Going to Universal Studios is a very exciting event – even if you’re an annual pass holder and visit the site about 4-5 times a year (or more). If you ever plan to visit Universal Studios Hollywood, this is to give you an overview, provide some details on how to plan accordingly, which rides to take into consideration and what you need to know in order to make your experience as pleasant as possible.
You may have seen the commercials for USH, showing their explosive and fun new rides, enticing you to hop on the studio tour to see famous movie sites and enjoy a snack at one of their many authentic American eateries. We start at the beginning.
If you plan to go on a weekend, go early. One day is absolutely enough if you want to see everything, but it is best if you bring time to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Find a person who’s an annual pass holder so that you get a discount on your day ticket. If you do not have too much time or the patience to stand in line all day, consider the front-of-the-line pass. For annual pass holders, it doesn’t make much sense because we can come back (almost) any day of the year if we want to try a new ride. Check the website for their opening hours, and if you can, arrive as soon as they open to buy your ticket on site. If you’re at the end of the line, sometimes they have a person check how long the wait is and he or she will give you a ticket to give to the cashier once it’s your turn. Ask the cashier for a special incentive if you haven’t been instructed to do so – they will give you either a front of the line pass for one ride or the studio tour or another nice perk.
Once you have your ticket, get ready to wait in another line to enter the park. You’ve made it this far – just take in the sunshine, have some water and enjoy your first steps into the famous Universal Studios. You will see the figure of a film crew iconic for Hollywood after you pass the Front Gate and enter the Park.
Your first goal should be the Studio Tour, since this is the one with one of the longest lines and it eases you nicely into the park experience. For this, go straight past Universal Plaza (see map link below), hang a right and stick close to the construction site where they are building the new Harry Potter ride. Take another right and follow the signs to the Studio Tour. You will go down an escalator and get in line that constantly keeps moving since Universal has a very thought-out system as to move their guests through the park without stopping much. They take care of you (except that regular annual pass holders don’t get discounts anymore – pooey)!
On the Studio Tour, you will experience the King Kong 360 3D ride (if you dislike 3D rides like me, it works if you don’t put on the glasses they provide, or just close your eyes- the car you’re sitting in will move- it’s still enjoyable! Or take the ride 20 times and you’ll get used to it), view famous movie and TV show scenes (How I met your mother, Friends) and listen to Jimmy Fallon and his tramtastic song (“just jaws” :D ). The 1-hour tour goes by very quickly and you will recognize countless scenes from movies and be let in on a couple of filming secrets as well. It all stands and falls with the presenter of the tram – but the majority are tramtastic, so you don’t have to worry about that. They also just added the Too Fast, Too Furious experience at the end of the tour this year!
After the Studio Backlot Tour, consider taking in a ride at the Upper Lot (the Simpson’s is an older one with crappy 3D- there is just no other word that describes it, but they’re working on it, and it’s a bit bumpy) and take a picture with the characters in front of the Kwik-E Mart. The Simpson’s Springfield area has been completely remodeled and you can even enjoy a beer at Moe’s Tavern or have a Krusty Burger at… The Krusty Burger. Once you pass Springfield, if you want to take it slow, see Shrek 4D (they have seats that don’t move for the few of us who like to play it safe). Shrek is always worthwhile.
Consider moving down to the Lower Lot for the ultimate experience: The Mummy Returns. This one will blow your socks off, so you have to do it. Enough said. Take in Jurassic Park while you’re down there and enjoy cooling off on a hot Universal City day. If you arrived early, it’s now time for lunch since you won’t be going on any more rides that may endanger your appetite.
For one of the many eateries, move to the upper lot and enjoy the view over Burbank and the Valley on a clear day (with roughly 200 days of Sunshine per year, this won’t be too difficult). Choose a fast food group you like (the hot dogs are recommended, as well as Mel’s Drive in Burgers and goodies). Take a break, sit down and take in the Universal ambiance – you see people with the same passion for Universal movies and rides as you. This park is not like Six Flaggs or Magic Mountain – it’s a family park and scaredecats like you and I are guaranteed to have fun on the rides!
To let your lunch settle in, enjoy a show on the Upper lot: You have the special effects stage, Animal Actors and Water World right at the beginning. Definitely try to get in Water World. You will see some famous actors in there that you recognize from TV shows – it’s an interactive show, so be ready to be interacted with. You will also get wet!
Catch a show by the Blues Brothers while you make your way over to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land. The line for this one is usually long and the ride slightly bumpy, but since it’s one of the newer rides, people are really into it. If you ‘re not a HUGE fan of the minions, you can skip it and just walk through the street of London and back along the Paris street.
For one last stop, go back down to the Lower Lot and get ready to be wooed in Transformers 3D. I skip it because as I’m not a 3D-fan, but experts I have gone with say it’s absolutely fantastic. If you have people who want to see it, but you don’t, let them stand in line and have their experience while you go off to the downstairs NBC Universal Experience – a show room of Hollywood props and the Back to the Future Delorean on Display.
Meet up afterwards and head back up to take one last look around Universal Plaza. If you had the park photographers took your picture, you can check them out at the park exit (across from the food court). Take some popcorn or cotton candy (my personal favorite – the pink or grape one, don’t take the banana flavor just because it’s a minion!), and enjoy your way through the Universal City Walk on your way back to the Parking Lot.
Congratulations, this was your Universal Studios Hollywood Experience.
Universal Studios has seasonal events as well: Halloween Horror nights on select nights in October and November; Grinchmas on select days in December and January. Make sure to catch them if you’re around!
(#My500Words Day 5)