Ten Days in Southern California, Part 1: Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood: Russell Meyer's back from a 10-day trip through Southern California, and starts his trip report with a visit to Hollywood.

From Russell Meyer
Posted November 19, 2003 at 8:31 PM
The first 4 days of our 10-day jaunt through Southern California (Friday, November 7 through Monday, November 10) were spent in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. We did most of the tourist things on Hollywood including the Kodak Theater tour, Entertainment Museum, and the Starline Tour of the star’s homes. We purchased the Hollywood Citypass, which included those three attractions, the Autry Museum, and Universal Studios Hollywood for $69. We never made it to the Autry Museum, but felt that the pass was worth the expense, since none of the individual attractions were worth their individual prices. The Starline Tour was just plain boring, and ran almost 45 minutes over because of traffic, which almost made us late for our dinner reservation at the Magic Castle.

Our dinner Friday night at the Magic Castle was awesome, and I highly recommend it to anyone who can snag an invitation to the exclusive club. We spent Saturday morning in the fashion district, which was a very interesting and eclectic market with items ranging from bridal gowns to athletic socks. The rest of the day we spend doing the Kodak Theater Tour and Entertainment Museum. We capped off the night by watching The Matrix Revolutions at Graumann’s Chinese Theater, which is the most amazing theater I have ever been in. Not even the extremely accurate copy at Disney/MGM Studios can fully capture the sheer beauty of this theater, and even if you’re not a film buff, like me, you should still see at least one movie in this palatial temple to the silver screen!

Sunday brought us to the first theme park of the trip, Universal Studios Hollywood. It was a cloudy, drizzly day, but we made the best of it by hitting pretty much every attraction in the park. Many of the attractions here are duplicated from the Orlando park, but were still fun to experience again. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the layout of the park. The upper and lower lot configuration is probably necessary because of the location, but is probably really annoying on crowded days. We saw how long the escalator ride was, and planned to make our trip to the lower lot the only one of the day.

Shrek 4-D was a very fun attraction with a really great movie, but the seat motion system appeared to be affected by the number of people in each row. The row directly in front of us appeared to be moving much more with about 6 guests in the row than our row, which had about 15 guests. As everyone has said, Jurassic Park is 10 times better than IOA’s version. The T-Rex at the end really looks like he’s going to take off your head, the drop was a lot of fun, the beginning scenes seemed more realistic, and the fog machine was working really well. I was a little disappointed in the tram tour, and felt it was a little artificial with scenes that are duplicated in Orlando as stand-alone attractions (Earthquake, Jaws, and Kong). I’m sure it’s more interesting when they’re actually filming on the lot, but on a Sunday morning, the lot was a ghost town, and even our wonderful guide’s puns couldn't help things out.

Backdraft was pretty cool, definitely cooler than Twister, but seems to take up a lot of room for such a minor attraction. T-2 and Back to the Future were identical to their Florida counterparts, but are both cool attractions that could use some updating. The Waterworld Stunt Spectacular lived up to its billing as the best show in the world---Simply Awesome!!!! My only complaint was the pre-show guys getting the audience drenched on a 55-degree drizzly day. We wisely sat outside the soak zone, and still had good angles for all of the stunts. The Mummy Maze was pretty cool, with a really great scare at the end, but it was obvious the normal number of actors were not working when we went through the attraction. We made sure to avoid Spiderman Rocks, but caught the Blues Brothers show in the Spiderman Rocks Theater (moved because of rain), and found it to be a satisfactory show, but nothing to go out of your way for.

We had done every attraction that we were interested in seeing, aside from BTTF, by 3:00, and took a bonus side trip to the La Brea Tar Pits, which would probably be boring to most, but as a geologist, I found the museum to be pretty interesting. After our side trip and verifying our Monday destination location, we returned to USH in time to ride BTTF, and had dinner at City Walk. Overall, Universal is a good park, and will be even better when The Mummy opens next year, but I still prefer the Florida park because it is easier to get around, and Men In Black is still one of my favorite attractions of all time.

Monday was our TV day, and it started at 5:00 am waiting in line to get in the Price Is Right. Because of demand, things didn’t go exactly the way we had planned, and we ended up watching the 4:30 taping instead of the 1:30 taping. I thought I was going to get picked to “Come On Down,” because I made a connection with the producer during the brief contestant interview, as he is also a big fan of roller coasters and member of ACE. Alas, my fiancée and I were not chosen, but had a great time watching the show. Our show will air on December 24, and I’m wearing a tan University of Maryland sweatshirt on the right side of the center section on the aisle.

We were hoping to watch a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, but since we had to take the later taping of TPIR, we instead went because to Hollywood and Highland and watched Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was an interesting show, and I have only ever seen bits and pieces of it since the Washington DC ABC network refuses to air it. I think Jimmy Kimmel should have stuck with The Man Show, because his current venture is not all that great. Our time in Hollywood had come to an end, and lots of theme parks to come... Stay tuned for additional trip reports detailing Six Flags Magic Mountain, Sea World San Diego, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, and Knott’s Berry Farm.

From Chuck Campbell
Posted November 19, 2003 at 7:30 PM
Amen on USH's version of Jurassic Park. IOA definitely got Jurassic Park Lite. I remember riding the Florida version back in 2000, and seeing what looked like a white extension cord sticking out of a dino's rear end, like someone jury rigging a Christmas tree. Sort of spoiled the illusion.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted November 19, 2003 at 7:32 PM
Nice trip report!!!
I also agree that the lower section/upper section set up is awful and takes up too much time to really go back and forth that much.
I also enjoyed the Mummuy MAze and liked the midget who would pop out and scare people, it scared my daughter so it was alot of fun.
I also thought Waterworld was a excellant show and did Twister once and would have enjoyed seeing it again(miss FOTL).
I also thought the tram show was a joke but did enjoy the behind the scenes tour.

From JP parking Guy
Posted November 19, 2003 at 10:51 PM
Nice Report.... Sorry aabout the rain it really doesn't happen much here.

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