David Sprague/Universal Studios Hollywood

Southern California

Spotlight: Universal Studios Hollywood

22
September
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
25°
High
11°
Low
Sept - Nov
25°
High
11°
Low
Mar - May
22°
High
5°
Low
June - Aug
28°
High
15°
Low

Movie magic, mega attractions - If Hollywood is the land of make believe, then this is your chance to step into that fantasy world. On a sprawling complex on the east side of the Hollywood Hills, this film studio/part theme park blends behind-the-scenes tours with rides that swoosh, swoop and dive through film-themed worlds. An adjacent, neon-lit complex of shops, eateries and entertainment spaces known as Universal CityWalk lets you stretch out the experience beyond the park.

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s17)

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Whether you root for Gryffindor or Slytherin, this attraction-and-ride zone offers a fully immersive Hogwarts experience

The idea of “Hollywood magic” takes many forms at Universal Studios Hollywood, but it seems especially apt in the park’s new area, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With rides, shops, and no shortage of Butterbeer, fans will find themselves transported into the world of the beloved boy wizard.

Even if you don’t know all of the nuances of the bespectacled kid with a lightning bolt shaped scar, there is an abundance of whimsy and fun in the six-acre attraction. The village style setting has, as its focus, the iconic Hogwarts Castle, home to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Inside, underneath its soaring ceilings, you can wander the hallowed halls lined with portraits that, just like in the books and films, talk. Peruse the office of headmaster Albus Dumbledore, look around the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and scope out the Gryffindor Common Room, where Harry and his fellow housemates have been known to dish about those sullen Slytherin kids.

Ride your own broomstick for thrills that combine robotics, elaborate action sequences, and immersive visceral effects.

The signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, lets you ride your own broomstick for a set of thrills that combines a robotics system, elaborate filmed action sequences, and immersive visceral effects. Outside the castle, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also home to the first outdoor coaster at Universal Studios Hollywood, the family-friendly "Flight of the Hippogriff."

The rest of the attractions focus on the wizard town of Hogsmeade, made up of cobblestone streets, snowcapped roofs, and an assortment of locals, from the train conductor welcoming arrivals to merchants offering various wizard wares (including the wands at Ollivanders, the screaming yo-yos at Zonko’s, and the chocolate frogs at Honeydukes). 

Don’t miss the Owl Post, where resident owls hoot as you pass by. Kids can learn about the old days, when people actually used to send snail-mail messages to one another (or, in Harry’s case, owl mail messages). Mail a card from this location (written with actual pen, or quill, and paper) and it will get a Hogsmeade postmark.

The immersive wizard experience extends well into mealtimes, too. The Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade offers hearty Anglophile fare such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash, as well as classic accompaniments like sticky toffee pudding. You’ll be tempted to start your Wizarding World of Harry Potter day right here: Three Broomsticks does a legit full English breakfast, featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, and even black pudding. (American staples are available too.)

And here’s good news for Muggles over the age of 21: The adjoining Hog’s Head pub has original draft beers and spirits created exclusively for the attraction, including Dragon Scale, Wizard’s Brew, and Firewhisky. At the pub, and all around Hogsmeade, you can also order an all-ages-friendly Butterbeer (think cream soda, with a twist), along with Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Fizz, and gently flavoured Gilly Water. After all, fending off the Dark Arts works up quite a thirst. 

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s17)

Prayitno/Flickr

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
Madcap meets mayhem on this 3D ride

They’re little, they’re loud, they’re a little bit loopy, and they’re here. This in-your-face ride lets you get a taste of what it’s like to be a Minion, the banana-coloured stars of the Despicable Me films. Enter the home of the seemingly villainous (but not really) Gru, where you bounce, plunge and plummet (thanks to startlingly realistic motion-simulator technology) through a Minion training mission. And all that excitement ends with a wild dance party. Adjacent to the ride, Super Silly Fun Land brings alive the carnival from the movies, with fountains, splash pools and Silly Swirly Fun Ride, which gives you a full view of all of the hijinks below. 

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Studio Tour

Studio Tour
Get an inside peek at Fast & Furious and other blockbusters

With a behind-the-scenes look at movie-making magic, plus blockbuster-themed detours along the way, the world-famous Studio Tour that snakes you through the back lots at Universal Studios Hollywood ranks as a must-do ride in California. Sure, it’s primarily a theme park ride, so you’re probably not going to see Brad Pitt strolling by, but you really do get to see the sets and learn about classics ranging from Frankenstein to Jaws. Then slip on 3D glasses as you drive into wraparound action, especially the technologically advanced Fast & Furious, Supercharged thrill ride, where make believe becomes reality as you’re placed into the action during a high-octane scene. The groundbreaking attraction, presented as the grand finale to the Studio Tour, catapults you into the high-stakes underground world of street racing at perceived speeds of more than 120 miles per hour.

Another detour takes you into a 360-degree, 3D jungle that feels startlingly real, especially when King Kong emerges to battle dinosaurs, with your tram rocking and rolling in the middle of the brawl. Mellower sections of the tram tour wind through real sets of make-believe towns, cities, and suburban neighbourhoods used in hundreds of films and TV shows, as well as original sets from major films like Psycho, Jaws, and War of the Worlds. Live guides and onboard videos featuring late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon add entertaining insights along the way.

Insider’s tip: Queues can get long here, but don’t worry: trams depart almost non-stop, so lines move fairly quickly

Making of Fast & Furious Ride
Go behind-the-scenes on the making of the Fast & Furious - Supercharged thrill ride.
The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood has taken more than 125 million people behind the scenes of some of the most action-packed movies in history!
Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood

VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood
Go behind-the-scenes on exclusive tours

Everybody likes a little pampering and on the VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood, you’ll definitely feel like a star. First there’s that valet parking—not bad. Then there’s that private entrance leading you to an exclusive lounge, where you relax with snacks and refreshments, in your own A-list inner sanctum. You meet your expert guide, who will go out of his/her way to find out what kind of insider tips and film facts you’d like to know more about as you tour the backlots and sound stages. Unlike the standard back lot tour, this tour lets you get out of your private trolley and walk around. You’ll get up-close looks at sets, learn about lighting and camera angles, and see where current TV programmes and films are being shot. A favourite stop is the massive prop warehouse, housing everything from vintage bowling bags to full suits of armour. The tour includes lunch served in a private dining room, as well as front-of-the-queue privileges for all rides throughout the day, and prime seats at all shows. By the end of the day, you will feel just like a star. 

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal CityWalk

Universal CityWalk
Experience three blocks of big city excitement

For a concentrated dose of nightlife, dining and must-have shopping, be sure to visit this bustling, pedestrian-only complex. Actually, you can’t really miss it—walking routes from the theme park’s main parking structure take you right through CityWalk. Even if you’re being tempted to linger here, it’s a worthwhile detour. Plus, there’s no admission, so you can visit CityWalk even if you don’t have tickets to the theme park.

Not surprisingly, films are well represented here: there’s a 19-screen multiplex, plus an IMAX cinema projecting films seven storeys high. There are even on-site stars to get your heart racing: the entertainment show Extra films here. And for thrills of a different kind, experience the sensation of freefalling while skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel at iFLY Hollywood. Free outdoor concerts feature lights shows and plenty of room for dancing—though you might have find someone to hold all the shopping bags you’ll be toting, what with shops like Abercrombie & Fitch, Fossil and Billabong lining the plazas and walkways.

You won’t go hungry either. Choose from casual LA icons, such as Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs, have a craft beer at Karl Strauss Brewing Company, or laugh while you dine at Jon Lovitz Comedy Club.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Springfield

Springfield
The cartoon world of the Simpsons springs to life

Step into the make-believe world of America’s loudest cartoon dad, Homer Simpson, in this crayon-bright recreation of Springfield, now fronting the popular The Simpsons ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. Designed to make you feel as if you’ve stepped through your TV into the recreated hometown of the wisecracking Simpsons clan, the outdoor experience lets you visit Bart's favourite hangouts. Stop by Moe’s Tavern, Lard Lad Donuts, or Duff Brewery, all under the shadow of show-inspired landmarks, such as Stu’s Disco, where the marquee reads, “Closed until disco comes back.” Other familiar Springfield eateries come to life here too, so you can get a ‘Genuine Clown-Endorsed Meal’ at Krusty Burger or order a cheesy pie at Luigi’s Pizza, all while Homer’s workplace, Mr. Burns’ Nuclear Power Plant, lets loose with a (whoops, did someone push the wrong button?) make-believe meltdown.

Ahmad Tare/ Flickr

The Simpsons Ride

The Simpsons Ride
Join Homer, Bart on a wild ride to Krustyland

Step into the bizarre animated world of The Simpsons on this state-of-the-art ride. Technically, the scenes are projected around you while your car lifts and tilts, but the feeling is all real—as if you are zooming through a psycho animated universe that’s as out of control as Homer and Bart’s world ever gets. Start in a carnival midway, then rocket through Krustyland, a fantasy amusement park that’s the warped vision of creepy-cranky Krusty the Clown. With the show’s real actors voicing the characters and plenty of subversive humour, the ride effectively captures the twisted weirdness of the show, so if you’re a fan, it’s a must-ride experience.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Live Shows at Universal Studios Hollywood

Live Shows at Universal Studios Hollywood
Watch favourite characters jazz things up

For all of the cinema magic and animation at Universal Studios Hollywood, you can also catch plenty of live entertainment. Find out how digital and 3D technology help filmmakers create new worlds and amazing special effects—and create little mischief makers like Despicable Me’s Minions, who make an appearance during the Special Effects Stage show. You can watch jet-ski stunts, perilous plunges and a simulated seaplane crash at Universal Studios Hollywood #1 rated show, WaterWorld. Or, for decidedly tamer scenes, watch dogs, birds and other animal stars show you their stuff at the Universal’s Animal Actors show.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Other Rides

Other Rides
Classic fun and lively new twists

What are you in the mood for? Heart-pounding adventure? Light-hearted fun? Because from dinosaurs and mummies to a big, lovable ogre called Shrek, rides at Universal Studios Hollywood will transport you to amazing worlds. On Jurassic Park—The Ride, board a raft to journey back millions of years, where you’ll run head on into a roaring 50-foot-tall T-Rex and plunge 84 feet down a splashing waterfall (spoiler alert: you will get wet).  On Revenge of the Mummy—The Ride, rocket through an eerie, ancient world and get heckled by particularly disgusting (were they actually hissing?) mummies.  On Transformers: The Ride-3D, blast into the future to battle for the survival of humanity against giant Decepticons. 

But not all of the giants on Universal’s rides are so nasty. On Shrek 4D, the beloved cartoon hero comes to life with the magic of ‘OgreVision’ glasses and special effects.

Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Special Events

Special Events
Some snowy, some spooky, all fun

From the heart-warming to the heart-stopping, events at Universal Studios Hollywood jazz up the holidays throughout the year. Winter holidays are a big draw, with guaranteed star spotting when stars and celebrities read the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s also a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, and real snow-play areas for wintry romping and snowball fights. Universal CityWalk marks the holiday season with concerts, a rock n’ roll Santa, and a giant tree during CityRockin’ Holidays. 

Other holidays get special attention, most notably Halloween Horror Nights, a scare festival that’s not for the squeamish (nor the little ones—too scary for them!). Follow creepy mazes through gloomy spaces and attractions, never knowing when werewolves, vampires and Walking Dead zombies might jump out at you, or worse yet, just tap you on the back from behind. Even the clowns are psychotic, set to awesome music by top guitarist Slash. Oh, and the signature backlot tram ride? Get ready for an apocalyptic journey with yes, more zombies.