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A tour of Universal Studios Singapore: Hollywood and New York

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Published: December 18, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Welcome to Universal Studios Singapore Week here on Theme Park Insider. Each day this week, we'll be taking an in-depth look at the themed lands in Universal's newest theme park - which is part of the Resorts World Sentosa mega-resort in Singapore. Imagine Las Vegas without any of the cheese or tackiness - just plenty of luxe hotels, Michelin-starred dining, high-end retail and casino, in a compact, easily-walkable resort… with a Universal Studios theme park thrown in for good measure. That's Resorts World Sentosa.

Universal Studios Singapore entrance

I flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, which is an attraction unto itself. It was my first time on the A380, the world's largest passenger airliner. But on Singapore Airlines, you never feel crowded. The A380 on Singapore Airlines features 19-inch-wide seats, the widest economy class seats in the world, according to SeatGuru.com. Each seat comes with its own TV with on-demand movies, video games and audio. And a USB port in case you want to use your TV as a computer monitor. And an AC outlet for charging your electronics in-flight. (No WiFi, though.)

Don't forget the food, either, which is included in your airfare. On the LA-to-Tokyo leg of my flight to Singapore, we were served a lunch,

a dinner,

and dessert,

Cherry Garcia

as well as free wine, beer and Singapore Sling cocktails, if you're into that sort of thing.

Once you arrive in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa, like everything else in this 272-square-mile city-state, is a short taxi ride from Changi Airport, which is consistently rated among the top five airports in the world by travel magazines. If you choose to stay elsewhere in Singapore, you can either take a cab to the park or ride the MRT train to the Vivo City shopping center, from where you can catch a bus or monorail to Sentosa Island or just walk across the causeway. (Don't even think of renting a car in Singapore.)

Sentosa monorail
The Sentosa Island monorail

Today, we'll take a look at Hollywood, which is the entrance plaza to Universal Studios Singapore, as well as the New York section of the park.

Universal Studios Singapore turnstiles

Here's the view, once you pass through the turnstiles and under the monorail track into the park.

Hollywood Boulevard

Universal Studios Store
The Universal Studios store, fashioned after the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

Hollywood Boulevard
The Darkroom photo store, a familiar site to anyone who's been to Orlando's studio theme parks, or who visited the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles in the mid-20th century.

Christmas tree
The Christmas tree at the end of Hollywood Boulevard

Both the Hollywood and New York sections of the park are partially covered by translucent roofs, providing some relief from Singapore's frequent thunderstorms. Located just one degree north of the equator, Singapore "enjoys" Orlando's mid-summer weather year-'round.

Otherwise, the design of Universal Studios Singapore is most like Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure, but much smaller - just 49 acres to IOA's 110. But both are organized around a central lagoon, with themed lands surrounding. If you make a right when you come to the end of Hollywood Boulevard, on your way to New York, you'll see USS's version of Hollywood's Pantages Theater, home to the Monster Rock show.

Monster Rock

Here's the story: Computer geek Henry Preston Jekyll III has brought the classic Universal Monsters back to life, and transformed them into modern rock-'n-roll stars. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Phantom of the Opera and the Wolfman (joined by a She-Wolf) join young Dr. Jekyll for a 15-minute medley of rock and pop tunes… with lyrics cleaned up for the family-friendly park, of course. Still, there is a touch of grown-up humor now and then, such as when Dracula rejects the advances of the played-to-be-gay Phantom of the Opera with the dismissal, "You're not my blood type."

On stage at Monster Rock

Exiting the Pantages, you're just steps away from New York...

New York

Which is home to the Lights! Camera! Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg special effects show.

Lights, Camera, Action

This reminded me of the old Backdraft show at Universal Studios Hollywood. There's a short preshow where Steven Spielberg comes on screen to tell us a little about movie special effects, with examples from popular Universal films from over the years. Then, he sets up the next scene: We'll be walking into a stage set where we'll watch the filming of a scene inside a boat house while a Category 5 hurricane hits New York City.

Predictably, when we get to the part of the scene when the TV newscaster tells us that all is under control, you know that's when all heck's going to break loose. And much does break loose from the ceiling, and from the walls, and from the fuel tanks surrounding the boat house.

On set

Oh, and the show's not over until a nice little "kick" at the end.

Your highest-profile restaurant in the park is Mel's Drive-In, which is located alongside the Lagoon at the end of Hollywood Boulevard.

Mel's Drive-In

Keeping with my theory that you should always order the special when trying a new restaurant, I decided to go with the "Shiok Burger."

Shiok Burger poster

The Shiok (which is "Singlish" for really great taste) includes lettuce, tomato, cheese, guacamole, turkey bacon, an onion ring, and something called "spiced chicken floss." Here's what the burger looks like in real life:

Shiok Burger real life

I think I would have liked the chicken floss in another dish - it's basically chicken that's been chopped to a thread-like consistency, spiced with sugar, soy, ginger and Asian five-spice powder. Yet on a guacamole bacon cheeseburger, the whole mix just left my mouth feeling confused. But the fries were awesome, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Your other food options in Hollywood are:

  • Hollywood China Bistro, offering dim sum and a large menu of Cantonese fare in a table-service setting, including sets for two to 10 people.
  • Celebrity Cafe & Bakery, a counter-service restaurant serving breakfast sets, including bacon and eggs, waffles and muffins. Later in the day, you'll find sandwiches, coffee drinks and desserts.

And in New York, there's

  • KT's Grill, a New York-style steak house offering rib-eyes, Wagyu burgers, rotisserie chicken and a chilled seafood platter.
  • Loui's NY Pizza Parlor, a conter-service eatery with thin-crust pizza by the slice or while pie, as well as pasta, wings, grilled chicken subs and Caesar salad.

Tomorrow: We'll continue our tour of Universal Studios Singapore with a look at Sci Fi City, home to the new Transformers ride, as well as the world's tallest dueling coaster: Battlestar Galactica.

Also on the tour: Egypt, The Lost World, Far, Far Away, Madagascar

Readers' Opinions

From 69.181.65.60 on December 18, 2011 at 8:11 PM
These park tours have been simply incredible! Thank you so much. I have to ask, with USS at only 49 acres, does it feel ridiculously small?
From Robert Niles on December 18, 2011 at 9:49 PM
BTW, at the end of the week, I'll post an entry with details about booking a trip to Singapore, including information about airfares, hotel rates, transportation and tickets, etc.
From 108.198.188.63 on December 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM
the airline food was my favorite part. what a feast!
From David Brown on December 19, 2011 at 1:27 AM
Love to hear your descriptions of what these parks offer - however will you also be giving us your reviews of the major rides and attractions? As a seasoned theme-park rider I for one would be interested in your opinions....
From David L. on December 19, 2011 at 6:16 AM
I'm with David Brown, opinions on rides and areas would be great!
From James Koehl on December 19, 2011 at 7:21 AM
Looking at your dinner on the plane, I'm not sure that this boy from Ohio would know what to do with it. Those were some funky looking vegetables!
From 77.100.253.55 on December 19, 2011 at 10:36 AM
Different strokes. I thought that in-flight meal looked amazing. I was looking at going on Singapore Airlines in Economy. So thanks for that review.
From Brandon Mendoza on December 19, 2011 at 11:06 AM
I love the fact that when you travel, you eat random things! I think it helps you as a person decide what you do and don't like. Nothing bothers me more than when people go to another country or even another city and get a cheese burger from McDonald's when they can just go down the street from their house and get the same thing. At least you can say you tried the "weird" food and liked or didn't like it!
From David Kirby on December 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM
I've always thought the translucent canopies in theme parks looked really weird. But based on pictures alone, the ones at Universal Studios Singapore look really bad and jarring to me especially compared to the one over World Bizarre at Tokyo Disneyland. The ones in Singapore look much more temporary and cheap. Do they actually look like this in person too?
From Robert Niles on December 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Actually, David, I thought the canopies in Singapore blended with the sky better than the old-timey canopy in Tokyo, and were less of a distraction. But I visited on one day that was pouring rain and the next day that was overcast for much of the day. (And the first time I saw the canopies, nearly two years ago, it was pouring, too.) So I can't say if they would have stood out worse if the first time I saw them was on a bright, sunny day.
From James Koehl on December 19, 2011 at 5:41 PM
I didn't say that the meal looked bad- I just didn't recognize some of the items being served. We don't have a Singapore restaurant in our small-town Ohio town. I have no problem trying strange foods- we spent a month in Kazakhstan and tried lots of new foods, including horse (which we didn't know was horse until our translator told us later). Many of them we now serve regularly at home to our kids (but not horse, at least until we can find someone around here who sells it).

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