Universal Hollywood Photo Trip Report

This summer I visited Universal Hollywood - a movie studio come theme park located in the Hollywood Hills. For years I had wanted to do their almost-hour-long studio tour and I did exactly that this summer, as well as seeing a few more things. Instead of telling you what about the experience, here's my much more visual photo trip report.





Before I start off with the photos though, here's some detailed instructions of how to get there:

I started off by getting up nice and early and making the long journey from my hotel in Anaheim to Universal. First off I got the 50 bus which only runs every 30-45 minutes or so to Anaheim Metrolink Station, then I walked through a car park to the station which I had pointed out to me by the bus driver. Tickets for the Metrolink are purchased on the other side of the station from ticket machines - unfortunately for some reason it wouldn't take one of my cards so take cash too just in case.

I caught the Metrolink Orange County Line and got off at L.A. Union Station the last stop. Make sure to get on the train going in the correct direction and on the Metrolink and not the AMTRAK trains which require a different ticket. Handily, one ticket for the Metrolink from Anaheim Metrolink to LA Union Station will also cover your Metro journeys to and from there to Universal.


When you get to L.A. Union Station it's then a walk to the Metro where you get the Red Line towards North Hollywood, get off at Universal City station.

Total journey time: about 2h 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on train times. Be aware that return train times finish very early in the evening/

This photo show just part of the journey of how to get from Disneyland to Universal Studios Hollywood.


When you arrive at University City Station walk towards this sign and the tram stop which will take you to Universal Studios Hollywood. Even during off-peak season these trams were very busy.

The tram dropped me off by CityWalk, the shopping area which felt more intimate than its Orlando counterpart - and with more big name brands!


A few minutes walk later I was at the studios!


They really do lay out the red carpet for their guests here.


Just past the ticket barriers you sees  truly inspired statue about filmmaking. The building behind the statue has a blackboard telling you what is being filmed today and at which soundstage. You'll notice Universal Hollywood really is a working movie studio and not really a theme park.


And it's not a flat movie studio and theme park either being integrated into the Hollywood hills on three levels.



Other famous studios are visible from the theme park.



This dig at Disney's "Pardon our Pixie Dust" made me laugh. Well played Universal.


The plan of action was to hit up Simpsons: The Ride first which was a walk-on and essentially similar to the Orlando version - but you get much more wet (and the screens are smaller).



Then it was time for the one thing I wanted to one to Universal Hollywood for - the Studio Tour which takes you around the real working sets and sound stages of Universal's backlot. This is an attraction which has been running for decades (albeit today it is much shorter than before) and it was a real dream come true to step past that sign. And with a wait time of only 15 minutes the excitement soon ramped up.


Here's an overview of the sets which you visit on the tram tour.



And the trams themselves...





There's a lot packed in to your Studio Tour as the tram winds its way around the many streets of the backlot.



You go past soundstages.



There's some incredible outdoor sets to see, including of complete carnage.



There's some weirder sets too...



Amity Bay from Jaws is a startling experience.



With the shark getting a little closer than you might imagine.





As well as interactive experiences where you're put in the centre of the action and become part of the movies yourself, such as the King Kong 3D experience and this Mummy themed area.


Here's the Bates Motel from Psycho.


When riding on the Subway things don't always go to plan...



At times you can't figure out what's real and what isn't. I wan't too sure whether this filming was part of the tour or actual real filming for example.


We passed the sets of some TV shows (which I vaguely recognised the name of, but Americans would probably do better):


A 'Bigature' - a big miniature...



Which is achieved like so...


Crafty, huh?

You also go through general outdoor sets which have been used in several movies.




Here's the New York set for example...






In between the big experiences there are still things to keep you entertained with the pre-recorded tour guide and the live tour guide interacting. There's even some unexpected moments such as when you enter the world of Jurassic Park. It's all done very tongue in cheek.



Unfortunately the Fast and Furious experience wasn't operational during my tour.


There's even some snazzy vehicles along the route.



Let's hope your tour doesn't end up like this one.


That's the Studio Tour in a nutshell. It's phenomenal and highly recommended - and included in park admission.

Off to the rest of the park...

There are some classic photo ops throughout the park such as this Jaws piece.



And the Studio theme is everywhere - these aren't just rides, they are unapolagetically rides in sound stages with no additional theming.



We'll ignore how fuzzy this picture is but notice the lack of theming with the Transformers building here compared to the Orlando park. Yet it doesn't detract from the experience.



Universal Hollywood seemed to have many, many characters around. Including these really interactive and funny Transformers.


And Marilyn Monroe...



And there are some familiar rides that also exist in Orlando, though they are all slightly (or very) different.

Revenge of the Mummy is great and very different to the Orlando version.


Jurassic Park is largely the same but less elaborate and with a few more elements to get you even more wet.


There's also some great shows which are unique to the Hollywood park. Enter the Special Effects Stage...


Or the even more impressive WaterWorld.



Overall, Universal Hollywood was definitely worth the visit. It is a small park however and I managed to see most of it in about 6 hours - granted I did use single rider lines and it was off-peak but there's not enough there for a multi day experience. What is there, however, is fantastic. The park will be getting a few expansions in the coming years including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so it's a bright future.





Want more detail and less photos? Right here's where you need to go.
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About Giovanni Costa

Radio journalist, newspaper editor, travel writier, tour guide and Disney Cast Member. These are just some of the things Gio has done in the past few years. He loves visiting new destintions, trying new food and wants you to come along for the ride!
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