Walt Disney World ICP - Day 81 - Universal Studios Hollywood - 22nd August 2013

One of the big reasons I had wanted to come to California was to visit the original Universal Studios in Hollywood - in fact I’d say it was the main reason for coming, even though I proved to enjoy Disneyland more in the end. The big reason within Universal was to do the Studio Tour - a tour of the real working sets at Universal Studios.

So, once again I made the long journey to Hollywood which this time included getting a tram to Universal Studios which was on a hill. I’d looked online into how to do the park effectively and worked out that I could be done with the park by about 1 or 2PM if I got there at park opening.

Although I missed park opening by around twenty minutes or so, it was not an issue as I had a plan to get through the park quickly.

First up, it was a go on the Simpsons Ride which is an exact clone of the one in Florida, but with a smaller screen and surprise surprise a lot more water. They love to get people soaked at every opportunity here in California. Despite the 20-minute posted wait I walked onto the ride with no wait at all. Then I headed to the Studio Tour which had the longest line I actually waited in all day - 20 minutes! To be fair, it is a tedious queue which just winds round with nothing to see or do apart from a few posters.

Universal Studios Hollywood is in the middle of a mountain
When I got to the front of the line the tram approached and I instantly knew I was in for an exciting time. What can I say? The tour is worth the admission price alone as you step into real Hollywood magic - you don’t just see the sets, but you get to experience being part of the movies too. There’s a 3D 360 degree section of the tour where your car is thrust into the middle of a battle between dinosaurs and King Kong, a Mummy section (which is being closed next month so I was one of the last people to experience it), real sound-stages where productions were being filmed inside, and huge outdoor sets. We also had a very close encounter with Jaws, a visit past the Bates Motel, experience a flash flood and so much more. There was a live guide and pre-recorded section by Jimmy Fallon too which really added to it. In total I think the whole experience was about 45 to 50 minutes long, and as I say it is totally worth it. There’s nothing more Hollywood-esque than being on a tram crawling up the hills and experiencing real movie magic. I think if I ever go back I’ll do the VIP Studio Tour as apparently it’s much longer and even better.

I knew that the rest of the park could be done within hours so I went down to the bottom area (using the 3 sets of escalators to get there) and looked around - Jurassic Park River Adventure was first - it is similar to the Floridian version but on a slightly smaller scale, though you do get much more wet. Single rider meant I walked on with no one in front of me.

The Revenge of the Mummy was fun to go on, as it’s very different to the Orlando version and it was fun to see how they adapted the two. Once again I walked on with no wait with the Single Rider line - in fact I re-rode it, but waited about 10 minutes the second time round. This version of the ride has a very long backwards section, some cool bug effects but has a very weak ending that leaves you thinking “Oh, is that it?”.

Transformers was also very good (it’s dentical to the Orlando version, which I couldn’t remember too well) and I only waited about 5 minutes in single rider. I had lunch in the Jurassic Park themed place which was bland and overpriced, as well as having extremely long queues. After that experience, I was then ready to go and be entertained by the shows.

The shows at the park were incredible and I’d wish they were shown in Florida where there’s a lack of any good show. The Special Effects show was really, really fun and the WaterWorld stunt show was spectacular. I highly recommend both shows but if you do watch WaterWorld and sit in the “soak” zone be aware that you WILL get soaked by jet skis, explosions and the fact that the actors actually fill up buckets of water and throw them at you! It’s an incredible show though and so, so worth watching - it’s not for the faint hearted though due to all the explosions.

By that point I was finished with the park. There’s not a huge amount of things to do as you can see, but there was a couple of things I didn’t do - there is the Shrek 4D show here but as I’d seen it in Florida I didn’t waste my time, and there’s the House of Horrors which in my aim not to have a heart attack, I didn’t even go near.

One of the things I liked about the Hollywood version of the theme park versus the Orlando one was how many more random characters they had walking round the parks. I saw Dracula at one point, the interactive Donkey from Shrek and Transformers - all were great. What you have to understand is that this is a real working studio with a theme park attached and not the other way round. The fact it is a movie studio makes for a really cool atmosphere -  they even lay out a red carpet at the entrance for their guests.

Overall, it was a great fun day out where I got to do something I’d wanted to do for years and got to do some of my favourite rides again - even some that were slightly different like The Revenge of the Mummy and Jurassic Park. I highly recommend a visit but if you’re used to the Orlando parks just be prepared for a slower paced day with less things to do - it’s more about the movies here and less about the thrills!

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