Los Angeles in-home to some great theme parks and Universal Studios is one of them. This park is often overlooked by theme park lovers but it is a unique park that should be on your bucket list.
That is why we are sharing these Universal Studios Hollywood tips to help you plan a visit when you are in LA.
Planning your visit
Buy your tickets in advance – We talk about this a lot but buying your tickets in advance is going to save you a lot of money and time when you are at the parks. Check out the official website for deals and compare prices with other ticket-selling websites.
Consider the Universal Express ticket – If you want to ride everything whilst seeing every show and attraction, get yourself a Universal Express ticket. It will not only allow you to make the most out of your day but will also help you have a much more enjoyable day.
Know the rides – Read up on the rides before your visit so you know which ones you will want to ride and which wants you don’t mind missing. Plus, if you are travelling with children, there are some height restrictions you need to be aware of. Generally, the height restrictions are 48 inches tall or 122 cm for the roller coaster rides.
Want to splurge? – There is a Universal Studios Hollywood VIP experience package available for those looking for a special experience. This includes valet parking, a personal guided tour of the park, unlimited priority access to rides and shows (with a guide to tell you where the best seats are). You will also get breakfast in a private VIP lounge, a backlot tour of sound stages, the prop warehouse and restricted areas that are not available on the usual studio tour. On top of that, you all get a gourmet all-you-can-eat lunch at the Moulin Rouge dining room. These experiences are pricey and vary depending on the day but start at $349.
When to visit Universal Studios Hollywood
Best day – The best times are, of course, weekdays outside of the school holidays. If you visit outside of the summer season, you will find shorter lines but check the Los Angeles Crowd Calendar for more accurate crowd predictions which take into account events in the nearby area too.
Celebrity spotting – The Universal Studios Hollywood park is unique in that it is still a place of filming. Check the website a few weeks before your visit to see if there is anything being filmed during your visit – you may be able to get yourself some tickets to be in the audience.
Halloween – From mid-September to the first week of November, the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights run, with houses, mazes and rides based on horror movies. Time your first for this event if you love Halloween horror events.
Christmas – From mid-November to the start of January, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is redecorated to celebrate Christmas. Hogsmeade is full of Christmas decor and themed food and drink is available to try. The Magic of Christmas projection show is very popular and worth a visit – so if you love Christmas, time your visit for the end of the year. The park also offers a Grinchmas celebration, with a 60-foot tall Grinchmass tree and some “who-liday singers”.
What to take to Universal Studios Hollywood
Motion-sickness remedies – Some rides can cause some upset stomachs so bring some motion sickness tablets to help, especially for 4D rides.
Comfortable shoes – It sounds obvious but wearing a proper pair of comfortable trainers is essential for the long days in the park.
Avoid the jeans – Not only can the park become very warm, but you may also find yourself getting wet on some of the rides, so having clothes which dry quickly is a must.
Sunscreen – Again, it can get very hot at the parks so you need to protect yourself with some proper sunscreen.
Do not overpack – No one wants a heavy backpack around the theme parks, so only bring the essentials. Also, remember your bag will be checked at the park entrance.
Leave the action camera – I love filming on a ride but unfortunately, Universal has a strict no video/photo policy to adhere by.
Reusable water bottle – You can ask for your water to be refilled in most cafes and restaurants but a reusable bottle is essential. There are water fountains around the park too so you can stay hydrated during your visit.
Swimwear for younger children – There is a Wet Zone called Super Silly Fun Lands with over 80 water play features for young children. This is the perfect way to cool down and is loved by kids, so bring a swimsuit and change of clothes if you are bringing younger children.
What to do when you are at Universal Park Hollywood
Arrive ahead of time – Aim to arrive ahead of park opening to make the most out of your day. Once you enter the park, head to the ride you desperately want to visit; the Wizarding World is always the busiest area so it may be worth heading here first.
Parking and security – It can take up to 30 minutes for parking and security at the park, so allow plenty of time to park and get to the entrance. There are options to upgrade your parking, with the Preferred parking being near the park exit (ideal for a quick exit at the end of the night) whilst the Front Gate parking is very close to security, meaning you can get into the park quickly and easily.
Watch the shows – the shows are fantastic attractions in the park and are often forgotten about. Schedule your day around the shows so that you can see the amazing stunt and water shows whilst enjoying your favourite rides too.
Start low – The park is separated into a lower lot and an upper lot, so head to the lower lot early to experience few crowds and low wait times. Do everything in the lower lot at once then head to the upper lot for the rest of your day – you want to avoid taking the StarWay multiple times.
Use the single riders queue – We always recommend this option for those that don’t have the Universal Express Pass. This is a chance to skip the long queues as long as you are happy not to ride with other people in your party. When we travel as a couple, we use this queue and I rarely have to wait longer than 5 minutes for my husband to come off the ride as well.
Attractions with the Single Riders line:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
- Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Jurassic World – The Ride
The Studio Tour – This is by far one of the most popular attractions and is what makes this theme park so unique. You get to ride around the backlot of Hollywood Universal Studios and see sets and props from some of the most popular films and tv programmes around. Don’t head here early though. Wait until the afternoon when the queues for the rest of the rides are long and your legs could do with a rest!
Use the child swap system – Similar to other Universal parks, there is a child swap program. This allows one parent to wait with a child who is not able to ride a certain ride, whilst the other parent rides it. Then, those parents can switch over without having to queue again. If you are travelling with other children, they get to ride again and the parents don’t miss out on the fun.
Use the shows – The special effects show and Kung Fu Panda is air-conditioned so visit them in the middle of the day when the park is getting pretty warm and you need to cool off a bit.
Jurassic World early – Try and ride the Jurassic World ride during the morning or early afternoon before the temperature drops. You will want to dry off as quickly as possible.
Parking – Some hotels offer shuttles to the park but, if you are driving, make sure you choose the right car park. The signs will lead you to the E.T. garage which would require you to walk the length of the CityWalk before arriving at the park entrance. Instead, use exit U.S. Highway 101 at Lankershim Blvd, head north then turn onto Universal Hollywood Drive and look for the Frankenstein garage on the left, just past the curve. This is the nearest car park to the entry plaza. As always, make a note of where you have parked and lock away any bags or items out of sight.
Head to guest relations – Don’t forget to head to guest relations and pick up your free buttons to remember your visit.
Save the shopping – Save any shopping until the end of your trip. There is a pickup location near the exit at the Universal Studios Store, so if you do buy anything, then ask to have them held for pickup.
Need charging? – If you need to charge your phone, head up to the Starbucks on the upper lot; they have plenty of electrical outlets. If you forgot your charger, as guest relations; they may be able to loan you one.
Download the app – As with many theme parks, Universal Studios Hollywood has its own mobile app. Download the app to track wait times and the show schedule. Download before arriving but you can access the app using the parks free WiFi too. The app will also show you which restaurants have vegetarian options too.
Food and drink at Universal Studios Hollywood
Eat before you arrive – there are plenty of hotels nearby that offer a breakfast buffet and this is highly recommended if you planning on spending the whole day at the park. Eat-in the morning, either at your hotel or one of the breakfast options in CityWalk or even grab some food from the nearest Walmart, either way, eat up, you will need your energy.
Bring a water bottle – You will need to bring a water bottle to the park, even if the weather is cooler than you expect. Stay hydrated on your busy day around the park with a reusable water bottle – remember you can ask the staff at any of the restaurants to fill your bottle for you.
Off-peak lunch – To avoid overcrowded restaurants, eat off-peak meals – what we mean by that is, try to have an early lunch or late breakfast around 10.30/11 am then avoid eating until 3/4 pm, after everyone has stopped for their lunch. Not only will you have quieter restaurants but wait times are also quieter from 12 – 2 pm, when most people are stopping for lunch.
Eat at CityWalk – It may feel like a hassle to leave the park for lunch or dinner but it can save you a lot of money for not far of a walk. Plus, the restaurant options are more varied at Citywalk and often tastier.
Adult Beverages – Adult drinks are available in Hogs Head, inside the Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World section or, you can get a drink from Moe’s Tavern in Springfield.
Eat whilst you watch – The Universal Animal Actors and Waterworld shows allow you to bring your food in with you whilst you watch the show. This is a great way to maximise your time in the park without going hungry.
Where to eat at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Three Broomsticks – In the Wizarding World, you will find a rustic tavern which transports you to the Harry Potter movies. Expect an English fare here, with a menu of Bangers and Mash, Shepherds Pie, Fish’n’Chips and a Sunday Roast. The Great Feast is also available for anyone visiting as a group; it includes ribs, roasted chicken, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and veg.
- Hogs Head Pub – Also in the magical land, this pub is hidden at the back of the Three Broomsticks and serves Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer as well as Hog’s Head Brew, imported and domestic beers, wine, spirits and mixed drinks.
- Bumblebee Man’s Taco truck – For a quick meal, head to this taco truck for a decent lunch. There are also lots of Simpson themed sit down restaurants in this area such as Luigi’s Pizza and Krusty Burger, depending on what you are looking for.
- French Street Bistro – This restaurant in the Upper lot is a good place for a sit-down meal, even if you are only looking for a sandwich. Escape from the heat and take a break before spending the rest of your day exploring the park.
- Isla Nu-bar – Enjoy a tropical selection of refreshments at this bar including fruity Mai-Tai and Pina Colada.
- Mel’s Diner – We loved the original Mel’s Diner just off Hollywood Boulevard but this replica is pretty decent too. Expect an American diner theme with amazing milkshakes.
Tips for visiting the Wizard World of Harry Potter
Split the day – Go as early as you can to experience the rides but then leave. Come back in the late afternoon for a quieter experience around Hogsmeade and maybe grab some dinner from the Three Broomsticks. Everyone heads here first so the land can get busy quickly.
Skip the wands – Firstly, the magic wands at the theme park are EXPENSIVE. Yes, you can use these wands in the area but most of the time, you will have to wait in a line to use the wand and by the time it is your turn, you already know what is going to happen. Just watch others and, if you want a wand, order one ahead of time online.
Skip the robes – Again, I get that dressing as a wizard adds more to the experience but you can save a fortune by buying your outfit before your visit to the park.
Use the test seat – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has a size restriction because of the way the seat is designed. There are test seats near the entrance of the queue.
Nighttime light show – The light show runs throughout the summer and during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. If you want a good view, either arrive early or wait for a second show.
Ollivanders – This experience does not accept an express pass and can be very busy in the morning when children and their families are buying wands for the day. If you want to experience this section, visit in the late afternoon, when families are starting to head home.
Have an amazing time at Universal Studios Hollywood! Whilst you are in LA, make sure you also visit Disneyland California too!