Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Harry Potter. Oh how excited I was for this tour. I still get excited thinking about it. It was great. I loved every minute of it. I learned so much about the process of making the films and the transition from book to movie and the impact it has had all around the world and on the lives of everyone who has read the books or watched the movies.
I can, however, pinpoint my least favorite things. One was the butterbeer. It was gross. Like drinking foamy butterscotch soda. Urgh. Awful. And the other was leaving. I wish I could have gone back through a second time. I feel like I missed so many things and just want to do it all over again. I had the audio guide and half the time I could not listen to it because Tom Felton’s voice was too distracting that I couldn’t focus on the awesome things around me! Well that and then I was too focused on his voice. I couldn’t decide. I wanted to listen to everything he had to say but then I couldn’t or I would miss things!
Going in you go by the cupboard under the stairs from Privet Drive, and quotes from J.K. Rowling and then after a brief introduction we are released into the Great Hall. The house tables are there, uniforms from each house, the head table is lined with the costumes of the professors and behind it are the hourglasses with jewels for each house. It was great. As you go through the doorway to exit the hall and enter the rest of the experience if you look up the Golden Snitch is hanging above the door. This next room is huge, it holds the sets for the dormitories, the Gryffindor common room, the Burrow, Hagrid’s cabin, Dumbledore’s office, sets from the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge’s office, Snape’s dungeon, the wardrobe and make-up departments, the props cage, the interactive portion where you can learn to use a wand, get pictures of you on a broom playing quidditch and so many more things. You could spend hours and hours going through here. I went too fast. I’ll say it. I went way too fast. I had to have spent a good 2 hours or so in there but still; there was just so much to see. I was so excited to keep going and see more things and see more things that I was on overload and shaking with excitement. I couldn’t focus long enough to realize, you can’t go backwards once you leave a room you can’t go back in.
But on we went. The courtyard outside had a station for butterbeer, the Hogwarts bridge from the movies, the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the flying Ford Anglia, chess pieces, the house where Lily and James lived with Harry, and Tom Riddle’s grave.
After passing through the courtyard and deciding that if I never have butterbeer again I’ll be perfectly happy we enter the special effects areas, the areas that deal with making the magical creatures exist. Aragog is hanging from the ceiling, right next to a dementor. There are Inferi in cases as you enter, and there are mandrakes out of their pots (they’re gross little creatures). Buckbeak is just sitting off to the side. The magic for Hagrid is explained, an actor wore an animatronic head that was an exact replica of Robbie Coltrane’s just bigger. It was odd. And then there was Dobby in a case. Oh the feelings there. With all the things in this room it would have been easy to be a big room but it wasn’t, it was small and again with the flow of people it was gone too fast.
Then comes the ever crowded, ever bustling Diagon Alley, with Gringotts, Olivander’s, Flourish and Blotts, Quality Quidditch Supplies, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Just as described in the book Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes stands out in orange and purple against the standard building colors of all the rest. Some stores had more to look at than others, or perhaps I’m just too short to see half the things in the windows. Even when you can see in the windows there’s just so much to see you’d have to stand there for an hour studying each window display (and it seemed like some people tried). I wanted to go into the stores, but that just isn’t an option and I suppose that’s for good reason but still I feel as though Diagon Alley could have had more with it. Maybe there wasn’t as much because there is an entire Diagon Alley theme park in Florida. As impressive as Diagon Alley was, it was short and full of people, you got pushed through.
The next room was full of drawings, designs, and plans for what Hogwarts should look like how things should work and move. There were Styrofoam board scale models of things like the Burrow, and before you can even process it all, as though everyone knows what lies ahead in the very last room, it’s all gone. You enter the final room and there it is. Hogwarts. Always there to welcome you home. And that’s exactly what it feels like. When you drive up your street after a long trip and finally see your house again, you walk into this room and there it is. As splendid and magnificent as you could ever imagine and yet more so. The lights change to show how it looks at different times of day. The ramp leading you around winds around the room so you can see every angle of the castle that’s been living in your imagination for years. It’s such a beautiful sight you think you might cry; I may have even shed a tear. It’s the best way to end, after seeing all the secrets behind the story that has been part of your life for so long, you enter this room and you’re home.
When you finish circling the castle, there it is. The exit. And after making sure you have pictures from every conceivable angle and pictures of you and Hogwarts, you slowly drag yourself out the door. Back to the real world. But don’t fret, there’s a little treat before you leave. The room is full of wand boxes, stacked all the way to the ceiling. Each one has a name. The name of someone who worked in or on the films, so go scavenger hunting for your favorites. Just remember you’re not looking for Hermione or George, you’re looking for Emma Watson and Oliver Phelps. Contrary to what I think Oliver and James Phelps are not next to each other, how rude. In case you get frustrated there are employees there to help find the most important to you, like good ol’ J.K herself. And then once again you have to leave but this time it’s to buy things. Lots of things. All the things. It was a constant struggle to tell myself no I don’t actually need a Ravenclaw pillow, yes it’s soft, but that’s not going to fit in my suitcase. Instead I bought Luna Lovegood’s wand. It chose me. That’s the trick, when you can’t decide which one you want play with the ones out on display, pick the one that feels the best. The one that feels right. Because just as Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home, the wand chooses the wizard.