Universal Studios Hollywood

Are you planning a trip to the Universal Studios Hollywood? If so, here's everything you need to know. If not, I highly recommend you plan one soon for a fun-filled day with your family. For someone who is not a big fan of Disney World I must say I loved our trip to the Universal Studios Hollywood. I especially liked the fact that there are about 12 really cool and interesting things to do (8 attractions, 3 shows and 1 studio tour ), which makes it pretty manageable to cover in a day instead of the overwhelming number of not-worthy-of-standing-in-line-for hours attractions that I experienced in our trip to Disney World in Orlando. On the other hand, if you have small kids, you may not be able to experience most of the attractions at Universal Studios due to height requirements and may find more things to do at Disney World. 

Universal Studios Hollywood has 2 levels (Upper Level and Lower Level). You enter the Park through the Upper Level which is where the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter' and most of the other attractions are. You have to take a series of escalators to get to the lower level where you have 'Transformers 3-D ride' and a couple of other attractions. Read on to find some tips, list of top attractions and other information on food, drinks and parking.

Here are my tops 3 tips:

1) Go early: If you buy tickets online, you get to enter the Park an hour earlier than normal hours of operation. Go as early as possible coz the wait times are minimum in the first couple of hours (10-15 min) and are at their peak (75-90 min) during mid-day for popular attractions.

2) Download the App: Download the 'Universal Studios Hollywood' App as it shows the wait times for various attractions that helps you plan your day better and it also shows the map that helps you navigate from one attraction to another.

3) Show and Tour Times: Studio Tour closes earlier than the Park and shows have specific times, so you might want to keep an eye on those times if you don't want to miss them.

Here is my list of top 6 attractions as of June, 2017:

1) Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: This is the most popular ride in the Park as of this summer, so we started our day with this. What a great start it was! They take you through the Hogwarts castle, introduce you to various characters and then take you on a thrilling ride into the Harry Potter world. It was our first introduction to the virtual reality rides and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hogwarts Castle
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

2) Transformers 3-D Ride: This is the other super popular ride in the Park and we had a blast. This 3-D ride was very immersive and you would feel as if you are part of the movie/set. Despite having been to several interesting rides throughout the day, this set my imagination on fire.  I would recommend you do this ride in the morning (which means you have to go to lower level), as the lines get longer as the day progresses. This was the last ride we did for the day and we had to stand in line for about 60 minutes for this which is exhausting especially at the end of a long day. 

In the War Zone before the Ride

3) Studio Tour: This is what makes Universal Studios Hollywood special as they take you in a tram to explore Hollywood's most famous backlot in the world's largest working movie studio.  They take you through the streets of New York, the lanes from ABC's hit series Desperate Housewives, the legendary Bates Motel from Psycho, the beach area in the Jaws and through several stage settings and working studios. But the most interesting part of the tour was experiencing King Kong 360 3-D where we are right in the middle of a terrifying fight between T-Rex and King Kong. It was fantastic. At another juncture, we also get to partake in the Fast & Furious chase scene through this 360 3-D hyper realistic special effects.

The streets in 'Desperate Housewives'

4) Shrek 4-D: This is a short 4-D movie where you can not only see and hear but also feel the actions letting you be part of the movie. I like 3-D effects, so 4-D was even better!

5) The Walking Dead Attraction: You walk through a dimly lit dungeon-kinda area where zombies give you surprise attacks. I had so much fun walking through this and couldn't stop laughing!

6) Special Effects Show: This is a really cool show where they share the secrets behind recording sound effects, horror scenes, live animation, zero-gravity travel and lot of other fun stuff. Don't miss this show, even if you are remotely interested in films.

Other Mentions: 'Revenge of the Mummy' ride is interesting coz you ride in the dark and you go backwards during part of the ride. 'Jurassic Park' ride is a partial water ride and a good one to do in the afternoon. The Simpsons Ride is pretty decent. 

We could have skipped the 'Flight of the Hippogriff' and 'Ollivanders' and instead headed to Transformers ride in the morning when the wait times were low. We might have enjoyed the 'Water World' show better if we got the front seats where you could get wet. We skipped the Minion ride and Animal Actors show, the only 2 things we skipped in the Park. 

Last but not the least, meet and greet the various friendly characters in the Park and click a lot of pictures.

Food & Drinks:
There are several food options to choose from. However, if you want to get good seating, avoid dining between 12-2 pm. You are allowed to bring in water into the Park, which you might want to. However, don't miss the 'Butterbeer' in the Harry Potter World. There are several ice-cream shops in the Lower Level while we only found one in the Upper Level and that has long lines.

You can park in the 'General Parking Lot' ($20) instead of the Front Gate or Preferred Parking as you get to walk through the Universal CityWalk which is fun. In the evenings, this area comes to life with live music, dancing, shopping and food. You can see yourself on the big screen as you dance and we had a lot of fun.

Have a lot of fun and action and be thoroughly entertained! After all, you are in the entertainment capital of LA.


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