Do you love movies? If so, Universal Studios Hollywood is for you! The magic of movie-making comes to life at the park, which combines the quintessential Hollywood movie experience with frogtastic theme park attractions and shows. Universal Studios Hollywood is one of our Frog Family favorites, especially Tad's! The Studio Tour includes the exciting finale of Fast and Furious: Supercharged. Other action-packed attractions include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! Now, you can also visit the popular Super Nintendo World, which features the attraction Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge.
Maximize your time and get the most out of your visit with our Universal Studios Hollywood tips, so are you ready for action? Let's hop to it!
21 Universal Studios Hollywood Tips to Maximize Your Time
1. Buy Your Tickets in Advance
You'll always save time and money when you buy your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets in advance. Why wait in a long line at the ticket booth when you can purchase tickets from your couch?
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. Hop over to our Los Angeles Crowd Calendar to check out crowd predictions, as well as our guide to the best times to visit Universal Studios Hollywood. Another thing to consider is park hours. Check the park hours before your visit. When park hours are short (say, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), you'll especially want to arrive early to fit everything in before the park closes.
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 access to most rides, shows and attractions. (Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge is not included on Universal Express. However, Universal Express does include one-time per day reservation-free access to the land when reservations are needed.) Now that's the way to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood!
With the Universal Express Pass, you should have no problem seeing most attractions, even on super busy days. 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 is a must if you cannot arrive in the morning to purchase them at the gate.
You can upgrade your ticket inside the park. Or, you may want to plan ahead by purchasing Universal Express in advance. 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.
Both the Express and Unlimited Express Passes allow for one-time (per day) entry into Super Nintendo World without reservations.
4. Arrive Ahead of Park Opening
We frogs have a saying ... the early frog 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!
If you are at the park entrance 30 minutes early, you just might get in early (depending on the day). Not all attractions may be open, but it gives you a great head start on your day. The Wizarding World usually opens first. If the Lower Lot is open, head there ASAP and knock out those rides early in the day as they generally form the longest lines later.
During some peak seasons, Universal may offer early entry (which can be purchased directly through Universal). This is no longer offered daily or even for some holidays. But if early entry is happening, the park may open the gates to all guests after they let in any guests with early entry tickets. That means you may score early access to the Wizarding World before the park officially opens! This may vary based on the time of year and the size of the crowd. But it's toadally cool when it happens.
5. Allow at Least 30 Minutes for Parking and Security
Give yourself enough time to park, walk to security and get through the metal detectors. Most general parking is sent to the farthest parking structures. Those lots will have you walking through Universal CityWalk (about 10 to 15 minutes) to get to the security screening area. You can upgrade to Preferred parking to park at Frankenstein (and sometimes even closer to the front gate). The Frankenstein structure is very close to the park exit for that quick getaway at the end of the night. You can further upgrade to Front Gate parking, which puts you right next to security. That saves time but costs more money. If you plan to shop and eat in CityWalk anyway, then regular parking makes the most sense.
6. Eat Breakfast Before You Arrive
In order to 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 (starting at $250 a night), which includes a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, muffins, a doughnut bar, dim sum, pork dumplings, eggs, bacon and even Nutella! Wandering through Universal CityWalk, your breakfast options include Starbucks, Subway, Jamba Juice and Voodoo Doughnut. If you've skipped breakfast, The Three Broomsticks serves an English breakfast in the Wizarding World.
7. Bring Your Own Water or Purchase Souvenir Cups
By bringing your own water, not only will you save time waiting in lines, but you'll also save money. While Universal Studios Hollywood isn't as lenient as the Disneyland Resort about bringing in outside food, you can bring water bottles (maximum 2 liters), baby food, small snacks, fruits and vegetables into the park. You can bring items required for medical purposes and special dietary needs. Small, soft-sided, insulated bags are OK, but 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 Halloween Horror Nights.
If you are concerned about meeting your dietary needs in the park, you can consult the Dietary Food Guide for hints on how to find gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and peanut-free foods in the park. All the restaurant menus are now on the Universal Studios Hollywood app.
If you want to save money on soda, you can purchase souvenir cups that work at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. You can purchase a souvenir cup for $17 (or two for $16 each) at participating locations. You'll get access to 100 drink choices and unlimited refills (one pour every 10 minutes) the day you purchase it. If you are returning, you can purchase an extra day of refills for $11.
8. Utilize Package Pickup
Don’t want those bags of souvenirs slowing you down? Don’t worry about it! Any purchases made (including packaged treats such as those adorable Honeydukes bakery items!) can be held at the front of the park for you. Just ask the team member who is ringing you up to utilize package pickup. They will send your items to be held inside the Universal Store nearest the entrance to the park, and even make sure they all end up together if you purchase from multiple places.
9. Schedule Your Day Around the Shows
WaterWorld is the biggest show in the park. Arrive early if you want to see it. The Animal Actors and Special Effects shows closed permanently on Jan. 9, 2023.
The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle takes place during certain seasons, such as select nights of spring break and summer. You can catch smaller acts in the Wizarding World such as the Triwizard Spirit Rally. During the Christmas season, catch the Holiday Frog Choir along with The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle and Grinchmas shows.
We schedule our day around the shows we want to see. 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 (look for shows on the map and tap them to get the next available times). But some smaller shows are not listed. You may have to ask about Wizarding World shows in the land. There are also show 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. The shows offer rest for your tired flippers in the afternoon.
10. Plan Your Visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
One of our top Universal Studios tips is to break up your visits to the Wizarding World, which is centrally located in the Upper Lot. You can ride the Wizarding World rides — Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff — first thing in the morning as it is the first area to open before the rest of the park opens. Then, at park opening, tear yourself away to other rides with short wait times (such as those in the Lower Lot). Circle back to Hogsmeade later in the day for lunch or dinner and shopping when the wait times in the rest of 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 Ollivanders is the longest in the morning after opening. The line drops off significantly in the late afternoon and evening, so it is better to wait.
During the recent visits, we have found that the Wizarding World has shorter waits in the later afternoon and early evening, so if you arrive after opening, save your visit for these rides at the end of your day.
11. 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 rides, shows and attractions. Be sure to ask when the Lower Lot opens. Usually, it opens with the park, but at slower times, it could be an hour later. Hit the Lower Lot ASAP for the shortest wait times of the day.
There's now an Indominus rex animatronic as part of Jurassic World — The Ride. That means you should try to hop on the ride as early as you can to experience this newer ending. It's so realistic!
Super Nintendo World, located to the left of Transformers: The Ride in the Lower Lot, may require a Virtual Line time slot (or a special ticket) to enter during peak times. Hop over to our post on accessing Super Nintendo World for more details.
12. Reduce Time on the StarWay
The elevators that connect the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot are very loooonnnnngggggg and can very well take 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 (as soon as it opens in the morning) because the lines are shortest there in the morning. They peak in the afternoon. Try to time your reservation to visit Super Nintendo World for the time you'll be in the Lower Lot. If you have Universal Express, you do not need a reservation to enter the land one time per day.
13. Use the Single Rider Lines
If you don't mind splitting up your party on a ride, the Single Rider lines are the fastest way to get on a ride without having a Universal Express Pass. You can't beat a free way to skip the line! It's one of our top tips to maximize time at Universal Studios Hollywood. There are minimum Universal Studios height requirements for tadpoles to ride without an adult, so make sure they measure up first.
Attractions with Single Rider lines:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride
- Transformers: The Ride 3D
- Jurassic World - The Ride
- Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge
Single Rider is subject to availability. Ask a team member about it. The line may close when it gets too long. At some rides, such as Revenge of the Mummy, the team member may offer you a pass to use for Single Rider.
14. Be Strategic About Your Studio Tour
The Studio Tour closes before Universal Studios Hollywood closes, so check the last tram departure and wait times so you don't miss out.
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 3D 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.
If you purchase the Early Access ticket for Super Nintendo World, you get one-time Express use for the Studio Tour (valid if used before 11 a.m.).
15. 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 sit-down restaurant, there are plenty of options at CityWalk next door.
If you are a "Harry Potter" fan (OK, even if you aren't), 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. Wizarding alcoholic beverages are available for purchase in Hog's Head Pub.
Hop over to our yummiest guide to Universal Studios Hollywood restaurants for more choices.
16. Don't Want to Worry About Anything? Purchase the VIP Experience
With the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience ticket, you will enjoy a six- to eight-hour personal, guided tour of the park. This includes valet parking, light snacks and refreshments in the private VIP lounge, exclusive Backlot access, unlimited priority access (with Unlimited Universal Express) to all of the rides and shows (with a guide to get you the best seats) and a gourmet meal in the private VIP 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. The order on the itinerary can vary per day, but you will eat about three hours into your tour. There is limited availability, so book in advance. Children must be at least 5 years old.
17. Take Advantage of Child Switch
If any of your children cannot 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 and take a companion with you. We have more tips for entertaining small children at Universal Studios Hollywood if you are bringing a little tadpole with you.
18. Make the Best of Ride Breakdowns
Sometimes a ride experiences technical difficulties. If you're on the ride when this happens and team members need to have you exit (or delay you on the ride before it starts operating again), 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 again (once the attraction reopens) without having to wait. Remember this word or snap a picture of it, just in case you forget it.
And the best prize of all is a single-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. If things go wrong, we frogs always try to make the best of it. The benefits of breaking down can mean less time standing in line.
19. Take a Mid-day Break
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 at the end of the day. But that is easier said than done. All of the walking, heat (especially in summer) and missed nap times take their toll. If your hotel is nearby, consider leaving midday to escape the crowds and heat. Be sure to hold onto your ticket and get a hand stamp when you exit. Relax in a hotel pool or darkened hotel room to recharge for the evening. This is only recommended for days with longer park hours. Otherwise, you might miss out on experiencing everything.
If you don’t want to leave the park, Kung Fu Panda is air-conditioned, making it a great choice for cooling off and escaping the sun. Use this time to meet the characters. The tadpoles will enjoy splashing in the Wet Zone area at Super Silly Fun Land, which has over 80 water play features. Parents can sit in the shade and cool off in the mist while watching the kids.
Another fun option is heading out to Universal CityWalk. This themed mall offers familiar and unique shopping, dining and entertainment. Tad loves Dark Horse Comics for all of his comic book needs. Lily is into the whole "crazy socks" thing, so The Los Angeles Sock Market is her haven. For dinner, the tadpoles are fans of Johnny Rockets. Leap and I prefer Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville (#finstotheleft) or Antojitos. The whole frog fam is excited that the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is now open! We usually visit CityWalk after we've left the park for the night because CityWalk is open later than the theme park.
Something to consider during or after your day of movie theme park thrills is catching a movie at the Universal Cinema 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.
20. Do Your Souvenir Shopping When the Attraction Lines Are Long
Lines in the stores can get crowded at the end of the night, especially the ones closer to the exit. With package pickup, you can do your shopping when lines are shortest (typically in the middle of the day) and send your goodies to wait for your retrieval! Our favorite froggy tradition is sending a Giant Lard Lad Simpson’s doughnut or some chocolate frogs to the package pickup and eating the goodies at the end of our night for dessert!
21. 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 (and menus) or shops. It also guides you through Universal CityWalk. The park offers free Wi-Fi. You can always ask a team member if you can't find a show time, such as the Wizarding World performances, since not every show is listed.
You may also use the Universal Studios Hollywood app to get a Virtual Line Pass when offered. Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash sometimes offers a Virtual Line during busy times. That allows you to enjoy the rest of the park instead of standing in a long line!
You have to be physically in the park to get a pass. We recommend joining the Virtual Line once it opens mid-morning, if available. You can also join the Virtual Line for Secret Life of Pets near the ride at kiosks that look like subway ticket machines (toadally awesome feature, BTW). You can join the Virtual Line from the ticket machine as it is not linked to your park ticket.
In order to ride Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge in Super Nintendo World, you'll need to have access to the land when the reservation system is in place. People who have a Universal Express ticket get one-time access to enter the land without a reservation.
Have a Universal Studios Hollywood tip we didn't mention or a question? Share it in the comments below! Don't froget — we offer a Universal Studios Hollywood Park Plan to maximize your time!
Related: Toadally Magical Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood