Visitors Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Carl Laemmle opened his 230-acre Universal City movie-studio ranch to visitors on March 15, 1915, but the advent of sound in motion pictures forced the studio to close the lot to those noisy visitors. Universal reopened to visitors in 1961, outsourcing tours to the Gray Line bus company. Following a feasibility study by Buzz Price - the same man who helped determine the locations for Disneyland and Walt Disney World - Universal decided to start its own tram tour, and what is now Universal Studios Hollywood opened on July 15, 1964.

Universal Studios Hollywood stands atop the Hollywood hills and is divided into an Upper Lot and a Lower Lot, connected by a giant, four-part "Starway" escalator. In addition to its regular attractions, the park hosts Halloween Horror Nights on select evenings in September and October, closing early on those days for this after-hours, hard-ticket event.

Ticket Icon Looking for discount tickets? Get Universal Studios Hollywood tickets

For more information about Universal Studios Hollywood, jump to...

Our recommendations below come from our ongoing survey of Theme Park Insider readers. Locations with star ratings ranked especially highly among our readers. Vote here to take part in our surveys and submit your picks for top attractions.

What to Do

Top 10

  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ★ ★ ★
    Indoor Kuka-arm dark ride inside Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. [Note that it is no longer presented in 3D.] Height requirement: 48 inches

  2. Studio Tour ★ ★
    Narrated bus tour of Universal's front and back lot film and television production facilities. Includes King Kong 360/3D, Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Jaws, shown below.

  3. Transformers: The Ride 3D
    Motion-base dark ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches

  4. Mario Kart Bowser's Challenge
    Augmented reality interactive dark ride in Super Nintendo World

  5. The Simpsons Ride
    Motion base show in Springfield. Height requirement: 40 inches

  6. Jurassic World: The Ride
    Animatronic dinosaurs on a shoot-the-chutes flume ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 42 inches

  7. Waterworld
    Live stunt show that far exceeds the Kevin Coster movie upon which it is based. Located on the Upper Lot.

  8. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!
    An animatronic and mixed-media dark ride in Pets Place

  9. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
    Motion base show on the Upper Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches

  10. Revenge of the Mummy
    A 1,906-foot indoor Premier rides coaster with a 40-mph launch and height of 44 feet. Height requirement: 48 inches

Other Attractions

Upper Lot
  • Kung Fu Panda: Emperor's Quest: movie in the DreamWorks Theater
  • Flight of the Hippogriff: Mack Rides Youngstar coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Height requirement: 39 inches
  • Ollivander's Wand Shop: live show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Super Silly Fun Land: water play area, playground, and spinner
Lower Lot Coming next:
  • Fast & Furious Hollywood Drift: This Intamin coaster will feature ride vehicles themed to cars from the films that can spin 360 degrees to simulate drifting along the hillside track. Opens in 2026.

Where to Eat


Universal's most popular restaurant is Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World, which serves burgers, salads, a chef's special, and desserts in a Chef Toad-themed indoor restaurant. However, given the difficulty in making reservations, the long waits after your reservation time and recent inconsistency in food service, we do not recommend this restaurant at this time. Go for The Three Broomsticks, or one of the many eateries just outside the park in Universal CityWalk.

Buy Tickets

Park Map

Universal Studios Hollywood is located just off US 101 in Universal City, California - about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The park is located just just five miles from Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), but you might find more nonstop options flying into Los Angeles International (LAX), which is about 25 miles away... but that take you through the heart of LA traffic.

Universal offers a free shuttle bus up the hill to the park's entrance if you take the elevated walkway over Lankershim Blvd. from the Metro's Red Line Universal City station.


Universal sells date-specific tickets but does not require reservation for annual passholders after their first visit on their pass. You can get discounted one-day tickets here, via our partner.

Then be sure to download the official Universal Studios Hollywood app before you visit, as you will need it to enter the Virtual Line that USH might use for Super Nintendo World and The Secret Life of Pets ride. The Universal app also allows you to link the park's $40 Power Up Band wristband that you can use to play the Key Challenge games and track scores in Super Nintendo World.

If seeing Super Nintendo World is super important to you, we recommend that you buy the Super Nintendo World Early Access Ticket, via Universal's website. You can buy discounted daily tickets through other sources, but the Nintendo Early Access is available only through Universal's website. This ticket, which must be used in addition to an existing day ticket or annual pass, gets you up to one hour of early access to Super Nintendo World before the park opens to the public. It also gives you one-time Express access to the Studio Tour before 11am. Tickets are date-specific and cost between $20-30 per visitor.

If you get Early Access, make your reservation for Toadstool Cafe as soon as you can if you want to experience that, as reservations for the day book quickly. Here is the link. Then get your Power-Up Band and do the four interactive Key Challenges games in the land before getting in the queue for Mario Kart. After you are done, if it is getting close to 11am, use your express access for the Studio Tour before proceeding through the park. If you have time, however, knock out as many of the three other Lower Lot attractions - Jurassic World, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Revenge of the Mummy - as you can before 10:30am and heading back to the Upper Lot. If you are a single rider (see below), this should be relatively easy on most days.

Universal is divided into an Upper and Lower Lot, connected by a long series of escalators called the Starway. Universal's official app will tell you current wait times for rides throughout the park, but you want to minimize the number of times you're on that time-consuming Starway during the day, and not chase slightly shorter wait times by going back and forth. Universal Studios Hollywood is a relatively easy park to complete in one day without having to buy the upcharge Universal Express pass. But if your time is limited, Express might be a good investment.

If you do not get into Super Nintendo World first thing, start with The Simpsons Ride and then go into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff. Then complete the other Upper Lot attractions before heading down to the Lower Lot.

The Studio Tour is the reason why Universal's theme parks exist. That should make it a high priority for first-time visitors, and its line typically moves swiftly, but it closes before the rest of the park, so do not leave it for too late in the day. Secret Life of Pets is a fun dark ride, but you might need to make a Virtual Line reservation early in the day on busy dates, as standby access might not be available then.

Otherwise, Minion Mayhem has two theaters here, making it a much shorter wait than in Orlando. Waterworld is a great show, and it has huge capacity, so pick a showtime most convenient for you and arrive about 20-30 minutes before then if you wish to avoid the soak zone.

If the Hogwarts Castle projection show is running on the day you visit, aim for a showtime later in the evening, as crowds will mob the earliest showings.

Single Rider

If you are visiting alone, the following rides may have single rider queues available, which can save you quite a bit of waiting time:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Jurassic World - The Ride
  • Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge (Note that the single rider queue here sometimes can be as long as the regular wait, and is not nearly as interesting as the regular queue.)
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
Ask a team member at the ride's entrance for directions to the single rider queue, if you do not see it marked.

Universal Studios Hollywood News