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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Review of Universal CityWalk Hollywood
Universal CityWalk is right next door to Universal Studios. This is one of those destinations that I visited when I was younger and have now gone back to with my children so I see it much differently now. It can be a lot of fun if you plan carefully!
Here is the 411 on Citywalk also called Citywalk Hollywood...
Citywalk is located at 100 Universal City Plaza in Universal City. It is located off the Lankershim exit off the 101 freeway. It is also service by the Universal City Station of LA's own subway the Metro Red Line The citywalk entertainment center is open from 11 am until 9 pm or later depending on the day, so check their website before going. The website for citywalk is citywalkhollywood.com.
Now, here are the details. We arrived via the metro redline at the bottom of the hill from Citywalk and crossed the street and took the free Citywalk shuttle up to the center. Unfortunately there is only one shuttle running so there can be quite a long wait. We timed it and it took a full 20 minutes between shuttles . There were a couple of benches but those were filled so we stood in a slightly shaded area for the 20 minutes. At the other end, when you are waiting to go back down the hill, there are no benches, just a roped off to stand in. One very important thing to note here is that the shuttle stops running at 9 pm. Yes, you can walk back down but the pathway did not very child friendly in terms of crosswalks and opposing traffic and I would not suggest it for children at all.
Why even take the shuttle you ask? There are two reasons 1. if you take public transportation and two the parking at Citywalk is a little pricey for those who go their just to shop and not go to a venue that offers a validation discount. If you enter the lots from 5 pm on, you will pay a flat $10. If you enter before 5 pm you will pay a flat $12. There is also valet parking and that price depends on whether or not you can get validation. Certain restaurants and the movie theater will validate your parking. Validation will only help though if you park valet. The rates for this vary from $2 for one hour to $7 for 90 minutes and then add on $3 for each additional 30 minutes. So say you go and valet your car and get validated and then stay for 3 hours. You will pay $16! Without validation, and using valet, you will pay $28. We ate at Versailles at the food court and that restaurant did not validate. Now if you plan to see a movie, you will get a $5 discount on general, not valet parking so then you will only have to pay $5. This sounds like a good bargain!
If you park, planning on paying some real money, my husband just a week ago went to a concert there, he did not get valet parking or their preferred parking and he was charged 12 dollars at his 8pm midweek arrival. This 12 dollar price does not agree with the 10 dollar price stated on the website, so our recommendation is to plan on paying big time for parking if you choose to park in their lot.
After getting up to Citywalk and getting off the shuttle we started to look around at all of the shops. When CityWalk was built, the idea was to make the stores look unusual and larger than life. The Ben and Jerry's has what looks like the back of a car sticking out of the front sign. The Hard Rock Cafe has a guitar that stands several stories high. Parts of the center are 2 stories and there was an extension added a few years after it was built that has even more stores plus a bowling alley and a piano bar. The whole complex is outdoors so I advise bringing a sweatshirt because it will get windy and colder as the evening progresses. Now on to what my two 4-year-olds were most attracted to:
There are toys stores, souvenir stores, snack stores like Popcornopolis and candy stores so your kids will find plenty to do. My kids loved a store called It'Sugar which is just huge. It's one of those candy stores where you take a bag and fill it with various loose candy like gummy bears and jelly worms and licorice. They also have a area where you can design your own candy bar and tons of candy related merchandise. I held their bags and filled them with small quantities of the candies they wanted and was able to walk out only spending $5 dollars. We also loved Sparky's a fun toy store with Barbie and Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels and also a toy store called Crow's Nest Toys which is attached to a huge souvenir store and coffee bean. The inventory was just huge with every licensed character I could think of represented. Truly overwhelming.
After wandering through the toys and candy, and picking up an order of small fries at Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, we went to a large center courtyard where they have a huge water play area set up for kids with dancing fountains. If you plan ahead and bring bathing suits or pack a change of clothes, the kids can have a lot of fun in the fountains. There were also two different performers singing and playing guitars for tips which was nice to listen to. In the area in front of the movie theaters there was a stage where they hold free concerts every night during the summer, each night of the week having a particular theme. Fridays are called Flashback Fridays and the Night, Mondays are KIIS FM's summer dance crew competitions. On the night we went they were going to have Missing Persons. Later in the summer they will have a Supremes tribute band and The Motels. The Friday night concerts start at 9:15 but before that, on the night we were there, Richard Blade who used to DJ on KROQ, was giving out prizes for guessing song titles and getting the crowd involved. My husband even knew the Adam Ant song being played, but unfortunately he did not win the contest.
In addition to the stage, we also really liked seeing two women on stilts who were posing for pictures. My kids were just fascinated by it.
We also went to iFly and watched first a customer and then an employee fly inside of a wind chamber which they call indoor skydiving. This was quite a spectacle and you have to see it to believe it. The participants where a helmet as they truly float in their with a lot of wind pressure making them float in the rather large glass chamber. From their website the prices start at around 50 dollars for the experience and up. Of course they sell DVD and have package for multiple flyers, parties etc.. Their website also says from age 3 to 103.
Were not ready to send our four year olds up in it, but I imagine older children would really want to do this activity.
Before long we were all ready for dinner. There are dozens of options including full service sit-down restaurants like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Camachos Cantina as well as fast food likeSubway and Pizza Hut Express which are both in a food court upstairs. The food here is similar ot other mall prices, and there many options. The crepe place looked yummy as did the Panda Inn. We ate at Versailles which is part of chain of Cuban restaurants around LA. For $10 we got an enormous piece of garlic chicken, delicious rice, black beans and fried plantains. I got Panda Express for the kids and we all got full quickly.
After eating we went back downstairs to look around some more but there was just so much to see! We didn't get a chance to bowl at Jillian's but it looked like fun. There was also an arcade, a video game store, a Raiders apparel store and more. I also want to say here that the bathrooms are kind of hidden and we had to ask several times where to find them. As a mom with young kids who often need to wash their hands or drink water, finding a bathroom and water fountain needs to be easy and it wasn't always that way here. In fact I never did see a water fountain.
After some more browsing and listening to the live street performers sing, it was time to go home. We went in the shuttle line and waited in the wind for the shuttle to take us down the hill.
All in all we had a great time. Our suggestion would for Universal to have another shuttle in operation to make the wait time for the service shorter and I also wish they ran the shuttle later hours. Many visitors and perhaps even a family with children older than ours might just be out later than 9pm.