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.

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Our recommendations below come from our annual survey of Theme Park Insider newsletter subscribers. Locations with star ratings ranked especially highly among our readers. Subscribe here to our free weekly email of theme park news to participate in the next ranking survey.

Rides

Ranking

  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. Jurassic World: The Ride ★ ★
    Animatronic dinosaurs on a shoot-the-chutes flume ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 42 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Jurassic World: The Ride.
  3. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! ★ ★
    An animatronic and mixed-media dark ride in Pets Place
  4. 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.
  5. Transformers: The Ride 3D
    Motion-base dark ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Transformers: The Ride 3D.
  6. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
    Motion base show on the Upper Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches
  7. The Simpsons Ride
    Motion base show in Springfield. Height requirement: 40 inches
  8. 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
  9. Flight of the Hippogriff
    A 984-foot Mack Rides Youngstar coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Height requirement: 39 inches
  10. Super Silly Fun Land
    A spinner ride and water play area next to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Coming in 2023 is the first U.S. installation of Super Nintendo World, on the Lower Lot, featuring the Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge interactive dark ride.

Shows

Top Recommendations

  1. Waterworld ★ ★
    Live stunt show that far exceeds the Kevin Coster movie upon which it is based. Located on the Upper Lot.
  2. Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
    Projection show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Shows vary by season.
  3. Kung Fu Panda: Emperor's Quest
    Movie in the DreamWorks Theater on the Upper Lot
    Read Robert Niles' review of Kung Fu Panda: Emperor's Quest.

Other notable shows include Animal Actors on the Upper Lot and the Raptor Encounter next to Jurassic World on the Lower Lot.

Restaurants

Top recommendations

  1. The Three Broomsticks ★ ★ ★
    Counter service British pub fare in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  2. Hog's Head Pub
    Bar adjacent to The Three Broomsticks. This typically offers the shortest queue for Butterbeer.

Universal Studios Hollywood does not offer sit-down, table-service restaurants, though plenty of those are available just outside the park gates in CityWalk Hollywood. Inside the park, other quick service options include the new Minion Cafe in Super Silly Fun Land - serving grilled cheese, melts, and loaded nachos, Krusty Burger and others themed to "The Simpsons" in Springfield, Universal staple Mel's Diner on the Upper Lot, along with the Palace Deli and Market, Cocina Mexicana, and Hollywood and Dine. On the Lower Lot, you will find Jurassic Cafe, a Panda Express and a grab-'n-go Studio Cafe.

Map

Universal Studios Hollywood is located just off US 101 in Universal City, California - 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Strategy

Universal sells date-specific tickets but no longer requires reservations for annual passholders. Be sure to download the official Universal Studios Hollywood app before you visit, because that will save you time and get you to the front of the Virtual Line that USH is using on its new The Secret Life of Pets ride.

Make your Virtual Line reservation through the app ASAP when you arrive at the park. As always, try to arrive before the park's official opening time, so if you can get SLoP done first, that give you a huge advantage on the rest of the day. If not, head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and get on Forbidden Journey before its line builds.

Universal typically opens its Lower Lot one hour after its Upper Lot attractions. If you can pull yourself out of Hogsmeade, get down to the Lower Lot as soon as it opens for Jurassic World - The Ride, followed by Transformers and Mummy before returning to the Upper Lot. 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.

The Studio Tour also is a must-see here, but its line typically moves swiftly, so it's a good choice for when you return from the Lower Lot. 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.

Once you've gotten the biggies out of the way, returning to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the evening is simply, well, magical and highly recommended, especially if one of the castle projection shows is running. Aim for later in the evening if that is the case, as the crowd will mob the earliest shows.

Tickets

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