Back before lockdown number two, my family and I were lucky enough to have one of our first proper family days out since the beginning of the year. We had originally planned to go on Father’s Day but nevertheless, at the beginning of October, we made it to the magical Warner Bros. Studio Tours – The Making of Harry Potter during the Celebration of Slytherin.
As a family, we are quite big Harry Potter fans and during lockdown we watched the full series, including the Fantastic Beasts, twice. There may also be a couple of Slytherins in our house, too, so it just seemed fitting to take a trip to see some of the new sets that are on display for a limited period of time. Throughout the year, the studios have several special events like Christmas Hogwarts in the Snow, so be on the look out for their next celebration as they certainly do add something a little extra to an already marvellous day.
This also happened to be one of my first outings in my WHILL Model C and I was so excited to put it to the test. We’ve been to the studio twice before: once within the first few weeks of it opening – and back then I was still walking – and again in 2015. I had my manual wheelchair at this stage so was relying on my family to get me around. This trip therefore was not only to see the extension of the studios (so much had been added) but it was also my first real taste of independence. So, we loaded my WHILL in its three easy pieces into the back of our car, which is not adapted, and off we went!
Due to visiting during the pandemic there was, of course, some safety measures which made us feel very safe during our visit. It is a requirement to wear a face mask during the whole visit unless you are eating at the Back Lot Café, where you can enjoy some food or a traditional butterbeer (I recommend the ice cream version). We did not find this a hindrance to the day at all. In fact, we matched the masks with our outfits. There is also a reduced amount of people allowed in the studios which is evident in the extra space, time and all around less busy environment than before. If I’m completely honest, this is the best time to visit. There are so many perks to having more time to take in the sets and tours, whether that be by reading the information, taking photos or simply just creating snapshots in your mind. Either way you are sure to create memories. Even for those who don’t have much Harry Potter knowledge, it is still an enjoyable and brilliant day full of new experiences.
Throughout the studios, accessibility has been thought through and being in a wheelchair does not limit your experience. You can still see and do pretty much everything barring going on the Hogwarts Express and Hogwarts bridge as there are a few steps to these, but you can still experience the Hogwarts Express interior and sit in the iconic carriages. There is also a carer ticket if needed – you can check the website for more details and for other ticket options too.
The omni wheels on the WHILL were incredible. I could turn in the tightest of spaces which was evident when I reversed my chair into the broom experience. I, along with my family, was rather impressed with my reversing skill as this is something I had not practised but is so easy to pick up in this chair – it just feels natural. The chair also doesn’t have a small fiddly stick to steer like others, so I was able to use my whole palm which helps when fatigue is a problem. We were in the studios until closing and from a full charge, I still had over 60% of battery left which is just brilliant. The only thing I would say is, if you are a wheelchair or scooter user, you may want to let your sweet butterbeer settle before heading down the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, it can be a little bumpy but its all part of the fun.
One of the other perks of this chair (and there are so many perks like it’s easy to drive and comfortable) is that it is also stylish. It’s rare to find an electric wheelchair that doesn’t look heavy or big but this one is different to any others I’ve seen. I’m someone who loves fashion and style and it’s just amazing that I can reflect that in my chair. It suits me, fits my small frame, gets me around smoothly, all whilst looking good. I was able to dress in my house colours, Slytherin green, and my chair just slotted into the whole look. House colours are welcomed in the studios with open arms. Oh, and don’t forget your wand when you visit!
A little tip would be to talk to the members of staff on each location, they are full of little Harry Potter secrets and facts about the filming and sets. I do recommend taking your time in the studios to try all of the interactive experiences, from flying a broomstick to bowing. At this place, you really do get a special look behind the scenes, a peek behind the curtain if you will, into a world of absolute wonder. At times it can even get emotional. Every time you turn a corner there is something new and different to discover. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to be enveloped into a movie or different world for a period of time where magic actually comes to life in front of your eyes? There is undoubtedly a lot to see and do but it is not overwhelming in the slightest. I, for one, certainly enjoyed every minute there. I’ll be returning back at some point in the future so I can once again be transported into the actual sets like the famous Great Hall or Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
This day was not only brilliant to get out the house, see somewhere different and have fun but it also reinforced what I already sensed – that my WHILL not only helps me but all the family too. It’s amazing not having to rely on someone to help me all the time. I had more time and space to look at everything and so did they. Even down to the fact that we could enjoy each other’s reactions when looking at stuff. Before, I always had my back to everyone so couldn’t see their faces. Now it’s a whole new story. This may have been our third visit, but it was definitely the best one. This time I was in a better place with a better piece of equipment to truly appreciate, take in and enjoy everything.
I truly love the magic behind the place and the new elements just made the day even better and made my jaw drop. I love this place and I love that I got to share it with my family as a belated Father’s Day gift too. My WHILL excelled in every way possible, it is absolutely perfect for me. I couldn’t have asked it to perform any better than it did.
So, all that’s left for me to say is, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome home”. What are you waiting for? Enter into the magic of Harry Potter!