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50+ Universal Studios Hollywood Tips for First Time Visitors (2024)

50+ Universal Studios Hollywood Tips for First Time Visitors (2024)


These Universal Studios Hollywood tips for first time visitors will help guide you through the movie-themed Los Angeles theme park. Ideas on what to see and do, where to eat, and thoughts on the best nearby hotels in the Southern California area.

Entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood with palm trees

Mom Rewritten uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in these posts. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the Privacy Policy and Disclosures tab.

I have received complimentary tickets and Universal Express passes for my family. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This article originally published February 5th, 2019 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

Universal Studios Hollywood Tips

If you’re planning a Southern California vacation, you might wonder if a day or two at Universal Studios Hollywood is appropriate for your family. I’m breaking down all the must-know details in this guide of Universal Studios Hollywood tips for first time visitors.

Neon signage of Universal Studios Hollywood

If you’ve never been to Universal Studios Hollywood before, you might have a few questions about whether it’s the right SoCal theme park for your family.

I’m sharing my personal tips for taking young children, must-do thrill rides and maximizing shorter lines.

Read how to create a park plan for the days you visit. And of course, tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Also find out about the new Super Nintendo World, the newest Universal themed area.

These are a few answers to frequently asked questions and tips for going to Universal Studios Hollywood:

Paper guide map of Universal Studios Hollywood

Where is Universal Studios Hollywood?

Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City, about 3.5 miles away from Hollywood in Los Angeles. Vacationers often add a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood to their Southern California trip.

Universal Studios Hollywood front entrance with bronze statue in fountain

There are a few things to know about the area (click through these links for tips on each location):

Disneyland – located in Anaheim, about 36 miles away.

Knott’s Berry Farm – located in Buena Park, about 32 miles away.

LEGOLAND California – located in Carlsbad, about 100 miles away.

San Diego – located about 130 miles south. Includes several popular theme parks including two near the downtown area, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. The sprawling San Diego Safari Park is in north county.

Driving Tips to Universal Studios Hollywood

You’ll want to avoid rush hour traffic by driving before 6 am or after 9 pm at night. Your best bet is booking a hotel nearby to completely skip freeway driving in Los Angeles on the day of your visit.

San Diego theme parks will take you nearly 3 hours drive. The drive to the Anaheim & Buena Park theme parks will be over an hour. Consider renting your own vehicle and not relying on ride share.

Another option is to use Karmel Shuttle for transportation between Anaheim hotels and Universal Studios Hollywood. These private passenger vans hold up to 9 riders for one price and offer “door-to-door” service.

Man with children sitting in a motorbike inside the Paris area of Universal Studios Hollywood

How is Parking at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Universal Studios Hollywood offers several levels of parking with costs ranging from $30-70 for a full day. There are discounted rates for arrival after 5 pm.

During our visits, we used General Parking which put us inside a garage at the far end of CityWalk. The trek through this outdoor shopping and dining center took about 15 minutes to get to the front gate.

There is also a dedicated “Uber Zone” with a location for ride share pick-up or drop off.

The Simpsons Ride entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood

Where Can I Get Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets?

Tickets can be purchased through the Universal Hollywood website or app. There are several ticket options for Universal Studios Hollywood, all of which I outline later in this post.

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Are There Security Checks at Universal Studios Hollywood?

All Southern California theme parks have some sort of security check before guests are allowed to enter the park. This can include bag inspection, metal detectors and more.

At Universal Studios Hollywood guests won’t be standing in super-long lines while security guards unzip every pocket in your bag. Instead your belongs will be scanned through an X-ray machine!

Simply place your bags onto a conveyor belt, just like at the airport. Bags are still inspected but not opened unless something suspicious is noted.

All visitors still walk through a metal detector after removing items from their pockets. My family was able to pass through security in a quick 5 minutes, even on a busy weekend!

Family entering through security line at Universal Studios Hollywood
My family breezed through the security line at Universal Studios Hollywood

What Should I Bring to Universal Studios?

Just like packing for any theme park, assess your day’s needs. You’ll want to pack in anything that you don’t want to have to purchase inside the park.

This includes sunscreen, sun hat, jacket, snacks, cell phone charger, charging cord and a water bottle. Consider a compact backpack or purse that will fit into a small locker (more on why that’s important later).

Packing a Day Bag for Universal Hollywood

I packed everything in my Designer Park Co. bag for the day. I was able to easily fit 2 changes of clothing, sunscreens, wallet, phone, and more into this convenient backpack. Use code REWRITTEN for 10% off your order!

Black Designer Park Company backpack

While vaccinations are no longer required for the L.A. theme park, masks are still highly recommended for indoor attractions. There are also lots of hand sanitizer stations located in the park, so it’s not necessary to bring your own.

If you’re using your cell phone to take photos and access the Universal Studios Hollywood app consider bringing an external charger. The Fuel Rod is convenient, compact and can be purchased ahead of time at a discount.

There are Fuel Rod stations located around the theme park. Simply drop your used charger into the machine and receive a new Fuel Rod to recharge your phone!

Fuel Rod charging station at Universal Studios Hollywood
Purchase Fuel Rod ahead of your trip

Is Outside Food Allowed at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Most area theme parks do allow their guests to bring in snacks and food with a few restrictions. Items should not be in glass containers and food needs to be packed inside a backpack or soft-sided container.

Absolutely no hard coolers and nothing larger than 8.5″. Fast food is usually not permitted. And of course, no alcohol or illegal items.

Consider packing in small water bottles, as well as snacks like dried fruit, nuts, and firm crackers, granola bars and pretzels.

Universal Studios Hollywood front entrance sign

How Many Days Should You Spend at Universal Studios Hollywood?

While three days (or more) is the usual recommendation for Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood could be experienced in a single day.

There are a few caveats to this, including arriving at opening, moving briskly and staying until park closing. For a more leisurely visit, you’ll want a multi-day ticket.

During our first trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, we visited on a Saturday during the holiday season. The park was very busy, with most ride waits an hour plus. We spent 9 hours at Universal Studios Hollywood and were able to go on all the rides except one. We also skipped most of the shows.

The next time we went to Universal Hollywood we used the Universal Express Pass. This shortened the wait time in line considerably. There are definitely ways to take advantage of the time crunch so keep reading!

Tile mural at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day

If you want to visit Universal Studios Hollywood in one day, I’d recommend first that you schedule a visit during a non-peak time. This would include not planning a visit during holiday weeks, summer break or any days when kids are out of school.

Signage and red carpet entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood
Every guest gets a red carpet entrance!

A mid-week visit is optimal. But then, you’ll also be dealing with L.A. traffic! Consider booking a nearby hotel to stay overnight. Then either walk to the park or take advantage of a free hotel shuttle. This will get you to the front gates early.

I’ll share more about the best area hotels near Universal Studios later in this article.

Hogwarts Express train photo op at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogwarts Express train is a photo op

Navigating Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is over 400 acres, with most of this area part of the working studio. The theme park itself is reasonably walkable with attractions on two levels. The levels are divided by a series of long escalators. Plan to take about a 10 minute ride to get to the next level.

Escalators from lower lot at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ride the escalators or take the stairs

Strollers are permitted on the escalators, but kids need to be removed before riding. There are also elevators. Guests who have issue with standing for long periods, and those in wheelchairs or motorized vehicles should use the elevators. Or course you could always get a workout in and take the stairs!

Jurassic World entrance sign at Universal Studios Hollywood

There are four rides in the lower lot, with a Jurassic Park-themed ride newly opened. There are 6 rides on the upper level. Other attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood include kid-friendly play areas and live action shows.

Consider starting and finishing one level before moving to the next. Another good option would be to do some of the upper lot attractions, complete all of the lower lot, then finish the day in the upper section.

The Simpsons Ride entrance and carnival games in Universal Studios Hollywood

Using the Universal Hollywood App

Download the Universal Hollywood app to your smart phone before your visit. Use of the app while in the parks will help you more easily navigate and maximize time.

Create an account before your visit and add purchased Universal Studios ticket codes into the app. In-app features include an interactive map, show times, dining, and ride details. The map is important when looking for dining menus, restrooms and guest services.

The app is also where you’ll find the Virtual Line experience. More details on this important line skipping feature later, keep reading.

Screenshot of the Universal Studios Hollywood app

Can You Get a Front of the Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Yes, there are ways to skip the lines at Universal Studios Hollywood! To maintain the perks of quick line access for guests who purchase there are only a limited number of these tickets sold each day. These are the two paid line-jumping options for Universal Studios Hollywood:

Universal Studios Hollywood spinning globe at entrance

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Express Pass

Universal Express Pass allows guests to bypass the queue once for each ride, attraction and seated show for that day. Universal Express Pass was previously called the “Front of Line Pass”.

These are the participating attractions on the Express Ticket:

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Jurassic World – The Ride
  • Kung Fu Panda Adventure
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
  • Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash
  • Studio Tour
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • SUPER NINTENDO WORLD access when reservations are required (but does not include ride access to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge)
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • WaterWorld
Entrance to Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood

How Does Universal Express Work?

The additional cost is around $80 above the cost of your regular ticket. I recommend purchasing a discounted ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood, then upgrade to Universal Express after entry into the theme park.

Here’s an extra time-saving tip: There’s a guest relations location just inside the park gates to upgrade to Universal Express. Don’t stand in this guest services line! There are additional places to upgrade your ticket as you walk into the park that have much shorter wait times.

Universal Express tickets

You’ll receive an actual paper ticket to use for accessing the Universal Express lines. This ticket will be scanned by the employee at the entrance of the line and sometimes again further in the queue. Store your ticket in a safe place to avoid losing it or getting it wet.

A lanyard with a plastic cardholder sleeve is a great idea to keep the Universal Express tickets close at hand.

Universal Express Pass Review

My family used the Universal Express during our visit and I’d like to share our honest thoughts about this “line skipping” service. Without a doubt, the Universal Express Pass is an excellent upgrade if you dislike waiting in lines.

My husband can’t handle long wait times AT ALL. He was thrilled with how quickly we were able to get to the front of the line with Universal Express.

Yes, the cost may be prohibitive to those on a tighter budget. But we found the added charge to be well worth it in the way of saving time and stress!

My family visited on an extremely busy and hot summer day when wait times for some attractions were nearly 2 hours. We never waited longer than 15 minutes in line for any given ride using the Universal Express pass.

Woman wearing KURU sandals at a theme park

Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience

For the ultimate ticket splurge, the Universal Studios VIP Experience is the way to go. VIP receive valet parking and VIP entry to the park. From there is just gets better!

Guests who pay for this feature get unlimited express ride access, the best seats at shows, and exclusive back lot access. There’s also excellent VIP lounge access with snacks and refreshments, a gourmet meal in the private VIP dining room, and an expert guided tour.

The VIP Experience ticket is also the only way to skip the line for the newest ride, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

The Universal Hollywood VIP Experience has a cost of $417+ that includes one day admission.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter wand in a box
Faster lines means more time for extra things, like using your Interactive Wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Hollywood Virtual Line Experience

Select rides and attractions feature a “virtual line” allowing guests to skip the wait in queue. This free feature is a great way to explore more of the park, without the long wait times. Here’s how it works:

  • Once you have scanned into the theme park, tap the Virtual Line Venues in the app to begin the process.
  • Enable push notifications on your device in the settings. This will allow you to receive notice when Virtual Line pass is valid.
  • Select a return time for a particular attraction.
  • Set group sizes to get separate return times for different people in your party. You may include up to 10 guests in one group.
  • Check in to the app frequently. Additional Virtual Line return times are often added later in the day.
  • Check in at the attraction entrance during the designated reservation window. Your entire group must be present. You’ll need to show the QR code for entry.
  • When the return time has passed, book another Virtual Line reservation!
The Secret Life of Pets Off the Leash entrance building at Universal Studios Hollywood

What Are the Best Things at Universal Studios Hollywood?

From movie-themed attractions to high speed thrills and special effects shows, there’s plenty for all at this film-making theme park. The following sections will discuss the individual guests from toddlers to adults and what attractions are the best for each.

What Are the Thrill Rides at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Rides at Universal Studios Hollywood are exciting with hi-tech flight simulation and special effects. There are height restrictions to be aware of, which I’ve noted next to each attraction.

In addition, there may be extra requirements in which a “supervising companion” (aged 14+) must accompany a child on the attraction.

Jurassic World - The Ride showing boat splashing into the water at Universal Studios Hollywood

If you have a kid who scares easily, you should use caution on some of these attractions. The mild rides might be better suited for nervous children. I’ve made some notes next to each below:

  • Revenge of the Mummy (48″ height requirement)- High-speed indoor roller coaster with scary scenes and mummies.
  • Transformers: The Ride – 3D (40″ height requirement)- This motion simulator car ride immerses you into a war zone with Transformers working to save the world.
  • Jurassic World – The Ride (42″ height requirement) – Boat ride through an immersive land of scary, realistic dinosaurs with a steep watery drop.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (48″ height requirement) – Intense motion simulator that moves your ride vehicle (a broomstick!) with the action.
  • The Simpsons Ride (40″ height requirement) – Another motion simulator that mimics a roller coaster with the addition of height.
Entrance to The Simpsons Ride Universal Studios Hollywood

Mild Thrill Attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood

It’s not all high intensity at Universal Studios Hollywood. Fortunately there are some family-friendly attractions that younger kids can enjoy as well. Height restrictions may still apply.

  • Flight of the Hippogriff (39″ height requirement) – A mild and short roller coaster for families in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area.
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash (34″ height requirement) – Based upon the movie series, guests join the animal characters on a traditional “dark ride” through New York City.
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (40″ height requirement) – A motion simulator similar in style to The Simpsons Ride with mist and lighting effects as well as 3-D.
  • Studio Tour (no height restriction) – Some of the features including King Kong may be frightening to young kids.
  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge (40″ height requirement) – Compete with other riders in this interactive ride that takes you into the game.
Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster with Hogwarts Castle in the background
Flight of the Hippogriff, a mild coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

What Can Babies & Toddlers Do at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Most of the height requirements are 40″+. Based on these height restrictions, I didn’t bring my 2-year old with us to Universal Studios Hollywood during our first family visit.

We returned for a second visit when she was 6 years old and there was much more for her to enjoy at the older age.

Two children standing next to a Minion statue outside Super Silly Fun Land at Universal Studios Hollywood
My kids wore PRIMARY, comfortable cotton separates

There aren’t really too many attractions that are appealing to younger kids. On that end, the same could be said for expectant mothers. Many of the rides, including the “mild thrills” have jerky movements. Use caution and heed the posted warnings for pregnancy on each attraction.

Here’s what there is to do with a baby or toddler at Universal Hollywood:

Kid’s Play Areas

  • DinoPlay (under 48″ height requirement) – Dinosaur themed kid’s play area. Ideal active play section for younger kids when adults are with older kids on Jurassic World – The Ride.
  • Super Silly Fun Land (under 48″ height requirement) – Inspired by the Despicable Me movie, this outdoor play area has water features, carnival games and Minions fun. Bring a change of clothing if your family chooses to use the water section. There are changing rooms available nearby.
Super Silly Fun Land entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood Rides without Height Requirements

  • Kung Fu Panda Adventure – motion simulator attraction with individual seats. There are non-moving seats for parents with young children.
  • Studio Tour – use caution when taking young children. There are frightening elements and effects in this ride.
  • Silly Swirly Fun Ride – spinning “Dumbo-type” ride with controls to change height.
Silly Swirly Fun Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood

Things to Know About Taking Young Kids to Universal Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood offers single and double stroller rentals in the theme park. Or you’re welcome to bring your own stroller. And unlike the other SoCal theme parks, wagons ARE allowed at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Park restrooms all have diaper-changing stations. Nursing mothers may breastfeed wherever they wish in public within the theme park. Or they may visit the nursing facilities within the First Aid Station.

There aren’t any “adult only” sections of the theme park. Kids can go into any location, including the bars.

READ MORE about Universal Studios with young kids, including tips on height requirements, dining and more.

Kid standing next to Barney statue from The Simpsons inside Moe's Tavern in Universal Studios Hollywood

Child Switch at Universal Studios Hollywood

Child Switch operates differently than rider switch or rider swap programs at other theme parks. Here’s how Child Switch works at Universal Studios Hollywood:

Your party stays together through the line. Yes, this means your child will be accompanying you through the line (no strollers permitted). Children stay with you in queue so as not to split up the family.

Child-Switch waiting areas are located at the loading zones of the rides. These waiting rooms can also be used for family members who simply don’t want to ride.

Interior queue in The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood

How Child Switch Works at Universal Hollywood

One guest in your group steps into the room with the child while the rest of the group rides. Then that person switches places with another adult after the ride so the second person can have their turn. No additional waiting in line.

My 6-year old daughter was not tall enough for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey so we used the waiting room. The area was roomy with plenty of benches for parents and kids.

Child standing next to height requirement sign at Universal Studios Hollywood
Not tall enough so we used the Child Switch system.

Some rooms have large windows so families can see out. We watched a Harry Potter film on a television while we waited for the rest of the group. When dad and big brother returned after their ride. I then went on the ride with my son while my husband waited with our daughter.

Rides that offer Child Switch waiting rooms:

  • Transformers: The Ride – 3D
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Jurassic World – The Ride
  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

Child Switch was a smooth and seamless process but it has its pros and cons. On the plus side, families can stay together. But for families with rambunctious toddlers, waiting in a long queue together could prove to be too challenging.

READ MORE: The child-switch program is just one way How Universal Studios Hollywood is Better Than Disneyland.

Front entrance of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour

The World-famous Tram Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood is a cornerstone can’t-miss attraction. The ride neatly combines a historical aspect with jaw-dropping experiences.

Entrance sign to The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood

The former appeals to adults familiar with the movie-making experience (Jaws!). The more intense moments like King Kong 360 3-D and Fast & Furious – Supercharged are sections that kids and teens will enjoy.

Universal Studios Hollywood is a working movie studio. Both movies and TV shows are currently filmed here. The tour will take you through areas that have been used on past productions and you might even drive past a live set.

Our tour tram drove through the “town” where the shows The Good Place and Rutherford Falls are filmed. We went past several open sound stages where you could peek inside and view the set ups.

Dinosaur viewed from the Studio Tour tram bus ride at Universal Studios Hollywood
You’ll “meet” a Jurassic Park dinosaur on the Universal Studios Hollywood tram tour!

The ride takes place on open-air bus trams. Sit in the middle car if possible, for the optimum viewing experience. The center of each tram also offers the best view of the television screens that show snippets from films and shows throughout the ride.

Important to note that guests can bring snacks on the Studio Tour. After waiting in line for over an hour and then going on the hour-long Studio Tour, we were wishing we’d brought a snack! Don’t be like us…grab some food to bring on the bus ride.

Can You Do Universal Studios Hollywood With Special Needs?

The rides and attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood are really intense. Carefully assess the special needs of those in your party and determine whether they’ll be able to take in the realistic motion simulators, intense rides and bright lighting used throughout the park.

Universal Studios Hollywood has a Family Center with quiet rooms that guests with autism (or other special needs) and their families can rest in. The space is also open for nursing mothers. This Family Center allows families to take breaks as needed, without having to leave or return to the hotel.

Children sitting on Vespas in the Paris section at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ready to ride the streets of Paris on a Vespa!

Motion Sickness at Universal Studios Hollywood

A large majority of the thrill rides at Universal Studios Hollywood include motion simulators. If you err towards motion sickness, you may want to consider using precautions to avoid illness.

  • Non-drowsy “sea sickness” medications or pressure-point bands can help.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid alcohol.
  • If all else fails have your family go on the rides without you. There are rooms available to wait in (the designated “child-switch areas”) for certain attractions.
Duff Beer garden displays at Universal Studios Hollywood
Avoid motion sickness with these tips

Complimentary Storage Lockers

The attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood are fairly intense with lots of movement. Most of these attractions do not offer on-ride storage. Your possessions must be placed inside of a locker before boarding the ride. Universal Studios Hollywood conveniently offers complimentary locker rental at certain attractions.

Guests with backpacks, purses, cell phones, or other items simply step inside the locker room before joining the queue. After a quick fingerprint scan, you’re assigned a locker to store your items for several hours.

After the ride, return to the locker to retrieve your goods. There’s no payment unless you want to store your items inside of the locker for longer.

Are there Single Rider Lines at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Several rides offer a single rider option. This is appealing to older kids, teens and adults who are able to separate from each other.

Guests using the “single rider” line will be chosen to fill empty spots inside ride cars. This means you may not request to be seated with the rest of your group. Single Rider access isn’t always open but just ask the employee at the entrance.

Exterior of Hogwarts Castle
Guests venture inside Hogwarts Castle for the Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey ride

My family used single rider for one of the rides during our visit. The wait time was only ten minutes versus the posted 70 minute wait in the regular queue. What a huge time saver! Of the 5 of us, three of us were seated in the same car albeit in different rows to fill the empty spaces.

Rides at Universal Studios Hollywood with Single Rider access:

  • Transformers: The Ride – 3D
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Jurassic World – The Ride
  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Save plenty of time in your schedule for exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter book or movie series, you will absolutely feel immersed in the village of Hogsmeade.

It’s highly recommended to visit this popular area immediately upon entering the theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter gets very busy. There are so many intricate details in this themed area at Universal Studios Hollywood you may want to spend all day here!

Hogsmeade area at Universal Studios Hollywood
Hogsmeade area of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Attractions

Attractions inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (listed in order of how you should visit them):

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

You’ll definitely want to head here first thing in the morning. This attraction is located inside the towering Hogwarts castle.

The queue takes you through significant scenes from the movies, like Dumbledore’s office, the greenhouse and the talking paintings, which makes the long wait interesting!

Exterior of Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes place inside Hogwarts Castle

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

Purchase a special interactive wand at Ollivander’s Wand Shop. Guests can cast spells at specified locations in this area by repeating incantations. With an exacting wave of the wand, magic happens right before your eyes in the shop windows!

Exterior of Ollivander's Wand Shop at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ollivander’s wand shop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

How much are Harry Potter wands at Universal Studios Hollywood?

There are two versions (interactive and “non-magical” replicas) and they cost as much as $75.

Even if you don’t buy a wand, the pre-show before entering the shop is whimsical and fun. A participant from the crowd is chosen.

My son was picked and it was a delight to watch the magic unfold! I won’t spoil the surprise but just know that a memorable scene from the Harry Potter movie is reenacted.

On subsequent trips to Universal Hollywood, we’ve brought the wand back with us. There are helpful employees located at the various spots to offer assistance with use of the wands.

Child holding a wand within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

More Wizarding World of Harry Potter Attractions

  • Flight of the Hippogriff – This is a family-friendly roller coaster that’s appropriate for anyone 39″+.
  • Three Broomsticks – This dining location is a must. Not only is the interior impressive, the food is really delicious!
Interior of The Three Broomsticks restaurant
Interior of the Three Broomsticks restaurant at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Hog’s Head & Magic Neep Cart – You’ll find Butterbeer in several forms at both locations. I’ve heard that the drinks are slightly less in price at Hog’s Head (though the line was out the door on our visit, so I didn’t test that!)
  • Frog Choir & Triwizard Spirit Rally – These live entertainment features with singing and dancing draw a modest crowd.
Frog Choir performers on outside stage at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood
Frog Choir at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts – The evening show with projections on the castle happens several times nightly during select seasons. Check the Universal Hollywood app for details.
  • Shopping Locations – With an impressive 8 shops, you’re sure to find the perfect Harry Potter souvenir! Try Honeydukes for sweets like Chocolate Frogs with wizard trading cards. Zonko’s Joke Shop has a massive amount of fun gag gifts.
Exterior Zonko's Joke Shop Universal Studios Hollywood
Zonko’s Joke shop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Live Shows at Universal Studios Hollywood

I will admit that we didn’t have time in our single day visit to take in any of the live shows. The Special Effects Show and Universal’s Animal Actors have both recently ended.

WaterWorld is the only show currently running. This action-packed show is filled with fight scenes that are best for older kids and adults.


This new Nintendo themed land opened to guests in early 2023. Super Nintendo World is located in the lower lot at Universal Studios Hollywood in California.

Here are the highlights of this new immersive area:

  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride
  • Interactive gameplay activities in the Mushroom Kingdom including Peach’s Castle through the use of a purchased Power-Up Band.
  • Toadstool Cafe for dining
  • 1-UP Factory retail store

A Virtual Line reservation will be required (during select times) to enter Super Nintendo World. This can be secured through the Universal app on your phone.

How to Ride Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

Need another reason to upgrade to Universal Express or a VIP pass? These guests don’t need reservations to enter Super Nintendo World.

VIP Pass ticket holders also receive cut-the-line access to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. For all other guests, stand-by queue or the single rider line is available.

SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios Hollywood

Are There Character Meet n’ Greets at Universal Studios Hollywood?

There are many figures to pose with at Universal Studios Hollywood. Lines we saw were generally pretty short with just a few people waiting. The Transformers queue to meet Bumblebee was the longest, about 20 people deep. 

Exterior of Kwik-E-Mart with Bart Simpson outside at Universal Studios Hollywood

Unfortunately there isn’t any filter on the Universal Hollywood app in which to locate the character meet n’ greets. You’ll need to bring your own camera, as there isn’t a system available like Disney’s PhotoPass. Also, characters at Universal Hollywood do not sign autographs.

Child standing with a statue in the Springfield area in Universal Studios Hollywood
Don’t want to wait for characters? There are plenty of figures to pose with too!

These are some of the characters you can meet at Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • In Springfield, find The Simpsons favorites, Krusty, Sideshow Bob, Marge, Homer, Lisa and Bart
  • A Mummy outside of his namesake ride
  • Transformers – Bumblebee, Optimus Prime or Megatron
  • The Minions
  • Luigi, Mario and Princess Peach in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD
  • Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein
Child standing with Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein at Universal Studios Hollywood
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona
  • Hello Kitty
  • Scooby-Doo & Shaggy
  • Dinosaurs near Jurassic World – The Ride including a thrilling Raptor Encounter
Man holding a Jurassic World raptor at Universal Studios Hollywood
This dinosaur greeting was tame but the Raptor Encounter is a little scarier for young kids.

Dining at Universal Studios Hollywood

All of the dining options at Universal Studios Hollywood are quick service, which entails ordering at the counter and then picking up your own food. There are no full-service restaurants inside the theme park.

This also means there’s no advance dining reservations. Every food service location at Universal Hollywood is walk-up. Lines to order can be lengthy. Consider eating at “off-peak” times to avoid the lunch and dinner crowds.

Despite the fast food vibe of the theme park, there is one option that feels more like a regular restaurant.

Exterior entrance of The Three Broomsticks restaurant at Universal Studios Hollywood
Exterior of The Three Broomsticks restaurant at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Dining at The Three Broomsticks

Located inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is The Three Broomsticks. This dining location is generally recognized as the best restaurant at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Beyond the immersive feeling of being in Harry Potter’s world, the restaurant is large and accommodating. The food we enjoyed was absolutely delicious. Meals here are like what we’d make at home for Sunday dinner and less like the fast food is really is!

Plate of food at The Three Broomsticks in Universal Studios Hollywood
Delicious food at Three Broomsticks inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes this restaurant a must-do.

We ordered The Great Feast to feed our group of six and it was an awesome amount of food. The Great Feast is served on a metal sheet stacked with spare ribs, roast chicken, vegetable, corn on the cob and potatoes. There were 3 teenagers with big appetites in our group and we still had leftovers!

It’s a hearty and filling meal that’s a far cry from the usual theme park dining options. At $69.99, when divided by six guests, this meal is also a bargain!

The Great Feast platter of food at Universal Studios Hollywood
We ordered the Great Feast at Three Broomsticks in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You can also order Butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, which is a must. This sweet drink comes in three varieties – frozen, hot and cold. You can also find Butterbeer hard packed ice cream!

Glass of Butterbeer at Universal Studios Hollywood
Butterbeer sold cold, frozen, hot and in ice cream form at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Other Universal Studios Hollywood Dining Options

Guests with dietary restrictions including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian do have choices at Universal Hollywood. The Universal Studios Hollywood website has a dietary food guide with suggestions on how to order to your needs.

Lard Lad Donuts statue at Universal Studios Hollywood
Find giant sprinkle donuts at Lard Lad inside the Springfield area.

Definitely consider The Three Broomsticks for one of your meals. Outside of this, here are a few other dining and snack location ideas. The most dining options are found in the Simpsons’ area of Springfield.

  • Krusty Burger, Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, Luigi’s Pizza, Suds McDuff’s Hot Dogs, Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream and Lard Lad Donuts in Springfield U.S.A.
  • Minion Café
  • Cocina Mexicana
  • Jurassic Cafe
  • Starbucks has several locations
  • French Street Bistro
  • Mel’s Diner
  • Studio Cafe
  • Panda Express
  • Hollywood and Dine
  • Toadstool Café (access to SUPER NINTENDO WORLD required)
Entrance to Hollywood and Dine restaurant at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk

Just outside of the entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood is CityWalk, an outdoor shopping and dining area. Just like Disneyland’s Downtown Disney District, this location is filled with places to find souvenirs or catch a full-service meal.

When I visited with my kids, we headed out of the park about 20 minutes before closing. We got in quickly for dinner at Johnny Rocket’s for burgers and fries.

There are 30+ dining spots inside CityWalk as well as a movie theater, shops, nightclub and concert venue. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen has recently opened here.

Buildings and signage at CityWalk in Universal Studios Hollywood

Souvenir Shopping at Universal Studios Hollywood

In a movie-themed amusement park, naturally there’s tons of merchandise available for sale in the gift shops.

There is a package pick up feature in case you buy something during the day and don’t want to carry it around. Request this service then pick up items at the end of your visit near the exit at the Universal Studio Store. These are a few of the can’t miss locations to shop:

Production Central for all things Hollywood movie themed.

Animation Studio Store for all the DreamWorks, Illumination and Hello Kitty merchandise.

Jurassic Outfitters for unique dinosaur souvenirs.

1-UP Factory store for gaming inspired goodies in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

Jurassic World souvenir shop at Universal Studios Hollywood

Pressed penny machines, which are themed towards the different sections of the park.

Honeydukes in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for famous candies from the movie including Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans.

Honeydukes candy shop at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood Tips for Grown Ups

Of all the Southern California theme parks, Universal Hollywood offers the most entertainment options for adults. Outside of the rides and shows, here are some suggestions for adults:

  • Play carnival games in Springfield U.S.A. or Super Silly Fun Land to win a prize.
  • Shop for souvenirs in one of the many awesome gift shops.
  • Pose for photos at the many photo op locations throughout Universal Hollywood.
  • Explore CityWalk after theme park hours have ended. This outdoor shopping center is located just outside the park gates.
CityWalk entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood

Where to get alcohol at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood does offer alcoholic drinks at locations around the park. From draft beer to mixed drinks, here’s where to find a grown up drink. Additional restaurant locations offer alcohol as well.

Duff Brewery Beer Garden (Springfield area) – Cocktails including margaritas and Long Island iced tea along with wine and draft beer. Outdoor seating at the open-air bar. Duff Beer is brewed exclusively for Universal Studios!

Duff Beer Gardens at Universal Studios Hollywood
Grab a real Duff Beer to enjoy in the outdoor venue

Hog’s Head (Wizarding World of Harry Potter) – Draft beer including themed drinks like the Wizard Brew and Snake Bite. Non-alcoholic Butterbeer is also served.

Mulligan’s Irish Pub – Get beer on tap or a mixed cocktail including Mule or Old Fashioned.

Isla Nu-Bar – Tropical cocktails served in collectors tiki glasses.

Moe’s Tavern (Springfield area) – Fans of The Simpsons can grab a cold Duff beer inside this tavern from the show. Get the signature drink of Moe’s Tavern, The Flaming Moe (non-alcoholic). There’s even a Love Tester machine!

Moe's Tavern entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood

Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is a seasonal offering in the fall. It’s highly appealing for teens and adults but definitely not appropriate for children. Or those who frighten easily, like me!

Neon Universal Studios Hollywood sign lit up at night.

Hotels Near Universal Studios Hollywood

Given the location of Universal Studios within Universal City, there may be concerns about safety. That is a valid worry and travelers to the Los Angeles area should continue with their usual safe travel requirements.

This includes not leaving anything of importance in vehicles as well as locking car and hotel room doors. In addition, use caution when out after dark and do not walk outside alone.

Where to Stay at Universal Studios Hollywood

These are a few suggestions for hotel accommodations near Universal Hollywood. Click through to each link for discount pricing and additional details about each:

Holiday Inn Express North Hollywood – Burbank Area – Free hot breakfast buffet and large rooms with queen-sized beds are a highlight of this hotel. Located about 4 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood, the drive took less than 10 minutes.

Sheraton Universal Hotel – This hotel is close enough to walk, though they also offer guests a free shuttle to the entrance. Rooms are on the smaller side with double beds. But on the plus side, there’s an upscale pool area with lounge.

The Garland – Sprawling retro-style hotel located about 1 mile from the theme park. Complimentary shuttle for guests along with onsite dining and an excellent pool.

Tilt Hotel – Movie themed rooms and continental breakfast at a smaller boutique-style hotel. Just half-mile away from Universal Hollywood, making this location close enough to walk (albeit uphill).

Looking for Universal Studios Hollywood vacation package deals? Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

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