Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme Park

Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover’s Theme Park

Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme Park

I love movies. If you know me, you know that I quote movies (and TV shows) a little too often. I am not sure where this love started. Maybe it was with my earliest movie memories (E.T., Cloak and Dagger, Smokey and the Bandit). Most likely it was during my first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood in 1987. I was so excited to see the actual clock tower from Back to the Future, to be able to put my hands on a van from the A-Team, to see the house from Psycho, and to experience movie magic first hand.

I recently visited Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) to see what had changed since my last visit and to share the experience with my children. We had one day to experience everything and we did not have front of the line passes. I spent some time online trying to figure out how to fully experience USH without running out of time or missing must-do attractions. I am so excited to share tips and pointers with my readers to help you have the best Universal Studios experience you can have.

Experiencing the Major Attractions Without Front of the Line Passes

We did not have front of the line passes. I considered adding them on to my media passes, but opted not to. We were there on a weekday, which lessened the crowd but also shortened the operating hours. Here are few tips to maximize your limited time.

  • Buy your tickets online. This ensures you can get into the park and also allows you to enter one full hour before the official opening time.
  • Use the app! The official app includes a map and current wait times. It is a must-have!
  • Use early entry, or at least get there in time to get in right at opening. A few popular attractions end up with long lines pretty quickly.
  • Use single-rider option. The single-rider option allows you to beat the long lines by splitting your party up to experience the rides (you are put into open seats after groups have been seated). We used this option on every ride that had it. Sometimes our group of five was seated in the same car, just not together. I was even seated next to family members at least twice using single-rider. Single rider rides include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Jurassic Park The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy The Ride, and Transformers The Ride 3D. This is also a great option if parents do not want to ride a ride again but older kids do. My kiddos rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey three time in less than half an hour (the regular line was running 45 minutes for one ride).
  • Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first. This journey into the world of the much-loved Harry Potter is located to the right of the entrance and it opens earlier than the Lower Lot (where you will find most of the popular rides). You can easily do everything in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in an hour or so, especially if you use the single-rider option. We started here, but then stopped here again on our way out of the park.
  • After Harry Potter, go to the Lower Lot. Access the Starway escalator by walking through the Simpson’s area and turning left. The major attractions and rides in the Lower Lot include Jurassic Park The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy The Ride, and Transformers The Ride 3D. You will want to ride all of these rides. More on why later.
  • Plan the remaining attractions once you finish the Lower Lot. Once you have hit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the lower lot attractions, you will have to rest of the day to explore everything else. Head back up the Starway and seek out the rest of the attractions you are interested in.

Must Experience Attractions and Rides – Movies Come to Life!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Harry Potter fans simply must put Universal Studios Hollywood on their bucket list. Here you can shop at Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeyduke’s, enjoy a chocolate frog, drink a cold or frozen butterbeer (I had both), and go for a broom ride with Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I admit to tearing up on the ride. I was overwhelmed with excitement and love for the experience. Use the single-rider option for a much shorter line and be prepared to check your loose article into free lockers. Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme ParkThe whole atmosphere feels as if you have stepped into the books or movies. Check out my delicious chocolate frog and Dumbledore trading card above. Do not leave Universal Studios Hollywood without one (but wait until you are leaving so it won’t break or melt). Oh, and don’t forget your butterbeer. Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme Park

Jurassic Park The Ride. This ride is fun and exciting with a lot of little nuggets for true fans (look for the fateful Barbasol can near the end of the ride). We rode this ride twice. The first time (in the morning) we barely got wet but the second ride (afternoon) left us soaked. I asked a ride employee about this, and she told me they have the ability to control the amount of water. They adjust it up for hotter days and afternoons and turn it down for colder days or mornings. Remember, if there is a line, use the single-rider option for a much shorter line.Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme ParkTransformers the Ride 3D. If you want to step into a movie, this is the ride for you. This action-packed ride hits the ground running and does not slow down until it is over. It is an incredible ride that feels like you are in the movie from the first seconds. This adventure is rapid and intense and includes realistic battles that might scare the faint of heart. Use the single-rider option for a much shorter line.Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme ParkRevenge of the Mummy the Ride. We experienced mixed reactions to this ride. I loved it and it was one of my favorites. My 13 year old son was disappointed as he was expecting a longer ride, and my 9 year old daughter found it absolutely terrifying. I say it is a can’t miss. It is half as long as the Transformers Ride and I bet my son would have liked it if we had ridden the Mummy before we rode Transformers. I am not one to hoot and holler on rides, but when Revenge of the Mummy went dark and hit 45 mph, I was screaming with joy.

Other rides and attractions we enjoyed were the Walking Dead Attraction (a scary walk-thru with “live” actors) and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

The Absolute Must-Do: The Studio Tour

All of the attractions and rides described above sound fun, right? But do you know what both of my kiddos listed as the best experience at Universal Studios Hollywood? Without hesitation, they both said the Studio Tour was their favorite. I was not surprised because almost every Universal Studios memory I have from my childhood visit came from the Studio Tour. This must-do adventure includes the Fast and the Furious – Supercharged and King Kong 360 3D, two sensational ride-like experiences. You will also meet Norman Bates, see the plane crash from War of the Worlds, learn secrets from movie sets, get attacked by Jaws, and experience an earthquake. It is an unbeatable experience.Universal Studios Hollywood: Tips and Must-Dos for the Movie Lover's Theme ParkHit this unforgettable adventure when you need a break from the sun. This is the only place we experienced a long line, but it moves pretty fast and is worth the wait. Be sure you check when the last tour departs on your visit day so you do not miss this!

There is no better theme park for movie lovers. At Universal Studios Hollywood, you get to experience the movies through rides and shows, but you also get to go behind the scenes. It is amazing. My kids are already asking when we can go back. Soon I hope!

Disclaimer: Universal Studios provided my family with admission tickets.  I was not financially compensated and opinions are my own.

About Janice

I am so glad you stopped by. Kick your shoes off and hang with me a while. I am an Arizona native, wife to a hard-working hubby, mom of two, and daughter of the King. I love sharing recipes, crafts, and family activities that any mom can do. Life is complicated enough, right? When I am not up to my ears in laundry, dishes, and creating for Celebrating Family, you will also find me at East Valley Mom Guide. Come follow me on Google +, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Debra Wagner says

    wow, this place looks so very different from when i went to universal in the 80’s…So much more and love your tips. I will go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first as you said! I saw the Wizarding World of Harry on the Celebrity Apprentice and it looks so fun, but looks even better now I have your review too! I love your video clip with your daughter. The rides and the building look amazng. I know who the spooky voice is in the bathroom (lol)..I watched all the movies thanks for sharing your wonderful experience and I hope it will be an experience of mine too soon.

  2. We are planning a trip this summer and these tips are just what I needed. We weren’t gonna do the tour, but its on our must-do list now!!!

  3. Nursie Pamela Wells says

    My how Universal Studios has changed! The Harry Potter Wizarding World is a must for us when we go. Thanks for the tips because you never know what to do and how to plan for a theme park unless you plan and this is exactly what I needed for our summer trip to CA!

  4. Holy chocolate frog!

  5. Wow, this is awesome!! I can’t believe how much more stuff they have since I was last there!! Thanks for the review! Looks like I have a lot more to go see now!!!

  6. I have always wanted to go Universal Studios and I never made the trip I am an adult now still haven’t gone but I’ve got to go look at all that exciting stuff you got the money you got Godzilla you got Transformers and got Harry Potter Wizarding World it just looks too fun not to make a plan to go to it as soon as I can