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A quick, wet trip to Universal Studios Hollywood

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Published: August 16, 2007 at 4:47 PM

My wife took my daughter to L.A.'s American Girl Place today, so my son wanted a trip of his own while they were gone.

"They ought to have an American Boy Place," were his exact words. After throwing around a few options, we settled on a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood as the most appropriate alternative.

There's plenty here for a seven-year-old, superhero-obsessed boy. Last night, I bought two print-at-home tickets from the Universal website. The tickets were available to Southern California residents only (though they didn't check my ID at the park gate), and give you two days for $49 ($12 off the regular one-day price of $61).

We started the day at Shrek 4-D, a show I've longed enjoyed, but that my son hadn't seen in the theme park theater before (just at home on DVD). The air puff/spider effect freaked him out a bit, but more because he didn't understand how they did it, at first, and there's little in life he hates more than not understanding something.

After many, many questions about the technology of 4-D shows, he allowed us to continue to Back to the Future, which we got to ride for one last time before it closes next month to make way for The Simpsons ride. My son enjoyed BTTF even more than Shrek, which might be due to the fact that he's seen stuff with Shrek, oh, about a trillion and a half times, but he'd never seen anything from Back to the Future before today. (Note to self: put it on the Netflix list.)

Brian was disappointed that our local Universal park didn't have a Spider-Man ride, like the Universal park near Grandma and Grandpa in Orlando. (Join the club, kid.) But we saw Spidey and several other superheros walking the pathways, so he wasn't completely disappointed.

The Orlando parks don't have the original Universal Studios tour, though, so we hit that next. I hadn't been on the tour since Universal revamped it a couple years ago, and while the tour doesn't pack the punch it did in the era before DVD extras and "behind the scenes" cable TV shows, Universal's done a fine job in keeping fresh this 40-minute trip through its front and back lots. I'd not seen Universal's "Denver" western street since I was my son's age and the other set effects on the show, from Earthquake to Jaws to the Fast and the Furious cars, elicited enough questions from Brian to keep him from eating much of anything for lunch.

We wrapped up our short trip with a ride on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Universal's promoting the ride on its guidemap with the slogan "Now Wetter Than Ever!," which I took as marketing hyperbole from a park that hadn't opened a major new attraction this year. But Uni's not kidding. I have never gotten wetter on any theme or amusement park ride than I did today on Jurassic Park. The ride takes no mercy on its guests, with water streams, waterfalls and geysers soaking everyone on board before your boat ever gets to the final drop.

Which, of course, dumped about twice as much water on me as I ever remember getting on this ride before. On a 90-degree-plus day in Los Angeles, this super-soaking gets a big, wet thumbs up.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the top of the loooooong Universal "starway" escalator to the park's upper lot, we were dry again. Fortunately, we still have that second day on our tickets.

Add: Rumors flying that NBC's gonna move The Tonight Show from Burbank to Universal Studios Hollywood. Perhaps when or before Conan O'Brien takes over the show in 2009.

Readers' Opinions

From Matthew Baker on August 17, 2007 at 6:04 AM
*Makes note: gotta go, must go*
:)
Good read. I'll go within a month or so possibly. I've been only once before, when I was 6 (or maybe even 5); this would have been in 1980. I think I may have been a bit young to appreciate a fair amount of it, but there's a goodly amount I do remember being interesting.
From Mike West on August 17, 2007 at 8:49 AM
OK, now we ave to go to Universal darnit, that was quite a plug for the JP ride!
Heres a good question: What do you miss most about the original Universal Hollywood?
For me: The bionic show exhibit when the tram stopped in the sound studio area.
& the ice cave before they ruined it & took the luminecent walls away to replace with a dark boring effect for a movie which was never successful.(Ice cave also from the bionic era).
Maybe if they'd made it glow red like lava it would have worked.
Oh & the collapsing bridge(Can you tell I liked the bionic shows?).
From Iris Hernandez on August 17, 2007 at 9:14 AM
Wow, i cant believe JP gets you that wet over there now...uh they need to bring that wetness on over to IOA. Sounds like you had a great time. Great Read there Robert. Got me to laugh a few times too.
From Phillip Florendo on August 17, 2007 at 9:30 AM
I was at Universal last Friday and I had the same exact reaction to the "wetter" JP. I too thought "How much wetter can it be?" Back in may before the wetter deal, I actually did get soaked from the final drop. This time I brought a plastic zip-lock bag for my stuff.

A thing I hadn't seen before last Friday was the locker system at The Mummy ride. I don't know if it's been there since the ride's opening. I've never been with a friend who has been forced to put her bag in a locker. The lockers are free and use your fingerprint to open it. So Robert, if theme park locker systems fascinate you, maybe you should see it, if you haven't seen the SmartLocke system before. (From the people who brought us SmartCarte.)

From Robert OGrosky on August 17, 2007 at 11:22 AM
How can you take your child to USH and not go and see the best 3d show in any park, Terminator?????
How busy was the park, were the lines long??
I would love to go visit one more time before BTTF cloese, hopefully i can win the lottery on Saturday and make that visit!
From Robert Niles on August 17, 2007 at 11:31 AM
Well, with the two-day offer, I figured I'd save Mummy, Terminator and Waterworld (plus BTTF and JP re-rides) for a return trip, rather than cramming them all in one day, and leaving Brian burnt out. As it was, four hours was enough for a mid-week trip.

Lines were not bad - 30 minutes was the longest I saw posted all day. The most we waited was 20. But I wasn't there until the late afternoon.

From Mostly Anonymous on August 17, 2007 at 11:42 AM
Wonderful trip report! You made me look forward to the day when my son is old enough to ask "How did they do that?"
From Deidre Dennis on August 17, 2007 at 10:34 PM
We spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood in June. Robert is NOT kidding about Jurassic Park. We were soaked before we started the climb. Then as we do our routine of holding our hands in the air on the drop and scream, about a gallon of water goes in my mouth and I literally started choking. Okay, so it wasn't a gallon but I really did start coughing because so much went into my mouth. Plus I was laughing so hard. It was hot that day as well and the park was packed, and even though we wasted our money on front of the line passes, regular wait times for EVERYTHING were about 15 to 20 minutes max. Wish this park had more rides like Orlando, but it was still a blast. The shows were really good as well, and we got soaked again at Water World. Never saw the "surprise" ending on Revenge of the Mummy after it was talked about so much. And we rode it about 10 or so times. I don't remember feeling the temperature drop like they advertised, either. Maybe on the next trip, Robert can check that out and see if he notices it.
From Robert Niles on August 17, 2007 at 10:56 PM
It's really become a theme park convention that animals spitting water on boat rides always miss the boat. The boat always turns at the last moment to avoid the waterfall. These were the conventions established by the Jungle Cruise, the Jurassic Park River Adventure's obvious inspiration, but JP willfully violates them all.

Frankly, I was a little perturbed at the beginning of the ride: 'What? Don't they realize that they're breaking the rules here?" But after a very short while, I gave in and enjoyed the absurdity. As well as the cooling soak.

From Joshua Counsil on August 18, 2007 at 10:13 AM
I'm hard-pressed to choose between the Orlando and Hollywood Universal parks. Each has a really unique feeling to it.

As much as I love Disney, I feel that it's a clone war. Universal, by contrast, makes a lot more unique attractions for their parks, and even the clones are altered for a different effect (e.g. The Wettest JP Ever).

Great report - can't wait to go there again someday.

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