A visit to the Warner Brothers Studio, Leavesden, is always a magical experience for any Harry Potter fan, but never more so that at Christmas. Imagine being able to put your hand into a fire with no pain, catch Harry's name from the Goblet of Fire and sip butterbeer in front of the knight bus as 'snow' falls around you. Oh, and that's without mentioning the stunning Hogwarts castle model, which has been seasonally frosted too.
We went along to the preview of Hogwarts in the Snow last night - rubbing shoulders with celebrities including Rod Stewart and his family, presenter Amanda Lamb and Bake Off winner Nadiya - and were thoroughly impressed with its seasonal make-over. The ever-friendly staff were on hand to answer questions, in particular anything about the amazing wintery effects seen in the films. We learnt how footprints can appear in the snow from a seemingly invisible walker (a clever system of sensors), how fires are made with no fire risk (they're steaming water) and just what exactly the snow was made from (a mixture, but mostly biodegradable shredded paper).
Of course all the usual props, sets and costumes were there to enjoy - from the wands of your favourite characters, to Dumbledore's beard and even a beautiful moving Buckbeak model. One of my favourite things about the studio is that there's always something new to notice. Last time I was there I didn't spend long enough admiring the myriad of labelled bottles in the potions lab, and hadn't appreciated all of the carefully designed book covers and newspaper articles that may have only appeared for milliseconds in the films, but clearly took many hours of labour.
Other treats include a 'ride' on the Hogwarts Express! You can climb aboard the original steam train (quite a sight to behold), and then have your photo taken in a carriage set, complete with rolling countryside landscapes flashing past the window. Another photo opportunity (albeit one which isn't cheap) comes with the chance to take to the skies, flying a broomstick against a green screen for a video of you skimming through the air.
Leave at least three hours to see and do everything, this is a charming experience that shouldn't be rushed.
Hogwarts in the Snow will run from now until January 31, 2016. Tickets are available here.
For more festive days out, pick up the latest copy of Yours