all but has limited tickets so do ensure you arrive early and book a slot to avoid being disappointed. The Castle often hosts magical events including alchemical experiments. Alnwick NE66 1NQ
7. Take the kids to a pub? Yes, if it’s the one where Harry is dropped off in The Prisoner of Azkaban! In the film it’s called The Leaky Cauldron; in real life you can visit The Market Porter Pub near Borough Market, which stood in for The Third Hand bookstore, where Harry meets his tutor, and is next to The Leaky Cauldron. It’s open early to cater to the market traders of Borough Market, so come by any time for a pint (for you) or a soft drink (for the kids). 9 Stoney Street London SE1 9AA
8. Did you know scenes from 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' and episodes of Dr Who were filmed at Wookey Hole in Somerset? It’s a fab day out that will entertain the whole family. In addition to the caves there are fairy gardens, 4D experiences and adventure golf. We enjoy Wooky Hole for a whole day – there is enough to keep everyone busy and my top tip is to go in the week if you can, as it is much quieter generally. Wookey Hole at Wells Somerset BA5 1BB
9. How about visiting Scotland and making a weekend of it? Glen Coe is in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands where Hagrid's Hut scenes were filmed. Loch Shiel was the Hogwarts lake and the Glenfinnan viaduct is one of the iconic images of the films. Making a weekend of it enables you to do things at your pace and spend some quality family time together.
10. Money no object? Then consider popping to Florida and seeing how Universal Studios have put their spin on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ It really is a holiday of a lifetime and the theme parks including Disney are a tween and teen's perfect playground. Many think Florida is out of their price range but it can be done on a budget with planning and knowing the tricks! Florida remains the holiday that my children talk about the most – so much so that I have promised a return visit in two years time!
One last idea - it's on us! Bring some magic into your day out without leaving the house with these magical Harry Potter potions recipes.