Harry Potter Studio Tour, London
We’re on the Warner Bros Studio Tour. After devouring the Harry Potter books and movies, the moment for a family pilgrimage has come — and it’s as magical as any Muggle could expect.
We peer into Dumbledore’s office and walk down Diagon Alley. We board the Knight Bus. We spot snitches. We shoot selfies in front of a scale model of Hogwarts, bathed in changing light. My five-year-old son rides a broomstick in front of a green screen. We sip butterbeer (it tastes like Lucozade topped with ice cream), visit a gift shop stocked with everything from Fizzing Whizzbees to Marauder’s Maps, and vow to return after finishing all the books (we’re currently on No 5).
Yes, it’s pricey — sadly, “Reducio!”, the shrinking charm, doesn’t work on the bill. But, similar to Disneyland, the sets are so polished, the staff so invested and the kids so enraptured that you surrender willingly to the shakedown. We leave tired and happy. I steal a peak at my nine-year-old daughter. She’s glowing like Hermione at the Yule Ball.
More info: Adults, £35; children (ages 5-15) £27; children (under-5s), free; family ticket (2 adults, 2 children), £107. Advance booking essential.
Pól Ó Conghaile
There are three walkways covering the 2,500sqm exhibit with immersive Indian-themed areas to explore, including a train station, crumbling temple clearing, high street and guard hut. Children are given interactive worksheets to tick off as they walk round, there’s a bike challenge to see if they can reach the sprint speed of a lion, and demos from the zoo team showing how to nurse sick animals. But does it all work? Sort of.
The lions still like to do their own thing. They’re enticed out to see my family by the glass-panelled train station with slabs of meat left by the platform.
And when they do appear, they’re wildly impressive.
As for the rest, it’s clear you need the other animals and exhibits, too. My children and their friends loved the penguins — who doesn’t? — and, randomly, the butterflies.
More info: Adults, £24.25; children, £17.60; under-3s, free.
Sealife Centre, Brighton
The half-term Dinosaur Detective trail, chasing fossil clues around the building was a bit lost on our group, and the new Secrets of the Reef exhibit was still under wraps, but it looks promising, introducing more than 400 new fish and a seahorse nursery. Add to this, two tons of rock, 15,000 litres of water and a ‘crawl-through’ coral reef, and the old aquarium will be bang up to date.
More info: From £10.50 per person; under-3s, free.
An import from Canada, the TV show portrays the trials and traumas of dancers from the Next Step studio as they compete with other talented troops and — with lots of agonising soul-searching — each other.
The stage show, shamefully devoid of some key stars and much in the way of a set, relies heavily on its fans’ wide-eyed goodwill. To this naysaying adult, there appears to be more filler video than killer dancing, with much plugging of merchandise and related TV shows.
But there’s no question this is high-octane/close proximity gold for fans, who scream and singalong throughout.
More info: The Next Step — Wild Rhythm Tour (Step 2) tours the UK from 21-30 October 2016. Tickets from £40.
Published in the Summer 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)