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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Universal Studios Hollywood
We had a terrific time! The address for Universal is 100 Universal City Plaza in Universal City. The park sits on a hill near the Lankershim exit of the 101. The hours vary so it’s best to check the website. The cost for adults is $92 and kids under 10 are $84. You can save $5 on each ticket by purchasing the tickets online before you go. Parking is $16.
When we got to universal and got our map, the kids first spotted Super Silly Fun Land which is whimsical and colorful and is visible from the entrance. In the center plaza, right near the entrance, is a huge, helpful digital sign which shows wait times for rides and showtimes for the other attractions. this is awesome because it can really help you plan your day. The Despicable Me attraction on the studio tour had the longest waits on the day we were there (a Saturday).
We walked toward the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and saw that the 30 minute wait would be doable so we got in line. Right away I noticed that this park is different from Knott’s, Disneyland and Magic Mountain: the lines for rides are for the most part all in shade and all have cooling misters spraying the people in line. So nice and more humane. There were also multiple video screens showing trivia questions, movie clips and more to keep everyone entertained while in line. After going through maybe 15-20 switchbacks, we reached the front of the line and were given our 3D glasses. Then, in a holding room, we watched a video where we learned that we were going to be tuned into minions. The doors opened, we took our seats and the ride began. We watched the film and the seats moved as we were transported around the factory. The characters from the movies were also in this movie and all were cute and charming. The ride then stopped and we were led into the gift shop where there was a minion on hand for photos. They were nice and took photos of our kids with our cell phone...we didn’t have to buy pictures in order to get a photo opportunity.
Outside of the store was Super Silly Fun Land. This area looks modern and fresh. There is one ride, exactly like dumbo where you sit on a bug and push the lever to go up and down while moving around in a circle. There was no line when we went. The other two attractions are an elaborate water playground and a younger kids playground (but this one had no water, just slides, ride on bouncy animals and climbing areas). There are lockers here and I could see some families laying and then heading to change into dry clothes.
There is a new restaurant here also themed for Despicable Me and the flood looked pretty decent for theme park food. I also saw two other areas where characters from Despicable Me were posing for pictures with park guests. There are also carnival games to win minion stuffed toys.
Leaving Super Silly Fun Land we noticed the whole french area is still preserved including the Moulin Rouge restaurant which was closed for a private event. It was kind of strange to see this older area of the park right next to the brand new area, but at least the french storefronts were in good condition.
Our next idea was to go down to the lower level of the park and explore the rides and eat lunch. There is a series of four very long escalators that lead down to the area that once had the ET ride, the Lucy exhibit and Backdraft but now has the Transformers 3D ride, the Mummy ride and the Jurassic park ride and dino playground. The line for the Jurassic park rode was about 30 minutes. This ride is very fun with animatronic dinosaur and a good pace but unfortunately everyone in the car gets soaking wet from the waist up. The 84 foot drop at the end includes what feels like a shower. My hair was sopping, my neck and arms were completely wet and my t-shirt felt so soaked that I wish i had a change of clothes. After you exit the ride there is a drying station but all that is offered is paper towels which don’t do much.
Next we walked into the adjacent jungle themed restaurant called Jurassic Cove for lunch. The nice part of this restaurant is that it is spacious and there is indoor and outdoor seating. I have noticed that at other theme parks, indoor seating, and seating in general is at a premium. And in inclement weather, or when there is no shade, it is nice to be able to sit indoors. The restaurant had decent food and even made two grilled chicken breast sandwiches while we waited that were pretty decent! They offered hot grilled items, fried chicken strips and cold items like turkey sandwiches, fruit and salads.
After eating we headed over to Mummy the Ride which is right across the way. You will need to put all of your purses, backpacks and packages in no-cost lockers which can be hard to use and even unavailable (you might have to wait for one to open up depending on how busy the park is). he line was maybe 30 minutes and again, almost all in the shade. The ride was an indoor roller coaster that was fun but we all wished was longer. You even get to go backwards at the end.
After the mummy ride my kids had a blast at the dino-themed playground which is great because it gives kids a chance to play and run and stretch their legs and adults a moment to take a breather and relax. There is a big dinosaur with netting and different levels and it’s big enough for a lot of kids to play on it at the same time.
We skipped the Transformer ride because my kids wanted to go to the Animal Actors show which was starting right then. The show was cute and has not changed much from decades ago but there is no monkey now and the animals are basically of the pet variety (dogs, cats, birds and guinea pigs). I wish they would change the shade structures because the light from the sun comes through so you’re not really in shade at all. The kids liked getting to interact with a few of the animals after the show was done.
Our next attraction was the haunted house, called House of Horrors which has been at the park for a very long time. My kids got freaked out in the first 30 seconds but Jody went through it and loved it. There are dozens of actors dressed in disguise to scary people as they walk through the dark and scary path.
We next headed down an escalator near the simpsons area to get in line for the tram tour. The line was over an hour long, mostly in shade and kind of agonizing for two reasons. There are visitors who purchase the $159-$179 front of the line passes and they get to take over the tram cars as they pull up which is painful to watch. Then, the line for the tram is just a series of maybe 80 switchbacks so you can see your fate as you twist around. I prefer lines which are indoor and wrap around buildings because it’s not as painful mentally when you can’t see just how long the line is. Nevertheless my kids were troopers and didn’t complain...maybe they were too tired to talk...and eventually we boarded the tram. My suggestion is to do this first if you are going on a busy day and to get to the park early because by nature of the front of the liners and that there are only so many trams, this attraction will always have a wait.
The tram tour has changed a lot in the past 25 years and it is about an hour long. The guide will entertain you and there is also a video screen with short segments. Jimmy Fallon does a few and you also get to see parts of shows that were filmed in various parts of the sets as you drive through them. I think this is great for kids who are often unfamiliar with TV shows and movies that are for adults. The tram takes you through a western set, a mexican town setting, the jaws set, the set from How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many more. A disappointment was King Kong. I really liked the old version with the huge animatronic gorilla attacking the tram but now it’s just a 3D movie inside a tunnel next to the collapsing bridge which is no longer used. On the other hand, a pleasant surprise is the live actor portraying Norman Bates from Psycho who walks out of the Bates Motel and deposits a dead body in the trunk of a car before approaching the tram with a large knife. My daughter’s favorite part was the pretend earthquake in a San Francisco subway station set. She couldn’t believe how realistic it felt and the neat demos they showed of water flooding the station, a car being derailed right in front of her and the feeling of impending disaster. I really enjoyed the drive through Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives and the accompanying video. It was neat to see the houses of the characters up close. There is a lot more that I didn’t talk about here so it will be a surprise when you visit!
We really enjoyed our day at Universal and got too tired to see the Waterworld show, the Special Effects show and some of the 3D movies. The park felt modern and we were grateful for the shaded lines, ample bathrooms and water fountains and the two playgrounds.