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Universal Studios Hollywood

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Universal Studios Hollywood might be the nation's most unusual major theme park. USH evolved from its famous Studio Tour, the tram ride through Universal's back lot that remains the heart of the park. At 45 minutes (give or take a few, based on what's filming on the back lot), the Studio Tour lasts far longer than your typical theme park ride, which are over in anywhere between one to 10 minutes. Universal Studios Hollywood is also unusual in that it's not built on some huge flat lot in the suburbs, but on the side of a mountain just a few minutes from downtown Los Angeles, California.

Making movies isn't merely the theme of this theme park - it's what Universal does here, every day. There's no nightly fireworks or laser show, and no daily parade. You won't find any carousel or flat rides in the park, either. But if you're a movie fan who wants to see the actual locations where some of Hollywood's classics were created, there's no more authentic experience anywhere in the world.

The park's layout divides into two major sections, an Upper Lot at the entrance, and a Lower Lot at the bottom of a series of long escalators. Go ahead and start your day with the Studio Tour and its new King Kong 360: 3-D experience, then head to Lower Lot for Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy. (If you've been to the Universal Studios park in Florida, be warned that the Mummy ride here is much shorter than the Orlando version, and skips the Brandon Fraser plot entirely.)

Return to the Upper Lot and visit The Simpsons Ride, Special Effects Stage, Shrek 4-D, Terminator 2: 3-D and the park's best show, Waterworld. Yes, it's based on the widely-derided Kevin Coster movie, but here's one example of a theme park attraction that far surpasses its source material.

In April 2012, the park will open the first U.S. version of Transformers, a next-generation theme park ride that's debuting in Singapore this year and is being developed by the same designer who created the award-winning Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Speaking of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood, too, though no opening date or site has been announced.

Buy your tickets online to get the best deal and avoid lines at the gate. The park's open 365 days a year, but check Universal's website for specific operating hours. You can get driving directions to Universal Studios Hollywood on our Google Map of America's top theme parks.

Scroll down to links for Theme Park Insider readers' reviews of Universal Studios Hollywood attractions and restaurants. Or search our archives for more news about Universal Studios Hollywood. -- Last edited by Robert Niles on December 6, 2011

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