This time last year I had my first-ever visit to Universal Studios Holywood. Since then, I was fortunate enough to go back again in June of this year to check out some other rides and attractions inside the park. However, I wanted to do this review especially now, because when it comes to the holiday season, Universal Studios does add a special touch, and wanted to highlight that and so many more things you can expect if you ever visit along with some tips, vids, and pics! Therefore, read below, and hopefully, it can help you or you will enjoy reading it. Before you do, make sure to give follow on Tiktok, Instagram, and Facebook for more content like this!
Location and Parking
Universal Studios Hollywood is technically located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California but it is still part of Los Angeles County. Getting there is pretty easy and there is a lot of paid parking available, I believe I went with preferred for $40 (at the time) and don’t regret it. I would suggest getting there a bit before the park opens to get a good spot. On the website, it mentions general parking before 5 pm is $30 and $10 after 5 pm while preferred is $50 and $20 respectively. Right by the front gate is $70 but it really is based on your party and what is best for them.
Tickets and Pricing
In terms of ticket and pricing, it is always crucial to check the official site first to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. That being said, there are other third-party sites that provide access to certain deals and some are better than others, but make sure it is verified. Another thing I want to note is that the price does vary in terms of peak seasons because at the end of November, it was around $166 per person including the Express pass but in June it was around $230. I know it will be cheaper without the express pass but if you were like me and you only had one day to enjoy the park during your vacation I would strongly advise getting the Express pass to get the most out of your day at Universal Studios!
In terms of food, I actually have a separate blog post just focused on that which you can read here. I also have gone twice and have made different videos of the different food I tried which you can watch above and below, but make sure to read the blog post for all the details including honest thoughts and pricing. Personally, the best food had to be the treats at Honeydukes (Harry Potter) and the Orange Berry Ice Cream at Studio Scoop!
If you’ve been following the blog and on social media you know I have become a fan of Harry Potter because of my sister. That being said, I am not biased when I tell you that in my opinion tied for the best part of Universal Studios Hollywood is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area aka Hogsmeade. There are so much cool things to do and see such as getting an interactive wand at Ollivanders, enjoying the delicious treats at Honeydukes, gulping a glass of Butterbeer, listening to the tunes of the Frog Choir, grabbing some exclusive merchandise, and so much more. However, what stands out to me are the rides and taking pictures in front of Hogwarts Castle. You can see the video below of a POV of the Buckbeak ride, flight of hippogriff, which my sister recorded because I was way too scared to record any of the rides. The Buckbeak ride isn’t bad at all but the seats are a little tight. I found the Forbidden Journey ride very engaging but fair warning there is a lot of motion and very dark, so it was a tad bit scary and might not be for everyone.
Universal Studios Tour
The other thing tied for the best part of the theme park, in my opinion, is the studio tour. This was my parents’ favourite part of the park and I can understand why. It was cool to reflect back on all the work that was produced by the studios through the different props, interactive components, and more. Whether you are a fan of movies or not I think this is perfect for all ages and love how they are able to make it so immersive and entertaining especially with King Kong and the subway explosions. Trust me, it’s cool. It was also interesting to see that they had shows and movies that were currently filming there listed before you go down to explore the tour. See below for a short video featuring some of the cars featured in the tour.
Another big part of this park is the Simpsons component. There are a lot of small things you can do in Springfield but it was mainly shops and food options including gift shops like the Kwik-E-Mart. There is an interactive Simpsons ride that was really immersive and thrilling which I would recommend. I do want to note that even with the Express pass, this seemed to have the longest line compared to any other ride.
Something I was looking forward to a lot was the Jurrasic World part of the theme park. It was cool because sure it doesn’t completely look like how it does in the movies but they do a good job to replicate parts of it. I would say for this one when you go on the ride make sure you are okay with getting wet and maybe even a little jump scare? There are some nice spots in the area to take pics of and with as well as get some exclusive merchandise.
Similar to Jurassic World, I also grew up with Transformers so when I saw Optimus and Bumblebee in front of me, it was something I would have never expected. You are free to take pictures with them but keep in mind they are only there for certain times and there is often a line (but it moves quickly). The ride itself is really fun and I love the way they have it set up, as you feel like you are walking into an actual army base (kinda). The best moment from this was when I heard a girl in front telling her dad to help Optimus because it really was that convincing.
This was something that finally came back and seems to be a fan favorite, and I can see why. This special live performance has set time slots with trained actors who work in TV and film. It is a really entertaining show with a lot of action, special effects (explosions), and of course, water! This is fun for the entire family and would recommend trying to fit this in your day when you need to take a little breather.
Illumination Studios is the most kid-friendly part of the park but I think people of all ages will enjoy it, especially when it comes to Minions! I thought the ride was fun and didn’t have an excessive amount of motion to leave you nautious but there was some which made it fun. There are other rides that are very slowpaced like the Secret Life of Pets but once again, really depends on what you prefer. When I went the second time they were promoting the new Minions movie at the time and they did have a special collaboration with streetwear brand Verdy, but unfortunately when I got there it was sold out. However, keep in mind you might be able to find some cool exclusive stuff, including treats there but you may need to wait in some longer lines.
Speaking of kid-friendly, Dreamworks is perfect and fun for the entire family! As you entre the special theatre you will see some familiar faces such as Shrek and Donkey prior to enjoying the Kung Fu Panda adventure. This attaction is simialr to watching a 4D movie as you sit in a theatre and the seats move a bit with some mist and exciting action on screen.
This ride was a little scary but in the good way as it was exhilirating due to the speed and darkness inside. I am usually not a fan of rides like this but I couldn’t help but have fun.
Those are the attractions and rides I enjoyed and I may have missed out on some. I do want to point out that during the second time I was there, and as you will see in the recap video, they already started building the Super Nintendo World which looks incredible.
As you walk across the theme park you will see a lot of beautiful holiday decorations, mainly Christmas decorations. It is nice to see and experience but the real treat is the special “The Magic of Christmas: Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle”. It happens every night during the official holiday season (make sure to check Universal’s site to confirm) right before the park closes. See some of the pictures I took above as well as a sped-up video of it below.
I touched upon it a bit before but you will see a lot of gift shops throughout the entire park. Most of the main attactions will have their own special gift shop with some exclusive items. I would recommend you browse first before purchasing. If there is something you like and you don’t want to carry it around make sure to let the cashier know so they can send it to the front store for you to pick up before you leave the park. They will provide you a reciept and a card with your information to fill out so don’t lose that, as you will provide that to get your bags. Also, I found that they do have one massive gift shop near the exit which has some cool stuff from the various productions and some really great chocolate bars! PS, I wish they had a replica of Dom Torretto’s chain!
This is technically not part of the theme park itself but right when you exit the park you will see a really nice strip of various shops and restaurants. This is called the city walk and it does look more lively at night but I do recommend you check it out as there are some special stores and deals that are not always common. I have gone to Shoe Palace twice there to get some amazing deals, watch the video above to get an idea.
All in all, Universal Studios was really fun both times I went and I would recommed it, especially with an express pass. Eventhough the hours are much shorter than Disneyland California I didn’t feel as exhausted by doing so much at this park. I think there is a lot of cool things to discover and appreciate whether or not you’re a movie or tv buff plus, there are a lot of fun rides. I do wish they made some of the seats on rides to be bigger so it is more inclusive but overall, had a good time!