We know, we know. You’re shocked. We are absolutely avid Disney-goers. But don’t cross Universals off of your list! With the addition of Harry Potter World and Super Mario World, Universals is worth the visit. Click here for tickets.
Motion Sickness Warning
One disclaimer for USH: if you suffer from motion sickness, many of the rides may trigger it. We found that a good 90% of the rides rely on digital video and simulations, which definitely triggered my motion sickness (something I never had until I got pregnant with my daughter… woohoo motherhood 🙄). By the end of the day, this was definitely a problem. Also, side note, we got sprayed or spritzed on almost every ride, so if you straighten your hair… well, just don’t. Waste of half an hour!
Harry Potter World
You feel like you aren’t in a theme park at all, but in the world of Harry Potter itself. From the music, to the esthetic, it was a real treat to visit. On the app, you’ll notice that it lists the “Ollivander’s Experience”. This is a mini-show. It runs every fifteen minutes or so. We were able to time it so that we could walk right in. It’s fairly quick, and empties in to the store where you can purchase wands. There are interactive windows that will react to the wands, but they do cost around $60 USD.
While walking around there are “marks” on the ground in the shape of a circle with a spell written on it with a diagram of how to move the wand to make something in the immediate vicinity react.
Get there as soon as the park opens when the rides lineups are short. We were able to walk on both of the rides. Flight of the Hippogriff is a cute children’s roller coaster, but is very short. Don’t wait too long for it! Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is across the way. This ride had another super awesome lineup (think Indiana Jones), with a ton of interactive things to look at when the line is larger.
This one had an interesting mix of flight simulation screen and animatronics. I’m a sensitive soul and I found the Acromantula and Dementors to be too much for me and had to close my eyes 🙈 as they were quite intense. I mean, who WOULDN’T be freaked out by a giant spider coming to attack you and floating demons trying to suck out your soul? With the circular screens and motion, this ride triggered my motion sickness (again… thank you motherhood for giving me that “gift”). I also shut my eyes for most of this ride. I was done at the first spider-sighting. The Dementors were huge. I’m also typically pretty bullet proof when it comes to motion sickness. This ride made me feel sick.
Moving on… when you get off of the ride, you exit into a store called Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods… and if you are in some way representing your Hogwarts House, you can find an employee in your House Colours and they will teach you your House’s secret handshake!
Do not leave Hogsmeade without trying the Butterbeer in Hog’s Head. There are also stands outside in the street if the line up is long. Oh. My. Goodness! I tried the slushy version, but they also offered just an iced one (and seasonally they serve it hot!). This drink was a sip of heaven. Its not too sweet (which I was worried about), but had a smooth butterscotch flavour and the “head” was creamy and somehow tasted exactly like Dulce de Leche ice cream (I don’t even know how that was possible considering it all came just from pouring the slushy, nothing else).
Child Switch Service
Now, I need to mention something that I really appreciated about Universal Studios Hollywood. For their Child Switch service (available on all of the major rides except one), your party can actually stick together. At the very end of the line they have a room that the person staying with the child who is too small to ride can sit and wait until the rest of their party comes off of the ride.
The only ride that didn’t have the Child Switch room was Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. I was actually a little bit peeved because this ride was for kids over 40”, so while I was off with my 1 year old the rest of my party was on the ride…and I saw SO many kids turned away because they weren’t tall enough. I would have thought they would have made it accessible to more kids, given that the content is from a kids movie. Just saying.
A new addition is the “Secret Life of Pets” ride. It is an adorable dark-ride experience. The line up is super cute, and the ride itself reminded me of “Monster’s Inc” in DCA. Other than this ride, there really is not a lot for littles to do at this park.
Upper and Lower Lot
Universal Studios Hollywood is broken up into an upper lot and a lower lot, so I recommend to do everything in one lot before going to the next. Especially since it takes 10 minutes to get from the top to bottom, and vice versa. They have 5 sets of stairs and escalators to take. If you have a stroller, you have to take your child out and ride the escalator with the empty stroller. Super annoying. If you are in a wheelchair, they provide a shuttle but it can be a 20 minute wait for it depending on your timing.
The lower lot offers the following attractions:
- Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
- Transformers: The Ride-3D
- Jurassic World: The Ride
- Super Mario World!
Super Mario World
Super Mario World is 10/10 fun. You have the option of buying a “Power-Up” Band. It enables you to keep track of your score and participate in “mini” games through the land. Bands are $40 each. We chose to not purchase them. The land was super cool to walk around. You get to go through the pipe in order to enter the world.
The Mario-Kart: Bower’s Challenge is very cool. It is a competition-style game with four people per cart. You are able to gain points by steering, and shooting shells to defeat bowser. It was really cute, and the technology was amazing. The hat was heavy, and you spend some time with it on. Once you get on the ride, you click on your visor. The visor enables you to see and shoot Bowser’s team members.
We watched the line up for a couple weeks before going to see what a reasonable amount of time was to line up for the ride. It ranged from thirty minutes to three hours. I noticed though that near closing, the line up length dipped considerably. The line up has a lot to see and look at, and was covered. We got in the 80 min line up to get out of the rain. It ended up being only fifty minutes. We then saved it as our last ride of the day! We were basically able to walk on!
Pay attention to show times. They are really fun, and worth seeing, however there are a finite number of shows to see. Currently, the only show that has returned post-Covid is Waterworld. It is fun for the whole fam, and absolutely worth seeing. They do a fun pre-show to keep everyone entertained while waiting. Note: do not sit in the “splash” section unless you are prepared to be soaked. Trust me.
The studio tour
The World-Famous Studio Tour is another “can’t miss” attraction. It takes a little under an hour to do the whole thing. Make sure you’ve eaten and used the bathroom before going! There are bathrooms right before you get on the ride!
I remember the tour being super lame as a kid. But they have brought it into the 21st Century with the addition of 3D screen areas. Also, you do drive by active sets… so if you are lucky you may see some actors! (We saw a group of extras dressed in Halloween costumes for the show “Superstore” while on our tour!) Note that the last tour is an hour before the park closes.
Our six and eight year old found the Studio Tour interesting enough. There were some intense moments, so if you have a sensitive child, this may not be the ride for you.
Right before the escalators that take you down to the Studio Tour, you will find yourself in Springfield U.S.A. (The Simpsons-themed area of Universal Studios Hollywood). To be frank, The Simpsons is not something I really enjoy, so we never did the ride. But it had some great food options! We saw a taco truck, a burger joint, and Lard Lad Donuts… which has donuts bigger than your head! I got a deeeeeelicious chicken and waffle sandwich from the fried chicken restaurant there.
If you are concern about whether or not you will fit on the ride, there are “test” seats available at the beginning of rides to try prior to getting in line. The plus side is that you are able to know ahead of time whether or not the ride is suitable for your body. The downside is that it is on the pathway, so there are people walking past. We happened to be there on a day that wasn’t busy. I imagine that if it was busier, you might be able to slip in and try the ride seat without a lot of eyes on you.
Is this somewhere that we need to go to every time we visit LA or Anaheim? No. There isn’t as much to see an do if you are used to frequenting the Disney parks. We did find though that Universal has followed Disney’s lead. The immersive experiences, shopping and dining were reminiscent of the Disney parks.
My other disclaimer is to consider your children’s sensitivity. Our five year old wasn’t able to go on The Mummy or Harry Potter’s Dangerous Journey. Our seven year old could do everything, but he was spooked after the HP Journey ride (even though he did it two times more after). Most of the rides were quite intense, and for a more mature audience.
Other Non-Disney Parks
Another fun place to visit is Knott’s Berry Farm. If you’re looking for more fun things to do in and around LA check out our post here.
Have a magical day!
Danielle and Elisia