Universal Studios Hollywood Basics

Hello Everyone, with spring break coming up, I thought I might touch upon some of the different types of tickets that Universal Studios sells. As of right now, everything is business as normal at Disneyland and Universal, but bear in mind things are ever changing….

Getting to Universal Studios

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Image taken from Trip Advisor

If you are visiting the Southern California area, you should know that car is the best mode of transportation anywhere in Southern California. Most of the places you may want to see are much further apart than you would think. I used to get asked how far the Hollywood sign and Santa Monica were from Disneyland all the time! The answer is far! You should be aware, however, that California traffic is always bad and there is not really a “quiet” time, only less crowded. This is usually before 6 a.m. or after 10 a.m. The theme park is located off the 101 highway. I would recommend consulting the official Universal Studios Hollywood website for specifics.

Parking is very expensive, like Disneyland in Anaheim and ranges in price from $28 to $50. Parking is split into general, preferred and front gate parking and also by what time you arrive. The discounts are better if you arrive after 6 p.m. There is electric vehicle parking available if needed for about .35 a kilowatt hour. If you don’t want to bother parking your car yourself, you can utilize valet parking.

Image taken from Quora

From past experience, the parking garages are fairly massive so do make a mental note of where you park. Most of the parking is far from the Universal Studios Hollywood entrance and is situated around the outskirts of the Universal City Walk linking the parking area to the park.

Universal Studios is about 30 minutes from Hollywood by Metro and can also be reached by Metro from LA if that is where you are staying. The Metro involves taking the Red line towards Universal City. The theme park does have a free shuttle bus you can take up the hill or you can walk it. The cost of the Metro is about a $1.50 each way. The shuttle bus runs every 10-15 minutes and is pretty reliable.

Taxi service is available or ride sharing as well, but the prices will drastically vary depending on the time of day. Consider asking your hotel concierge if there is a free shuttle from your hotel to Universal if you are staying pretty close. If you book your trip through a tour company they will likely pick you up and drop you off from the park by bus.

Ticketing Basics

Rule number one is to buy your tickets in advance. They will ALWAYS be cheaper than at the gate. One day Universal Studio tickets from Hollywood are date specific. You need to know what date you are planning to go before you buy your ticket. Tickets are nonrefundable and nontransferable. The pricing ranges from $95 on the basic tickets to $380 for VIP.

The largest difference between the regular tickets and the Express and VIP tickets is price and experience. If you are crunched for time and determined to hit every single attraction and show, you may want to consider one of these two passes. The Express ticket will allow you to access the front of the line for everything one time. You can always upgrade your tickets when you reach Universal if you have a basic ticket.

If you are hoping to get to the front of the line more than once, you will want to consider the VIP ticket. The VIP experience comes with access to the Universal lounge near the park entrance where you can have some refreshments and snacks and escape the weather to rest for a bit and valet parking. The VIP experience also comes with a special timed tour of the Backlot area with private guide. You will have the ability to see more than the general public. The Backlot tour is perhaps one of the highlights of Universal Studios Hollywood and it is a working lot where each tour is never the same.

If you are a California resident, you may consider looking into an annual pass. The cost difference between the annual pass and a 1 day ticket can be as little as $20. You just need to be aware of blackout dates and restrictions. With the annual pass, you can typically use unrestricted the first time you are using the pass, but after that are subject to blackout dates. Other annual passes can be paid monthly if you wish to invest in one.

If you are looking into a multi day ticket these can be great deals too. You just will want to ensure that you will be able to use your multiday ticket within 7 days of the first day of use.

Plan of Attack

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Universal Studios is divided into the “Upper Lot”, “Lower Lot” and “Backlot” areas. If you are looking to maximize your time get there early and go straight to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction first. It is easily the most popular ride at Universal in one of the smallest areas of the park. Everything after that should not be as long of a wait. I always enjoy trying to get my frozen Butterbeer after the attraction and head down to the Backlot tram tour after that.

The Backlot tour takes about an hour and is usually the most popular in the afternoon. As I mentioned before, the tour is never the same twice and always an interesting experience. If it is an especially hot day, ensure you have a hat and sunscreen. Many of the queues are outside and not covered by any tenting or shady areas. I like heading to the Water World stunt show or Universal’s Animal Actors. I’m not the largest fan of the Minions or Simpsons, but you will find their “worlds” in the Upper Lot between Harry Potter and the Backlot.

In the afternoon after you make your way to the Lower Lot. You can take a very, very, very long escalator ride down and hit the more interactive attractions. The Jurassic World attraction is new so I can’t speak for how long the wait time for it would be. You will find Transformers, the Mummy down there. Do what works for you though.

Wrapping Up

There are lots of food and shopping options available too, but that deserves an entire post of its own along with the details about the attractions and shows within Universal Hollywood. I hope this post serves as an introduction for you and will help answer some questions you may have about the different Universal Studio Hollywood. Until next time, happy travels.