universal hollywood

If you’re planning or thinking of planning, a trip to Los Angeles, you’re obviously going to be taking in the sights of this Hollywood hotspot! Seeing the Hollywood sign, celebrity spotting, checking out the Chinese Theatre, hitting the Sunset Strip, or perhaps one of the attraction parks. Often we tend to be stuck for the time when visiting somewhere like LA, there are just never-ending possibilities of things you can do, so is it doable to visit somewhere like Universal Studios Hollywood in a day?

We had this epic road trip planned out where we had a jam-packed itinerary when we were in LA. We had originally planned to do both Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland too, but we knew it was going to be hectic. We ended up chopping out Disneyland completely because the parks were too big, instead, we just went to Universal Studios Hollywood. I had been to Universal Studios Hollywood when I a lot younger, back in the days when there was an ET ride and I met Beethoven from the canine adventures of, Beethoven! I remember it being a great day out, so I knew we’d probably be fine to squeeze it all in if we planned properly.

universal studio hollywood

First thing I will say is that if you are stuck on time, plan before you go. We did, and that helped no end in making sure we didn’t miss anything. We upgraded our standard Universal tickets to express passes, just so we got that full hour in the park before everyone else was allowed in, plus if queues for big rides were crazy, we could go on straight away. I’ve always been a little anti-express pass because the entrance ticket alone can be pretty pricey, but it actually made this far more of a relaxing and enjoyable experience. After asking a few people what they found to be the busiest, we started there. Our plan was to go straight to the Universal Studios Hollywood Tour as this takes about an hour, so it’s one of those ones that will cut into your day otherwise, plus it is a really popular attraction. Harry Potter in Hogsmeade is always busy! It actually was the only part of the park open before the rest of the place, so we got to take a walk around and take some photos before the crowds came. We walked back through later in the day when the full park was open and it was really busy. So go here first! In the Harry Potter area, there are two main attractions, Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. There are also some additional bits we saw like the Frog Choir and a trip to Ollivander’s. We made a little bit of an error when we first got there queuing to go into Ollivanders, as it was basically just a member of the audience getting a wand selected (you don’t get to keep it), then we were out again. We kind of just saw the queue and joined it out of curiosity! If you have little ones this could be nice for them, but it didn’t interest us although fun to see the attention to detail with the vast amount of wands!

harry potter universal

We absolutely loved the Forbidden Journey, we said this was one of our most favourites of the day, but Flight of the Hippogriff was a letdown. An open-air rollercoaster ride that was over before it started, they could potentially benefit from doing a double loop of the track. If you are pressed for time skip this one. There are the Three Broomsticks where you can go for food, we poked our heads in to see what it was like, they basically sold every stereotypical British dish, and of course, it was busy so we skipped this bit and got a corndog! We also saw the Frog Choir when we decided to have a butterbeer later on in the day! Make sure you do the big rides before getting a butterbeer – it is super sweet and creamy… and delicious!

Harry Potter Universal Studios Hollywood

Going back to how we planned out our day, after doing Ollivanders, and exploring the Harry Potter area, we went to take the Studio Tour. The queue was already quite big and the park had just opened, so with the express pass, we walked straight on. I cannot stress this enough, as a child when I came here before, we queued what felt like the whole day, this was an amazing way to see the park. The tour was fantastic! A must-do for any movie fan, we spotted a few things being filmed, saw heaps of movie props, and of course, you have a little bit of movie experience too. The trip is about an hour but it’s entertaining, witty and super interesting. There is even a big virtual reality portion for the Fast and Furious cast, King Kong… and the iconic Jaws, (which was was there when I went nearly 20 years ago) as you pass over the water of course! Make sure you do this as early in your day as you can – you’ll love it!

After the studio tour, we took the escalators to go to Jurassic Park world. As this is towards the exit of the park many people do this last thing of the day, so it can get really busy later, so we decided to do that next! Straight onto the Jurassic Park water ride. We didn’t need to use our express tickets because we could walk straight on. It’s important for me to highlight that your express ticket only allows you express access once per ride. So if you use it and want to go on again, you’ll have to queue.

The Jurassic Park ride the first time around was good but something wasn’t right. The dinosaurs you see along the way were all stationary. Both my husband and I were a bit confused, thinking, surely Universal would have some kind of movement going on here. Turns out something had gone wrong, so we went on again and it was all into action. This was a great ride with lots of replica props from the films and entertaining things like a crashed boat with a Disneyland hat floating along. Great water ride and you will definitely get wet, whether it’s from the splash of the boat or by the dinosaurs shooting water at you!

In this same area, you have two virtual reality style rides, The Mummy and Transformers. Now, I loved both of those, I was surprised I really enjoyed Transformers as I’m not a huge fan of the films but it was really an exciting ride. The Mummy was good also, and like many of the rides, you had free use of lockers for 2 hours just near the ride entrance, as you are not allowed to take any bags on.  There are lots of other bits going on around this area, such as a raptor demonstration (like that in the Jurassic world), but also Mummies you can take selfies with and incredible Transformers (costumes are amazing) you can queue to have a photo with.

After we’d been to this area we decided to explore the Simpson part of the park. Probably the busiest because it was now the middle of the day. We stopped in at Moe’s for a drink, then went to check out the Simpsons ride, and it was the first ride we had to queue regardless of having a fast pass. Not only was it our first queueing ride, it was also the most bizarre! I am still a bit confused what exactly was going on… regardless it was a nice bit of fun and I’m sure the kids would love it.

You also have the shows you can go to such as Animal Actors and Special Effects Show. Both are worth going along to, but I’d strongly suggest looking at timings beforehand, as there were huge gaps between showings. We struggled a little as we had to wait about a bit for the next show, but we just went to get some food and chill for a bit, so it was actually a welcomed pause. Waterworld is no longer happening, which we were disappointed by, they are doing something new so the whole thing was closed off. Other than Waterworld we also didn’t go to Silly Swirly Fun Ride, The Walking Dead Attraction and the Despicable Me ride. The first and the last I felt might be a bit more for the kids, and the Walking Dead would just freak me out, so I decided against that one!

Alongside all the rides and planned shows, there are heaps to see in the park around the themed streets, and the random characters that pop along the way! The range of food is fantastic, and there is plenty to keep you entertained… including Shrek and Donkey on their own stall! Outside the park is the Universal complex area, where we (might have seen on my Instagram stories) went to Margaritaville to finish off our day! Absolutely fantastic experience and I can’t recommend it more.

Summary –

  •  Get there early! Earlier you go the quicker you’ll get onto rides
  • Express tickets – a great investment if you can. Made it a far more stress-free experience.
  • Don’t bother with the flight of the hippogriff if you are stuck for time
  • Get a butterbeer!
  • Ride The Forbidden Journey is the best out the lot (plus you go through Hogwarts to get to the ride!)

Why not watch my LA Travel Vlog…