Visiting the Harry Potter Studios during the pandemic | What to expect, how to prepare and whether to go!
Hello explorersaurs!! Today’s post is all about one of my favourite places in the world – if you’ve been following our adventures for a while you’ll have seen we have visited this magical place a LOT. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen a good overview on what it’s like to visit the Warner Bros studios right now plus a whole bunch of sneak peaks – if you’re not you can follow me here @emmasivess! Would totally recommend – we have a whale of a time! To elaborate on my most recent YouTube video (you can watch it below if you haven’t already,) I thought I’d write a round-up all about what it’s like to visit the studios right now. Let’s get into it!
Watch the YouTube video here!
Overview / what’s on:
So we visited during the Celebration of Slytherin event – and it was seriously so cool! The studios run events all throughout the year, but obviously have had to pause a lot of this years’ plans so far. The celebration of Slytherin event allows you to see some sets and decorations never seen at the studios before, including some new costumes and experiences. The Great Hall is decked out in Slytherin flags and green hues, which is so cool to see and also perfect with Halloween on the horizon! Along with this, we got to see the Slytherin common room – which seeing as we’ve visited around 5+ times before and not seen yet, was epic! The Celebration of Slytherin event runs until the 12th of November 2020.
After this, we’re going to see Hogwarts in the Snow – which runs from the 14th of November 2020 to 17th of January 2021. We visited last year and the year before (I think!) for Hogwarts in the Snow and I can wholeheartedly recommend it! The sets are decked out all Christmassy including the common rooms, and the stunning great Hogwarts statue at the end. The Great Hall even shows the Christmas feast and it is bloody beautiful! When we’ve been for this before, there have been interactive sections where you can talk to the interactors and some of the prop makers, we got to touch all the snow used on the castle before which was really cool! I imagine with covid looming around we won’t get to touch anything, but I bet you it will still be magical and you won’t feel like you’re missing out!
The tour itself takes you around lots of different sets, props and costumes. There are barriers around all the sets – other than the Great Hall, a walkway through the Dursley house and a section of the Knight Bus. Whilst you can’t walk through the actual exhibits you definitely don’t feel like you’re missing out. You get so close and there are so many sections with little walkways and nooks to enter. Music from the films plays throughout the whole tour and it absolutely sets the scene, there’s nothing like walking out to the Hogwarts statue to that beautiful orchestra – tears every time hahaa. If you want a proper look at all the exhibits definitely watch the YouTube video above as I show a whole bunch of the goodness there and talk through it!
When you’re on your tour, I would absolutely recommend waiting in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. This is the very first section you’ll be let into after your introduction. As they’re operating in hugely reduced numbers right now, it’s easy to get some good pictures with no one around (more on that in the Covid precautions section at the end!), but whenever you go, if you wait in this section people will filter out and you can get it all to yourself! As they physically let groups into this part, there will come a time where they ask you to leave when they need to let the next group in, but right now that is even further apart thanks to social distancing, and they’re always lovely about it so you can just leave when they ask! There’s nothing quite like having this stunning section all to yourself!
Another tip during this corona ridden time we find ourselves in, is to really hang back whenever people accumulate together. Some sets are more popular than others and so people hang around there more, but also, people really move like traffic! You’ll find some sections completely empty and the next pretty busy in comparison. Hang back and read all the signs around, learn some things, and when you’re done you’ll likely have a much more empty section that was previously a little too busy!
The tour can take upwards of 3 hours, they usually say 3 and a half hours but we have definitely stayed lots longer in the past! If you take some time for a proper bite to eat you’ll ask stretch that out and revive yourself ready to see more magic. We would recommend eating at the restaurants right at the beginning/end of the tour. (It loops round!) There is much more on offer here and whole bunch more space to eat. Right now they have closed off some tables to enable social distancing, and you still have plenty to choose from. They have a Starbucks here with all your favourites, a cafe selling hot food and sandwiches, and a chocolate frog box style stall selling incredible milkshakes/freakshakes and snacks. If you’re after a butterbeer or butterbear ice cream we would recommend stopping in the Backlot Cafe of the tour for this. It’s about half way through and you can take a seat and regroup!
Finally, there are shops in a couple of locations in the tour, but we would suggest saving the big shop for the shop at the end – you will find everything here, including the new addition of Vegan, gluten free bottled butterbeer!
How much does it cost?:
You have to book your tickets in advance or you won’t be allowed in, so get on the website here to book your tickets.
Ticket prices start at £47 per adult, and £38 per chilld (5-15 years old). You can save money with a family ticket or upgrade to get an audio guide and souvenir book. I don’t think you really need to upgrade as there is so much information and so many helpful staff around, but each to their own! You can add priority parking for £10 per car – free if you don’t upgrade, and I would stay away from this and save the money! You’ll never be more than a couple of minutes walk away from the entrance anyway, and you can save that money for some delicious sweets or a chocolate frog at the Honeydukes shop at the end of the tour!
Precautions and Covid protection:
Let’s talk about the measures the studios are taking place to keep everyone safe, as right now these are the main deciders for most of us whether to go somewhere! I want to start by saying we honestly found our visit much safer, better run and more distanced than going to the supermarket, popping into town or anywhere a lot of people are still going!
- Firstly, there are hugely reduced numbers. Since visiting the studios we have also gone to Legoland, and their takes on “reduced numbers” couldn’t be further apart!! There really were a small amount of people going on the day we did – and by the looks of it they had almost sold out on tickets for that day, so it is likely to be the busiest it would get. When you’re booking have a look at the free timeslots left to book, and go for one in between the free times if you want to make sure you’re extra alone. We went at midday and I couldn’t fault it. People do tend to group in certain areas but just hang back, take your time and it won’t be long till it gets empty again.
- There are hand sanitising stations everywhere, mostly being hands-free sensor operated. Use these as much as you can, and you’ll see most people are making the most of these too and staying safe. I also usually find, when you use these other people feel like they have too – all being safer together haha!
- Masks must be worn by everyone over a certain age, indoors and outdoors. We only saw small children without masks and made an effort to stay away from them to be safe. When everyone is wearing masks properly the risks really are hugely reduced so it’s good to know it’s a flat-out rule for everyone. I do think if people have such a condition that means they can’t wear masks, they probably shouldn’t risk going to an attraction with other people at all – if avoidable. Masks are good, be a bro, wear a mask. You can also buy hogwarts/house style masks in the shop here which is of course a winner! Those pictures will be far more fitting than my surgical style mask!
- The button-operated magic has been removed. There are some sections – as you see in the video(!) – where you can use sensors to operate some of the magical effects you see in the films. On some areas this has been completely removed, such as the forbidden forest. You’ll still see all the effects though so it’s not an issue!
- Parking spaces are strictly kept to a free space between each car. They have enough space to make this possible and you’re still never far from the entrance. They have staff to wave you into parking spots so everyone will be following the rules. You’re also told to wear your mask from the second you step out of your car in the car park, which is fab!
Is it worth it?:
I mean, we’ve been here time and time again and I can wholeheartedly give this a massive YES! We haven’t been to a huge amount of attractions this year – compared to normal at least! – but seriously out of everywhere we’ve been, the studios have absolutely nailed it and we feel totally safe there. The tickets are so well priced for the experience you get and it is definitely an experience you’ll never forget!