I’ll preface this review of Universal Studios Hollywood by stating three facts. The first is that I was a chaperone for a Middle School field trip, and therefore in charge of 8 teenage girls plus my own pre-teen son. I didn’t visit this park like a normal visitor might since I was arranging multiple meet-in-person check-ins that disrupted our day. The second is that I know next to nothing about the Harry Potter franchise. It’s not that I dislike it, I just have not read any of the books or seen any of the movies so I am relatively clueless except for what I have heard about the franchise from other people. The third fact is that I followed the Trip Plan and recommendations from the Official Guide to Disneyland 2019, which includes a section on Universal. I am going to focus my review on my overall feelings about this park and who might best enjoy their time and money being spent at Universal Studios Hollywood.
A few basics before I begin my review. Universal has a few choices in the type of ticket to purchase. We were on standard one-day tickets ($109-129 per person depending on the day you visit), and there are also Universal Express, VIP Experience, and two-day tickets. The Universal Express ticket allows you one “Express Access” to each attraction and stage show, and will cost from $70-$150 per person more than a standard ticket depending the day you visit. “Express Access” is like a FastPass at Disneyland, allowing you to go into a shorter line for a ride or be seated first at a stage show. The VIP Experience starts at $349 per person and will give you unlimited “Express Access”, expert guided tour, including the backlot, light snacks and refreshments, gourmet meal in the VIP dining room, and Valet Parking. The two-day tickets ($149-$169 per person) are just like one-day, except, of course, they are for two days and your second visit must be within 7 days of your first. Parking costs per day range from $25 to $50 based on how close you want to be to the front gate.
The park is split between the upper and lower lots. They are divided by a series of multiple escalators/staircases, which most of the attractions being in the upper lot. My husband had a great time taking the stairs up to see if he could beat the rest of us on the escalator and he almost did. It is 344 steps for anyone using a fitness tracker. Here are my thoughts on how different type of park goers will enjoy Universal Studios Hollywood.
The Thrill Seeker – This the BEST type of person to visit this park. There are eight ride-type attractions at this park, plus the soon to open Jurassic Park The Ride, and all but one of them (the Studio Tour) is a thrill-type attraction, and most are motion simulators. The Walking Dead is a walk-thru attraction, but I am lumping it into the “thrill” category as it is an attraction meant to scare you with zombies and other frights to make you scream. Both teens and adults in our group had a blast on each and every ride that there were able to squeeze into their day. DIVA TIP – Try the Single Rider line at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey if the main line is very long. Our group was able to ride multiple times in a row without being the 3+ hours line that it was that day.
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a standard roller coaster and a very short one at that. We timed it at 47 seconds. We all recommend that you spend no more than 20 minutes in line for this ride as there so many of the other rides were more immersive and certainly longer in length. We even think this is one you could skip all together if you are pressed for time.
Families with Small Children – As I noted above, most of the rides are for thrill seekers, and additionally, most have height requirements ranging from 39″ for Flight of the Hippogriff to 48″ on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Revenge of the Mummy.. This could be a cause for tears and boredom as the older kids and adults hit rides that the smaller ones cannot. There is a section of the park called Super Silly Fun Land which is geared towards small kids. In addition, the park entertainment lineup includes three stage shows, Animal Actors, Special Effects, and WaterWorld, and one theatre show featuring Kung Fu Panda. We did all four of these and enjoyed them all very much. Most would easily be appropriate for young ones, except maybe the WaterWorld show if loud noises and explosions are too much for your child. There are also meet and greets and street performances that young ones could watch. While there are a few things for the small kiddos to do here, I would be hard pressed to tell you that this alone is worth the price of admission if it is all your child can do.
The Harry Potter Fan – This person will be in Hogwarts heaven. Even the non-Harry Potter fan will be impressed with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I know I was. In addition to the two rides, there are magic wand experiences, butterbeer stands, a nighttime light show, Triwizard Spirit Rallies, and more. I sat for a while on a bench and watched some of the action and enjoyed it very much. If, however, you are a Harry Potter fan with motion sickness, you most likely will not want to ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as more than one adult in our party was not feeling well after this ride and were not typically prone to motion sickness.
Visitors with Motion Sickness – This person will find themselves pretty much in the same situation as the small children. Most of the rides will not work for this group of people, and if not a small child, that doesn’t leave much else to do in the park. This was my pre-teen son on our trip, and he was getting pretty grumpy and bored as the day went on. We were even taken aback by the two ‘mini’ motion simulators on the Studio Tour. One section required 3D glasses to watch King Kong protect us from dinosaurs while our tram rolled and pitched from side to side. The other was a 3D projection duplicating a race from the Fast and the Furious. Both of these sections caused my son to get a headache.
My Overall Opinion – This park definitely caters to the thrill seeker. What I find missing at this park that I love about Disneyland is the ‘down time’ attractions and the high capacity rides to help with crowd control. Everything here, from rides to stage shows, are loud and in your face. I missed not having any options for leisure attractions, like softly riding on boats through “it’s a small world”, or long, slow moving dark rides, like the Haunted Mansion. We were there on a Saturday, but with only 8 ride attractions to absorb the crowds, we were unable to find anything requiring a wait less than 60 minutes only 1.5 hours after park opening even using the touring plan from the Unofficial Guide. My son’s final opinion is that he would rather spend only one day at Disneyland over a week at Universal Studios. Now, my daughter and husband, both fitting that first Thrill Seeker category, loved it and would enjoy a return trip. In summary, make sure you know what type of park you enjoy visiting before you decide to spent your travel dollars here.
If you want to plan a vacation that includes a stop at Universal Studios Hollywood, be sure to contact Patricia at All For Dreams Travel for a free quote.
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