At Universal Studios Hollywood, the magic of movie making comes to life at this theme park that literally sprang up around the working studios. The park combines the quintessential Hollywood movie experience with quality theme park attractions and shows, including the most recent additions of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Walking Dead Attraction, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Fast and Furious: Supercharged on the Studio Tour. With careful planning and our Universal Studios Hollywood tips, you can maximize your time when you hop over for a visit.
Here are 18 Universal Studios Hollywood Tips to Maximize Your Time
1. Buy your tickets in advance.
You'll save time and money when you buy your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets in advance. If you want to skip the lines, consider a Universal Express ticket, which includes admission as well as one-time express access to each ride, show and attraction.
2. Pick the best times to visit.
While any day you can head to Universal Studios Hollywood is a great day, some days are better than others! You'll find the waits are lowest in the fall, winter and spring. Avoid the days around the holidays and times when children are out of school. Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends. Be sure to hop over to our Los Angeles Crowd Calendar to check out crowd predictions and see our post on the best times to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.
3. Consider the Universal Express pass during the busiest times.
If you are planning to visit around the holidays, spring break or summer, consider purchasing Universal Express passes. With it, you will get one-time priority to every ride, show and attraction! Now that's the way to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood! And with the Universal Express pass, you will have no problem seeing every attraction even on the most crowded day. The park limits the number of Universal Express passes it sells, and the price can fluctuate at the park depending on the season and demand. Buying Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express passes in advance are a must if you cannot arrive in the morning to purchase them at the gate. If one-time priority access is not enough, you may be able to upgrade in park to unlimited Universal Express. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it could come in handy if you are visiting on a busy day and you want to ride again and again and again.
4. Arrive ahead of park opening.
We frogs have a saying ... the early bird gets the flies! When you arrive ahead of park opening, you will be one of the very first people inside the park and will have the opportunity to experience the rides with the very lowest waits of the entire day. This is one of our top Universal Studios Hollywood tips! Plan on extra time to park the car, go through security and walk through the entry gate.
5. Eat breakfast before you arrive.
So that you maximize your time experiencing the rides, shows and entertainment, we suggest you eat breakfast before you head to the park! We give two thumbs up to the buffet at Universal Hilton, which included a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, muffins, dim sum, pork dumplings, eggs, bacon and even Nutella! Wandering through Universal CityWalk your breakfast options include Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Voodoo Doughnut.
6. Bring your own water.
While Universal Studios Hollywood isn't as lenient as the Disneyland Resort about bringing in outside food, you can bring water bottles, baby food, fruits and vegetables into the park. You will need to leave coolers and food purchased from outside locations (minus the above exceptions) at home. Note that Universal Studios Hollywood does not even allow water or any food brought in for Horror Nights.
7. Check the park website if you want to spot some celebs.
A couple of weeks before your park visit, check the official website to find out which celebs will be in Universal Studios Hollywood filming. Extra with Mario, Tanika & Renee Live! is often filmed in front of the Globe Fountain on weekdays. Celebs don't appear every day, but when they will be filming, their times and locations are noted on the schedule. The Voice is filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you want to attend a taping, you can find tickets here, but it is best to attend on a day you are not visiting the theme park because tapings and their check-ins are time-consuming and have dress codes.
8. Schedule your day according to the shows.
Since the rides run continuously, but the shows do not, it's best to schedule your day around the show schedule. Universal Studios Hollywood publishes a show schedule on its website and in its official app. There are also show time and wait time boards located around the park. Shows normally begin in the late morning, so if you arrive at or before park opening, this gives you plenty of time to experience The Wizarding World and Lower Lot attractions (which have much shorter wait times early in the day) before the shows start.
9. Plan your visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
One of our top Universal Studios Hollywood tips is to break up your visits to The Wizarding World, which is centrally located in the Upper Lot. First thing in the morning, ride the Wizarding World rides — Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff. Then tear yourself away to ride other rides with short wait times (such as those in the Lower Lot). Circle back to Hogsmeade later in the day for lunch and shopping when the wait times in the park peak. Both of the rides in the Wizarding World accept Universal Express passes, but Ollivanders Wand pairing demonstration does not. The line for Ollivander’s is longest in the morning after opening. The line drops off significantly in the late afternoon and evening, so it is better to wait on that one.
NOTE: We do give you permission to grab a Butterbeer in the morning after you experience the rides. Because, you know, it's Butterbeer.
10. Hit the Lower Lot in the morning
If you arrive at opening, you also should have no problem hitting the Lower Lot with very few people and minimum waits. We have put together a Universal Studios Hollywood Park Plan so that you can prioritize the rides, shows and attractions.
11. Try to reduce time on the StarWay.
The series of elevators that connect the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot are very loooonnnnngggggg and can very well take you 10 minutes each way (or more during peak times). Avoid multiple trips at all costs by doing everything in the Lower Lot once! We recommend hitting the Lower Lot first thing in the morning because the lines are shortest there in the morning. They peak in the afternoon.
12. Use the Single Riders Line
If you don't mind splitting up your party on the ride, the Single Rider Line is the fastest way to get on a ride without having a Universal Express pass. It's one of our top Universal Studios Hollywood tips to maximize your time.
Attractions with the Single Rider Line:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Jurassic Park - The Ride
- Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride
- Transformers: The Ride 3D
13. Head to the Studio Tour in the heat of the day.
The Studio Tour is what makes Universal Studios Hollywood, well, Universal Studios Hollywood. You will go down to the backlot, where you will visit some of the most famous backdrops in movie-making history! The Bates Motel, Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives and town square from Back To The Future just to name a few. You might even see some filming taking place! King Kong 3-D and Fast and Furious make the tour an exciting ride as well. We recommend it in the late morning, afternoon or early evening when waits for other attractions are high, temperatures begin to rise and your legs could use an hour of rest. Also keep in mind that the Studio Tour closes before Universal Studios Hollywood closes, so check the last tram departure and wait times so you don't miss out.
14. Have lunch during off-peak times.
You'll save the most time at Universal Studios Hollywood if you dine outside of peak meal times. Know that there are no table-service restaurants within the park and you won't be able to make reservations in advance. If you are looking for a Universal Studios Hollywood sit-down restaurant, there are plenty of options at CityWalk next door. If you are a Harry Potter fan (or even if you are not), we find the most relaxing and delicious meal in the park to be at The Three Broomsticks. Grab an early lunch or early dinner and eat like a wizard in a replica of an iconic Harry Potter setting. HINT: Wizarding alcoholic beverages are available for purchase in the Hog's Head Pub.
15. Don't want to worry about anything? Purchase the VIP Experience.
With the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience ticket, you will enjoy a 6-8 hour personal guided tour of the park, which includes valet parking, a light breakfast in the private VIP lounge, exclusive backlot access, unlimited priority access (think Universal Express) to all of the rides and shows (with a guide to get you the best seats), and a gourmet all-you-can-eat lunch at the Moulin Rouge dining room. You'll take a trolley down to the backlot and visit working sound stages, Universal's sound department and prop warehouse, and other areas not open to the general public. There is limited availability, so book in advance. You can save up to $31 on the VIP Experience when you book with us. Children must be at least 5 years old.
16. Take advantage of Child Switch.
If any of your children cannot ride a ride, an adult can wait with the child in the attraction’s Child Switch room. When the rest of the party returns, you can switch. We have more tips for entertaining small children at Universal Studios Hollywood if you are bringing a little one with you.
17. Make the best of ride breakdowns.
Sometimes a ride experiences technical difficulties. If you happen to be on the ride when this happens and team members need to have you exit, they will generally try to keep you hoppy with some consolation prizes. These may include a treat. We have gotten packets of Jelly Belly jellybeans. They may also tell you a secret code to come back and ride the ride again (once it reopens) without having to wait. Remember this word or snap a picture of it, just in case you forget it. If you hear of other people in the park talking about experiencing technical difficulties, you might be able to find out the ride and password.
And the best prize of all is a one-time use Universal Express pass (it is good for any ride except Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey). But be smart. They only give one pass per party (each pass admits up to five people). When team members ask how many people are in your party, you might divide into smaller groups — especially if you are planning to split up or head to different rides. So one family of five could technically be five parties of one. You might decide to share rides together after all by jumping in on a family member’s pass or decide to split up because you enjoy different rides. Anyway, if things go wrong, we frogs always try to make the best of it. And the benefits from breaking down can mean less time standing in line.
18. Take a break midday.
In a perfect world, you could arrive before park opening and stay until the very end. That way you could take advantage of the shortest lines and most comfortable temperatures on the ends of the day. But that is easier said than done. All the walking and heat (especially in summer) and missed naptimes take their toll. If your hotel is nearby, consider leaving midday (be sure to hold on to your ticket and get a hand stamp when you exit) to escape the crowds and heat. Relax in a hotel pool or darkened hotel room to recharge for the evening.
If you don’t want to leave the park, the Special Effects Show is air conditioned, making it a great choice for cooling off and escaping the sun. The tadpoles will enjoy splashing in the Wet Zone area at Super Silly Fun Lands, which has over 80 water play features. Parents can sit in the shade and cool off in the mist while watching the kids.
Another suggestion is heading out to Universal CityWalk. This themed mall offers familiar and unique shopping, dining and entertainment. Tad loves Things From Another World — a crazy comic book and sci-fi shop. Lily is into the whole "crazy socks" thing, so The Los Angeles Sock Market is her haven. For dinner, we're fans of Carl Strauss Brewing and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. #finstotheleft
Something to consider during or after your day of movie theme park thrills is by catching a movie at the Universal Cinema An AMC Theater. A dark air-conditioned theater can be a welcome oasis for tired bodies and a fun way to close down a day. Bring your Universal Studios Parking ticket to the theater Box Office for a parking rebate.
- Save Your Souvenir Shopping Until the End
Many of the items you can find throughout the park are also available at the gift shops on the way to the park exit (including the Wizarding World candies). You can avoid lugging bags with you through the park and shop in a less crowded store with perhaps shorter lines just before leaving. Plus, your chocolate frogs won’t melt in the sweltering heat if you buy them just before you leave. So unless you are looking for an interactive wand or accessory that you can enjoy in the park, save your shopping until just before exit time.
- Download the Universal Studios Hollywood app
The Universal Studios Hollywood app is your best guide in the park for quickly finding upcoming shows, checking wait times, and locating restaurants or shops. It also guides you through Universal City Walk. If you are looking for Frog Choir or Triwizard Spirit Rally performances as well as that day’s character locations and times, then this link to USH Wait times is your best resource (look under the Music or Performances headings for these small performances). The park offers free WiFi.
Have a Universal Studios Hollywood tip we didn't mention? Share it in comments below! Don't forget, we offer a Universal Studios Hollywood Park Plan to maximize your time!