Put on your wizard's robe and embark on a journey to Hogwarts and the wizarding world. All photos / Marina Bay Sands Singapore
While the sheer tear-inducing awesomeness of the Harry Potter Movie-Set Studio Tour is far off in England, this Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a more-than-decent speed tour through the highlights reel of the boy Wizard's existence.
Whether you're a fan or not, expect to be immersed in the wizarding world, thanks to clever effects and detailed replicas, plus a myriad of gorgeous authentic movie props, ranging from the massive front of the Hogwarts Express train, to Marvolo Gaunt's tiny ring.
The Hogwarts Sorting Hat
1: You get to walk in Harry's shoes
See sights in the same sequence Harry might as you wander through scaled-down approximations of areas in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and beyond: The entrance to house dorms and common rooms in Hogwarts complete with moving paintings, classrooms and professors' rooms containing beasts and bubbling concoctions; the Quidditch pitch celebrating sport atop flying brooms, the creature-infested Forbidden Forest, the despair-soaked Death Eaters' stronghold, the floating-candlelit Hogwarts' Great Hall and finally, the charmingly English wizard's shopping street of Diagon Alley. You can also pay an extra $6 for the audio tour, where you put on your earphones and have voices of the movies' creatives guide you through the exhibition, while confiding special creators' insights which Harry himself might not have known about.
2: You'll get to make an entrance
This exhibition has some clever gimmicks that the UK Studio Tour doesn't have. Like the shimmering translucent barrier you magically pass through to enter the exhibition (really lights projected onto a curtain of cascading water-vapour). Then, before entering Hogwarts, you'll meet a young robed actor holding a wizard's hat, who will ask for volunteers to be sorted into Hogwarts Houses. Take a seat as the battered hat is held above your head, tell the nice actor what house you hope you'll be sorted into, and surprise! The booming voice of the hat will announce that due to your excellent qualities you've been sorted into just that house. Now enter Hogwarts as a sorted student! This is tremendously gratifying, but make sure to volunteer quick because only a few guests are sorted each session.
3: You get to poke around
A mandrake plant
While a schoolteacherly guide will tell you not to touch anything unless specifically stated, the touchable things are really quite fun. Pull up mandrake plants to reveal loudly crying baby-faces on the roots, throw hefty but soft brown quaffles through miniature Quidditch hoops that chime magically when you score, or sink into a massive chair belonging to Hagrid the half-giant.
4: Even the villains will impress you
Lord Voldemort's horcruxes
The bad guys have cool tricks too. Thumping sounds emanate from Professor Lupin's wardrobe where the boggart was trapped. Passing under a metal arch near Lord Voldemort's artefacts, you hear his voice seemingly in your ear saying “You are a fool, Harry Potter,” and other choice quotes, like how Harry hears the dark wizard's voice in his head. Don't panic: it's hidden speakers (if you have earphones on, remove them first). Hidden fans help the Dementor's robes billow while other fabric in the area is still. Ogle the collective display of all Lord Voldemort's horcruxes: various items in which he stored his soul fragments; including an unmoving Nagini, Voldemort's snake familiar, displayed for the first time anywhere in the world.
5: Money can buy magic
All the magical items you've seen but couldn't touch might have put you in a particularly covetous mood. So rejoice at the Diagon-Alley-inspired setup at the end of the tour, where you can get your hands on replicas of just about anything you've seen in the wizarding world, including Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, jewellery Hermione Granger wore to the Yule Ball, wands, brooms, Hogwarts robes, and marauders maps. Also, stuff not in the movie: T-shirts proudly reading 'Muggle' (non-magical person). You can even buy proof of your wizard status: before the start of the tour, take a photo of your party against a green screen, and here at the end of it, choose a background against which your images can be superimposed, including Hogwarts castle. Then buy the picture and show it to all your mediocre Muggle friends.