If you’re looking for some themepark thrills in Sothern California with your tween, Universal Hollywood should be at the top of your list. That’s what my eleven-year old son and I had planned, tossing some roller coaster fun along side our nature hikes. Here are my tween’s favourite picks for the park:
Studio Tour – Like we said in our road trip video, Universal Hollywood offers some similarity to it’s Orlando counterpart with the exception of the Studio Tour. Hollywood is all about the movies so what better way to experience them than to be tossed right in the middle of the action. Even if your tween isn’t familiar with some of the TV shows references within the sound stage tour, the first part of the experience, he’ll love the more interactive experiences. This includes some old classics like JAWS along with new treats from King Kong (my favourite) and The Fast and the Furious.
Tip: Hit this attraction as soon as you arrive as it is at the far end of the lot. It’s also a great set-up for the Hollywood magic you’re about to encounter in the rest of the park.
– Universal Hollywood prides itself on the use of technology with its ride experiences but you can take advantage of the fun without going 3D, something my son can take only in small doses. The Revenge of the Mummy is a perfect example and it’s a very different experience from the Universal Orlando experience which is a bonus. The coaster like ride whips you through tomes and past treasure, avoiding the Mummy’s curse. Watch out for the scarab beetles. These still give me the heebie-jeebies.
Tip: You should note that this experience takes place in the dark with a few lights and projected visuals.
– Your tween may not be in the mood to waste valuable ride time watching one of Universal Hollywood’s shows but they’ll quickly change their mind as an audience member of the Special Effects Show. We loved seeing some of the movie magic secrets demonstrated in front of us, like coordinated fight scenes, fake blood and lighting someone on fire. Have your attention yet?
Tip: The show incorporates some audience volunteers to help demonstrate some of the effects on stage. If you have a budding performer in your family, be sure to arrive early and sit within the front middle section for a chance to be on stage.
– Harry Potter fans will love venturing into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Walk the cobblestone streets peering into shop windows. Grab a butter beer (we prefer the cold versus frozen version for taste). Listen to the Hogwarts School Choir of Singing Frogs. Even though this world is located within the same theme park as the Simpsons and Jurassic Park, when you walk under the arch you’ll feel transported.
Jump on a Broomstick – Unlike any 3D ride experience I have been on before, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is one of our all time favourite rides. This is an experience that “snares the senses” to quote Professor Snape. The experience is the same as what appears in Universal Orlando, something I wrote about here. We were lucky enough to visit on a low crowd day and hit this ride two times in a row.
Tip: Take advantage of the park’s free short term locker rentals. Some rides, like the Forbidden Journey, won’t allow you to take a bag on the ride. Stash it in one of these secure lockers for the length of your ride and pick-up your belongings when you’re done. The timeframe for the free rental can vary by ride but in most cases we received an hour free and our ride time was much less.
Grab a Bite with Your Favourite Characters
– We’ve come not not expect much from theme park food but Universal Hollywood will have you rethinking that packed lunch. Enjoy some British grub under the vaulted roof of the Three Broomsticks or for a quick bite grab a chicken and waffle sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack. We loved sitting on the outdoor patio Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck.
Expect the Unexpected – Your tween will love being on the hunt for the unexpected. Set off a a disaster at the Simpson nuclear power plant by the push of a button. Catch a glimpse of the owl as it pops out of the clock tour every hour in Hogsmeade. Tear up some of the pavement as you demolish part of downtown. Hear Bart making crank calls when you pick-up the phone in Moe’s Tavern. These are just a few of the hidden and not so hidden fun items your tween will love to discover.
Universal Hollywood is bound to wear out even the most energetic tween with rides, shows and the worlds of their imagination brought to life. To make the most of your experience, here are a few last minute tips:
- Buy your park and parking tickets online to avoid further delays to getting your fun started
- Take a photo of where you park or grab a parking ticket to make note of your lot. It all seems pretty clear when you first arrive but it may be hard to recall by the end of the day
- Plan your day ahead of time. Be sure to prioritize what you have to see, what you would like to see and what you can pass on. Should a ride line be longer than expected, weather not develop as planned or the day just gets away from you, you’ll have a plan in place to avoid disappointment.
You can see more of the adventure my tween and I had on our seven-day road trip in the highlight video below or visit our Youtube channel to watch our family travel playlist:
Universal Studios Hollywood is an easy drive from the foodie friendly city of Pasadeana where we stayed. Any attractions at Universal Hollywood that are on your list? What type of adventure is your family interested in when traveling?