It actually is possible to take your toddler to the cinema

I love going to the cinema. The atmosphere, the big screen, the snacks – even the other people (believe it or not) – all add to a sense of occasion for me. There’s a lot to be said for watching your TV at home, but it will never be as special or exciting as sitting in front of the big screen.

But I very rarely get to go … because I have a 2 year old. Occasionally, I sneak off on my own or with an adult friend, and recently have taken my 4 year old to a couple of appropriate features. But while my toddler might pay a bit of attention to a Disney film on the TV at home, there is NO way he would sit through something at the cinema. At home, he can toddle off to play with trains when the film gets boring for him, but in the cinema he would need to stay put.

So I was pretty sceptical when I was recently invited to bring my 2 year old to a cinema premiere. I envisioned myself chasing him amongst the rows of chairs while he giggled hysterically, stepping on people’s toes and making me wish I’d brought a hip flask with me.

But this film was made for 2 year olds. Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience opens on 7 April and is the perfect opportunity for families to enjoy the cinema together without needing a babysitter for the toddler.

The film is based around 6 brand new, short Peppa Pig episodes, and they are strung together by interactive interludes in which a children’s presenter and some Peppa Pig puppets encourage the children to sing and dance. This is a great strategy to reduce the problem of short attention spans. The kids enjoy the episodes just like they would on the telly, and then they get a break with something different that gives them a chance to move around. The whole thing lasts about an hour.

My 2 year old is a very active, physical little boy and he sat through almost the whole thing. He got a bit restless in the last 10 minutes or so. But I was amazed that he sat as long as he did. He was entranced by the Peppa episodes and he enthusiastically joined in with the singing and dancing during the interludes.

And surprisingly, I wasn’t bored either. I had been joking along with my other blogger friends who attended that we needed to hide some wine in our handbags so we wouldn’t die of boredom. But actually you could tell that the writers had thought about the parents. There was lots of humour that appealed to me as a (slightly) grownup person – especially in the episode in which the Queen steals a double-decker bus. Check out the trailer here:

So when the Easter holidays are inevitably doused by buckets of rain, you now have an option to hide in a darkened room eating untold amounts of snacks. Some cinemas even do sell wine, completely legitimately. And you can take your very young children without fearing they will terrorise the other punters.

Lessons learned: bus tours are not just for tourists, and always bring a change of clothes

Yesterday 365 tickets gave me the great opportunity to take an open-top double-decker bus tour of London with The Original Tour. I have lived near London and worked there for over 10 years now, so I’m hardly the usual target customer for a bus tour. Us seasoned London-goers imagine that everyone on those tours is fresh off the plane from foreign lands, desperate to gaze at the beauty of our city. But even when I was fresh off the plane, I never took one of these tours. However, I know now that I was missing out.

The main reason I was keen to go on the tour is because my 4-year-old son LOVES double-decker buses. And on previous trips to London I had seen him gaze in awe at the “open” ones. “Mummy, can we go on an open bus, pleease?” And I’d always said no because I figured it wasn’t much different from the normal public transport double-decker buses, except that you would be outside and possibly cold! But I was wrong about that too.

So here is the story of our day, which didn’t quite work out the way we planned, but was still an adventure nevertheless.

The best-laid plans…

On a foggy Saturday morning my son and I excitedly jumped on the train to London. Here we are trying out my new selfie stick. It worked brilliantly for this photo! I had many, many bus selfies planned.

IMG_20161217_100855.jpg

The full plan for the day was to ride the bus from Trafalgar Square, where we picked up our tickets, to Winter Wonderland, where we would stop for lunch and a carnival ride or two. Then we planned to board the bus again to finish the rest of the Yellow Tour. All of the tours are hop-on, hop-off, to enable you to use the buses to get around to see whatever London attractions you’re interested in. You can switch which routes you use over the course of the day depending on where you want to get to. So in theory, you shouldn’t need any other travel ticket the day you take your bus tour.

There are two main sightseeing routes that go past all the major attractions. The Yellow Route is the original tour that covers some key sights. It crosses the river twice and passes the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge and Leicester Square, among other things. This one is a bit shorter and has a real human tour guide telling you interesting stories along the way, and helping you know where the right place to “hop off” is if you’re planning a specific stop.

The other major route is the Red Route, also known as The City Sightseeing Tour. This makes a much longer circuit of London and goes past Regent Street and The Strand – a great way to see all of the Christmas lights this time of year. It has an audio guide, which includes a special children’s commentary to keep your kids entertained.

Both routes go past Winter Wonderland and other Christmas markets.

Your ticket also covers a bunch of other bus routes, along with walking tours and a river cruise. They give you discounts on admission to other attractions, and you also get this excellent little book for your child, full of activities and history.

Activity book.jpg

We decided that the Yellow Route was best for us because it was a bit shorter, and I liked the idea of having a live guide.

An entertaining bus ride

After we picked up our tickets, we waited for a short time near Trafalgar Square to catch our bus. There was a lovely attendant there to help us be sure to get on the right bus.

Bus stop.jpg

We hopped on and went straight to the open-top part of the bus. Even though it was a chilly December day, it wasn’t raining, so we decided we could brave the cold for a bit. However, it wasn’t actually cold at all! The way the bus is designed blocked a lot of the wind from blowing in our faces, so we felt relatively sheltered and comfortable. It was great having a view of the sights unfettered by window glass.

The bus did a nice little circuit of Trafalgar Square where I took this picture of the Christmas tree. The tour guide explained how Norway sends us a tree for Trafalgar Square every year to thank us for helping them out during the Second World War.

Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square

We then went past the Admiralty Arch and a statue of Charles I on a horse.

Admiralty Arch.jpgI rather enjoyed the joke the tour guide made when he explained that Charles I was one of our shortest ever monarchs … and he was a lot shorter when we were finished with him! He was beheaded during the English Civil War – when Cromwell took over. The Guide asked us to consider how the current Queen goes past this statue during all her major parades, and how sobering it must be for her to pass this statue of her ancestor who died in such a grisly way!

The bus proceeded down Pall Mall past St James’s Palace, then down Piccadilly past the Ritz Hotel and Green Park. Another interesting little story from the tour guide that I hadn’t heard before was a legend about why they call it Green Park. Supposedly, Charles II’s wife Catherine caught him picking flowers for his mistress there, and in a fit of jealousy ordered all the flowers to be removed. Therefore, to this day, the park is only grass with no flower beds. I’m not sure how historically accurate that one is, but it was entertaining nevertheless.

And then it all went a bit pear-shaped…

At this stage in the journey I decided it was time for one of my highly anticipated bus selfies. I stuck my phone into my selfie stick and took aim, and then the screen of my phone went black. As I looked closer, it had a picture of an Android and lots of computer code gobbledegook streaming across the screen! Cue quiet panic while I wonder if my phone has some sort of virus and OMG how am I going to get through the rest of the day without a phone for pictures, maps, communication … all the things I constantly need it for?! I mashed the off button repeatedly to get it to restart. Finally, it did. Sigh of relief.

Then the tour guide prompted us to get off the bus for Winter Wonderland. So much for my bus selfie. Oh well, I thought to myself, I’ll get one when we get back on later.

We walked round to the entrance of Winter Wonderland and my son started complaining he was tired and his tummy hurt. I thought he was just hungry, so we made a beeline for the bratwurst stand. My son is normally a great lover of sausages so I thought this would go down a treat. We shared one and I cut it into small pieces for him. After the first bite, he said it was a little bit spicy. But he kept eating … 2nd bite, 3rd bite and then … it all came back up.

That’s right, dear readers, my son puked up his lunch in the middle of the Bavarian Village at Winter Wonderland. I looked around with embarrassment, but it was so crowded that nobody seemed to notice. I furtively cleaned up what I could and made a quick exit from the scene of the crime.

My son’s coat and clothes were covered in sick and I hadn’t brought any spares! Argh! I was supposed to finish reviewing the bus tour! What to do? My mind sailed through possible solutions to the problem. Should I pop back on the bus – or maybe into a cab for swiftness – to the nearest retail outlet to purchase some clean apparel? But what if this puke was only the first of many? Images of my son being sick down the side of an open-top bus – or worse, on some other people – danced in my head.

In despair I dragged my son out of the park and to the nearest Tube station. I decided to just go straight home and not risk exposing other bus riders to the contents of my son’s stomach. Unfortunately, we had to ride the Tube and then the train for quite some way to get back to our house in Surrey. I had to stop at WH Smith to buy a plastic bag to house his smelly coat because I hadn’t even remembered to pack one! Rookie parenting mistake.

Luckily, the train was not crowded so I was mostly able to avoid offending others with our stench. I think I saw a few people twitch their noses though.

The verdict

I have to send my apologies to the lovely PR person and 365 Tickets, who arranged this review opportunity for me! My investigation of The Original Tour was not as thorough as I had planned it to be. But surely it’s understandable that a poorly 4-year-old was in no state to enjoy a prolonged bus ride?

Despite the shortness of my experience with the tour, I can without reservation highly recommend it. As I mentioned earlier, I never thought those tours had anything to offer a “seasoned traveller” like myself, but I actually found it incredibly relaxing to sit on the bus and hear entertaining stories about London’s history and landmarks. It seems like a great way to get around if you are planning a day out enjoying London’s attractions, and even better at Christmas when there are lights and other festive sights to see.

I think the tour is a great way to get your children interested in history, too. My son loved being on the bus and listening to the stories the tour guide was telling. I would also recommend it to any friends visiting London – even if not for the first time – as it’s sure to teach you things you didn’t already know.

I hope to take my son back someday soon to enjoy the full tour. I’ll just avoid stopping for bratwurst halfway through, and remember to bring a change of clothes and a plastic bag.

Disclosure: It’s not a secret! I received a ticket for the bus tour in exchange for the review.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Petite Pudding

A day out of soft play and fails

I had a very bad day last Friday. It wasn’t terrible. Nobody died and my life did not change forever. It was just one of those days when everything goes wrong enough to leave you wanting to collapse in a heap long before the day is over. And it was a long, long day, full of many parenting fails. So I’m going to moan about it on my blog, because I’m pretty sure that’s one of the things that blogs are for.

We are having renovations on our house, and I shouldn’t complain about that because it will be brilliant when it’s finished. When it’s finished. 

This day was the day when they were tearing out everything in one room in the house and replacing the electricity fuse board. This meant that there would be constant drilling and hammering along with NO electricity. We are also living with an incomplete kitchen and kitchen utensils spread around everywhere. Last week, it took me half an hour to microwave some spaghetti hoops and make some toast.

Of course all this would be going on during half-term, so I had two kids who would need feeding and entertaining all day. I decided I’d be best off leaving the house completely and decided to go to Bluewater (a large shopping mall). It has soft play, food, and if I needed any supplies for the kids I would probably be able to buy them.

Fail Number 1

I left the house thinking that the pushchair was in the boot of the car. It was not. Luckily I discovered this before the entire 40 minute drive to Bluewater. I returned to the house to pick it up. The builders made fun of me.

Fail Number 2

We arrived at Bluewater without incident and made a beeline for the soft play. It’s actually brilliant because you can pay £5.50/child for unlimited play all day, and you can pop in and out as much as you like. It’s not very big, but I find that’s a good thing when you have 2 kids to keep track of. Apparently, it’s a pop up shop, so I’m not sure how long it will be there.

After approximately 10 minutes of soft play, my children got told off for throwing all of the ball pit balls out of the ball pit. After 5 more minutes, they both started crying and lying on the ground whilst kicking their legs around in the air. I decided they must be hungry.

While I was putting 1yo into his buggy, 4yo disappeared. Then I saw him through the window of the soft play standing by the lift with his fingers in a place they were likely to be pinched if the lift door opened. Either that, or the doors would open and he would bugger off to another floor of the shopping centre. I started banging on the window and shouting hysterically for him to come back RIGHT NOW. He did not appear to hear or take notice.

One of the lovely ladies who ran the soft play managed to catch my naughty 4yo and return him to me. I thanked her and tried to make an extremely quick exit in my embarrassment for shouting like a banshee. Another of the ladies kindly said I should be sure to come back to get my money’s worth out of the soft play.

Fail Number 3

I decided to take the boys to Jamie’s Italian because I’d heard that kids eat free during half-term. This was indeed true (but only 1 per adult so I could only get 1 of the kids free). I was very impressed by the kid’s menu there. It was full of variety and healthy choices and made a lovely change to the chicken nugget and burger-based menus I’m used to. Unfortunately, as usual, the kids still didn’t eat it. I enjoyed mine though. Only marginally a fail.

Fail Number 4

1yo did a poo in his nappy. I took him to the very posh refurbished nappy changing rooms at Bluewater. I opened the massive heavy rucksack full of supplies that I’d brought with me. It did not contain any nappies or nappy sacks. I went to Boots to buy some. This is why I chose to go to the mall.

Fail Number 5

Nappy successfully changed, I decided to brave the soft play again. The lady there was very kind again and told me that she understood why I was shouting and would have been more cross if I wasn’t bothered that my son had run off. Very kind of her. While we were talking, 1yo tried to climb over instead of under one of those soft play roller things. He fell on his head. He was fine though.

Fail Number 6

The soft play also lets you rent out push along cars that your kids could “drive” through the mall. It was £7 for 3 hours. I didn’t think I was likely to push a miniature Range Rover around for 3 hours, but my kids really wanted to go on one. I rented a double car. They sat in it and it was a bit narrow for the two of them. Cue pushing and whining and mild bruising.

I did quite well pushing the (very heavy) Range Rover car for about 4o minutes. We stopped for a donut. Then each of the children got out and walked part of the way. When I was almost back to the soft play, I realised that neither of them had any shoes on. I’d left them somewhere at the soft play.

My children had been walking around the mall with no shoes. And I thought people had just been staring at the glittery miniature Range Rover.

Miniature range rover.jpg

Fail Number 7

We went back to the soft play, returned the underused car, and played a bit more. Until 1yo started acting like he’d found some stray amphetamines and repeatedly tried to fall on his head on purpose whilst giggling hysterically. It was time to go home.

I had planned to visit a friend that evening and we were going to order a delivery pizza for us all to enjoy as a treat.

The pizza turned up about half an hour later than expected, so my kids were shouting with (what I assumed was) hunger by the time we finally sat down to eat. 4yo ate nicely but 1yo absolutely refused to touch a bite. He cried and cried until I gave up and put him on the floor to play.

He wandered round for a bit, then walked up to my friend and vomited on her leg and all over the floor near where her baby was playing.

Thus ends Part 1 of the most shit weekend in recent times. Tune into my next post, where things get even shitter.

Tammymum
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Kidzania London: Great educational fun for kids

This half-term I took my 4-year-old to Kidzania London. This unique attraction at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush is a whole city entirely run by kids. It has shops, food outlets, emergency services, and more. The aim is that kids get to try out real-life jobs in a fun, hands-on way.

How it works

Kidzania has around 60 different role-playing experiences, set out in the format of a sort of miniature city. Upon entry, kids are given 50 “KidZos”, which is fake money. Some of the roleplaying experiences cost KidZos to play, and other experiences earn KidZos.

Each of the experiences is completely kids-only. Parents cannot even go inside the rooms where the children do the different activities – they have to watch through the window! Or, if your children are 7+ years old, you can leave them to do it on their own, and either relax in Kidzania’s parents’ lounge, or go shopping in Westfield. Kids wear RFID bracelets and the whole place is secured so older children are safe enjoying it on their own.

Each admission to Kidzania is for 4 hours, and their website expects you to do around 4-6 roleplaying activities in that time. We actually managed to wedge in 7 activities despite a bit of queueing, so I was very happy with that.

The best way to explain exactly what it’s like is to write a little bit about each activity my son did. This of course will only offer a taste of what’s on offer.

Aviation Academy

We made a beeline for this because my son was rather keen on the notion of being an airline pilot. He went into the room himself with a group of other kids and they dressed him up in a cute little pilot uniform.

littleairlinepilot.jpg

Inside the room I could see (through the parent viewing window), that they had a fully simulated plane cockpit. My son thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Paper recycling

My son has a thing about recycling – not entirely sure why – but I thought he would enjoy learning about paper recycling. He went into the room on his own and the teacher there showed him how they mash up old paper, soak it and then form it into new sheets of paper. He got a piece of handmade paper to take home.Making paper.jpg

Ice cream factory

This was sponsored by Wall’s and the kids got to make a mini milk. They had miniature versions of the machines in the factory and my boy seemed to enjoy it. He got given a badge to take home.

Smoothie making

Same concept as the ice cream, but with smoothies, sponsored by Innocent. This one had a good layout and I could see everything that my son got involved in. He really enjoyed trying some of the fruit and then making a machine work, which spat out a smoothie drink box that he got to keep and drink.

Fire & Rescue unit

This was the absolute highlight. We had to queue for a while – and if I went again I would go to this first thing to beat the crowd – but it was so worth it. First, the kids watch a video about fire safety and what firefighters do. They get to wear cute little firefighter uniforms.

Little firefighters.jpg

Then, they ride a miniature fire engine across the city to where there is a model hotel “on fire”. They have toy fire hoses that squirt real water and they all get to help put out the fire. The whole scene was really cool because the city also has Ambulance and Police experiences. So all of the emergency services turn up to play different roles and help with the fire at the hotel.

mini-fire-engine

City tour bus

Not really as hands-on as the rest of things. You basically just ride a miniature tour bus (much like the fire engine) around the whole city. You know, on a tour! But my son obviously loved it because BUSES.

Textile recycling

I already mentioned about his love of recycling. The textile version of it looked really fun because the kids got to use tablets to sort the clothes for recycling as if they were working in the factory. They also sorted some real clothes by hand and learned all sorts of things about the process. He was given one of those rubber wristbands to take home – which is one of his favourite ever things – he has a growing collection of them from wherever we go!

What I liked about it

I think Kidzania is a very fun place for kids. I saw children of all ages there, really getting involved and loving the feeling that they were in charge and doing “grownup” tasks. It had a great Disneyworld sort of atmosphere that made you feel as if you were immersed in an alternative world. However, the kids were all learning about real-world professions and getting an insight into how the world works generally. I think this was immensely beneficial for my 4yo, as he is just on the cusp of having a deeper understanding of the world and things like this steer him in the right direction.

The notion of spending and earning money is useful – although my son was a little too young to care about that bit. I looked after the money for him and if I hadn’t, it would have been lost for sure! However, I think the roleplaying itself and putting kids in control was even more useful than the training of tiny capitalists. Learning and trying out new skills filled my son with confidence. It was also helpful for me as a parent to step back and let him get on with it. I was prevented from hovering and helping him when he didn’t really need help (as I’m sometimes wont to do).

Without exception, all of the staff there that ran the different sessions were amazing. The staff are all DBS checked, but beyond that, I don’t know what their training was. But these people managed groups of 6 to 8 children of varying ages almost effortlessly, and with great fun and humour. My son is known to challenge authority figures but he behaved beautifully for these people.

It was also lovely that some of the experiences gave a small token, like the wristband or the badge. Very nice to get souvenirs that don’t cost extra!

Some points for consideration

The child admission is £32 during school holidays, and £29.50 off-peak. I think that this is fairly good value, especially if you have an older child who you can leave to go around on their own. That amounts to fairly cheap babysitting! Also, that sort of price is in the usual range for any theme park or attraction in the London area, and Kidzania is definitely as much fun for kids as any of them.

However, I’m less keen on the £16.50 adult admission price. Kidzania has a parents’ lounge where you can go and drink coffee and use the wifi. If I could have done this, I wouldn’t have minded the admission price. But as I had a child under 7, I had to follow him around everywhere. It was pretty hard work standing outside all of the venues while my son enjoyed himself. I think there should be a cheaper price for the parents of under-7s.

On the upside, this place would be perfect for catching up with a mum friend. You could bring your kids and chatter away without interruption while the kids do their activities!

Another thing to consider is the food situation. The website says that you can’t bring your own food, but this wasn’t policed. There were many people blatantly picnicking, and in the end I envied them. The only food outlets were a coffee shop, a crepe trolley, a “diner” and a GBK fast food counter.

We didn’t go to the diner because the seating inside looked odd. Children were sitting down at little bars and there seemed to be no place for the adults to sit. I wanted to sit down and enjoy lunch with my son, so we chose GBK, which had more tables (but not enough, I should note).

Unfortunately, the GBK burger was one of the worst I’ve ever had! It featured 2 dry overcooked patties, presented wrapped in paper with no plate or basket – only a tray – to put it on. And it was very expensive. I paid £21 for two burgers (one child-sized), one fries and two drinks.

I would urge Kidzania to assess their food outlet options and also to “legalise” picnicking. If you are planning to visit, perhaps you’d like to avoid visiting at a time when you would need lunch – I certainly can’t tell you to break the anti-picnic rules.

The verdict

I think Kidzania is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a unique, immersive and educational attraction for your kids. It’s great for ages 4 and up – and even better for ages 7+ because the kids can go round and let their parents relax.

The Kidzo money that they earn is also good anytime. So if you don’t earn enough on your first visit to buy anything at the Kidzo store, you can save it up and use it next time.

Disclosure: I received 2 admission tickets in return for this review, but I retain editorial honesty.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Tammymum

The Harry Potter Studios are even better than I thought

I shall announce with shameless pride that I recently visited the Harry Potter Studios completely sans child. Nobody paid me to go (I paid to go), and another completely adult friend joined me. I know some people who just don’t “get” why adults like Harry Potter. Well, the adults who do like Harry Potter don’t “get” why there are any who don’t! At the studios, there were actually more grownup visitors than there were kids.

Harry Potter tour entrance.jpgThese are the actual studios where all the films were filmed. They are a piece of filmmaking history. However you might feel about the films themselves, it is wonderful to see all of the work, imagination and pure craftsmanship that went into the making of them.

The practical stuff

The question I always ask when it comes to stuff like this is, “Is it worth the ticket price?” Tickets for this attraction cost £35 for an adult and £27 for children aged 5-15. Children 4 and under go free. These prices sounded very expensive to me, but now that I’ve gone, I can say that you definitely get enough entertainment to make the price worthwhile. It is also useful to know that the attraction is very buggy-friendly so you could easily bring an under-4 along without it being too much of a mission.

It’s worth noting that you need to purchase tickets in advance – you can’t just rock up there on a whim and buy at the door.

It’s pretty easy to get to as well. I took a train to Watford Junction and caught their shuttle bus up to the studios. The bus costs £2.50 return. If you prefer to drive, there is loads of parking on-site and right next to the entrance. You could always fly there in your Ford Anglia.

Flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter

What you get to see

I took a hundred photos but I won’t share them all with you for the sake of surprise. But for the sake of proving it’s worth the ticket price, here are a few highlights.

They tell you at the beginning that the tour lasts about 3 hours. My friend and I went through a little faster than that, but you could easily spend longer than us. We didn’t queue up for the green screen room, where you can get a photo of yourself riding a broomstick (among other things), nor did we get a video of ourselves riding the Hogwarts Express.

Just about all of the iconic sets and props that you could wish to see are there. All of the costumes on display are the ones that the actors actually wore. I’ve been to Universal and Hollywood Studios in Orlando, but this tour is more real movie history than I’ve ever seen.

You start the tour with a stroll through the Great Hall at Hogwart’s, which has real York flagstones on the floor. I rather liked the fetching mannequins of Dumbledore, Snape and McGonagall standing at the front.

hogwarts-great-hall

After the Great Hall, you move on to a massive room which has various sets from the movies along with hundreds of props, costumes and models of fanciful creatures. Some highlights for me were the potions classroom and the painting of the Fat Lady who guarded the entrance to Gryffindor House.

Potions classroomFat Lady portrait from Harry Potter

I was also amazed to see the set of the kitchen at The Burrow (The Weasley family’s house). I’d always assumed that the knife that chopped by itself and the brush that washed dishes on its own were powered by some sort of digital trickery. But actually, they were mechanical, and you can watch them chopping and washing away completely independent of human intervention.

I also enjoyed laughing at the profusion of Kitten plates in Umbridge’s office.

Dolores Umbridge's Office from Harry Potter

When we finally left the massive room full of sets and props (and we could easily have spent much longer in there), we emerged into a room that was much more exciting. It contained…

Hogwarts Express

THE HOGWART’S EXPRESS!

I had no idea before going that they would have the whole train there, waiting there on Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, giving off steam. You can walk on actual train carriages which are dressed to match the various scenes that happened on the train throughout all of the movies. I was very surprised to learn that there was so much realism in these scenes.

After the train, you have a chance to get some refreshments at a little cafe and sample some Butterbeer. I’m not sure if I can recommend it, but there are only a few places in the world where you can try it, so you might as well have a go.

You then proceed outside to a backlot where you can see the actual Knight Bus, the Dursley’s house on Privet Drive, and the crooked bridge from Hogwarts. I was always rather enamoured of the look of this bridge and was very excited to be able to walk on it.

Hogwart's Bridge

After the backlot, you can see a creature shop that shows how they made lots of the fantastic beasts from the films. Then, finally, the piece de resistance: Diagon Alley. I’m not even going to put a picture of it because it can’t do it justice. The detail of this set is absolutely staggering. You will feel as though you’ve been whisked away into the Harry Potter world, a muggle no longer!

And just when you think it doesn’t get any better, you emerge to an aerial view of a huge scale model of Hogwarts itself. We spent ages looking at the incredible details and craftsmanship that went into this model, and enjoying the unique atmosphere provided by the lighting and the music in the background.

Finally, of course, you emerge into the gift shop. There are so many fun things in here so as to completely bankrupt you. I managed to restrain myself to purchasing only a chocolate frog.

I was interested to find that you can buy an illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I might buy that for my son’s 5th birthday to introduce him to the series!

I’ve only touched briefly on all of the astounding details of this attraction. It is probably one of the most interesting places I have ever visited. These films were clearly produced by a team of people who were both incredibly talented and who cared deeply about their work. I know that it’s a money-making venture, but I still think it is unusual and generous to make all of this behind-the-scenes film history available to the public.

hogwarts-pinterest
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday