Universal Studios Hollywood Planning Guide (2023)

We have had the pleasure of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood dozens of times over the past decade, and as of 2023 are currently annual pass members to the theme park. Subsequently, having visited the park as adults and now with a baby / toddler several times we know a lot about the park.

However, we still have an appreciation for the learning curve undertaken by first-time visitors to the theme park and wanted to put together a comprehensive guide in a logical format that makes planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood a little less stressful.

This guide is huge (6,000+ words) and has links to several of our other in-depth Universal Studios Hollywood guides about specific topics.

As such to make the experience of planning your trip to Universal Studios as easy as possible, we advise you to bookmark this page (you’ll likely want to re-reference things again both before and during your visit) and take advantage of the table of contents below which can help you quickly navigate to the section of the post that you most need right now.

Who Should Visit Universal Studios Hollywood?

We think that most people will enjoy spending one day at Universal Studios Hollywood during a trip to Los Angeles regardless of whether you’re travelling with or without children.

While Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the more expensive attractions in LA, we think it does a fantastic job of combining a unique behind-the-scenes movie magic experience with several incredible thrill rides. However, there’s no denying that this theme park is better suited to certain ages and interests.

Babies & Toddlers

Children under the age of 3 do not require a ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood and instead can enter the park for free with an adult. This is primarily because children under the age of 3 are unable to benefit from a large portion of the theme park’s rides and attractions.

We recently visited Universal Studios Hollywood with our 14-month-old little boy, and for the most part, we were going to the theme park because we wanted to go. Not because we thought he’d have the most incredible time. That’s not to say he didn’t have an amazing time, but when you compare his experience to a 7-year-old for example, it’s going to be very different.

Children

Universal Studios Hollywood is marketed as a family-friendly attraction and therefore unsurprisingly is one of the best things you can do in Los Angeles with kids. Children aged three are required to have a ticket to enter Universal Studios Hollywood. However, the child’s height will determine which rides the child is eligible to go on inside the park.

Some of our favourite rides for kids at Universal Studios Hollywood include;

Tweens & Teens

Being a family-friendly theme park the rides, attractions and lands within Universal Studios Hollywood are designed to primarily cater for children aged between 3 and 15 years old. So while some tweens and teens may find selected rides inside the park a little lame, there are others with slightly more mature themes that should excite them. These include;

Adults

Prior to our son being born, we frequently visited Universal Studios Hollywood when travelling to Los Angeles as a couple and always had a fantastic time. Even on our most recent visit to Universal Studios Hollywood (February 2023), we had such a fantastic time that we once again upgraded our theme park ticket to a Silver Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Pass that gets us entry into the park multiple times throughout the year.

While Universal Studios Hollywood is marketed towards families, there’s no denying that adults travelling solo can enjoy a trip to this awesome theme park. In our opinion, some of the best rides at the theme park include;

When Is The Best Time To Visit Universal Studios Hollywood?

The best time of year to visit Universal Studios Hollywood is during the off-season which is classified as September through to February. Excluding holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

However, during this time the weather in Los Angeles isn’t as good and subsequently you may experience colder temperatures or rain which may put a dampener on your trip. Nevertheless, we think this is a worthwhile risk to take given that prices are cheaper and the park is quieter.

Universal Studios Hollywood decorates for Christmas and has Halloween Horror Nights during the month of October, so if you’re not too fussed about crowds then experiencing the decor and special events can also make this a great time to visit.

Regardless of the time of year you visit, the best day for Universal Studios Hollywood is Monday through Thursday since these are the quieter days with the majority of people being at school or at work. The only exception to this is if there’s a major holiday on one of these days, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

As a result, if you do have to visit Universal Studios Hollywood during the peak season (March through August) then we recommend visiting on a Monday through Thursday because while the park will still be busier when compared to the off-season, it won’t be as bad as what it is on a Friday through Sunday.

How Many Days Do You Need At Universal Studios Hollywood?

Unlike the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida or the nearby Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood is a relatively small theme park. As such you only need one day at Universal Studios Hollywood and should be able to go on every ride and see all the attractions during that time.

However, upgrades to two-day park tickets are often available for an additional $40 – $60. As such if you have spare time during your trip, are travelling during the height of the peak season, or travelling with little ones who may need extra time, then allocating two days to the park may be worthwhile.

Where To Buy Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets

Tickets for Universal Studios Hollywood can be purchased on the Universal Studios Hollywood website. However, if you’re based in the US or Canada then we recommend UndercoverTourist for your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets since they have the most competitive prices and a range of different ticket options to suit all budgets and requirements.

Alternatively, if you’re based in the UK then we recommend buying your Universal Studios Hollywood park tickets from AttractionTix. As they have the most competitive prices, no conversion fees and amazing customer service.

All tickets are available as either a one-day or a two-day option. However, alongside this there are multiple ticket upgrade options also available which are designed to enhance your visit to the theme park.

Children under the age of 3 are free at Universal Studios Hollywood and do not require a park ticket.

Universal Express Pass

The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass can be purchased as part of your one-day theme park ticket or you can upgrade your standard ticket at the theme park at an additional cost of between $90 and $120.

The Universal Express Pass allows you to use an exclusive line for every ride and show at Universal Studios Hollywood except Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge located in Super Nintendo World.

Typically we find that using the Universal Express Pass saves us 80% when compared to the standby wait time of a ride (although exact times vary depending on the ride and time of year).

This means that if the wait time for a popular ride such as Revenge of the Mummy is 1 hour, you’ll likely only wait 10 to 15 minutes. Multiply this by all the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood and you can quickly see the impact a Universal Express Pass can have on your day.

Alongside this, the Universal Express Pass also gains you reservation-free entry into Super Nintendo World when reservations to enter the Super Nintendo World are required.

Subsequently, if you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood during the peak season then we think that upgrading to a Universal Express Pass is a worthwhile expense.

VIP Experience

If you’re looking to be guided around Universal Studios Hollywood and to see and learn about the theme park and the film studio in-depth then the VIP Experience is a fantastic choice. Not only does this ticket include entry into the theme park, but it also includes;

  • An expert guided tour, including The World Famous Studio Tour
  • Light snacks and refreshments
  • Exclusive VIP gourmet meal
  • Complimentary Valet Parking
  • Universal Express Pass Unlimited

Much like standard Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tickets, the VIP Experience also works on a dynamic pricing model and typically costs an extra $250 or so when compared to standard theme park entry tickets.

How To Get To Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is located north of Los Angeles roughly 27 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). However, LAX isn’t actually the closest airport to Universal Studios Hollywood, instead Burbank (BUR), is located just 4.1 miles away.

However, sadly while this may be the closest airport to the theme park it’s limited in the number of airlines and flights and therefore if you are flying to LA then more often than not you’ll find yourself going to LAX and then travelling to Universal Studios Hollywood either by car or on public transport.

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood as part of a wider trip to Los Angeles or California then how you get to the theme park will depend on where you’re staying and the transport you have available.

There are roughly 40 miles between Disneyland and Universal Studios and while 40 miles doesn’t sound too bad, LA traffic means that this commute often takes over an hour.

Subsequently, if you are planning on visiting both theme park destinations you can do one of three things;

  1. Stay in a hotel between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland.
  2. Stay in Anaheim for Disneyland and then move hotels close to Universal Studios Hollywood.
  3. Make the one-hour (or more) commute from one theme park to the other

If you’re planning on exploring more of Los Angeles during your trip then moving from Anaheim to a more centrally located hotel in Hollywood makes a lot of sense and will save you a lot of time.

However, if this is purely a theme park vacation and you’re looking to make the commute from one theme park to another without changing hotels then we recommend staying in Anaheim for Disneyland and commuting to Universal Studios Hollywood since you’ll likely be spending two or more days at Disneyland (given the two theme parks) and only one day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

There are some hotels within walking distance of Universal Studios Hollywood which are ideal if you’re looking for a hassle-free start to your day at the park.

However, if you’re not within walking distance then you’ll either need to drive a car or take a carpooling service (such as Uber or Lyft) to the theme park. Parking at Universal Studios Hollywood starts at $30, so if you’re located within the Hollywood region it’s often cheaper and in our opinion less hassle to take an Uber or Lyft instead.

There are two carpool drop-off and pick-up locations at Universal Studios Hollywood. One is located inside the Frankenstein Parking Garage at the entrance to the theme park while the other is located at Universal’s entertainment district CityWalk.

We often recommend being dropped off at the Frankenstein Parking Garage since you’ll no doubt be heading straight into the park as soon as you arrive and then picked up from the CityWalk location after a delicious meal at one of the amazing restaurants here.

Where To Stay At Universal Studios Hollywood

Unlike the Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood has no on-site hotels. However, there are several nearby hotels that offer a fantastic range of amenities and facilities. Some of our favourites include;

Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City

🚗 Distance To Universal Hollywood: 0.2 miles

The Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City is the closest hotel to Universal Studios Hollywood and is situated within a 10-minute walking distance of both the theme park and the CityWalk entertainment district.

Amenities:

  • Outdoor pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Restaurant & bar
  • 24-hour convenience store

Sheraton Universal Hotel

🚗 Distance To Universal Hollywood: 0.3 miles

The Sheraton Universal Hotel is located next to the Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City and subsequently also within a 10-minute walk of both the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and the CityWalk entertainment district.

Amenities:

  • Outdoor swimming pool 
  • Luxury fitness centre
  • Complimentary breakfast

Loews Hollywood Hotel

🚗 Distance To Universal Hollywood: 2.7 miles

We stayed at the Loews Hollywood Hotel during our most recent visit to Universal Studios Hollywood and enjoyed our stay so much we opted for an additional two nights.

Amenities:

  • Outdoor pool
  • Spa
  • Fitness Centre
  • Restaurant
  • Free Wi-Fi

What To Wear To Universal Studios Hollywood

What you wear to Universal Studios Hollywood will likely depend on the time of year you’re visiting the park.

We visited in January recently, and after a bout of heavy rain, we found ourselves exploring the park in long trousers, jackets and raincoats, which is very different to the shorts and t-shirts we find ourselves in when visiting Universal Studios during the summer.

One thing we recommend paying extra attention to when planning your Universal Studios Hollywood outfit is your footwear. You’ll likely be walking more than 10,000 steps during your day at Universal Studios. As such it’s incredibly important to ensure that you’re in comfortable, supportive footwear. The three most common styles of footwear worn at Universal Studios are;

  • Trainers
  • Flip Flops
  • Sandals / Crocs

We personally find that our flip-flops and sandals begin to rub with so much walking at the parks so instead we save those for around the pool and instead opt for trainers.

Universal Studios Dress Code

There is no specific dress code for Universal Studios Hollywood. Instead, as long as you are wearing clothing that is appropriate for a family-friendly environment, you should be fine.

This makes wearing the likes of muscle tees, tank tops, crop tops, and shorts, all perfectly fine while any items with offensive logos or slogans may cause an issue.

Universal Studios also has a costume policy for the health and safety of all guests. This includes no costume masks, veils, long trains, live animals, swords or weaponry however, face coverings worn for medical or health reasons are permitted.

Costumes cannot exceed 28” wide x 80” high to meet Universal Studios Hollywood’s metal detection regulations and costumes are subject to secondary x-ray screening.

Costumed guests may not give the impression that they are Universal Team Members while those wishing to bring a home-crafted wand must ensure it is rounded on either end and must be appropriate in nature.

Guests found to be wearing a costume / outfit that is not deemed permissible will be asked to either remove the costume and change into something more appropriate, or exit the park.

Universal Studios will have sole discretion to decide whether an item is permissible. Any item deemed inappropriate will be turned over by the owner and may be retrieved at the end of the day at the Universal CityWalk hub.

What To Pack For Universal Studios Hollywood

Our complete Universal Studios Hollywood packing guide provides a more comprehensive guide as to what you’ll want to pack for your trip to the park. However, as a quick guide, you’ll want to think about;

  • Theme Park Tickets
  • Bank Cards / Wallet
  • Mobile Phone
  • Phone Power Bank
  • USB Phone Charger
  • Light Jacket
  • Sunblock
  • Hat
  • Umbrella
  • Water Bottle
  • Refillable Cup
  • Backpack
  • Fanny Pack
  • Rain Poncho
  • Chapstick
  • Hogwarts Robe
  • Harry Potter Wand

If you’re travelling with little kids you may also want to bring a travel towel and a change of clothes as Super Silly Fun Land has a splash pad that is a great place to hang out in the summer.

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Printable Packing List

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Universal Studios Hollywood Lands

Universal Studios Hollywood is split over two floors known as the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot. These two areas are connected by an extended number of escalators.

However, for guests needing additional assistance a complimentary shuttle is available that transports you between the two areas. If you require this service speak to a member of staff at the park who will direct you to the pick-up location. We used this service recently when travelling with our 14-month-old.

The Upper Lot is where you enter the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. On this level you’ll find;

  • Hollywood
  • Production Plaza
  • Super Silly Fun Land
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Springfield, home of The Simpsons

Meanwhile, on the Lower Lot, you’ll find;

  • Super Nintendo World
  • Jurassic World
  • Transformers Metrobase

Springfield, home of The Simpsons in the Upper Lot is the land that then leads down to the Lower Lot. However, on the opposite side of this land, you’ll also find the entrance to The World Famous Studio Tour.

Much like the Lower Lot you also need to take either an escalator or elevator down to the entrance of this attraction. However, it’s separate from the escalators down to the Lower Lot.

Universal Studios Hollywood Rides

There are currently 13 rides at Universal Studios Hollywood, they are;

  1. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
  2. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  3. Flight Of The Hippogriff
  4. Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey
  5. Jurassic World: The Ride
  6. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride
  7. Silly Swirly Fun Ride
  8. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash
  9. The Simpsons Ride
  10. The World Famous Studio Tour
  11. King Kong 360 3D
  12. Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  13. Transformers: The Ride 3-D

King Kong 360 3D and Fast & Furious – Supercharged are part of The World Famous Studio Tour. As such by going on this ride you’ll actually experience 3 of the 13 rides at Universal Studios Hollywood.

There are few rides at Universal Studios Hollywood suitable for toddlers or babies. Since all but one ride has a height requirement. Hence the reason children under the age of three are able to enter Universal Studios Hollywood for free.

However, even if you’ve got older kids we recommend measuring their height and comparing that to the height requirements of each ride inside the park. This will give you an idea as to what rides they can / can’t go on during your trip and help you to plan for any disappointment in advance.

This may also make you realise that a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood isn’t right for your family right now and instead, you’d get more value from waiting another year until they are slightly taller.

CityWalk

Adjoining Universal Studios Hollywood you’ll find the entertainment district of CityWalk. This area is free to enter and you do not need a theme park ticket. As such you could also visit this district either on a separate day when you visit the park or without visiting Universal Studios Hollywood at all.

Here you’ll find an extensive range of stores, bars and restaurants as well as an 18-screen cinema and an indoor skydiving arena.

There are both quick-service and table-service restaurants here, and we find it to be the perfect place to grab dinner after a fun-filled day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Some of our favourite restaurants here include;

  • NBC Sports Grill & Brew
  • VIVO Italian Kitchen
  • The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • Antojitos Cocina Mexicana

How Much Does A Trip To Universal Studios Hollywood Cost?

The cost of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood during a trip to Los Angeles is likely going to cost you around $180 – $250 per person. This assumes that you’re;

  • Purchasing general park admission tickets
  • Paying for general parking (if driving)
  • Eating in a quick-service restaurant for lunch
  • Only buying one relatively small souvenir (up to around $50)

This does not include;

  • Travelling to Los Angeles
  • Accommodation costs
  • Car hire costs (where applicable)
  • Breakfast & dinner

Of course, the cost of visiting Universal Studios can be a lot higher than $180 – $250 depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Some things that can add to the cost of your visit include;

How To Save Money At Universal Studios Hollywood

The cost of visiting Universal Studios doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, there are several ways in which you can visit Universal Studios Hollywood on a budget. Some of our favourite Universal Hollywood money-saving hints and tips include;

Universal Hollywood Travel Planning Guide

🎟️ Where To Buy Tickets for Universal Hollywood?

If you’re based in the US or Canada, I recommend Klook for your Universal Hollywood tickets.

Klook consistently has the most competitive prices. There’s also a range of different ticket options to suit all budgets and requirements.

Meanwhile, if you’re based in the United Kingdom. Then I recommend buying your Universal Hollywood theme park tickets from AttractionTix.

I personally use AttractionTix when purchasing theme park tickets. That’s because AttractionTix consistently has the most competitive prices and incredible customer service.

🏥 Should I Buy Travel Insurance for a Visit to Universal Hollywood?

If you’re travelling to Universal Hollywood for vacation, then travel insurance is recommended. Basic travel insurance coverage with Safety Wing averages between $5 – $10 per day and offers peace of mind.

However, if a trip to Universal Hollywood isn’t part of a vacation. For example, you live locally. Then travel insurance isn’t likely to be necessary.

🚘 Do I Need to Rent a Car for a Visit to Universal Hollywood?

You don’t need to rent a car to visit Universal Hollywood, as the theme park has Uber / Lyft pick-up and drop-off points.

However, if a trip to Universal Hollywood only makes up a portion of your vacation, then you may want to rent a car. I personally use Discover Cars to find the best car rental for all of my trips to Los Angeles.

🏨 Where to Stay When Visiting Universal Hollywood?

When visiting Universal Hollywood, I recommend staying at Loews Hollywood. From this hotel, you can take an Uber or Lyft to Universal Hollywood in under 15 minutes.

When it comes to booking any hotels in Los Angeles, I use either Booking.com or Hotels.com. However, for large families and groups, VRBO is my number one choice.

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