When this East Coast girl found out she was heading to the West Coast for a few days, she had to fit in a few extra activities from her bucket list. One of those bucket list items was to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. I have always wanted to visit the West Coast park ~ primarily because I have been fascinated with television and movie production since childhood.
I was provided media tickets to visit the park and provide an honest review and rundown of my day. This post also contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Exploring Universal Studios Hollywood
While both Universal parks on opposite coasts have many attractions and shows that are similar, the one in California has a few extras that are unique to it. When I began to make plans for my trip out that way, I determined to make time to visit. Why? Because I couldn’t pass over the opportunity of visiting real life movie and television sets. It’s just something that gets my heart pumping.
A friend of mine and I decided to head out to California a day early. We were attending an entertainment writing retreat together and, well…why not give ourselves more to write about. Right? I was so excited to go explore what this park had to offer. We spent our time going from attraction to show to attraction non-stop and filled the hours up with new adventures and memories.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
We arrived early to the park because we knew we only had a specific amount of time we could be there that day. We wanted to maximize our Universal Express™ Pass and knock out as many attractions as possible. By arriving a little before the park actually opened, we were able to snap some great photos of the Universal globe and chat it up with a fun Team Member.
That’s where the clapboard comes in…
When I was a teenager, I had a tremendous fascination with clapboards. If you followed our adventure in California at all, you are fairly aware that I wanted to be a screenwriter / director when I was growing up. Clapboards and director’s chairs were my thing – I loved them more than chocolate!
When I saw one of the Team Members holding clapboards and prop Academy Award statues in his grasp, I had to ask if I could snag one for a picture. Fortunately, he kindly obliged. That one interaction turned into an entertaining five to ten minutes of chit-chat before we moved on to position ourselves in line to enter the park.
Once the park opened…
We were off on an adventure! It was a gorgeous day weather-wise. I swear it could not have been more beautiful. The sun was shining. It was just warm enough to wear shorts and not freeze. It was the perfect day to be at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Once the gates opened and we were allowed to enter completely (meaning, they let us in the first set of gates and then we had to wait at a holding point for another ten minutes or so), we headed straight for the attraction that has never moved from the top of my must-do list. It’s something the park in Orlando does not have and it’s something that has piqued my curiosity for a very long time. We made a serious b-line for the World Famous Studio Tour!
Was it what I thought it was?
My friend had taken the tour before, so she was very gracious in letting me act as if I was a kid in a candy store. We jumped on the very first tram of the day that would take us through various lots that have been used in numerous movies and television shows.
I swear, outside of the small spill I took when getting into the tram, I was shaking with excitement. Would I see anything ~ anyone? Would I be able to actually see the filming of anything?
Sadly, the answer to most of those questions is no, but I did get the chance to see with my own two eyes sets with which I was quite familiar. Whether it was Wysteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, the house used in The Burbs, pieces of Whoville or the Bates Motel, I was in my glory.
Now, just because I didn’t see anyone with celebrity status didn’t mean things weren’t happening on the lot. Apparently, they were filming quite a bit that day, including the updated Punky Brewster series, which was taking over the New York City buildings. Because of that filming, we were unable to head that way and even had to remain in silent mode as they were filming during our tour.
The tour was absolutely amazing and I could have gone on it again and again and again. Seriously, I’m sure I could have seen something different with each trip around the lot. It’s definitely a highlight when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and I hope one day I get the chance to take the tour again.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
From there, we decided to do something familiar since we were in the area. We are both fans of Harry Potter and Universal Studios on both coasts have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We headed that way and enjoyed riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ ~ a fun ride that takes you soaring over Hogwarts, through Dumbledore’s office and face to face with various magical creatures.
**Don’t forget to get the Universal Studios Hollywood Mobile App for up to date info on rides and shows!!
Tummy’s Grumbling – Let’s Dine at Mel’s Diner
We had skipped breakfast that morning, so we were starting to feel the hunger set in. So, we made our way through the park and found Mel’s Diner. Now, I may have been hungry, but my appetite wasn’t all that big at the moment, so I humbled myself and picked up a kids’ meal. It was actually the perfect size for me!! Not to mention, it was pretty delicious – the cheeseburger and tater tots. Yum!
Animal Actor Show
As we were finishing up lunch, we decided that we would go watch the Animal Actors show nearby. I was in the mood to see a stage show and the timing could not have been any more perfect. We snagged second row middle ~ a great location to see everything that was about to happen.
This show is all about animals who have been trained to work on TV and in movies. In fact, it even stars some REAL ANIMAL ACTORS! For instance, we had the chance to see a dog who has been in Young Sheldon and the two of the owls used in Harry Potter movies. Talk about a chance encounter! That was awesome!
I loved every second of it. A show like this makes me smile and it fascinates me to see what our four legged and winged friends are capable of doing.
Time to Meet Some dinosaurs
Something that Universal Studios Hollywood has that is a little different than its sister park on the East Coast is Jurassic World ~ The Ride. This ride was a first for both my friend and me. Neither of us had a clue what to expect.
The attraction is a water ride that takes Guests on a wild adventure through dinosaur territory. Unfortunately, a few dinosaurs have been found to have escaped and are on the loose. With the help of Jurassic World characters (well, sort of – the signals kept going in and out), the riders are led to safety, but not before an 84 foot drop that ends with a massive splash! (If it weren’t for the wonderful woman in front of me sheltering her child with a shirt…I would have been drenched! Phew!)
I thought this would be the perfect place to do a live after we had survived our own journey (lol). You have to watch what happens behind me almost halfway through the broadcast. This was so much fun to share!!!
Time To Save The World!
While we do have Transformers™: The Ride-3D in Orlando, I haven’t had the chance to ride it there yet. So, we had the time and were with in proximity of the attraction. We had to make it a part of our experience.
I have to admit – I REALLY enjoyed this one. It’s a 3D adventure that does give the sense of being in the middle of real battle right alongside the Autobots. My heart melted when I saw Bumble Bee (my favorite) and loved the pep talk we got from Optimus Prime at the end. It just felt as if we had overcome the greatest odds and I’ll be sure to enjoy this ride again in the future!
Did a little shopping and headed out for a scheduled event.
By this point, we knew we had to start heading back because the actual reason for our California adventure was about to begin in a few short hours. We had done our best to pile in as much as we could, which was quite a bit with the use of the Universal Express Pass (totally worth the $$ if you’re looking into visiting the park on either coast any time soon!). We made our way to the front of the park, ducking in and out of stores to look for the perfect souvenirs and snapped a few more photos along the way. What a day!
And that’s a wrap!
I am so glad that I was able to make this bucket list item a reality. Whether we were exploring movie sets, soaring over Hogwart’s, avoiding dinosaurs or escaping the wrath of a Decepticon, the time spent at Universal Studios Hollywood will be a part of my memory bank forever. There really is something for everyone – movie fans, thrill seekers, families and more!
I do hope to return some day (and with my family!) to see what new adventures await. Until then, I hope this inspired you to visit the park during a California adventure of your own!
Pssst – don’t forget to schedule some time to walk through City Walk next to the park! There is so much to explore there, too!!!
For more information on what Universal Studios Hollywood has to offer, check out their site:
To read about my family’s adventure at Universal Studios Florida, check out THIS post:
Looking to plan a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood? Let the agents at Get Away Today help you plan the best trip ever!! Looking for a different destination? They plan adventures to many locations, so check out their website today! Simply click the graphic ⇓.
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Sounds like you had a fun day! Thanks for sharing.
We had a great time! Looking forward to hopefully going back some day!
Which did you like better Universal Florida or California?
Oh, that’s a loaded question! LOL! I like them both for different reasons. I am fascinated with movies and television, so I loved Hollywood because of the studios tour guests can take. However, Orlando is a lot bigger and has Islands of Adventure. I really can’t give you a concrete answer, Lisa. (gulp)
Lee Anne says
wow. what a day! Thanks for sharing all the fun with us!
I couldn’t believe how much we were able to fit in such a short time. Loved that Universal Express Pass!
OMG I WISH I KNEW YOU WERE COMING!!!! I live ten minutes away and it would have been so fun to connect! I would have taken you to all my fun secret disney spots!!! Are you still here??
I wish I were ~ especially now! LOL. I was there from the 5th to the 11th for a retreat and to attend the Frozen 2 Premiere. My hope is to get invited back some day, so, if I do, I will DEFINITELY let you know. I had to cancel my Disney plans, but need to make sure they happen next time.
What a great time!! My family is heading to Universal Orlando in March so I’m gonna check your post out on that as well 🙂
Oh, yay!!! You guys are going to have so much fun! Let me know if you have any questions after reading my Orlando post. Universal Studios Hollywood was a blast and, while the two parks do have some similar features, I felt like this one was a different experience because of the studio tour. I can’t wait to hear about your trip in March!!
This looked like an amazing trip! I would have been in heaven at Animal Actors! Thank you for sharing your experience.
My pleasure!!! I hope one day you get the chance to experience Animal Actors. It was so much fun!!!
Holly Bird says
I love Universal Studios..everytime I have been there they have been filming and we got to watch..just love the experience!
Oh, how exciting!!!! They were filming, but we weren’t able to see anything during our day there. Sounds like you have some fantastic memories of your visit!
How fun! I’m so jelly! I would love the Transformers and seeing Bumblebee! What a blast!
Isn’t Bumblebee the cutest???? You’ll get there one day, Kendra! Just keep it on that bucket list so that you can have the satisfaction of crossing it off in the future.
Tricia Snow says
I have never been to Cali! Looks like you had a great time at Universal Hollywood!
I did! I hope to go back some day. That was the first time I had been since 2005, so it felt like I was going for the first time. I think you would enjoy it out there, Tricia!
Fun, Fun, Fun! This is on my list to see someday. We have never been to California and really need to get out there. The tour would be my favorite. I love seeing sets of movies and TV.
It was a HUGE highlight for me! I hope you get there some day and soon! There is so much to see and do in that area of California. Because we are so flat here in Florida, the hills were fascinating for me.
Christina Furnival says
I haven’t been to Universal in years but I SO want to go back. Especially since there are new things to see! Thanks for this tour!
My pleasure! It’s a fun place to explore and there is always something new coming. I hope you get back there soon!
I want more than anything to visit the hogwarts castle!
Keep it on that bucket list until you can cross it off as something you accomplished! It’s a pretty amazing place to visit, so I hope you get there sooner than later, Brianna!
I have never been to Universal Hollywood, and I haven’t been to Universal Orlando in about 13 years! The last time I went was on our honeymoon after we got back from a cruise. I might have to check it out soon.
Sounds like you should start planning a trip! LOL!! There is so much that has changed at Universal Studios Florida over the years and Universal Studios Hollywood was just a huge draw for me because of the studio tour. I hope you get to return to Florida’s park some day and visit California’s, too!
What a fun trip!!! So much to do…props to you for checking so much off the list!
Thanks, Lisa!! It’s been a goal of mine of late to start tackling that bucket list. The boys are older and I need to see my passions take action a little more. This was a fun trip and I’m glad we were able to fit USH into the picture!
What an adventure! This looks like so much fun!
We had a blast!!! It’s definitely a park that should be on everyone’s bucket list. That studio lot tour is amazing.
That’s such a fun park! I spent a long day there years ago with my family. We all loved it. I’d enjoy the Harry Potter ride. I’m a huge movie buff as well. I hope to attend a premiere out there someday!
Cindy, if it can happen to me, it can happen for anyone! Keep the premiere on your bucket list until you have the opportunity to cross it off with a smile.