If your time in Los Angeles is short and/or you want to cram in a day full of fun at Universal Studios Hollywood, then you are going to need our top ten tips for Universal Studio Hollywood. Here is everything you need to know to make the most of one day at Universal Studios Hollywood including what to pack, what to see and how to maximise your time.
We were gifted our tickets by Universal Studios Hollywood but we paid for all our in-park expenses. All opinions are utterly our own.
Top Ten Tips for Making the Most of One Day at Universal Studios Hollywood
Before You Arrive:
- 1 Tip One – Download the App
- 2 Tip Two – Buy Your Tickets in Advance Online
- 3 Tip Three – Get a Universal Express Pass
- 4 Tip Four – Arrive Early
- 5 Tip Five – Purchase a Refillable Cup as Soon as You Arrive
- 6 Tip Six – Establish Your Plan of Attack in Advance
- 7 Tip Seven – Utilise the Lockers
- 8 Tip Eight – Plan Your Meals Strangely
- 9 Tip Nine – Slow Down for Hogwarts
- 10 Tip Ten – Utilise the Queuing Hacks
- 11 One Bonus Tip to Make the Most of One Day In Universal Studios Hollywood
Tip One – Download the App
You can book your tickets through the Universal Studios Hollywood app. This app will also help you plan your day more effectively. The app shows real-time queue waits so you can make your decisions about your next point of call. You will also be able to see the showtimes throughout the day so you can work around them.
You can even set up alerts to stay up-to-date with the queue times of your favourite ride…not really needed if you’ve opted for the Express Pass.
Finally, it shows where you are on the map so if directions aren’t your strong point, you may find this easier than a paper map.
Tip Two – Buy Your Tickets in Advance Online
You will save money and time versus purchasing your tickets on the gate. Lines to enter the park can be long, and queuing up to purchase your tickets wastes yet more valuable ride time. Plus, they sometimes have exclusive special offers like buy one day, get one free online which aren’t available on the day. Remember to check both the app and website to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Tip Three – Get a Universal Express Pass
The Universal Express Pass allows you utilise the Express Pass queue once per ride. It also allows you special reserved seating at the shows.
Alternatively, you could opt for the Unlimited Express which means you can round as many times as you like in the Express Pass queue.
It is fun running around jumping from one ride to another but we still think that the standard Express Pass is the best option when price and time are considered. The park is easily covered in a day with just the one queue jump and you’ll still feel the benefit.
On The Day:
Tip Four – Arrive Early
Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the park entrance. You’ll need to find a parking space and then it’s a swift ten minute walk from the parking lot, through City Walk.
Following that you must pass through an airport-style security. As you imagine, this is another small chunk of time. Add on a few photos by the iconic globe and we would say, arriving a good 30 – 40 minutes before the park is due to open is a good plan.
Up for a scare? Check out Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
Tip Five – Purchase a Refillable Cup as Soon as You Arrive
A refillable drink costs £16.00 (plus tax…sigh). It doesn’t sound super cheap but if you are sharing with even one other person, you’ll be amazed at how much liquid you’ll consume over the day. This is especially true if it is hot. With individual drinks costing $4 (plus tax….sigh) it is a great value option.
Remember, these can only be refilled at the freestyle Coca-Cola machines, milkshakes, alcoholic beverages and butterbeer in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are NOT included.
Yes, you have option of bringing water bottles and refilling during the day but I find having access to unlimited diet soda stops me craving the sweet treats around the park and the caffeine keeps me going for the long day. Plus,the Coco-Cola Freestyle machines are good fun. You can choose from the usual line up Coke’s sodas, in diet, regular and caffeine-free variations. Then you can jazz them up with different flavour syrups. The only restriction is that once you move the cup from the machine, you can’t refill for ten minutes.
Tip Six – Establish Your Plan of Attack in Advance
This is a long one with mini tips in.
Plan your day carefully. Running around like headless chickens is both time consuming and exhausting. We recommend heading straight down the StarWay escalators to the Lower Lot. The StarWay is a set for four long escalators that connect the two sections of park. They can take an awfully long time, especially if the park is busy (no stand on the right, walk on the left rules here).
Most visitors dash straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter so lines here for the rides, and Ollivander’s Wand Pairing show are both longer first thing. It usually calms down later in the day.
Beat the crowds down to the Lower Lot. You will find shorted queues for three of the park’s bigger rides, Jurassic World and Revenge of the Mummy. We also love that any soggy bottoms gained in the splash zone of Jurassic World will have a chance to dry in the midday sun.
Make your way back up to the Upper Lot for lunch. Most of the best lunch options are here in the Simpsons area or the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. As the sun reaches its zenith, head for the Studio Tour. This takes an hour, won’t jiggle your lunch around too much and it’s covered trams keep you out of the worst of the sun.
It’s time to explore the larger section of the park.
If the kids want to play in Super Silly Fun Land (the mini water play park near the Minion Mayhem ride) do that earlier rather than later to ensure they aren’t sitting in the car sopping wet.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will take some time as there is so much to see and the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is likely to be the longest queue of the day. It is easy to get distracted in the shops but keep an eye on those clocks!
Finally, save the DreamWorks Theatre for last. It is on the way out of the park and is an easy finish to the day.
Tip Seven – Utilise the Lockers
Look out for the entry room by The Revenge of the Mummy. The single us lockers here can be used for 90 minutes. This makes them handy for keeping your belongings dry on the nearby Jurassic World ride too. As long as you can get on both rides in the time, your bits and bobs will remain safe and drip-free.
There are also lockers at the entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You must put your things in here for the duration of the ride but you could also be cheeky and use them to store your things as you squeeze around the busy shops of Hogsmeade.
Tip Eight – Plan Your Meals Strangely
It is not possible to book tables at any of the eateries within the park. If you don’t fancy lining up, try to take your lunch at a slightly earlier, or later time of day.
In our experience, the portions are hearty so you may get away with just eating once in a proper restaurant. Top up with a “walking snack” later in the day like an ice cream or giant pink doughnut from the Simpsons area, or sweet treats from Honeyduke’s in Hogsmeade.
If you really love food, whilst in Los Angeles discover Venice Beach with Secret Food Tours
Tip Nine – Slow Down for Hogwarts
I know we told you to get an Express Pass to make the most of one day at Universal Studios Hollywood, and that is still good advice…
The queue set up winds through Hogwarts and it is so cool that you just can’t miss it by skipping through it. Every room is beautifully themed, with loads to see.
If you are desperate to get on the ride as quickly as possible, then use the Express Pass once and then go round again and take it all in!
Tip Ten – Utilise the Queuing Hacks
To get even more rides in, utilise these handy queue hacks.
If you have smaller children in tow, but want to enjoy the bigger rides, adults can ride one by one. The other parent can wait with the little one and tag team into the ride. This saves having to queue up twice.
We love this idea and think it should be adopted in every theme park (on behalf of all those who have kiddies).
If you have used your one Express Pass up on a particular attraction and you are prepared to ditch your buddies in search of that elusive immediate second go round, then join the single rider queue. These are usually siginificantly shorter than the regular queue, sometimes saving as much as 3/4 of the wait. You can still queue together so you don’t have to be lonely, but you’ll be split up onto separate rides when you get to the front to plug up any holes in uneven parties.
One Bonus Tip to Make the Most of One Day In Universal Studios Hollywood
If you are really keen to avoid the crowds then you MUST check the schedules of school holidays. That means both at home and abroad! The majority of visitors to these parks come from the USA and UK so try and visit during term times. It will also be cheaper as it is not peak pricing.
Don’t forget long weekends (bank holidays, thanksgiving and other national holidays)
Have a great time! We hope these hacks will help you make the most of your one day at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Oh, and take us with you!