On my most recent trip to Disneyland, I had the pleasure of being able to visit Universal Studios Hollywood (USH). The last time I went was 10 years prior, so I had very few memories of the place, and hadn’t been there since the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Let me tell you, it was not what I expected. First off, we only did a 1 day pass, so we had to try to get the most of the experience in only 8 hours (shows, rides, and characters… I know, we’re crazy). But believe me, it is possible!
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!
When we arrived we bee-lined it for Hogsmeade (along with pretty much everyone else who was there for opening!), which exceeded my expectations… I mean, WOW! The level of detail is something I’ve never seen in a theme park outside of Disneyland, with every inch having something new to look at to really immerse you into the world of Harry Potter.
You feel like you aren’t in a theme park at all, but in the world of Harry Potter itself. The only thing that we were unable to do was Ollivander’s (which never had a lineup shorter than 50 minutes). If you didn’t know, it is an attraction where you can buy a wand (either one that “chooses” you or a character replica) that is interactive with specific areas within Hogsmeade.
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. This was super cool to see, and if you don’t care to wait in the lineup for Ollivander’s, there are stands around Universal Studios Hollywood that also sell wands.
Since we were there early, the rides lineups were short, with Flight of the Hippogriff being a walk on! (I’m kind of glad for the walk on though; we didn’t get to appreciate certain details such as Hagrid’s Hut, but this ride is SHORT! I mean, like less than a minute short… quite a shock after Disneyland.) It was still super fun, and I got to go on it twice (yay for having a friend with us so we could utilize the Child Switch service!). Then we went over to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. 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”). Also, when my husband went on it for the Child Switch, one of the screens pooped out on them so they were just looking at grey screens with the motion and the sounds.
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!
But my absolute favorite part of Hogsmeade was the Butterbeer in Hog’s Head. 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).
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.
That being said, there was nothing that I was able to bring my daughter on. Not one ride. This made life difficult because she didn’t get any of the stimulation that she got in Disneyland and DCA. She got bored and didn’t want to be held any longer. So if you have littles, I do not recommend going to USH. So glad that she was still free admission. Granted, we didn’t spend a ton of time in Super Silly Fun Land. There is one kid friendly ride there as well as a water splash park.
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 Park: The Ride (which closed days before we got there to be reopened in 2019 as Jurassic World. Something to look forward to!).
After doing Revenge of the Mummy we realized that the last couple shows we needed were going to have their last showings of the day soon. So we bee-lined it up there… which as I said is quite the 10 minute long ordeal! But somehow we made it to both!
If you have only one day in USH it might be tempting to skip some of the shows in order to not miss any of the rides. But I don’t recommend that. We got a copy of the show schedules via the app. Then we planned our day around which show had which rides around it. If you are an aficionado of the special features on your movies at home, you can skip the Special Effects Show as it didn’t have anything I’ve not seen before. The WaterWorld and Animal Actors shows were both more than worthwhile! For Animal Actors, try to sit on an aisle or close to the front if you have kids, as they walk by with the owls as well as take volunteers from the audience!
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!
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. The options in this area made it a natural place to eat before embarking on the hour long Studio Tour.
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!)
If you love Harry Potter, or love food, you will appreciate USH. But other than that, I can personally cross this park off of my list. I feel our one day there did it justice. (We even had a chance to meet Puss in Boots and Donkey before the day was up!) I’m so glad to have had this experience under my belt now.
What about you? What’s your favorite part of Universal Studios Hollywood? Let us know below!
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!