Come along for a virtual visit to LA's top theme parks

March 25, 2020, 6:44 PM · Theme parks might be closed and people ordered to shelter in place but thanks to the Internet, you always can travel online. After our virtual trips to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm yesterday, we are headed farther up Interstate 5 into Los Angeles County.

CalTrans has finished much of the I-5 widening from the Orange County line to the 605, but if we had been making this trip in real life we would have to have left pretty early in the morning to beat the normal traffic that chokes this freeway almost everyday. But today, with so many people home, it's easy to breeze through downtown on our way to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal's the closest park to my home, and it might be the park that's changed the most over the past decade. The one-time Universal Studio Tour is now much more than that, with recent additions helping to push the park's attendance over nine million visitors a year. That's double what it attracted 10 years ago.

The biggest attraction in Hollywood? It's gotta be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Let's stick around after sunset for the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle projection show.

The park's closure came just days before the planned soft opening of The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! — a practical-set dark ride with 64 animatronic characters. It's still officially unannounced, but Super Nintendo World has been under construction on the park's Lower Lot, signaling that Universal is moving beyond its screen-happy recent past. But I must admit that Universal does pretty well with those screens.

And no theme park in America beats Universal Studios Hollywood for live-action, stunt entertainment. Here's the finale of the park's Waterworld show:

Gulp down one last Butterbeer for the road, because we're headed back north up the 170 to the 5 and through Newhall Pass up to Santa Clarita and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Designed by the same team that developed SeaWorld in San Diego, Magic Mountain really does sit atop a mountain, making your legs as tired after a day walking around the park as your voice will be from all that screaming on its world-record 19 coasters. Check out the Street View if you want to climb into the Wayback Machine to see what the park looked like 10 years ago, back when the monorail track was still up.

Me? I prefer Six Flags Magic Mountain now, when I can go on great rides such as West Coast Racers.

And Twisted Colossus.

Aw, heck, let's just go through all of my media-day on-ride videos from the park, including Full Throttle...

Superman: Escape from Krypton...

Apocalypse (when it opened as Terminator: Salvation)...

And even X2....

(I regret that my Scream on-ride video is lost to the Internet, as I recorded it for the Los Angeles Times back when I was covering theme parks for them, and they don't preserve their original videos.)

This wraps our virtual tours of the Southern California theme parks. But we've got much more to come. Stay with us as we head to the Midwest for a tour of more top theme parks, starting with Holiday World.

When the parks reopen... we have some great discounts on tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood and the Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Theme Park Insider's Virtual Roadtrip:

Replies (1)

March 26, 2020 at 10:55 AM

That was fun! Let's go again!

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