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Covering more than 400 acres in the middle of Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood gives you a behind-the-scenes peek into Hollywood’s inner workings. You’ll learn what makes the movies so thrilling—and so enchanting—as you immerse yourself in real-life and virtual film sets and take a seat for world-class action rides amped up with dizzying special effects.
Ride the Studio Tour
Start by taking the one-hour World-Famous Studio Tour, constructed with creative advice from Stephen Spielberg. The tram tour gives you a peek at 13 blocks of back-lot movie and television show sets, plus some simulated thrills. Inside your tram car, your tour is video-hosted by comedian Jimmy Fallon. Cinema buffs will love seeing actual props and film characters like King Kong, Jaws, and dozens of dinosaurs. You’ll cruise by the Bates Motel from the film Psycho and the set from the TV series Desperate Housewives (remember Wisteria Lane?). You’ll experience movie-making virtual reality as you “survive” an earthquake, flash flood, and avalanche.
Explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Next, step into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with a towering Hogwarts castle and all the classrooms, corridors, and passageways you know from the films. Watch a wand choose its owner at Ollivanders, and sample food fit for wizards in Hogsmeade Village. Buy chocolate frogs and peppermint toads at Honeydukes, or sip a mug of butterbeer or pumpkin juice at Three Broomsticks, a fairy-tale tavern serving traditional British fare (bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie). You might need a reality check after “flying” over Hogwarts on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. (Ask your companions: “Did that just happen?”). Young kids will enjoy the not-too-scary Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster, which zooms around Hagrid’s pumpkin patch.
Enjoy Jurassic World–The Ride
Watch a showdown between dinosaurs at Jurassic World–The Ride. This “sequel” to the park’s Jurassic Park ride was created by some of the same folks behind the blockbuster movie series, including Steven Spielberg and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow. Board a 25-person boat and glide through various lands of dinosaurs, check out the video “warnings” from Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt and BD Wong, then watch an Indominus rex and T. rex battle it out—all before your raft takes an 84-foot water plunge. On your way out, let the kids dig for fossils in the play area or relax with some refreshments at the area’s Isla Nu-Bar and Jurassic Café.
Survive AMC’s Walking Dead Attraction
Revenge of the Mummy is touted as California’s fastest indoor roller coaster, and thanks to high-tech robotics and advanced animatronics, it’s undeniably scary. But even scarier is AMC’s Walking Dead attraction. Imagine the most frightening haunted house you’ve ever visited, then multiply that by 100. Just try not to get infected by the undead as you navigate your way through the creepy hospital maze. (Ed. note: Though it remains in the video, this attraction has been permanently closed. It has been replaced by The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, a gentle two-seater ride adventure where you take on the role of a stray puppy in search of a forever home in New York City).
Watch the WaterWorld Live Show
The 1995 Kevin Costner film WaterWorld may not have been a big box-office hit, but it makes a thrilling live outdoor show. You’ll cheer on steampunk-garbed stuntmen and stuntwomen as they perform daredevil feats—diving into the water from impossibly high towers and racing around on jet skis. The stunning pyrotechnic effects in WaterWorld will blow your mind. Even though anything is possible in Hollywood, it’s still hard to believe your eyes when a flaming seaplane flies over the set and crashes with a big splash.