Times have changed since Universal Studios Hollywood first opened its doors to the public in 1915, when guests could watch films being made while enjoying a chicken lunch. While the landscape of the theme park has expanded to include big budget thrill rides, moviemaking magic remains the park’s core theme.
What a Ride!
The park’s premiere attraction is the approximately 45-minute studio tram tour through the back lot where you’ll see famous sets such as the Bates Motel from “Psycho,” Wisteria Lane from “Desperate Housewives” and the plane crash site from “War of the Worlds.” Universal Studios also features traditional theme park rides, including water rides, 4-D motion simulators and indoor coasters based on such films and TV shows as “Jurassic Park,” “The Simpsons” and “The Mummy.” The park also hosts stage shows with elaborate special effects and walk-through exhibits that showcase wardrobes and props from famed movies and TV shows. Costumed characters also walk around the park, including personalities from “Despicable Me,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Curious George.”
Walk This Way
CityWalk is an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex directly adjacent to the theme park. The three-block, pedestrian-only promenade glows at night with bright flashing lights and colorful neon signs. The thoroughfare is home to more than 60 restaurants and shops, a 19-screen cineplex with an IMAX theater and six nightclubs, including a dueling piano bar and comedy club, as well as an outdoor concert space surrounded by 5,000 LED lights. Admission to the complex is free.
Special events take place throughout the year at Universal Studios, such as the free CityWalk Summer Concert Series. From mid-September through early November, the park hosts Halloween Horror Nights, when the park includes horror-themed mazes with zombies, monsters and serial killers and a special tram tour with redesigned haunted scenes. From late November through late December, the park stages a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” themed area: a walk-through Whoville village known as Grinchmas complete with a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree, carolers, Christmas story sessions and photo opportunities with the Grinch. The entertainment news program “Extra” is filmed either inside the park or at CityWalk. Filmings are open to the public and often include interviews with big name celebrities.
The park sells annual and one- and two-day passes. One-day passes are discounted when bought online. Special tickets include Front of Line passes which provide one-time front-of-the-line access to all rides and attractions. Purchase the VIP Experience and you’ll receive guided behind-the-scenes tours of sound stages and prop warehouses normally closed to the public, as well as valet parking and gourmet lunch in a VIP dining room. Special promotions include the buy-a-day, get-a-year-free deal, discounts for Southern California residents and combo passes that include admission to SeaWorld San Diego and Disneyland Resort. Since some attractions have height restrictions, the park offers discounted tickets at the gate for guests 48 inches or less and discounted passes online for kids ages 3 through 9. Guests 2 and under always enter free.
Public and preferred parking passes can be bought ahead of time online. Parking is cheaper if you arrive after 3 p.m. The park also has valet parking. Visit Universal Studio’s website for special parking packages that include shuttle service between the theme park and select hotels in areas such as Hollywood, Pasadena, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Los Angeles’ Metro red line runs from Koreatown, Downtown Los Angeles and North Hollywood to a subway station across the street from the theme park. From there you can make the 20-minute uphill walk to Universal Studios or take the free shuttle that runs seven days a week.