A First Timer’s Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood
5 Things your family must do on your first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood.
Theme parks can be a huge part of any family trip to California, with Universal Studios Hollywood being one of the biggest and the best!
It’s hard to fathom just how big this park is, however imagine entire ‘lands’ individually dedicated to The Simpsons, Despicable Me, and Harry Potter, separate rides/attractions featuring Shrek, WaterWorld and The Walking Dead, as well as a vast ‘lower lot’ featuring The Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic Park attractions.
Universal Studios Hollywood gives visitors not only an exciting theme park experience, but also the option of a behind the scenes studio tour of the backlot, special effects shows, and more. You could really spend days here exploring all the fun! These are some tips for your family’s first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, and ideas for how to make the most of your day at this awesome theme park.
1. Buy your tickets online before you go
Not only can you save money by purchasing your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets online, but they may even entitle you to early entry to the park so you can beat the crowds! Generally speaking, booking in advance can save you up to US$15 off the gate price on general admission tickets. For a family of four, this can equate to a meal at a restaurant on the Universal CityWalk at the end of a long day!
There are 3 ticket types to choose from at Universal Studios Hollywood –
- General Admission – The General Admission ticket will allow you to see everything in the park, as well as go on the Studio Tour, though you will need to queue.
- Front of Line – The Front of Line ticket is pricier than the General Admission ticket, though it is definitely worth considering if you only have one day to spend in the park. This ticket will allow you to join the much shorter ‘Front of Line’ queues once only for each ride, and priority seating for the shows.
- The VIP Experience – For die-hard movie and TV fans who are after an even bigger glimpse of behind the scenes, the VIP Experience is just for you! This ticket gives you unlimited front of line access to all rides and preferred seating at all shows, as well as a special VIP behind the scenes, personalised guided backlot tour. A continental breakfast and gourmet lunch in the VIP dining room is also included, so you won’t even have to worry about food throughout your visit.
2. Start with the Studio Tour
When the gates at Universal Studios Hollywood officially open for the day, most people head straight for the rides. A great way to orient yourself and warm up to the Hollywood experience is to bypass the rides temporarily and jump on the world-famous Studio Tour. Just head straight through Springfield USA, and you’ll find the Studio Tour carts lining up to take you on a backlot expedition. This is no ordinary tour of a studio backlot though—the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour is a thrill ride in itself!
Without giving too much away, the Studio Tour takes you past a variety of sets and props from numerous Universal movies and TV series, as well as into the real live action, with exciting encounters along the way. Your tour guide on the Studio Tour will share dozens of stories and facts about some of your favourite movies of all time. The Studio Tour is a definite must-do!
3. Allow 2 hours plus in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Whether your family includes any Harry Potter fans or not, the newest large-scale addition to Universal Studios Hollywood, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is a truly magical and impressive experience. We just adored being able to walk the cobblestones and stop in at some of the stores from the Harry Potter novels, and couldn’t quite believe we were really there standing in front of Hogwarts.
Our family spent over three and a half hours of our one-day exploration of Universal Studios Hollywood in Hogsmeade alone. Sure, we have an 11 year old Harry Potter fan girl, but the entire family loved the immersive nature of this experience that truly made you feel like you had stepped inside a JK Rowling novel.
Just some of the things the whole family can enjoy in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood include:
- Explore the inside of Hogwarts, then come face to face with magical creatures as you fly above the castle on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Enjoy a cup of Butterbeer (or try Frozen Butterbeer – yum!)
- Buy some genuine Harry Potter sweets at Honeydukes, or Hogwarts uniforms at Gladrags Wizardwear
- Have your wand choose you at Ollivander’s Wand Shop
- Spot the Weasley’s flying Ford Angela
- Ride the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster
- Write a letter or postcard and mail it from the Owl Post (there’s even a special postmark, unique to Hogsmeade!)
- Have your photo taken in front of the Hogwarts Express
- Dine at The Three Broomsticks Tavern
4. Meet The Simpsons
The 2D world of The Simpsons comes to life in Springfield USA at Universal Studios Hollywood, and there aren’t many kids (or parents) who won’t recognise iconic Springfield locations like Moe’s Tavern and the Kwik-E-Mart! The Simpsons characters can also be found in Springfield, offering opportunities to pose for a photo with life-size members of our favourite animated family.
With fun fair style amusements and the thrilling virtual reality rollercoaster, ‘The Simpsons Ride’, visitors can walk the streets of Springfield, stopping for a snack or meal at any one of these Simpsons’ themed spots –
- Lard Lad Donuts
- The Kwik-E-Mart
- Moe’s Tavern
- Krusty Burger
- Cletus’ Chicken Shack
- Bumblebee Man Tacos
5. Have a ball in Super Silly Fun Land
Fans of Despicable Me will know all about Super Silly Fun Land. The amusement park, located on a pier, was visited by Gru, Agnes, Edith and Margo in the first instalment of the Despicable Me movies. Super Silly Fun Land at Universal Studios Hollywood is a play area that’s perfect for families, as it gives kids the chance to burn off some energy on the play equipment or, in warmer weather, to splash about with the dozens of water play features. 53 Minion statues are located throughout Super Silly Fun Land, providing plenty of photo opportunities. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a live Minion or two, who are only too happy to pose for a photo.
One of Universal Studios Hollywood’s tamer rides is also located in Super Silly Fun Land. The Silly Swirly Fun Ride is great for kids who may be a bit timid with the thrill rides throughout the rest of park, or those who just love to spin and fly through the air. We found the queues for this ride to be minimal, so our Brisbane Kids went on again and again.
Following the trend of virtual reality 3D and 4D rides that can transport you to another world from the comfort of your seat, Minion Mayhem takes families on an adventure to become Minions. The Minion training mission will see you travel through Gru’s laboratory, where chaos ensues. Be sure to check yourself out on the big screen at the Minion dance party at the completion of the ride—it’s a tonne of fun!
Other attractions to discover at Universal Studios Hollywood
Whilst the above should be the top priorities for families visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, there are also dozens of other experiences to be enjoyed. Particularly for families with older children (or daredevils), you will also want to check out –
- The Walking Dead Attraction – Come face to face with ‘walkers’ (zombies) and fight to make it through recognisable sets from the popular TV series. There are even genuine props from the show scattered throughout!
- Shrek 4-D – OgreVision glasses, moving seats, and other effects will make you feel part of the story, as Shrek and Donkey set out to rescue Princess Fiona from the spirit of Lord Farquaad. (Stationary seats are also available.)
- The Jurassic Park Ride – Journey through Jurassic Park and encounter dinosaurs in their natural habitat before plunging into the water on this flume ride.
- WaterWorld – Set in WaterWorld, you won’t know which way to look as jet skiers zoom past and pyrotechnics explode right in front of you in this stunt and special effects show.
- Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride – A true thrill ride, Revenge of the Mummy reaches speeds of up to 70km per hour in almost darkness and includes a drop of almost 12 metres whilst your mine cart hurtles through tombs and tunnels.
- Transformers: The Ride 3D – This flight simulated 3D ride immerses you in a war zone, as you fight the Decepticons to save the human race with Optimus Prime by your side.
- Special Effects Show – This is a behind the scenes insight into how special effects and stunts are created in movies and on TV. Get there early and you may even become part of the show!
- Character encounters – Keep an eye out for other characters roaming throughout Universal Studios Hollywood, and be sure to ask them for a photo and autograph! Characters you may encounter include – The Simpsons, Minions, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the Mystery Inc team, Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey, SpongeBob Squarepants, Megatron, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, Curious George, and even a Raptor!
Take a look at our video below for a glimpse at just how fun a day at Universal Studios Hollywood can be!
Universal Studios Hollywood is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, Los Angeles. Opening times vary throughout the year. To find out more, and to plan your visit, check out http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/.
*The writer was a guest of Universal Studios Hollywood. Visit: www.universalstudioshollywood.com*
If you’re looking for a great place for your family to stay while you explore the theme parks in Los Angeles, we’ve found it! Take a look at our full review of The Magic Castle Hotel – the best hotel in Los Angeles for families.