If you are a Harry Potter fan of any age or intensity and plan to take a trip to London with kids, then I have a few recommendations to put on your itinerary. The best part about these suggestions is that you don’t have to spend loads of time or money on any of these activities. Now that’s magic to your Muggle ears, right RMT’ers?
Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens, and Green Park/Buckingham Palace
7. Muggles and Magicians: The Harry Potter Experience TODAY’S POST
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day Trip: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Day Out: Greenwich, UK
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys Toys and Harrods
Harry Potter… these are two words I never thought I’d find myself saying, let alone obsessing over. Then I had a kid who turned five. Soon after that we started reading the first book together as a family. Each night, C would read a few pages while T and I snuggled next to him on our bed. This turned our bedtime routine a bit upside-down for several weeks, as it was usually me doing the reading in T’s room, and we had not yet moved into chapter books.
Turns out the change was well-worth it. T loves Harry Potter; as a matter of fact – and I never thought I’d say this – so do I. I love the characters, the stories, the relationships, the magic, the Muggles, the twists! This genre of literature is not usually my “thing” but wow how I’ve been sucked into the world of Harry, his school chums, and his flock of foes. I didn’t get the hype before, but I do now… says the person who’s 10+ years late to the Harry Potter “Pott-y.” C also thinks it’s pretty fun, too, so much fun he’s started us on the second book already!
Anyway, while we didn’t finish Sorcerer’s Stone (that’s Philosopher’s Stone to anyone not in the States) before heading over to London, we made a deal to finish reading it while on our trip. We didn’t want to take the bulky hardback with us, so we looked online at our library for the iPad version; sadly it wasn’t available. Not wanting to take the chance of the wait-list, we went to our favorite second-hand bookstore the day before our travels and bought the paperback. We only had about 60 pages to go, and about 15 nights to get it done; four pages a night was a doable goal, even for us Muggles.
The other part of the Harry Potter promise to T was that he be permitted to watch the first movie before our travels so we could determine if it was something he could watch during the flight by himself. We really wanted to finish the book before watching the movie, but we were running out of days pre-trip, so we loosened the no-movie-before-book-finished rule because we were running out of time and had now made the new promise to finish the book while on the trip. About a week before leaving for London, I headed down to our favorite second-hand music and movie store, found a copy of the first HP movie, and set aside that very evening for a family viewing. Apart from the “man with two faces” being the scariest part for T, the rest of the movie was just fine for and with T. Us, too. In fact, it was great!
Do you see the high level of commitment and fan-dome here, RMT’ers?! By the way, we finished Sorcerer’s Stone on our final night in Dublin, or on Night 14.
Anyway, enough about all that. On with our London Harry Potter experience! First, we went to a show called “Potted Potter.” This is a live theatre performance by Jeff and Dan, two guys who parody and spoof all seven of the Harry Potter books, including all of the main and some minor characters, inside of 70 minutes. This is their claim, and they mean it. Yes, they even play the big dragon in Book 4, and THEY PLAY QUIDDITCH! Don’t ask me or wonder how, please just go and see it for yourselves.
Not only did T last the duration of Potted Potter (which had no intermission, by the way), he loved it. It didn’t matter one bit that none of us hadn’t read all seven books yet. Truthfully, as long as you go into the show with some minor knowledge of the Harry Potter series (i.e., character names, who’s good, who’s not, that they PLAY QUIDDITCH!, they go to a school called Hogwarts, most of which can be learned from LEGO sets or Saturday Night Live skits, quite honestly), then you will be thoroughly entertained and laugh harder than you have in years. The two performers are more stand-up than strict storyline substance anyway, so even if you have not a shred of an idea what or who they’re spoofing at a given moment, their slapstick, physical comedy more than makes up for your lack of knowledge. This show was a perfect afternoon matinee for T and a great test show that lead up to our buying Lion King tickets later in the trip. We figured if T could last this 70-minute performance then he could do two 45-to-60-minute acts with an intermission in between easier than Harry can snatch a Snitch.
The second part of our self-guided London Harry Potter experience was a stop off at King’s Cross Station and Platform 9-3/4. No, really, this exists! It’s also a free photo opp for the entire family. Props are provided (the luggage cart and a choice of four scarves representing all four Hogwarts’ houses), as is a staff photographer (no purchase necessary). But don’t fret as you are more than welcome to have your travel companion stand next to the hired photog and snap photos freely of your family members without any restrictions. There is usually a queue to get onto Platform 9-3/4, but it goes fast as each “traveler” poses for one maybe two photos tops once at the “wall”; a line monitor also helps move visitors along by assisting with wardrobe choice and “flying” the scarf behind them as they head
into through the wall. Brilliant!
Next door to Platform 9-3/4 is the Harry Potter Shop. Now while this is entirely a mega-marketing opportunity for the HP franchise, it’s still pretty darn fun. It’s also where you can go to view and purchase photos from Platform 9-3/4 (we didn’t buy as our own free pictures were more than adequate). The store sells anything from wands to wizard spell books, chocolate frogs to “every flavor beans.” It’s hard not to leave here without a little something, especially the candy.
While London also offers back-lot tours and other bus and walking tours of London showcasing the Harry Potter experience, they are not as affordable or appropriately set up (timing, content) for a five-year-old as those mentioned here. Our walk-up tickets to a matinee of Potted Potter (as in, we were walking by the theatre as the show was about to start and bought tickets directly) were just 20 Pounds each (approx. $30 USD), which is a steal for live theatre in London. The outing at Platform 9-3/4 costs whatever it takes for you to get to King’s Cross Railway Station (we already had our National Rail pass, so we took the Underground) and then whatever you wish to spend inside of the adjunct store. And who said Muggles can’t make magic?!
RMT’ers: What fad or trend did you swear you’d never partake of, and then you had kids and got sucked in big-time?
PS – For an update on what we’ve been up to locally, which also included a train station, please check out how T and I spent National Train Day, which was Saturday May 11, 2o13. You can also check out a new RMT page here devoted to all things train-related. Enjoy!