Universal Studios Hollywood Planning Guide

If you are planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, then you have come to the right place. We have everything you need to help plan your trip, from saving money and what to do when you get there!

Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the most popular and oldest film studios and sets. The park isn’t just a theme park but is part of a working set for many films, TV shows and more.

The park started as a ranch where Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle opened up his land of 92-hectares on 15th March 1915 to the public. He had an outdoor movie studio where the public could pay to watch films being created on the ranch.

From there, the park evolved several times over the years and is still a working set in which guests of Universal Studios Hollywood can get a sneak peek inside the inner workings of a Hollywood film or TV series. With that said, you might be wondering if the park is worth visiting, what there is to do and what you should be packing.

While Universal Studios Hollywood is much smaller than Universal Studios Orlando, with only one park to visit, there is still plenty you should know before you go on your trip. We will break down all the information you need to know from getting there, where to stay and even ways to save money.

When To Visit Universal Studios Hollywoood

Universal Studios Hollywood is situated in the hills of Los Angeles County, California and so you can often expect relatively good weather all year round. The most you can expect from bad weather is the rainy season in the winter months; otherwise, the weather is warm and dry.

The good year-round weather is a bonus for anyone restricted on the times of the year they can visit. However, there are still things to consider, such as holidays, the summer season, and even special events, which can cause the crowd levels to be at a maximum.

The best day to go to Universal Studios Hollywood is between Monday to Thursday within the off-season from October to February, except for Halloween, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.

Weekends are by far the busiest days of the week to visit and can often mean you would potentially need a second day at the park to see and do everything you had planned. Days such as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the most popular as many people will visit for the weekend before heading home for work on Monday.

We also found certain days and public holidays such as the 4th Of July and Christmas Day extremely busy and maximum for guests. The crowds can be a maximum due to many families heading somewhere special to celebrate the holiday together.

You may notice ‘peak days’ and ‘non-peak days’ on the calendar when you book your tickets. The peak days refer to the busiest days, such as weekends, holidays, or even peak months, such as summer break. Essentially, this can help you determine the best time to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.

We also find this tool helpful as you can upgrade your ticket to an annual pass; from there, you can see what dates you might be able to visit again and choose from the dates available so you can make sure you can fully take advantage of your annual pass.

How Long To Spend Universal Studios Hollywoood

Universal Studios Hollywood is significantly smaller than the sibling park in Orlando, Florida. With that said, we often get asked how long we would recommend spending at Universal Studios Hollywood to anyone heading for a visit.

1-2 days is the optimal number of days when looking to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. However, you can extend this to 3-4 if you plan to use the other two exploring Los Angeles or heading to Disneyland in Anaheim.

Universal Studios Hollywood only requires one full day at the park as many of the rides and attractions can be achieved within that very day. Though if you are visiting as a family with smaller children, you may find it easier to split the day up and plan for some rest, essentially exploring the park over two days.

If you want to fit everything into one day at Universal Studios Hollywood, it is quickly done with some handy hints and tips. We achieved this on our visits to Universal Studios Hollywood and got to see and do everything we planned.

Heading to Universal Studios Hollywood for park opening is an excellent way of getting in the park at opening and being able to make the most of your day(s) in the park. Be sure to check the website for up to date opening hours before heading to the park.

We wouldn’t recommend spending more than two days at the park as there isn’t more than one to two days worth of attractions and rides. However, universal Studios Hollywood is easily achieved within a short time frame, even during the peak days and times of the year.

When visiting in peak times of the year, as mentioned earlier, you may find that you find it harder to get on rides, queues are longer, and your experience isn’t what you expected. Splitting your visit over two days can give you the option to enjoy everything within the park fully and have no immediate rush to do everything you had planned.

With many hotels close to Universal Studios Hollywood, you can arrange a reasonably cheap overnight stay so you can explore the park over two days. Don’t forget that in the evening after a day at the park you can explore the bright lights of CityWalk and enjoy the marvellous food and entertainment.

Getting To Universal Studios Hollywoood

Plane

For many, flying may be the easiest and quickest way to get to Universal Studios Hollywood. There are five major airports in Los Angeles that you can fly to and from during a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.

The nearest airport to Universal Studios Hollywood is Burbank (BUR), located just 4.1 miles away. Burbank airport operates with several airlines from Alaska, American, Avelo, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United. Therefore, Burbank is the best airport to fly into when looking to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.

The next nearest airport to Universal Studios Hollywood is Los Angeles (LAX) which will be more popular with those flying from further afield or from abroad as it is the major airport in the area. Though located further out from Hollywood, you can find a range of transport to Universal Studios Hollywood from the airport.

Alternative airports include Long Beach (LGB) at a distance of 25.3 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood, Santa Ana (SNA) at 43.7 miles away and finally Ontario/San Bernardino (ONT) at 43.8 miles away. These will be less likely to fly into as they are much further away and not easy to access from Universal Studios Hollywood by shuttle or public transfer.

Car

One of the more popular ways to get to and from Universal Studios Hollywood is by car. You can use a car you drove from your home or even a hire car for your time in Los Angeles.

There are several car hire companies you can use to allow you to pick up the car from the airport and return it to the airport. Hiring a car can be a great way of getting around, exploring more of what LA has to offer, and it gives you the freedom you might not be able to find in public transport.

The most significant advantage of having a car is exploring further afield from Universal Studios Hollywood to places such as the Hollywood Hills, Disneyland in Anaheim, or even some nearby beaches.

One of the biggest things to think about when driving to and from Universal Studios Hollywood is the parking at your accommodation and at Universal Studios Hollywood itself. There are several types of parking from general, preferred and even valet parking.

General parking before 5pm is $30 per day, which is likely to be the parking you would have for a day at the park. However, you can park for $10 after 5pm at CityWalk, which may be suitable for a night at CityWalk. If you prefer to upgrade your parking, you can opt for preferred parking at $40 per day before 5pm.

Preferred parking is just a closer parking space or parking lot closer to the park itself, which can be working, especially if you want to make the most of your one day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

You can also opt for Valet parking at $25 for the first 2 hours and $45 after 2 hours. While we don’t see the value in Valet parking, it is an option if you want to have a more luxurious experience though we feel the difference between Valet and Preferred parking isn’t worth the added cost.

Shuttle/Bus

Unlike Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood doesn’t offer a shuttle service to and from nearby airports. There are, however, several budget-friendly ways to get from airports such as Burbank and LAX to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Getting a shuttle or bus service is an excellent way of saving some money on transport, especially if you are travelling light or want to save more to buy yourself an interactive wand or Lard Lad Donut.

Getting from LAX to Universal Studios doesn’t have to be complicated; you can get several shuttle services to make the journey easier. Shuttle One is a popular shuttle service that you can take from LAX to Universal Studios directly.

Getting the FlyAway bus from LAX to Union Station is a great way to get from the airport to a more central area; you can get another bus, train, or Uber/Lyft. We found this method the easiest and cheapest.

Uber/Lyft

Another way to get to and from Universal Studios Hollywood is by getting an Uber or Lyft. Uber and Lyft are one of our main modes of transport as we don’t drive when on vacation.

Using Uber or Lyft can work out a little more expensive in certain circumstances, but it can also be much easier for those who don’t drive or don’t want to drive.

Universal Studios Hollywood have Uber and Lyft pick up and drop off locations, so you don’t have to worry about finding a meeting point. We loved this as it made it easy to get to and from Universal Studios Hollywood without any fuss or stress.

You can also use Uber and Lyft to get to and from nearby attractions, shops and supermarkets, which can still give you the freedom of having a car without having to worry about parking.

Where To Stay In Universal Studios Hollywoood

Each time we have visited Universal Studios Hollywood, we decided to have a night in a hotel within the Burbank area. Staying in a hotel the night before or the night of your day at Universal Studios Hollywood park is an excellent way of making the most of your time.

We always enjoy staying nearby as there is plenty of options from family-friendly hotels, hotels with pools and even luxury hotels. In addition, there are several styles of accommodation from Universal Studios Hollywood partner hotels, hotels nearby and AirBnB’s.

Partner Hotels

Due to Universal Studios Hollywood being smaller than Universal Studios Orlando, it, unfortunately, does not have on-site hotels but does offer up partner hotels. The partner hotels are the second-best to on-site hotels as they are certified and picked by Universal Studios Hollywood.

The most significant benefits of staying at a partner hotel would be close to the park itself within walking distance or the use of a complimentary shuttle.

If you wish to book a partner hotel, you can get some fantastic deals on air, hotel and tickets or tickets and hotel. There is a wide range of partner hotels to suit several budgets, styles and standards.

Hotels

The surrounding areas of Universal Studios Hollywood have plenty of different hotels that are perfect for getting to and from Universal Studios.

Burbank is the best area to stay in for a vacation to Universal Studios Hollywood as it is the closest to the parks. Burbank is also a great area for families as you can find family rooms close to Universal Studios Hollywood.

When looking for a hotel for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, it is essential to think about your transport options. For example, will you be driving from your hotel to CityWalk, or are you looking for a hotel with a shuttle service?

There are many hotels near Universal Studios Hollywood with shuttle options which are something we found most helpful on our first visit. Finding a hotel with a shuttle service was great as we could save money on our hotel by staying off-site and further away while efficiently getting to and from the parks.

Alternatively, staying close to Universal Studios Hollywood gave us the option to get an Uber or Lyft to and from the parks, which were very affordable and saved us from having to drive or walk.

You may find that you want to visit both Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland California; you can find hotels based in the middle of the two theme parks giving you the freedom to visit both during your trip to Los Angeles.

AirBnB

AirB&B is another great option for looking at somewhere to stay while visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.

You can often find an entire home for a reasonable price along with more space, a pool and more rooms for the family. We love this option, especially for those travelling as a group and wishing to cook their meals together.

The only downfall to staying in an AirB&B is that you would be required to drive and pay for parking. Alternatively, you would have to rely on getting Uber’s or Lyfts, which is a viable option for the savings you can make on your accommodation to counteract the cost of parking and transport.

Things To See & Do In Universal Studios Hollywoood

Universal Studios Hollywood is unique because much of the park is built into the hills, so there are many levels to consider when exploring the park entirely.

The park is split into levels, and they are called the Lower Lot and the Upper Lot. The Upper Lot is the most expanse area with more rides, shops and is where you can experience the famous Studio Tour. Whereas the Lower Lot is smaller and home to three main rides, some shops and dining options.

Universal Studios Hollywood has so much to offer even if you don’t like rides, and it is still worth visiting. You can find attractions such as shows and the famous Studio Tour. Though if you love rides, there are plenty of scary rides at Universal Studios Hollywood, perfect for thrill-seekers.

Of course, if you are looking to explore theme parks in Los Angeles, the next most popular is Disneyland in Anaheim. We spent a couple of days there and found that we could travel between Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. If you are visiting as adults, Disneyland and Universal Studios are both still amazing parks to visit.

Though Universal Studios Hollywood is smaller than Universal Studios Orlando, it is still a fantastic park to visit and has plenty to offer that is unique to the park.

Lower Lot

The lower lot at Universal Studios Hollywood is the main area that holds the three main thrill rides, including Jurassic World: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride and Transformers: The Ride 3D.

You can also find DinoPlay, a perfect place to take younger children to play and explore the wonders of Dinosaurs.

The lower lot has less to offer and is a smaller area though it still has places to eat from Isla Nu-Bar located in the Dino land area to Panda Express and Studio Cafe. The Lower Lot is also home to a Starbucks and Studios Scoop to find a delicious, fantastic snack.

You can also find other things to do on the Lower Lot, such as Raptor Encounter, where you can come face to face with a dinosaur along with shopping experiences from Jurassic Outfitters, Studio Store and Transformers Supply Vault.

Upper Lot

The Upper Lot in Universal Studios Hollywood is the larger area and main area you will spend your time in as this holds the majority of the shops, attractions and dining options.

The upper lot is home to the entrance to the world-famous Studio Tour, which takes you on a 60-minute journey around the working and live sets of Universal Studios. The locations included The Good Place, Good Girls and several high profile films.

You may get the chance to spot a celebrity or two on your journey along with famous sets such as Wisteria Lane, Bates Motel and even a New York street that has been used in several films over the years. You can also experience two rides, such as the Fast & Furious and Reign of Kong, during your trip.

The upper lot has a whole host of restaurants, food carts and cafes to explore, from Bumblebee Mans Taco Truck, Luigi’s Pizza, Lard Lad Donuts, Mulligans Irish Pub and Despicable Delights, along with many many more.

Something else that is great to experience at the Upper Lot at Universal Studios Hollywood is the shows which are Universal’s Animal Actors, Waterworld and the Special Effects Show. Of course, we loved the Waterworld show, but if you plan to sit in the front seats, you might want to know some things before doing so, such as wearing a poncho.

The Upper Lot has plenty of shopping experiences, whether for yourself or souvenirs such as Kwik E Mart, Production Central, The Pets Store and Super Silly Stuff, along with many more. In addition, you can find plenty of merchandise that you cannot find elsewhere, and many items are unique to the Universal Studios Hollywood park.

The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

A Universal Studios park wouldn’t be complete without an area dedicated to the wonderful world of Harry Potter. So there is a section carved out for Harry Potter fans at Universal Studios Hollywood, which is undoubtedly one of the most popular areas in the entire park.

While Universal Studios Orlando has a larger area to explore, Universal Studios Hollywood is just as jam-packed with wizarding treats, thrilling rides and plenty to feast your eyes (and stomach) on.

Universal Studios Hollywood has a section for Hogsmeade that leads to Hogwarts Castle, where you can find the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Another ride you will find in Hogsmeade is the Flight of the Hippogriff, which is popular with everyone from teens to families with younger children.

Whether you are a massive fan of Harry Potter or not, it won’t matter when you go to Universal Studios Hollywood as the area and theming are so detailed and well done it is hard to pick a fault. We love the small details in the walls of the shops, signs and even flooring leading you around the ‘cobbled’ streets.

You can find various places to eat in Hogsmeade from Three Broomsticks and The Hogs Head, along with a small cart outside for snacks, fruit cups and of course, Butterbeer.

Hogsmeade is also home to a beautiful array of shops perfect for picking up a souvenir for yourself or even for transforming yourself into a witch or wizard. Shops in Hogsmeade include Ollivanders, Zonko’s Joke Shop, Gladrags Wizardwear and HoneyDukes.

Within Ollivanders wand shop, you can pick an interactive wand where you can use that out in Hogsmeade to cast spells, levitate items and interact with different effects in windows. The Interactive wands can then be used again at Universal Studios park or even at Universal Studios Orlando.

CityWalk

CityWalk is the ‘downtown’ area associated with Universal Studios, and so is a perfect area for winding down with a nice meal, drink or evening entertainment after a long day at the park.

The area of CityWalk is free and open to anyone wanting to visit, and you do not require a ticket for entry or a valid Universal Studios Hollywood ticket so you can visit any time during your stay in Los Angeles.

We found CityWalk a great place to head for something to eat and drink after a long day of walking and exploring the park. The area is expanse and has plenty to offer, so even if you want something quick to eat, they have a whole place to suit those needs.

You can find several great places to eat at CityWalk Hollywood, including Bubba Gump Shrimp, Hard Rock Cafe and VIVO Italian Kitchen.

Suppose you are in the market for something delicious and quick look at heading to some of the fast-food places such as Pink’s Hot Dogs, KFC and Firehouse Subs. There are plenty of great choices for everyone to enjoy; one of our personal favourites is Blaze Pizza, as it suits everyone in the family.

CityWalk doesn’t just have to be for the adults and is an excellent place for all the family to enjoy. The complex has a large and impressive cinema where you can watch the latest films perfect for everyone to enjoy. There is also a wide range of shops, from Abercrombie & Fitch, Billabong, Hot Topic and Sephora.

Special Events & Shows

Heading to Universal Studios Hollywood for a special time of the year or holiday can make the trip all that more exciting, especially when there are special deals, shows and merchandise to experience.

Several events at Universal Studios Hollywood occur over the year, but the most common and anticipated are those centred around Christmas. You can experience special events within the park itself, and also you can join in the festivities at CityWalk.

The most anticipated and loved events are those centred around Christmas, and there is no better place (in my opinion) to celebrate Christmas than within the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. So if you plan to visit between the middle of November to the start of January, you can experience a Christmas at Hogwarts.

You can experience events such as The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, Holiday Frog Choir, special decorations within the stores and streets of Hogsmeade, along with special merchandise and foods to try.

Suppose you aren’t a fan of Harry Potter; you might find Grinchmas more to your style. Celebrating with the Grinch is super fun, playful and festive, making it perfect for families with younger children. You can experience festive foods, Christmas decor and lights, as well as a giant tree covered in Christmas lights, along with the chance of magical snowfall.

How To Get Around Universal Studios Hollywoood

Universal Studios Hollywood is very easy to get around and accessible for everyone, including pushchairs, wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs.

As the park is relatively small, there isn’t much need for internal transport unless staying at one of the nearby hotels, which may be within walking distance, or a complimentary shuttle.

Typical Costs In Universal Studios Hollywoood

Working out the cost of a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood Resort can be relatively complex and not something many enjoy doing. It often takes the fun out of the trip and leaves you feeling like you can’t enjoy it, especially if you think you are working on a tight budget.

While transport and hotels are the most significant expenses (in most cases), there are other additional costs to think about such as food, tickets and even souvenirs!

Tickets

Tickets and flights, and hotels are among the most significant expenses of a Universal Studios Hollywood Resort trip, so it is easy to see why you might want to find a deal, discount, or coupon.

Saving money directly on Universal Studios Orlando tickets can be very hard as there are limited deals and coupons to take advantage of.

We always buy our park tickets directly from Universal Studios Orlando as it is easier. You are protected against scams and can pick them up as you arrive or get them posted out to you.

There are, however, ways you can get your tickets at a better rate, especially if you are looking to bundle in other Hollywood attractions such as Disneyland California. Buying tickets can be done through companies selling package deals, or you may be able to find a good package with your hotel or travel agent.

The cost of Universal Studios park tickets will vary depending on;

  • The number of days you are visiting Universal Studios Hollywood
  • The age of the guests (children are slightly cheaper than adults)
  • The time of year you are visiting (peak season may be higher)
  • Whether or not you are looking to purchase express passes
  • Whether or not you plan to return within the year and looking at annual passes

Ticket prices for Universal Studios Hollywood generally start at $109 and can range up to $134 per ticket for one-day general admission. This general admission ticket price includes children from the age of 10+, prices for children ages 3-9 years old are slightly cheaper, starting at $103.

Alternatively, if you want to add to your ticket and get the Universal Express Pass, you can be looking at $179 – $279 per person. The ticket price includes fast passes to all rides, shows and one-day general admission for one person. An express pass at Universal Studios Hollywood can help make your day better, especially during peak seasons/days.

If you want to make your trip extra special, you can opt to go on a VIP Experience; the ticket prices start at $349 per person. With a VIP Experience, you can get a one-day valid ticket into the park, unlimited express access to each ride and show, expert-guided tour, light snacks and refreshments, VIP gourmet meal and valet parking.

Food

Food is often another cost you can get wrong or go over budget due to seeing delicious treats such as the Lard Lad Donuts or the fantastic ice creams as Studio Scoops. However, there are several ways to save money on food at Universal Studios Hollywood, including taking your food or using the refillable cups and refillable popcorn to your advantage.

Portion sizes within the park can be pretty generous, so you may find it easier to share meals, especially for children, as it may work out better to buy an adults meal and share it between children instead of buying two children’s portions.

You can bring your own food into the parks as long as it doesn’t require heating up and it isn’t in a glass container. Baby food can be heated up by asking the staff working at the cafes and restaurants for a hot cup of water, or you can visit one of the baby centres on-site.

Bringing snacks and even sandwiches into the parks is an excellent way of saving money on food during your trip. Bringing your own food can be highly beneficial to those with allergies and young children who like to snack often. In addition, you can shop at the local Walmart and stock up on supplies before heading to the parks.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs are usually one of the most unexpected areas we can end up spending our money on, especially as you see items you haven’t seen before or are unable to buy online for cheaper.

Souvenirs for people back home are optional and not something we often buy. Instead, we like to save money and experience more on our trips, such as better meals, express passes and even better hotel stays.

Universal Studios Hollywood has a beautiful selection of souvenirs and things you can buy while at the park, but the Harry Potter wands and robes are one of the most popular. You will more than likely see a dozen few wizards and witches every few yards styling their house robes and a wand.

The robes are undoubtedly one of the most sold items within the park and are pretty expensive, especially when bought alongside an interactive wand. The Harry Potter robes are worth buying but not always from the parks themselves; however, you can bring your own to wear once within the park.

Money Saving Tips For Universal Studios Hollywoood

Universal Studios Hollywood can be an expensive trip to take especially, when you count in travel, hotels, food and park tickets, not to mention extras such as souvenirs and express passes. However, with that said, there are plenty of ways in which you can still save money during your trip to Universal Studios Orlando.

When visiting Universal Studios Orlando Resort, we opt for a Universal Refillable Cup, which supplies us with unlimited drinks for the entire day. We can have anything from unique flavours of Fanta, Coca Cola, Dr Pepper and Minute Maid to Iced Tea and Juices.

Everyone can share the refillable cup so you can enjoy refreshing drinks throughout the day and save while doing so.

Another favourite tip of ours is to buy the Universal Refillable Popcorn Bucket as this has the same concept as the drinks where you can buy a large bucket and have it filled and then refills cost a small amount each day. Once you have the bucket, you can refill it any number of times you want.

How To Stay Safe In Universal Studios Hollywoood

Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood is very safe, and we have never felt unsafe during our trip to the park. However, upon arriving at the park and entering, you will be required to go through a bag check area.

The bag check is mandatory for everyone, and there are detectors to walk through, though if you have a medical condition that restricts you from entering through these, you will be exempt.

The best way to stay safe during your time in the parks is to make sure you look after your belongings, have a bag that zips or fastens to stop items from falling out. Another way to stay safe is to make sure you stay hydrated and covered in suncream or wear a sunhat to protect yourself from heatstroke.

Gear & Packing List For Universal Studios Hollywoood

Packing for a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood may leave some people feeling confused and unsure about what they need, what to take and even what to wear.

There are no actual strict rules when it comes to dress code within Universal Studios Hollywood. However, there are restrictions on items such as revealing clothing, bikinis and anyone who is shirtless. There are also rules in place for certain costumes (Harry Potter robes are permitted as they are sold in the park) and wedding attire which is not permitted.

It is discretionary of the staff on the day whether or not an outfit would be deemed inappropriate. However, the rules are something to consider when deciding what to wear to Universal Studios Hollywood.

When planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, you will be doing a lot of walking, and therefore you will require comfortable footwear. Footwear can be anything from sandals to boots and trainers; it is all about personal preference, though we always prefer trainers.

Finding the best bag for Universal Studios Hollywood doesn’t have to be complicated and can be something you already have at home that will work perfectly. Alternatively, suppose you are going as part of a group to Universal Studios or even solo. In that case, you might find smaller bags for the essential items easy to carry around and wear.

We often found if you plan to separate from a group at any point, it is best to keep your things with you in a fanny pack or small waist bag.

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