You know that the early bird gets the worm and have heard time and again how important it is to arrive early to any theme park. But traveling across time zones, sleeping in new places, fighting morning rush-hour traffic, or having teens and tweens who just will not wake up can make an early morning start impossible for some families.
If you are a Night Owl family who always arrive fashionably late, you're in luck! Here is how to manage Universal Studios when you just can’t get there at opening. Follow these tips to maximize your time in the park.
Late-Start Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood
Do Your Research
Do some advance planning to find out the park hours and top attractions. Identify your must-see rides or shows in advance so you can make sure you prioritize and fit them in. On late-state days, each frog in our family gets to pick their No. 1 choice. You want to know in advance what time the park closes that day because you will need to fit in your priority attractions before closing time (which can vary from about 6 to 11 p.m., depending on the day of your visit). Universal Studios Hollywood does not release the show times in advance, so once you get into the park, grab a show schedule at the entrance to scope out the show times for your must-see shows, and plan your schedule around those. Also pay attention to the last Studio Tour tram time of the day, and be sure to hop in line well before that so you do not miss out on that key experience.
Buy a Universal Studios Hollywood Front of Line Pass
The Universal Studios Hollywood Front of Line Pass is a huge time-saver (and you can buy them from us at a discount). If you know you have limited time in the park, buying this pass in advance is a no-brainer. It will help you hit everything you want to see and save you hours of waiting time. It also offers priority seating for shows. Because only a limited number of Front of Line passes are sold each day, they do often sell out in the morning. If you want this option, it is important to purchase in advance, especially if you will be arriving in the afternoon.
Consult the Wait Time Boards
Walking into a park with peak wait times can be frustrating. Instead of jumping in line, look at the Wait Time boards around Universal Studios Hollywood to see where the shortest lines are. If you have Front of Line you do not have to worry about this.
Use the Busiest Times to Visit the Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood
The afternoon is a great time to see shows in the park or to shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Much of the Wizarding World is about the sights and sounds and foods ... and the shopping (Mommy Frog's favorite)! Even if you are just looking, you can spend some time exploring the candy in Honeydukes, toys in Zonkos, clothing and other items in the other stores or drinking Butterbeer from the carts. There are so many fun details to take in! You can peruse wands at Ollivander’s, but we would save that for after you see the wand pairing.
You can do the castle walk-through without going on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (ask at Gate A)—that’s a safer option for people prone to motion sickness anyway. The single rider line does not offer a castle walk-through, but is great for avoiding the line. There are walk-up shows—Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally—on the stage in the Wizarding World, and they are usually followed with photo ops. Those are all great peak-time activities. As huge Harry Potter fans, we can spend a lot of time just taking pictures and window shopping in the Wizarding World.
We recommend eating a late lunch or early dinner at The Three Broomsticks. If you time it right you can avoid the mealtime crowds. You can leave the Wizarding World to explore other parts of the park and come back later to go on the two rides in the evening when the lines start to taper off.
Save Wand Pairing for the Early Evening
The Wand Pairing ceremony at Ollivander’s has long lines in the morning, but the wait drops off a lot in the afternoon and early evening. Front of Line is not available for this, so you want to be sure to keep your eye on the wait time. A 5- to 20-minute wait is a good guideline to look for. Check out our tips for choosing a wand or getting picked at this experience!
Meet the Universal Studios Hollywood Characters
Use Single Rider Lines
This is one of our favorite tips for maximizing time in the park. All rides in the Lower Lot—The Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic Park—offer single rider lines with a much shorter wait. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey also offers single rider line.
Hit the Lower Lot Once
It takes time to ride the several long escalators to and from the Lower Lot, so be sure to hit all the attractions down there in just one trip.
Use Child Switch
If you have tadpoles who are too short to ride, ask ride attendants about child switch, so that each taller family member gets a chance to ride without having to wait twice.
Whether you are visiting during peak summer crowds, celebrating Grinchmas or staying after the park closes for Halloween Horror Nights, you can use the above tips to make sure you don’t miss any of the seasonal fun at Universal Studios.