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The BEST guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

Planning on visiting Universal Studios Hollywood while on vacation in Los Angeles? Then you’ve come to the right place to get all the ins and outs on how to make the best out of your day at the theme park.

Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) is a world-famous theme park and movie studio located in Universal City, California. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles, and offers visitors a chance to experience the magic of Hollywood firsthand.

After working at USH for 7 years, I know a thing or two about how to best enjoy the park to maximize your time spent on the fun stuff, and minimize the not-so-fun stuff, like waiting in line. So, without further ado, here’s the MOST comprehensive guide for your day at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Before you arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood

USH entrance

Best time to visit:

The best time to visit USH is during low peak season. Low peak season is usually January to February, May, early September, and early November. Avoid going during the summer and winter holidays. Those are the busiest time of the year and wait time for most rides will be over an hour long. Halloween Horror Nights is also a very busy time of the year for the park so expect long wait times around late September and all of October.

How to get there:

Universal Studios Hollywood is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. It is easily accessible by car, public transportation, or taxi/uber. If taking public transportation, I recommend taking the metro red line to the Universal City stop. There’s a bridge you cross once out of the metro station and from there you can take the tram that takes you near the park entrance.

Where to park:

If you’re driving, Universal Studios Hollywood has its own set of parking lots. There’s Curious George Garage, Jurassic Parking Garage, Frankenstein Garage, ET Garage, and Woody Woodpecker Lot. The best parking garages are Frankenstein Garage and Jurassic Parking Garage because they are closer to the park’s entrance/exit. All parking garages have a fee, starting at $30 for general parking.


Tickets for Universal Studios Hollywood can be purchased online or at the park entrance. It is generally recommended to purchase tickets online in advance, as this can save you time and money. 1-Day General Admission starts at $109 USD per person. (As of Dec 2023)

Best time to arrive:

I recommend arriving to USH before the park opens. It’ll give you time to walk around and see what CityWalk has to offer and be in the entrance line before it gets too long. Opening hours change depending on the time of year, but usually the park will open between 8 am and 10 am.

Universal Studios Hollywood is home to a variety of rides, shows, and attractions. It is also divided into an Upper Lot and a Lower Lot.

The Upper Lot

The Upper Lot, also called the Entertainment Center, is the main level of the park and where you’ll find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; Springfield, USA; and Super Silly Fun Land, a play zone for kids; amongst other things.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Castle

The most popular attraction of the Upper Lot is the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This immersive land features a replica of Hogwarts Castle, the village of Hogsmeade, and several rides and attractions based on the Harry Potter books and movies. The two main rides are Flight of the Hippogriff, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll also find a bar called the Hog’s Head, a restaurant featuring British cuisine called the Three Broomsticks, plenty of stores with Harry Potter-themed merchandise, and of course, Butterbeer.

Springfield USA

Krusty Land at Universal Studios Hollywood

The next biggest area in the Upper Lot is the Springfield USA area, which is themed after The Simpsons. Here you’ll find The Simpsons Ride which is a simulated rollercoaster ride, and carnival games inspired by Krustyland. You’ll also enjoy feeling like you are part of the Simpsons World with plenty of themed restaurants, lots of characters spread around and even some hidden gems for the true Simpsons fans. And be sure to stop at Moe’s Tavern for some Duff beer.

Other rides you can enjoy at the Upper Lot are:

Upper Lot Entrance
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – This interactive ride takes you on a journey through Gru’s house and laboratory, where you get recruited to become a minion and go on a simulation “training”.
  • DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda – This 4D attraction takes you on an adventure with Po, Mr. Ping, and Master Shifu.
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash – Meet the characters of The Secret Life of Pets as you journey through New York City.


WaterWorld show

In addition to rides and attractions, the Upper Lot at USH also offers a variety of shows and performances. Some of the most popular include:

  • WaterWorld: This live-action stunt show features thrilling explosions, jet ski stunts, and high-flying acrobatics. WaterWorld is a little hidden, located just after the entrance to the park, taking a right after Hollywood and Dine restaurant.
  • Special Effects Stage: This show takes visitors behind the scenes of some of Hollywood’s most famous special effects.

Studio Tour

Studio Tour2

Also located at the Upper Lot, is the entrance to the famous Studio Tour. You might miss it if you don’t know where to find the entrance, but since you’re reading this guide, you’ll know exactly where it is. 😉 You can find the entrance to the Studio Tour in the Simpsons area. Just take a right when in front of The Simpsons Ride, in the *opposite* direction of the escalators going down to the Lower Lot. You’ll find a different set of escalators that take you to the cue lines for the Tour.

While on the tour, get ready to take a tram ride through the backlot and filming studios of Universal Studios Hollywood. This behind-the-scenes tour takes you through working movie sets and gives you a glimpse of how movies are made. You’ll also get to see how they perform special effects on some of their most famous movies, get a close up with King Kong, and be part of a 4D “car chase” with the Fast & Furious cast.

Food and Bars

Krusty Burger

The Upper Lot is also home to plenty of restaurants and even a few bars. I highly recommend Cocina Mexicana around the center of the Upper Lot, Cletus’ Chicken Shack and Krusty Burger in Simpsons Land, and Mulligan’s Irish Pub by Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

The Lower Lot

Lower Lot escalators

The Lower Lot, also called the Studio Center, is where you’ll find the best rides (in my opinion), and the new Super Nintendo World. To get to the Lower Lot all you have to do is take 4 long escalators down to the lower part of the park. Here you’ll find 4 rides, 3 restaurants, 4 snack venues, 1 tiki bar and plenty of themed stores.

Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World

The newest attraction of the Lower Lot area is the Super Nintendo World. This new area features 1 ride called Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. This fun ride simulates a Mario Kart race against Bowser’s team, includes special goggles, and allows your team to collect coins and earn points. But the ride itself is only part of the fun. The queue for this ride takes you inside Bowser’s castle and grounds where you can find lots of hidden treasures.

Other than this ride, Super Nintendo World also features a restaurant called Toadstool Cafe (make sure to make a reservation early as they fill up fast!) and a themed store. You can also purchase a Power-Up Band that gives you access to exclusive interactive areas where you can earn digital keys, coins and points.

The main Lower Lot area

Jurassic World The Ride

In the main area of the Lower Lot you’ll find 3 rides, Jurassic World – The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride, and Transformers – The Ride 3D.

  • Jurassic World – The Ride: This water ride takes you on a thrilling journey through the world of Jurassic Park. Beware: It includes a semi-steep drop at the end.
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D: This 3D ride puts you in the middle of a battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons.
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride: Arguably, the best ride in the whole park IMO! This high-speed indoor rollercoaster takes you on a journey through Imhotep’s tomb. Be ready to be thrown into darkness at high-speed as you escape from the mummies.

Food, Bars and Stores

Isla Nubar

In addition to rides and attractions, the Lower Lot at USH also offers a variety of restaurants, stores, and a tiki bar.

The food venues are:

  • Jurassic Cafe: serving Latin-inspired dishes and flavors.
  • Panda Express: serving Asian-inspired dishes and flavors.
  • Mummy Eats: serving corn dogs and fries.
  • Studio Cafe: serving grab-and-go items as well as theme park favorites like Smoked Turkey Leg.
  • Studio Scoop: serving over-the-top sundaes, milkshakes, and soft serve ice cream.

The only bar at the Lower Lot is called Isla Nu-bar (pictured above) and is located right in front of the Jurassic World ride. Fun fact: this is where I used to work for 3 of the 7 years I worked there! (Enjoy little old me bartending in the picture below!) They serve tropical tiki drinks and beers in fun collectible cups.

Laurie bartending

At the Lower Lot, you can also buy some great souvenirs from any of the stores, like Jurassic Outfitters and the Character Shop.

The best way to enjoy Universal Studios Hollywood

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Here’s my recommendation for the best way to enjoy the park:


Start the day at the Lower Lot: The Lower Lot is where some of the most popular rides are located, such as Jurassic World – The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride, and the new Super Nintendo World. It is best to head to the Lower Lot first thing in the morning to avoid the longest wait times.


If you can snag a reservation at the new Toadstool Cafe, try out this new restaurant. If not, I very much recommend eating at Jurassic Cafe for some delicious Mojo Pork. You should also grab a to-go tiki drink from Isla Nubar before heading to the Upper Lot.


After enjoying your lunch, head to the Upper Lot. Once you’re done with all 4 escalators, head straight (literally) into the Studio Tour entrance. The tour lasts about an hour and it’s the best way to digest your meal while enjoying the tram ride through the backlot. After the Studio Tour, I recommend doing the Simpsons Ride next since you’re already in the area. Then, head over to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Afterwards, you’ll only have about 4 more rides and attractions to do. WaterWorld is a fun show to watch and a great way to take a break from all the walking. You could also take a break while enjoying DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda. Other than those, you have what I call the “kids section” where you’ll find The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash ride and the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride.

If you can manage to do all of that, you have officially enjoyed all of the rides and attractions Universal Studios Hollywood has to offer!!!

Here are a few additional tips for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood:

Lower Lot1
  • Arrive early: Park hours differ based on the day and season, but it’s a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes earlier to beat the crowds.
  • Take advantage of the Single Rider line: Many rides at Universal Studios Hollywood offer a Single Rider line, which allows riders to bypass the regular line and wait in a shorter line. Just don’t expect to be sited next to your friends or family. You are mostly filling up empty seats/space left by a smaller or uneven group.
  • Use the Universal Studios Hollywood app: The Universal Studios Hollywood app is a great way to better plan your day at the park. It includes a map of the park, wait times for rides, and showtimes for shows.
  • Take breaks: Universal Studios Hollywood is a large park, so it is important to take breaks throughout the day. There are several places to sit and relax, as well as restaurants and snack stands.
  • Stay hydrated: Summers in California can be very hot and dry, so please stay hydrated. There are plenty of water fountains and even a few water bottle refill stations around the park.

Just to conclude, Universal Studios Hollywood is a great place to visit for people of all ages. It offers a variety of rides, shows, and attractions that are sure to wow everyone, as well as some delicious cuisine and fun bars. And with a little planning, you can have a truly magical experience and make the most of your day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Looking for inspiration on what else to do in Los Angeles? Check out these blogs!

12 budget-friendly things to do in Los Angeles

5-day travel itinerary in Los Angeles, California

Heads up: As a way to earn passive income, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you buy something through one of those links, I might get a commission at NO extra cost to you. I appreciate your support! 💕

Laurie in Nintendo World

December 14, 2023

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