Universal Studios Hollywood
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How to Do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day

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We’ve been to Universal Orlando Resort several times in the last few years, but it’s been a long time since I visited the park in California. The last time I was there, I don’t think I was even five years old, so I had no idea what to expect! We had less than 24 hours in Los Angeles for a layover on our way to Japan, so we decided to stop in. All we knew was that we were going to have to figure out how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day! 

Watch our video: Universal Studios Hollywood Park Review

After landing at LAX, we rented a car and drove straight to the park. We were staying at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport, but it was too early to check-in so we decided to enjoy a day of fun while we waited. It was an easy enough drive to Universal Studios Hollywood and there was ample parking. I was thrilled to find a spot in the Jurassic Park lot! 

Ride Height Requirements at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is a smaller park, but there are still many things for you to do. The last thing you want is to get there, though, and discover that your child can’t get on most of the rides. Avoid this expensive, stressful, and heartbreaking lesson by getting familiar with the height requirements for rides ahead of time.

It’s definitely something that can cause travel anxiety for your entire family, if things go wrong. Rather than being blindsided, have a conversation with your child before you visit the parks so that they are prepared for the possibility that they may not be able to get on certain attractions. This little bit of preparation can go a long way.

39 inches (99cm) or Taller:

  • Flight of the Hippogriff

Children 39-48″ (99-122cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older). 

40 inches (102cm) or Taller:

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • The Simpsons Ride

Children 40-48″ (102-122cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).

48 inches (122cm) or Taller:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride

While we enjoy theme parks, we have learned to never assume we’ll meet the requirements. Carefully consider the people in your group and choose rides you all can enjoy. If you know your Harry Potter super fan will be heartbroken having to skip Forbidden Journey, you may want to address that before your trip. 

If you’re planning to spend the day on rides, we hope you’ll always check the ride ride height requirements at Universal Studios Hollywood and any other theme park. Even the colorful attractions designed for younger guests may have minimum height rules. It can be frustrating, but remember that these are put in place for a good reason. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

For a list of all attraction requirements and accommodations, please see the Universal Studios Hollywood Rider Safety guidelines.

Universal CityWalk Hollywood 

To get to the park, we had to walk through Universal CityWalk Hollywood. It was still early and not particularly busy, so we were able to get a good view of our surroundings. There are a lot of great restaurant options, and of course, a movie theater, featuring a seven-story IMAX with laser screen! Less than a day later, we were at Universal Studios Japan. We were completely shocked by how similar these areas are!

Universal CityWalk Hollywood how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day

It’s nowhere near as big as Universal CityWalk Orlando, but a few things overlap. For example, you can still get Voodoo Donuts at Universal Hollywood and/or eat the Hard Rock Café. The plaza is easy to navigate and will take you straight to the park entrance. So that’s our first big tip for how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day.  Don’t stop in CityWalk – just run right through! 

Park Experience

The day we visited Universal Studios Hollywood — a Tuesday morning — was not very busy. As we entered the park, we were offered the opportunity to take a survey, which seems to happen every time we go to a Universal park. As always, we were happy to oblige (even though we were in a rush)! Once we were through, we went straight to Guest Services to pick up a birthday pin for Hayley!

If you’re trying to figure out how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day, you need to understand the park’s unique layout. It’s separated into an upper lot and lower lot. Most of the attractions are on the upper lot, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

On the lower lot, you’ll find Transformers: The Ride-3D, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride, and the new Jurassic World: The Ride. We were absolutely crushed that it hadn’t opened by the time we got there. It opened just a few weeks later. Oh well! Maybe next time! 

Lower Lot USH

To get between the upper and lower lots, you’ll have to take a series of escalators. Fortunately, there’s a gorgeous view to distract you as you make your way around the park. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the parking lot from the lower level. We were a little annoyed by this.

For example, we planned to leave the park after getting on The Mummy. There was no way for us to do that without going all the way back up the escalators and through the park. Then, we still had to walk through CityWalk to get to our rental car. If you’re in a rush and looking for how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day, keep this in mind! 

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

When we first went to Universal Orlando Resort, I skipped Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. My older kids got on, but Hayley was too scared. I stayed with her (which worked out because I was scared too!). When I visited Universal’s Islands of Adventure few months ago, Josh and I rode it together. Predictably, I was absolutely terrified. I hate spiders and I hate the dark and there’s a whole lotta both on that ride!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood

At Universal Studios Hollywood, Hayley wanted to finally check it out. Even though I was nervous, we got on together — and it was almost as scary as Orlando. The big exception is that there is no fire-breathing dragon and there’s no picture either! Although that was disappointing, the ride itself was a lot of fun!

Related post: 25 Magical Tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Yes, even though we were trying to get through the park in a single day, we had to do all the things at Wizarding World. So, if that’s on your itinerary, don’t worry. You should still have plenty of time!

Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride

Again, when Josh and I were in Orlando a few months ago, we rode Revenge of the Mummy and thought it was fantastic. I don’t know why I remembered it being much tamer than it was, but I had thoroughly reassured Hayley that it was going to be a relatively chill experience. In fact, I compared it to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida. Boy, was I wrong! 

The Mummy Ride

By the time we arrived back at the loading area, everyone on that ride seemed completely astonished by the fact that it’s a launch coaster! We all just looked at each other in disbelief at what we had experienced. It’s an older ride, and from the outside, it just looks like it’s going to be a somewhat cheesy, tame coaster experience. That’s definitely not what we got!

It was pitch black, “blood” was dripping on our faces (cue the travel anxiety and OCD!) and the top speed was a lot faster than we expected (it reaches 40mph in mere seconds). Still, we had a great time and laughed heartily at the end. It really was the highlight of our day, really. Do not miss it!

We knew that it was the only roller coaster experience we’d have at Universal Studios Hollywood, but on that sunny Tuesday morning in May, there was no line at all. We could have easily done it twice!

The Simpsons Ride

Real talk — The Simpsons Ride almost made me throw up everywhere! I’m not particularly prone to motion sickness, but this was a rough one for me. It also took an exceptionally long time to load! We had an Express Pass for the attraction, no one was in front of us, and it still took 20 minutes to get on the ride. Part of the time was spent was spent watching videos and a safety demonstration before being seated.

The Simpsons Ride Universal Studios Hollywood

I can absolutely understand why this is a popular attraction because it is impressive, but the lengthy loading time and nausea-inducing effects really take away from the overall experience for me.  If you’re a fan of the TV show, though, you’ve got to ride it at least once. There’s no way I’ll ever get on The Simpsons Ride again, though. At least not without a bucket!

How to Do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day

So we’ve talked about a few aspects of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, let’s recap the tips for how to do it all in one day. The good news is that it’s a relatively small park, so it’s entirely possible! With the high cost of park admission these days, it’s great to save money when you can!

  1. Pick the right day — Avoid the weekends, if possible. Go on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning.
  2. Know the layout — The park is divided into upper and lower lots. You want to navigate efficiently.
  3. Choose your rides — If you’re short on time, be picky about what you ride and/or see.
  4. Get Express Passes — You’d probably be fine without them, but these help with tight schedules.
  5. Skip CityWalk — Park your vehicle and then run straight through CityWalk.

Overall, the experience just reaffirmed our love for Universal Studios. While it’s probably least favorite of the three we’ve visited (Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood), it’s still a solid park.  There’s a lot to see, so we enjoyed just walking through the different areas (we’ll go back and linger when we have more time!). We haven’t had a chance to do Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood, but we love the event in Orlando (do the R.I.P. Tour, if you can!).  We hope to have that experience someday, though!

Related post: Which Universal Studios Park Is Right For You?

Although Universal Studios Hollywood is smaller and has fewer attractions, just walking through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a cup of Butterbeer is worth it to us! Don’t worry about what other people do when they go to theme parks — make it your own. You’ll probably save a lot of time, too! Universal Studios Hollywood has its own unique vibe and the views are incredible. You won’t forget for a second that you’re in California, that’s for sure!


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