Making the most out of Universal Studios Hollywood 

Universal Studios Hollywood

While visiting Los Angeles, our love for movies led us straight to Universal Studios Hollywood. This iconic destination brings the magic of movie-making to life with its unique blend of Hollywood movie experiences, thrilling theme park attractions, and captivating live shows.

Universal Studios Hollywood felt smaller in scale compared to Universal Studios Japan and offered similar rides and attractions, minus a few rollercoasters. Identical to our Japan experience, “Super Nintendo World” opened a few months after our visit, so we only managed to visit a gift shop. What a bummer!


  • Book your tickets in advance, and save time and money. You have bigger chances of finding a deal in advance rather than when you stand with hundreds of people by the gate.
  • Check the calendar to see when the most crowds are expected. Link here. The higher the ticket price, the more crowds you can expect. As a rule of thumb, avoid the holidays and visit on weekdays. Usually, Tuesday to Thursday will be a good choice. Check also if there are any special events plants at the park as they typically generate more crowds. 
  • Arrive before the park’s opening time. We are usually an hour before, as the earlier we get, the greater our chances of being at the front of the crowd.
  • Universal has two levels – start with a lower level as most people tend to hang around the entrance, which is at the top level. Popular upper lot features include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, the Simpsons Ride, and the Studio Tour. On the lower lot, you will find Super Nintendo World, Jurassic World, The Revenge of the Mummy, and Transformers: The Ride 3D rides.
  • Use the Single Rider Lines, which are the fastest way to get on a ride without having a Universal Express Pass. The only downside is that you might be separated from your friends.
  • Check the timetable for shows, and plan around them. There are only a few shows a day, so you don’t want to miss them.
  • Going for the Studio Tour might be a good idea if you don’t have early access to Super Nintendo World and will visit the lower lot later during the day. There are fewer crowds right after opening, so chances are you will start the tour immediately after arriving. Mark, though, the tour takes around an hour, so other attractions will be filled by the time you are done.
  • Download the Universal Studios Hollywood app. It will tell you the wait times for attractions and show times.

Attractions and Zones

Studio Tour

One thing that distinguished Universal Studios Hollywood was a unique attraction called “Studio Tour“, taking us behind the scenes of some of the most iconic movie sets and sound stages in Hollywood history and allowing us to see firsthand how movies and TV shows are made. It is located on the upper lot.

During the tour we saw the set from “Jaws”, and the plane crash from “War of the Worlds”, and dinos from “Jurrasic World”. We even got to experience thrilling special effects and surprises, including a high-speed car chase, a King Kong attack, and a simulated earthquake at a metro stop! I would say it was one of the best experiences, especially when, months later, I saw part of the set in a TV show I was watching 😀

Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World is the new area located on the lower lot, which opened in February 2023. I was brought up on Super Mario, and my grandma was an uncontested champion playing on Pegasus console (an eastern European clone of Nintendo console) in the 90s. So imagine how hyped I was when we saw the entrance to Super Nintendo World and how disappointed we were when we found out it would open in a couple of months!! To lift our moods, we went into the gift shop and got matching shirts – Mario and Luigi (I wanted a pink Princess Peach, but they only had kid sizes! ╥﹏╥)

Now the zone is open, and you can try Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge in real life! Additionally, you can buy a special band – Power-Up Band that allows you to run around the zone to collect virtual coins, do challenges, and unlock the keys. When you get enough of them, you will unlock a hidden game – the Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown.

Remember, though, you need a timed entry unless you have Express Pass. 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located on the upper lot. Transport yourself to a world of magic as you enter Hogsmeade. Browse through the shops, and maybe get a wand at Ollivanders or some delicious wizard candies 🙂 If you get an Interactive Wand, you can cast magic spells in certain spots in the village! How cool is that! While browsing the shops, grab some Butterbeer. Not my cup of beer, but other people claim it’s fantastic, so maybe you will like it, or perhaps you will be like me 🙂 

PS. Fyi, don’t buy water at the Butterbeer; we paid for it like it was gold, and it was way cheaper outside the Harry Potter zone.

Follow along the village until the castle, where you can soar on your broomstick as you escape Dementor’s attack on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride. A lot of people love this attraction. To be honest, I hate it; 3d effects without glasses and uncoordinated movement make my brain so confused it makes me puke. In Japan, I thought its a Butterbeer; while not totally faultless, as it did push me over the edge, it’s the ride that got me there 🙂 One highlight of this ride is that you get to visit Hogwarts from the inside, and the queue to ride is one of the best queues I’ve been at.

Check out also the schedule to see if you will be lucky to see projections cast against the majestic backdrop of Hogwarts at night. We managed to see it in Japan, and it was awesome, but we missed it in Universal Studios Hollywood 🙁

There is one more ride in the Wizard’s zone, which is called “Flight of the Hippogriff”. It’s a gentle and family-friendly roller coaster. If there is no queue, go for it; if it’s longer than 30 min, it might not be worth it.

Jurrasic World

The Jurassic World Zone, located on the lower lot, features only a single ride – Jurassic World – The Ride, standing out as one of the top rides within the park. Even though we experienced the same ride at a theme park in Japan, the Hollywood version provided a notably enhanced experience. I particularly appreciated the incorporation of mechanical components, complemented by cleverly integrated digital elements, which contributed to a more immersive experience. Personally, I tend to avoid rides that rely solely on digital effects since they feel like a “shortcut” and do not provide the same level of excitement as a physical rollercoaster. In fact, I often end up feeling queasy from these types of rides. In any case, I highly recommend checking out Jurassic World – The Ride, as it is an experience not to be missed.

Check out when the raptor show happens. You can come face-to-face with Triceratops and Baby Raptor and snap a photo or two with dinosaurs.

The Revenge of the Mummy

The Revenge of the Mummy, located on the lower lot, is a dark rollercoaster which was pretty cool. When we exited, though, we yearned for more. If the ride were a minute longer, I would say waiting in line for 2h is worth it. 

Transformers: The Ride 3D

The Transformers ride is situated on the lower lot and employs advanced motion simulation technology, which involves a vehicle traversing a track while incorporating both 3-D visual and 4-D physical effects. While the ride was entertaining enough, it failed to leave a lasting impression on me. 

Nevertheless, if you happen to be a devoted Transformers enthusiast, it explore the surrounding area, as you might have the opportunity to encounter your beloved Transformers characters and capture some photos with them.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Situated on the upper lot, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is a highly sought-after attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, frequently resulting in lengthy wait times. The ride utilizes cutting-edge technology, incorporating both 3-D visuals and motion simulation to create an immersive experience.

I am typically not fond of these types of rides, so I felt more “meh” about it. A lot of guests are over the moon with excitement, so if you are a fan of the Despicable Me franchise or enjoy motion simulation rides, you may find it to be a worthwhile experience.


Based on the iconic 1995 film of the same name, WaterWorld is a live-action show that takes place on a massive water stage. The performers are highly skilled, executing stunts, explosions, and thrilling feats that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The show is filled with high-flying action, death-defying dives, and jaw-dropping pyrotechnics that will leave you in awe.

Beware, though, if you sit on blue seats, you might get drenched!

Regrettably, our experience was marred by a malfunction that prevented the show’s finale, including the explosions, from occurring. While we may not have noticed anything amiss had we not seen the show previously in Japan, the discrepancy between the two experiences left us somewhat disappointed.

How long to stay

It all depends on what you are aiming at and what your budget is. If you want to see everything without paying for Express Pass, take two days in the park. 

One day is enough if you are fine skipping some smaller attractions or shows. We went with our friends, and they tried all the big attractions and a couple of smaller ones without a problem.

Taught by experience in Japan, we opted for a day in the park with an Express pass. Thanks to it, we managed to use every single ride and see all available shows. Was the price worth it? Yeah, we didn’t have to stand in line for two hours; I call it a win 🙂


We booked our tickets through a 3rd party website (aRes Travel) as we found a slight discount compared to the official website. So if you want to save some bucks, google a little before buying. Also, if you are a California resident, purchasing an annual pass might be a better option.

1- and 2-day general admission

Those are the regular tickets. The prices vary greatly depending on which day you go, so check out the pricing on the website.

Interestingly enough, the 2-day ticket doesn’t require picking two consecutive days, giving you more flexibility in planning your trip. The 1st day needs to be on the selected date, but the second day can be within seven days from the first visit.

Express Pass

The Express Pass includes admission to the park and allows you to visit each attraction and show ONCE by using the express lane, except for Mario Kart in the new zone. With Super Nintendo World opening, you will also get reservation-free entry to the area.

VIP Experience

If you’re looking for the ultimate theme park experience and money is no object, our VIP ticket is a perfect choice. With this ticket, you’ll enjoy expedited access to every single attraction, show, and tour throughout the park. And speaking of tours, your Ultimate ticket also includes a guided tour that gives you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the magic of Universal Studios Hollywood. The ticket also comes with Valet Parking and gourmet meal.

Super Nintendo World Early Access Ticket

In February 2023, a new zone, “Super Nintendo World” opened up. With new area come crowds, and hence now you can buy an early access ticket granting entry to Super Nintendo World one hour before general admission. This exclusive access allows one to enjoy the new zone with shorter wait times and fewer crowds. Additionally, the early access ticket includes an express pass for the Studio Tour.

Remember, you still need to buy an admission ticket.


There is no free parking next to the park, and if you want to bring your car, which you probably do as it’s America, it will cost you 30$ for General, 50$ for Preferred, and 60$ for Front Gate parking. Current prices here.

What are the differences between General, Preferred, and Front Gate Parking parking options?

Preferred Parking is a premium service offering more convenient parking spots than the standard General Parking option. With Preferred Parking, visitors can typically park in the Woody Woodpecker lot, which is very close to the park’s main entrance.

If the Woody Woodpecker lot is full, visitors with Preferred Parking will be directed to alternative parking spots that are closer to the entrances and exits of select parking garages.

Is the price difference (20$ more) worth it? It depends; we don’t mind walking, and it felt like a lot of money we’d rather spend on souvenirs. But it might be a good option for some who would like to conserve energy for the park. Opting for Preferred Parking at Universal Studios Hollywood can cut down on the walking time to the park by approximately five minutes compared to General Parking. However, the actual time savings may vary depending on the current parking situation and the location of the Parking Attendants at the time of your arrival. 

For visitors who want to minimize their walking distance to the park entrance, Front Gate Parking is the top choice. While Preferred Parking offers premium parking spots in the garages and lots, Front Gate Parking places visitors directly at the front gate of Universal Studios Hollywood.

With Front Gate Parking, visitors can typically reach the security checkpoint and the main entrance within two to three minutes or even less. In contrast, Preferred Parking may require a walk of around seven to eight minutes, depending on the location of the garage.

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