Updated: Aug 31, 2020
There’s no denying the magic that is movies. That magic that so easily enthralls and transports its viewers into another time, place and world through the spectacular combination of a killer soundtrack, captivating film sets, stunning wardrobes, creative plots and genius cinematography. Movies have an uncanny way of reaching into the soul, evoking a reaction, an emotion we never knew was there; creating joy or sadness, laughter or grief, inspiration or motivation. Many such movies come from the world-renowned film studio, Universal Studios. To celebrate and offer the world a way to live the movie is their theme park Universal Studios in both Hollywood and Orlando.
One of my family’s favorite past time is watching movies; often times watching our favorites many (many) times. The first time we went to Universal Studios I was so excited to be around some of our favorite movies and see what gives a movie its magic. The Hollywood theme park wasn’t too popular several years ago, (it’s hard to compete when you have Disneyland just 35 miles south) but more recently it has picked up some heavy foot traffic. Along with its growing visitors, they have also changed up the layout of the park as well as the addition of different rides. To those of you who are unfamiliar or haven’t been to Universal Studios Hollywood in a while, this is a guide to get you through the park, hitting (what I believe) to be some of the best and most fun attractions in the park, the good food spots and entertaining live shows.
A few things you need to know:
The park is rather small, but it has tiers. The park is divided into
an “Upper Lot” and “Lower Lot” with rides and attractions spread throughout.
A vast majority of the rides are 4D interactive rides. That means the ride is
essentially a 3D “movie” enhanced with sensory elements such as water, fog, moving seats, lighting etc. that completely immerse the riders in what they’re watching on the screen. It’s no Six Flags, that’s for sure; but believe me, these rides are more fun than they might seem.
Many of the rides have a “Single Rider” option, you will have to split up your party if you decide to go this route. They use this line to fill in any extra seats in between other parties that may not fill up an entire row. The down side, you have to sit next to random strangers. But let me tell you the beauty of this line, it’s significantly faster than waiting in the normal line, allowing you to hit more rides at a faster pace.
Each ride is themed after a particular movie. You don’t necessarily need to have seen the movies prior to visiting the park since each ride creates its own plot/side story that is independent of the movie. However, there are definitely benefits in having knowledge of the movie prior to going so that you are familiar with the characters and what has happened to lead up to the ride spin-off.
There is an app you can download on your phone with a list of the rides, shows and food along with a map of each ones location. It also will provide you with wait times for rides and the times of each live show. It’s an extremely helpful tool to help navigate you through the park.
Rides in the Upper Lot
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
(Pictured on the right): This ride 4D ride will sweep you off your feet. Literally, you feel like you are flying on broom stick around Hogwarts! You get to experience the Hogwarts castle, Quidditch field, forbidden forest and more all the while feeling like your dreams of becoming a Hogwarts student have come true (it feels that real).
2. Studio Tour Tram Ride: This ride is what makes the Hollywood location especially unique. This 45-minute-long ride takes you into the back lot of working film sets where TV shows and movies are actually filmed. This ride literally takes you behind the scenes of the some of the most iconic sets in film history where they still film today. While on this ride, you get to experience two other “rides”, King Kong 360 and Fast and Furious- Supercharged. You get a nice 3-for-1 here. I’ve been on this ride countless times, but every time I go, I’m always learning something new or noticing something I hadn’t before; it never gets old.
3. Kung Fu Panda Adventure: This newly opened 4D ride takes you on an epic quest with Dragon Warrior, Po, and into the world of kung fu.
Rides in the Lower Lot
1. Revenge of the Mummy: One of the very few roller coasters in the park, this ride is fully charged with twists, turns and drops. If you’re with small children, this ride may be a tad scary. It’s pretty dark with mummies that pop out throughout the ride. You’ll be wanting to get right back in line after this one!
2. Transformers: This is a 4D ride that takes you on a high-energy, dangerous mission with the Autobots battling the Decepticons.
3. Jurassic World: The one and only water roller coaster in the park will leave you soaked to the bone. Recently remodeled and revamped, this ride takes you on a safari, exploring the ancient world of the dinosaurs. It is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
1. WaterWorld (Pictured on the left):
This 20-minute show is a condensed reenactment of the 1995 movie Waterworld. Packed with incredible stunts, fight scenes, explosions, fire and water effects, this show will have you wanting to join in the action. Be sure to arrive early before the show, some of the actors come out and get the crowd to participate in cheering matches. It may sound kind of cheesy, which it is, but it’s actually super funny and really fun.
2. Special Effects Show: Uncover all the Hollywood movie-making secrets at this show. It’s like a magician revealing how he really does his magic tricks. You’ll get to learn how movies really come to life and where they get their magic.
1. Cocina Mexicana: Enjoy various tacos, burritos and nachos here. Of course, it’s not the most authentic Mexican food, but still quite tasty.
2. Hogs Head: Located in the back of the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, this restaurant has the “home-cooked meal” type of menu, available with a delicious Butterbeer, which you absolutely have got to try.
3. Isla Nu-Bar: Cool off with an assortment of blended tropical tiki cocktails. These drinks definitely hit the spot if you need to take a break from the rides and sip on something cold.
Full Disclaimer: all the rides, shows, food options are all worth trying out. The ones that I mentioned are my favorites and the ones that I absolutely must do when I’m there. If you’re on a limited schedule, I would highly recommend the rides/shows mentioned here. This isn’t the typical theme park, but such a great way to be around some of your favorite movies and get to be a part of the movie magic.
And that’s the dirt!