Pros: The backlot tour, the Waterworld show, and other good attractions. Characters and movie studio experience.
Cons: Smaller than Universal Studios in Orlando, a few ho-hum attractions.
The Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood California is a great fun filled family destination and so is Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida. We’ve visited both places on a number of occasions.
During our kid’s spring break (two weeks ago) we went on vacation to Hollywood, California. We also had a friend of my oldest son with us (an exchange student from Kenya). We visited the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood as well as a few other attractions in Los Angeles and Hollywood. The Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood was also the first real theme park that I’ve visited. That was 24 years ago when I visited the United States for the first time as an exchange student from Sweden. I was very impressed by the theme park back then and I still am. Visiting again was a little bit of a nostalgic experience because there are still some features left from that time.
Since we’ve been to the Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida, several times, including our visit last summer, I would also like to compare the resorts in addition to reviewing the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood. Just very briefly, Universal Studios Resort inOrlando,Floridafeatures two theme parks, the Universal Studios Theme Park, and Islands of Adventure. Therefore Universal Studios Resort inOrlandois bigger and it has a many cool attractions, like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which Universal Studios Resort in Hollywood does not have. Even though the Universal Studios Theme Parkin Hollywood is quite similar to the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood has a few attractions that Universal Studios Theme Parkin Orlando does not have. Even if you already have been to Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando it is worth visiting Universal Studios Theme Parkin Hollywood.
An Overview of the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood, California
The Universal Studios in Hollywood is a theme park and a movie studio. Unlike Universal Studios in Orlando it has a lot of real sound stages with real movie making. There are also some famous actors working in some of the shows, for example, Water World. Therefore you get a feeling of being much closer to the movie making at Universal Studios in Hollywood compared to Universal Studios in Orlando. On the other hand Universal Studios inOrlandohas a lot more attractions.
TheUniversalStudiosTheme Park in Hollywood is divided into an upper lot and a lower lot. You go down a few stair cases and a few escalators to get to the lower lot. Right now there is not much in the lower lot except for the Jurassic Park and the Revenge of the Mummy. The Transformers ride will open in May. Everything else is at the upper lot.
We bought so called front of the line passes, which are similar to the VIP Express Passes at Universal Studios in Orlando. You pay a little bit more; $129 versus $77, but you can by pass any line if you have it. Unlike the fast passes at Disney World there are no times to keep. The front of the line passes are valid anywhere the whole day. This is great for visitors from other states and especially for overseas visitors. If you travel from far away, you pay a lot of money for hotels and airlines, and you don’t have a lot of time. So for long distance visitors the front of the line passes can be quite important. Locals who can visit the park almost any time probably don’t want to buy a front of the line pass but they also have much less to lose waiting in line. Front of the line passes are a great idea. We bought them even though the lines were not very long. The lines are in general not very long in March. However, during high season I would be willing to pay $250 for a front of the line pass.
The Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood is small enough that you can do all rides and shows in one day if you have a front of the line pass. However, we did not see the Shrek 4D show and Animal Actors and we only listened to Blues Brothers for ten minutes. My middle son was not that interested in these attractions and we’ve been to the same attractions at Universal Studios in Orlando a number of times.
Below I have listed and ranked eight attractions that we visited. The first attraction is in my opinion the best one etc.
Backlot Studio Tour
The Backlot Studio Tour at Universal Studios in Hollywood is fantastic. Universal Studios in Orlando does not have a Backlot Studio Tour. I remember taking this tour 24 years ago and it was good back then as well. Many of the features are still the same or similar but the tour has gotten better. The Backlot Studio Tour at Hollywood Studios (former MGM) at Disney World in Orlando is not even close to being as good as the Backlot Studio Tour at Universal Studios in Hollywood. In case you are interested in that comparison.
The tour lasts fairly long, about 50 minutes, and you ride on trams and you have a guide. During the tour you get to see various movie related memorabilia and film sets. You’ll see famous buildings, streets, villages, film sets, cars, a real Boeing 747 (broken up) and other things from famous movies and you get to experience some astounding special effects. You are attacked by the guy from Psycho as well as the shark in Jaws and animatronics dinosaurs spit on you. You experience an earthquake and a big flash flood and you are taken into a cursed tomb. However, the absolute best part was King Kong 360 3-D. This is a fairly new feature that has been around since 2010. Inside a big room the tram is attacked by huge carnivorous dinosaurs fighting King Kong. The surround 3-D screen, the shaking bridge, and the special effects make the experience very realistic.
The Waterworld show was a surprisingly well done show based on the movie Waterworld. The set features a large pool with blue water surrounded by facades and props. The show is action packed and features a lot of stunts, explosions, gun fights, fire, speed boats, as well as an airplane that crashes in the water. Among all the shows I’ve seen at Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood as well as at Disney World I think this was one the best shows I’ve seen. The Waterworld show does not exist at Universal Studios in Orlando.
The Simpson’s Ride
This is a 3D simulation ride which takes you on a really crazy rollercoaster ride with the Simpson family. All kinds of crazy things happen. You are attacked by giant Panda’s, sucked on by giant babies, and you ride killer whales and fall into hell. It is fun and exciting and enjoyable for adults as well as kids. It is one of the few rides which is both a thrill ride and very comical at the same time. Except for the preshow the Simpson’s Ride is identical to the Simpson’s Ride at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Terminator 2: 3D
The Terminator-2 3D show is identical to the Terminator-2 3D show at theUniversal Studios Theme Park in Orlando. The Terminator-2 3D show is based on the movie Terminator 2 and like the movie the show is action packed science fiction. However, the show also features impressive 3D effects as well as actors, animatronics and the spider like T-1000000 super robot. This is a pretty exciting and fun show even though it has been around for a while.
Jurassic Park Ride
The Jurassic Park ride will take you on a boat through a park with animatronics Dinosaurs including an Ultrasaurus, Stegosaurus, Parasaurolophus and other kinds of Dinosaurs. Something goes wrong and the boat accidentally enters the area where the carnivorous Dinosaurs are. Things get scary, a Tyrannosaurus attacks, and at the end there is a big drop. The ride is very similar to theJurassicParkride at the Islands of Adventure Park at Universal Studios in Orlando. However, instead of riding into a roaring Tyrannosaurus one is sticking his head out and there are also some other special effects that are different or missing. Overall the Jurassic Parkride at Universal Studios in Orlando is better.
Special Effects Stage
The Special Effects Stage show at Universal Studios in Hollywood reminded me of the Disaster attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando. You get to see how movies are made and to make the movie clips they are using people picked from the audience. However, the Special Effects Stage show at Universal Studios in Hollywood features a space walk and the Disaster attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando features an earthquake. I think that the Disaster show was a little bit more exciting but the Special Effects Stage show at Universal Studios in Hollywood was funnier. They are both decent shows.
House of Horrors
The House of Horrors at Universal Studios in Hollywood is a fairly large haunted house based on characters and monsters from Horror Movies. This attraction only exists at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood. The House of Horrors features props, displays, animatronics, and many live actors. You’ll see ghastly scenes from the Thing movie and you encounter characters like The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Nosferatu, the Wolf Man, and Chucky. Many characters jump out and try to scare you. The darkness, the scary displays and the live characters makes it a little bit scary and probably not suited for children. Walking through the House of Horrors with lots of other guests is not particularly scary but I am not sure I would do it if I were alone.
The Revenge of the Mummy
The Revenge of the Mummy ride is a themed indoors steel roller coaster. The theme of the “Revenge of the Mummy” ride is the scary experiences in an ancient Egyptian tomb. The roller coaster is traveling at 45mph at goes backwards for a while. It is very similar to the Revenge of the Mummy ride at Universal Studios in Florida and I believe the track itself is the same. However, the set, the props, and the animatronics are different and it is almost entirely in complete darkness unlike the ride at Universal Studios in Florida. We went on it twice. I did not like it as much as I liked the one at Universal Studios in Florida because of the complete darkness. You could not see anything, which meant that the ride lost a lot of its charm. It is what you see that makes it cool. Riding in darkness also made me nauseated the second time around.
A Comparison with Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida
As you can see from above Universal Studios inOrlando, Florida has a few similar rides that are better than the corresponding ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. On the other hand Universal Studios inHollywoodhas a few good attractions that Universal Studios inHollywooddoes not have. I also liked the fact that there appears to be more characters walking around at Universal Studios in Hollywood. There are plenty of photo opportunities and kids can say hello to all kinds of characters.
However, the big difference between the resorts are all the roller coasters, themed rides and shows at Universal Studios in Orlando, that does not exist at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Attractions at Universal Studios in Orlando that does not exist at Universal Studios in Hollywood include, the ET adventure, Men in Black, Spider Man, Ripsaw Falls, the Jaws ride, Jimmy Neutron, Popeye’s and Bluto’s Rat Barges, Poseidon’s Fury, Beetle Juice, the Hulk Roller Coaster, other roller coasters, and the many children’s rides in Dr. Seuss land. Moreover Universal Studios in Hollywood does not have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and all the associated rides and attractions. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is main attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Both Universal Studios in Orlando and Universal Studios in Hollywood are great resorts and great family attractions. However, Universal Studios in Orlando is the better Universal Studios resort.
If you visit Southern California with your family then I think you should try to spend a day at Universal Studios in Hollywood. It is a great experience and a lot of fun. However, if you are planning a long distance vacation and do not know where to go you should be aware that Universal Studios in Orlando is a better destination than Universal Studios in Hollywood. Well, unless you are just coming for the Backlot Tour. Since I think Universal Studios is a pretty good destination I give it four stars.