California, USA

An Essential Guide for First-Timers to Universal Studios, LA

After visiting Disneyland in LA (read all about that here), I knew I had to visit Universal Studios while I was there too! I tried to find a guide for first time visitors to the park and struggled (unless it was family orientated which I am not) so decided to create my own. Please enjoy my essential guide for first-time visitors to Universal Studios in LA!

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My experience at Universal Studios in Hollywood didn’t start off the greatest. I’d been out the night before with my friend Carolyn and was leaving LA the day after so it was the only day I could go to the theme park. I slept on the couch at Carolyns place the evening before, getting to bed around 2am and waking up at 7am, ready for an early start at Universal. I was, of course, quite hungover.

Me, trying not to look hungover

I’d read another guide to Universal and it said to go to the Harry Potter ride first thing as lines get CRAZY there as the day goes on (sometimes over three hours of waiting). Once arriving at the Harry Potter ride, I found a sign that says “Do not go on this ride if you get motion sickness”. I thought, uh oh, this might not end well (I was picturing myself throwing up on a kid next to me). But I wanted to miss the massive queue that might be there later on and the current wait time was only 10 minutes so I persevered. Good news: I didn’t throw up. Bad news: I had to go lie down in the first aid room for the next hour because I felt so ill. Many thanks to the nurse there who treated me like royalty when I felt like absolute sh*t knowing I had done that to myself and did not deserve her attention.

From then on, the day went pretty good. I felt a little bit better, but there was still some nerves going on the more intense rides. Here’s my opinions on the current rides and shows at Universal Studios Hollywood:

Harry Potter ride: amazing 3D ride, go early and don’t go if you are prone to motion sickness (but if hungover Courtney can do it, I think you can too). Also don’t do it if you’re terribly afraid of spiders (mum, I’m looking at you!).
Jurassic Park: calm and chill boat ride featuring realistic dinosaurs. Includes a big drop at the end.
Transformers: bumpy and somewhat scary ride – same as Universal Orlando.
Simpsons: bumpy ride and includes a few things that might be hard on people scared of heights. Same as Universal Orlando.
Minion ride: a little bumpy and rough but inside a theatre – same as Universal Orlando.
Animal Actors: cute show which includes retired animal actors doing tricks.
Waterworld: absolutely incredible water show including stunts and fire. Favorite non-ride thing I saw across all five theme parks I attended. Don’t miss it!
Studio tour: famous at the Hollywood park and cannot be missed. Includes two 3D “rides” and a chance to see some possible filming (I saw Will and Grace things being filmed while on my tour. If anyone watches the new season and sees Jack in a gold leotard and with a dog, let me know!).

The park is split into a top part and a bottom part and I would suggest doing all the top rides first thing as they seem to get the busiest as the day goes on. Then head down to the bottom part and check those rides out. If all the rides seem to have pretty busy lines (over an hour wait time at each) then it’s a perfect time to go on the studio tour as they leave so often that the wait time is never too long!

The park map

Also don’t forget to see what time the shows are on and schedule those into the day – my personal favorite was the Waterworld show. Best thing I saw at all the theme parks I went to!

A tease of what you’ll see in the water show!

Disclaimer: I didn’t go on The Walking Dead ‘ride’ as it said live actors are used to terrify you and I’m nooottttt about that. Also I didn’t go on the Mummy Returns ride as it said it gets up to 45mph (70kmph) and I was still feeling a bit nauseous all day and didn’t want to risk it!

My three main tips for your day at Universal Studios would be:

  • Spend some time exploring Springfield USA! Lots of food options, including Krusty Burger, mega donuts at Lard Land and Moes Tavern.
  • Explore all the shops in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade) and don’t leave without having a butter beer! Most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted 🙂
  • Check out the show and parade schedule before you go and plan your day around these!
The Harry Potter castle and the car!

I hope this guide has helped you plan your trip and enjoy your day at Universal Studios!

Courtney xo

25 thoughts on “An Essential Guide for First-Timers to Universal Studios, LA

  1. Your post has been very informative and insightful. Will definitely keep in mind all the points you mentioned on my visit to Universal studios, for sure.

  2. It’s been a long time since I went to Universal Studios, so this was a good read for me! The Walking Dead ride sounds fun, yet scary too, but I’d try as I’m a fan of the show!

  3. Now this is what I needed to read! I’m honestly thinking about visiting there in the summer or the fall because I’ve always wanted to go as a kid.

  4. I was at Universal LA recently as well and totally agree with your tips for the park! I went on the mummy ride and it is fast … and in the dark but it only lasts like 55 seconds so it was all over before I could be scared haha. The Harry Potter ride/village and Springfield were definitely my favourite places to hang out.

  5. I would love so much to go there one day so your guide is perfect to me and I’ll read it again when I’ll manage to go there! Thank you!

  6. Great tips here for Universal Studios in Los Angeles! I’m not that big a fan of amusement parks but some of those rides sound fun. Thanks for the tips on how to beat the queue and try out the rides with shorter lines!

  7. I live in L.A. and haven’t been to Universal Studios in ages but since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter came, I’ve been dying to go again and this article has reinforced that! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I can’t believe you went hungover 😂 it sounded like a unique experience! I’ve never been to Universal Studios and I’m not often tempted by them, due to the long queues, but your tips were perfect if I ever do go. Also, can’t believe you didn’t go on the Walking Dead ‘ride’!!!

  9. Ha, if hungover Courtney can do it, anyone can! Great post filled with lots of useful info. Perfect for anyone visiting universal studios

  10. This looks and sounds so much fun! We love Disney attractions, we have already talked in doing a Disney trip, going to all major parks, which would be a dream :p We have to go there so we’ll have these tips in mind, thanks 😀
    Sending good vibes only,

    Patricia & Miguel

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