Universal Studios Hollywood is a lot of fun to visit, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can enjoy it even more.
The tips below are based on more there a dozen visits. Someone else made all the rookie mistakes, so you don't have to. This guide will help you have more fun with less hassle.
Whether this is your first visit or your ninety-first, you may also want to know what's new at Universal Studios Hollywood this year.
To find out more about what the park is like, check out the Universal Studios slideshow to see it all - without leaving your chair.
What You Need to Know Before You Visit
Buy your tickets online before you go. To find out why buying online might save you money, and where to buy your tickets, check the Universal Studios Ticket Guide.
When to Go
If you want to enjoy Universal without the crowds, go in the fall, winter, or spring (except during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays). Avoid weekends and any public holidays. Summers are not only crowded but hot and best avoided if you can.
You can also get an idea about what days will be most crowded by consulting isitpacked.com.
Visually impaired visitors can be accommodated, and signers can be provided with notice. Call at least two weeks ahead of time to arrange for signers or to discuss any special needs you have. Check the Universal website for more information.
Taking the Kids to Universal Studios Hollywood
Is Anyone Under 48 Inches Tall?
That's 122 cm if you think metric. Many rides have height limits for safety's sake, so smaller folks don't slide out of the restraints. It applies to everyone, no matter what their age.
If you have children, you may not be able to avoid a temper tantrum when they find out they can't go on the ride they've been dreaming about — but you can keep the uproar at home. Measure their height before you go, check the height restrictions and let them get over it before they arrive.
For some rides, kids shorter than 48 inches can ride if they bring along a Supervising Companion (who must be 14 years or older). The requirements for each ride are listed in the Universal Studios Ride Guide.
If more than one adult is visiting the park with kids who can’t (or don’t want to) go on a ride, you might think that the adults will have to stand in line separately, so someone is always with the kids, taking twice as long for every ride.
At Universal, you don't have to do that. At any ride with a Child Switch option, get in line together. When you reach the ride entrance, one adult rides while the other waits with the kids. When the first adult returns, they swap off. You'll find Child Switch noted outside the ride and on the park maps.
If you are willing to split up from your companions while you're on a ride, you can save time by getting into the Single Rider line. Staffers use single riders to fill empty seats, getting you on faster.
Family restrooms are located on both the upper and lower lots, near the first aid stations.
Things to Do for the Littlest Visitors
The little ones will enjoy the Silly Swirly Ride and the water play area next to the Despicable Me ride.
Kids of any size and age can go to the shows and on the tram tour, too.
Plan Your Day at Universal Studios Hollywood
Time Your Visit
Some guides say to arrive 30 minutes before the park's official opening time, which might get you in a few minutes earlier than everyone else. To do that, you need to be driving into the parking garage or getting off the Metro about an hour before opening.
If you plan to arrive mid-day instead, you can sleep late and fuel up before you tackle the park. You'll avoid the crowd that gathers when the gates open and the rush to the rides that happens then. And you'll be there later when wait times start to get shorter. For an attraction that has a 90-minute wait at noon, you may be able to walk straight in by 8:00 p.m. And in summer, it's much cooler (temperature-wise) after sunset.
Plan Your Day
The perfect way to plan your day depends on your preferences, endurance, and a bunch of other things that only you can predict. Use these tips to help figure out how to best spend your day at Universal.
The upper and lower lots are connected by a long series of escalators that take about seven minutes to travel one way. Because of that, you’re better off to do everything on the lower lot in one trip.
In the summer, the lower lot is hotter than the upper one. If you can, plan to go down there as early in the morning as possible - or after the sun goes down.
Look at the show schedule when you arrive and plan everything else around any of them you want to see.
Ride Jurassic World between morning and mid-afternoon. That will give you a chance to dry out before temperatures drop.
The studio tour closes before the park does. During winter, the last tours of the day can be cold and chilly. The best time to go is mid-day. Even if it's hot, the trams are shaded, and your feet can get a rest.
Take It: What to Take to Universal Studios Hollywood
You already know most of this, but don't be offended by the reminders — and don't be surprised when you find something on the list that you hadn't thought of. Take these things with you:
Patience: Waits can be more than an hour at peak times. If you're short on that, get a VIP Pass to get to the front of the line faster.
Motion-Sickness Remedies: Many of the rides could turn a sensitive person into a puke-a- saurus. Bring the remedy that works best for you.
Comfortable Shoes: You'd be surprised how many people walk around with blisters on their feet because they just had to wear that stylish pair of shoes.
Quick Drying Clothing: You'll be glad you wore it after Jurassic World - The Ride. Heavy cotton fabrics and jeans get soggy and stay that way for an uncomfortably long time.
For Water Play: If your kids are going to play in the splashy part of Super Silly Funland, bring swimsuits and a towel so you can get them dry afterward. There's a changing area nearby.
Sun Protection: Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses, especially in summer.
Glasses Case: You'll need it to put them in, so you don't lose them on the rides.
3-D Glasses: If 3-D glasses give you headaches and you use them often enough at movies and theme parks to justify a $20 to $30 investment, you may want to go shopping before going to Universal. Hank Green’s 2D Glasses turn the 3-D back into 2-D, or you can get circular polarized clip-ons for your everyday glasses. You can also buy and bring your own 3-D glasses, which may have better optical quality than the ones at the park.
More (and Less) Clothing Than You Might Think: Even on a hot summer day, it can get chilly fast after sunset. During the day, it may be hotter than you expect. Check the weather forecast for Studio City, which can be as much as 20°F hotter than the coast during the summer.
Rainy Days: Umbrellas are a hassle in a theme park. Bring a hooded rain jacket or poncho instead. In summer, know that overcast mornings seldom mean rain later.
Leave It: Things Not to Take When You Go to Universal Studios Hollywood
Leave these items behind.
Anything You Don't Need: That includes that pile of store discount cards, the office keys, and anything else you don't need while you're in the park. They take up space and weigh you down. A small waist pack or sling bag works well to carry the rest.
Anything Embarrassing: Your bags will be inspected at the park entrance.
Food and Drinks: They aren't allowed inside the park except for water, fruit, and baby food.
Leave the GoPro at home. Most rides have strict no video/photo policies inside.
Pets: Animals aren't allowed inside the theme park (except for trained service animals). Leave your furry friends somewhere else if you can. If you bring them on your trip and need a kennel, see the information at the end of this guide.
Your Car: If you're staying at a nearby hotel, ask if they have a shuttle. It may save you the cost of parking. If you're too far away for a hotel shuttle, you can ask if there's an MTA station nearby and take that to the Universal Studios stop.
How to Tackle the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Wizarding World is the busiest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, but with a few tips, you can get the most of it.
- Think about splitting up your Harry Potter day. Go in the morning for a look around, then go back for a late lunch or dinner at the Three Broomsticks.
- The magic wands are cute and make a nice souvenir, but you may have to wait in line to use them. By the time you see all those other people in front of you and know what's going to happen, some of the magic is gone.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has tight size restrictions because of the way the seat restraint is designed. It can disqualify even somewhat large people, depending on their shape. There's a test seat near the entrance to the queue where you can see if you fit or not.
- Unless you're a hardcore Harry Potter fan, skip the sorting hat experience at the wand shop. Only a couple of people in each group get to participate, and the wait can be annoyingly long. If you must go, avoid the morning rush and do it later in the day.
- The nighttime light show takes place in the summer and during the year-end holidays. If you want to see it, get there early to find an excellent place to watch or wait for a second show, and you can slip into place as others are leaving.
While You're at Universal Studios
Get a good start by choosing the most convenient parking garage. The E.T. garage is the default if you follow the signs. From there, you have to walk the length of CityWalk to get to the park entrance.
You can avoid that long walk and leave the crowds behind if you choose the Frankenstein garage instead. To reach it, exit U.S. Highway 101 at Lankershim Blvd. Go north, then turn right onto Universal Hollywood Drive and look for the lot entrance on the left just past the first curve. From the lot, you will take a series of escalators up to the entry plaza.
Getting Into the Park
- When you leave your car, write down the name of the parking garage and level you're on — or take a pic.
- If you brought a lot of stuff but don't want to tote it all around, you could leave the extras in the car and go back for it, but doing that is a time-waster. Instead, rent a locker. They're inside the gate near the entrance.
- If you need to buy tickets, are using a credit card and don't have coupons to redeem, bypass the lines and go to the self-serve machines instead. They're to the right of the main ticket booths.
- If you bought your tickets online but didn't print them, you might think the Will Call window is the place to go, but it isn’t. Instead, get into the Guest Services line for assistance.
- On the way in, it’s easy to mistake the ticket line for the entrance line. Be sure you're in the right one - unless, of course, you like to wait in lines.
Inside the Park
- First stop: Guest Relations. They have free buttons for you.
- Don't lug your purchases around all day. Go shopping at the end of the day, or ask to have your purchases held for pickup when you leave. The pickup location is near the exit at the Universal Studios store.
- The escalators between the upper and lower areas could almost qualify as a ride. They are some of the longest and steepest you may ever encounter. To avoid making the long journey more than once, plan your visit so you can do everything in the Lower Lot before you go back up.
- Occasionally, guests already feeling the effects of Transformers or Revenge of the Mummy may start to feel so nauseous on the escalators that they decide to get off and use the stairs. If you have mobility issues, baby strollers, or don't like to ride on escalators, ask any staff member where to find the elevator.
- If you’re a larger person and find that you can’t fit into the rides, you can still enjoy the shows and studio tour. If you feel like you didn't get enough for your money, ask for a refund at Guest Services.
- If your mobile device needs charging and you have your charger with you, try the Starbucks in the upper lot, which has plenty of electrical outlets. If you forgot your charger, Guest Relations might be able to loan you one.
Food and Drink
- Food is expensive, and all-you-can-eat dining passes are too unless you're a huge eater. Take a break, but avoid noon when restaurants are busier, and go out to eat at CityWalk.
- If you need an adult beverage inside the park, try Hogs Head inside the Three Broomsticks at Wizarding World and Moe's Tavern in the "Springfield" area.
Universal Studios Apps
You can get wait times in several ways: Use the Universal Studios app or check the wait times posted in the park. The Universal Studios Hollywood Mobile App is the most convenient way to keep track of wait times while you're planning your day in the park.
You'll find the free Universal app on iTunes. For Android, the app is available on Google Play. No matter where you get your app, it's best to download it before you go. Before you use it for the first time, it needs to download data, which can take a few minutes.