Universal Studios – Hollywood, California

My mom and I do a girls weekend every year and this year I managed to convince her that we needed to visit Universal Studios and in particular Harry Potter world. We are die hard Disney fans, so despite making a nearly annual trip to Los Angeles we have only been to Universal Studios once before nearly 15 years ago. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was added to the park about a year ago so we decided it was finally time to get down there and experience it for ourselves.

I decided to go the easiest route possible and booked a package through the Universal Studios website. There were several hotels on the site offering packages, but I picked the Sheraton which is about a five minute walk to the front gate of the park. Once the transaction was processed they sent me an email with my hotel confirmation and the park tickets to print out and off we went.

Well, actually then we waited a couple months and flew from Portland to Burbank, caught a seven minute cab ride from the Burbank airport to the hotel and THEN off we went. We got in really early on a Thursday and our tickets were for Friday and Saturday. We had every intention of just having the hotel keep our bags until 4pm at the normal check out time but they actually let us check in at 10am which was really nice. We got changed, walked up to the Universal City walk, grabbed lunch and then made our way back to the hotel pool. After several months of rain back home it was really nice to just sit in the sun and relax. We both got a tad burnt (remember to pack sunscreen always). The hotel had a very nice pools with cabanas, outdoor seating, a lovely gym and restaurant. They even delivered drinks and snacks poolside. It was pretty much perfect.
The first morning in we were allowed to enter the park an hour before opening hours, we hit the ground running and rode everything in Harry Potter twice (which turns out was only two rides) and then had a giant breakfast at the Three Broomsticks. I wrote all about my love of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in another post so you can check out the details there. The one thing that I wish would have been more obvious in planning though was that the Harry Potter attraction is in fact a part of the Universal Studios Hollywood park. The one in Orlando is a separate park, with a separate ticket cost and I could find no where that explicitly said that for Hollywood it is the SAME park with no extra ticket cost. It turned out fine but I went in not feeling 100% confident that this was the case.

Universal Studios Hollywood boasts a lot more “big rides” than Disneyland but said big rides are almost all motion simulator rides which are not my favorite. I would rather ride a baby roller coaster and physically move the same amount my brain thinks I am moving. For this reason my least favorite ride at Disneyland is Star Tours even though I love Star Wars. But we were here so I sucked it up and rode all the rides but two. I could not ride Transformers with all its 3D action and Shrek which claims to be 4D (do I even want to know what that includes?).  It also has a lot of shows which are a hoot. My favorite the Waterworld show, it is a ridiculously melodramatic 20 min show  in the theme of the 1995 Kevin Costner movie.  You get very very wet, you will laugh, and you will get to see a plane crash on the water. It is fun.

We also went to the Behind the Scene’s Special effects show, the studio tour and my personal favorite the Animal Actors show. This pup was  much better behaved than my own golden. I need to hire these guys to train Seti.

Part of the park is Simpsons themed which is also a lot of fun. The chicken and waffle sandwich at Cletus’ Chicken Shack is great, as are the tacos at the Bumblebee Man’s Taco Cart. I wanted to get a giant doughnut but it was hot so we settled on the soft serve ice cream instead. It was the better choice but I had to at least pretend I got to take a bite of the classic Lardo Doughnut. The Simpsons was after all created by an Oregonian.

The Simpsons ride was quite fun, despite being yet another motion simulator but I did enjoy it quite a bit more than the Despicable me ride that is across the park closer to the entrance.
As I mentioned in the Harry Potter post I really enjoy faux buildings. I don’t know what it is, something about the love of miniatures or maybe just the appreciation of how much work goes into making something look and feel real when it has been fabricated. Which is the say the “downtown” area was delightful, there is a small New York section and a Paris section which was a lot of fun to goof around in.
And then of course there was the lower lot which houses the Transformers ride (which my mom bravely rode without me), the Jurassic Park ride (my all time favorite) and the Mummy (a new favorite)  which I talk about in my favorite rides post.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the park, and I will most certainly being going back someday.
Things to note when planning our trip Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a part of the park (no extra ticket required).
  • Go early, take a mid day break and come back after dinner. The crowds are notably worse mid day.
  • The studio tour is a great way to see something and sit in the shade, so don’t skip out.
  • The lower lot is always way less crowded but there is also less to do, so jam in a bunch of repeat rides while you are down there as the trip in quite a haul (down four HUGE escalators).
  • Don’t forget sunscreen and to hydrate, it is pretty windy in the park since it is up on a hill so it doesn’t feel as hot which makes it easier to forget those things.

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