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How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood

by Leap on May 16, 2023 6 Los Angeles

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - PinterestUniversal Studios Hollywood is both the hottest and coolest place to be this summer. With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World — The RideSecret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! and the opening of the all-new Super Nintendo World, there is a lot of excitement at Universal Studios Hollywood. And you’ll find that you are not the only one excited about these new additions, which means you need to know how to manage summer crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood to have a great day in the park. Here are our tips for a well-planned day along with tips to beat the heat.

How to Beat the Heat and Manage Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood

Arrive Early!

We never get tired of doling out this advice because it is so important. Arrive early. Try to be at the park when it opens. LA freeway traffic is awful in the morning, so if you have to take the freeway, allow extra time for rush hour traffic. Arrive an hour before the park opens. Allow 30 minutes to park and walk to the gate. Universal has increased security with bag checks and metal detectors. Sometimes the turnstiles open earlier than scheduled, so it pays to be there early. If that happens, the Wizarding World is open before the rest of the park opens. Knock out those rides before heading to the Lower Lot at official park opening.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Early Access Sign

If visiting Super Nintendo World is a high priority for you, there is a new Early Access option that we highly recommend. You can purchase online from Universal Studios directly (even if you already bought your discount tickets through Undercover Tourist). But buy Early Access as soon as you get your ticket, because it does sell out each day. It will allow you to play the outdoor challenges with the shortest waits before the sun gets strong.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Band at entrance to Super Nintendo Land

Early Access gets you in the land one hour before park opening so you can play all the games and ride Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge before the crowds arrive. That means you need to arrive about an hour to 45 minutes before Early Access to make the most of your time. Before you enter the land, be sure to make a reservation at Toadstool Café at this link or the QR code in the park ASAP because all the times will be booked up for the day in the morning.

Hit the Lower Lot in the Morning for the Shortest Lines

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Meet Dinosaurs in Lower Lot

The morning hours offer the shortest lines of the day, especially in the Lower Lot. There is usually no line, or very short lines, for the first hour for Jurassic World — The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride-3D. You can hop on those rides first thing and get the Lower Lot done for the day if you hit them early. Everyone else will be in Super Nintendo World (also in the Lower Lot). We like to hit Jurassic World and then The Mummy to cool off. Your wet clothes can keep you cool for some time as you head up to the Upper Lot. Other fun things to do in the Lower Lot include meeting dinosaurs and Transformers.

If you do not have Early Access to Super Nintendo World and are let in the park 30 minutes before opening, ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff first before attempting to head down to the Lower Lot. Those rides open early. The people trying to get to the Lower Lot will be held at the top of the escalators until closer to park opening.

Super Nintendo World sometimes has a Virtual Line reservation system. Join that through the Universal Studios Hollywood app. If you do not have Early Access, you may want to hit Mario Kart with Single Rider early and then come back to that land to spend more time later when you have a Toadstool Café reservation or during the last few hours of park opening to play games and explore. Crowds drop off at the end of the night.

Maximize Your Time with a Park Plan

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Harry Potter Fans

We highly recommend Early Access for Super Nintendo World, but if it's sold out or it's not in your budget, we have a solid Park Plan to guide you in what to do and when.

Many guests head straight to Super Nintendo World or Wizarding World first thing, and we can’t blame them (these lands get us toadally excited too!). But if you arrive before opening (even without Early Access you might get in the park 30 minutes early, and the only rides open are on the Wizarding World), we recommend heading to the back of the Wizarding World for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and then hitting Lower Lot immediately after. You can complete all the rides outside Super Nintendo World in the Lower Lot pretty quickly and then head back up the escalators to the Upper Lot attractions and Studio Tour.

We recommend returning to the Wizarding World later for shopping, dining and casting spells. Return to Super Nintendo World during the last few hours of the day for shorter lines.

If you wait until the afternoon to hit the Lower Lot, you will have the longest wait times of the day, whereas Harry Potter lines can stay consistent or even get shorter. Even if the Lower Lot is open right away and you head straight there and find that Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has a 45-minute wait when you come back, you'll have saved time. The time savings you acquired not waiting for the rides in the Lower Lot compared to the afternoon wait times for those three rides still puts you ahead.

When should you visit the Wizarding World? Any time is good — we often find ourselves coming and going throughout the day since it is so centrally located. We like to hit it before the park officially opens, then leave and come back for an early lunch, and then again later in the day to do our shopping, explore and have fun with Wizarding World wands once the ride wait times are long throughout the rest of the park. Forbidden Journey does have a Single Riders line, but it does not walk through the castle. You definitely want to walk through the line that takes you through the castle (the regular queue or with Universal Express) at least once if you are a fan of the movies or books!

Diehard Harry Potter fans will want to experience every inch of Hogsmeade (including the restrooms), so if you have some wizard wannabes in your family, budget about three hours of your day in Hogsmeade to really see and do it all. Be sure to hop over to our Superfan's Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood for the must-see details. If ride lines are over an hour, budget more time accordingly. You do not want to waste short morning wait times while you're exploring. Hop back in the afternoon when the park has longer lines so you can take time to enjoy the Wizarding World.

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wands

While both rides in the Wizarding World accept Universal Express, the Ollivanders wand pairing ceremony does not. Just keep your eye on that wand pairing wait time. It is consistently long right after opening and during that first hour of operation (closer to an hour wait). It seems to take a dip around lunchtime and dips further in the late afternoon/early evening (think more like 10 minutes). The shortest wait of the day is an hour or two before park closing. So don’t feel the pressure to get in line for the wand pairing first thing. It should mellow out. If you are visiting on a busy holiday weekend, you can expect longer lines than on other days.

Use Tools to Maximize Time

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Forbidden Journey Child Switch

Several tools can help you maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood and beat the heat. Frequently check out the wait time signs located throughout the park to get a sense of where the shortest lines are, use Single Rider lines (especially for the second time you ride Forbidden Journey or Mario Kart) and use Child Switch to save time if you have a little one. We recommend using the afternoon to hit the Studio Tour and Water World show when you need a rest. Kids will enjoy having some water playtime in Super Silly Fun Land to beat the heat. Also, hop over to our post on how to access Super Nintendo World. There are several tools to help you out for that land.

Virtual Line Pass

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - Virtual Line

Universal Studios Hollywood has been introducing virtual lines for some experiences during busy times. A virtual line can allow you to enjoy other aspects of the park instead of spending hours waiting in a long line for popular shows and attractions. The new Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! ride offers a virtual line at times. If it runs out, keep checking back in the app at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. as more could be released throughout the day.

Super Nintendo World also utilizes a virtual line reservation to be able to enter the land when it hits capacity. The land is small and very popular, so once it fills up, the virtual line system helps control the flow of guests entering the land.

To join a virtual line, be sure to download the Universal Studios Hollywood app before you visit. Once you enter the park, check for any virtual lines and reserve your place. You cannot hop in a virtual line until you are on property. The Secret Life of Pets ride also has a kiosk to collect a virtual line space. It looks like a subway pass machine and is located to the left of the ride entrance.

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wait Time AlertWait Time Alert and Show Reminders

You can set a Wait Time Alert for rides and a show reminder for shows. It's possible that shows could open a virtual line. If not, set reminders before shows so you don't miss them. We recommend setting a reminder in the app for 60 minutes before the showtime you want to see.

For rides and experiences, such as Ollivanders, you can set a Wait Time Alert in the app for when the attraction reaches an acceptable, shorter wait time. You can even practice this at home. You'll get an alert on your phone when the wait time drops to your preferred time!

Universal Express Tickets

If you can afford a Universal Express ticket, your day will be stress-free and you can access most rides once without having to wait or worry about following a park plan. But these tickets are not inexpensive. You can buy a regular admission ticket and upgrade at the box office in the park. It is a gamble to wait to purchase until your visit though. Universal Studios Hollywood only sells 10 percent of park capacity as Universal Express, so buy in the morning before it sells out.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Express Pass

A perk of having Universal Express is that you can use it for one-time access to Super Nintendo World without a reservation. Universal Express does not work for skipping the queue for Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge.

The price to upgrade in the park varies based on the day and crowd level. The price may go up with demand! You can get a hoppin' deal on all Universal Express tickets and regular tickets through your favorite froggy friends at Undercover Tourist. It's hard to know in advance how much it will cost to upgrade in the park. We've seen the upgrade price hit $145 on a busy summer day. If it is important to you to have Express access, then it is safest to buy in advance.

If you really want to ride again and again, you can upgrade to Unlimited Universal Express inside the park. The price varies.

Go on a VIP Tour

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - VIP Tour

If this is your one chance to see and do it all, spring for a VIP Experience (psst can save when purchasing through Undercover Tourist). This is the easiest way to break from the summer crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood. You'll get front-of-the-line Unlimited Universal Express access to all rides and seated shows, plus a private tour of the Backlot. You'll gain entry to areas other guests can only dream about. Your food and valet parking is included. Plus, you get your very own theme park entrance!

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wait time Mario Kart

Your VIP Tour also gets you unlimited access to Super Nintendo World and allows you unlimited access to skip the line for Mario Kart! That is significant, as we've seen wait times reach 240 minutes! At least the queue is mostly indoors for people who have to wait.

There is a secret VIP Theme Park Experience that also gets you into Super Nintendo World and unlimited access to Mario Kart but it costs less than the VIP Tour. You can upgrade at the VIP entrance when you arrive if it's available. You cannot reserve in advance. It does not include the private backlot tour. It does include lunch and a theme park guided tour. The price may vary. When we visited during spring break, it would have cost us an additional $110 per ticket to upgrade our Universal Express tickets to this plan.

Single Riders Line

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - Single Riders Line

The Single Riders line is one of our favorite way to skip the lines at Universal. You can use it for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in the Upper Lot and for all the rides in the Lower Lot, including Mario Kart. The Mario Kart Single Riders line is to the right as soon as you walk through the Warp Pipe to enter the building. It does skip the immersive queue elements, but it does save you a lot of time. Team members may close Single Riders lines from time to time if they get too long.

How to Stay Cool

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Super Silly Splash Pad

Universal Studios is the hottest place to be this summer — literally hot — so don’t let the sparkling snow on the rooftops in Hogsmeade fool you! The Southern California sun is strong. Start out your day by slathering on the sunscreen. Wear light-colored clothes, hats and sunglasses, and bring a swimsuit for the kids for the water play areas. If you are really sensitive to the sun, you can bring an umbrella for additional shade.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Challenge in the sun

The Super Nintendo World characters, challenges and challenge lines are outside in the sun. Be sure to wear sun protection and bring water with you. That's another reason to visit at the end of the day or during Early Access. The Mario Kart line and queue are indoors. Toadstool Café is indoors as well, so a mid-afternoon lunch will get you out of the sun for a bit. It does take some time to order and receive food there.

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Water World Entrance

You can plan your attractions based on the heat of the day (the day will be at its hottest from about 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.). When you are hot and feeling low on energy, a seated show sounds very welcoming.

WaterWorld offers a way to cool off by getting wet if you sit in the soak zones. You may find that the front, left side of the center bleacher section (when facing the water) is the wettest.

The Studio Tour offers a shaded and misted line. The tour itself guarantees one hour of sitting in a shaded tram. You will get drops of water on you from time to time — but just enough to refresh you.

Jurassic World — The Ride ride offers guaranteed soaking (especially if you sit in the front). But that line will get long quickly on a hot day. There are Cool Zone stations around the park that have giant fans blowing cool mist on guests. They are surprisingly refreshing. Some ride and show lines offer misters.

Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood - Felonious Float

You can always cool off with a frozen treat such as a frozen Butterbeer or an ice cream-covered sticky toffee pudding in Hogsmeade, a Squishee in Springfield USA or a Felonious Float from Minion Café in Super Silly Fun Land. You will find plenty of ice cream and shakes (and many other fun Universal treats) in the park to help beat the heat.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Tropical Drinks Isla Nu-Bar

Mommy Frog and I love the tropical adult drinks at Isla Nu-Bar. You can find the bar in front of Jurassic World — The Ride. When we use the souvenir cups that come with the drinks, it takes us back to our summer vacation.

Plan Your Meals

Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Feast at Wizarding World

Whether or not you are a Harry Potter fan, you will enjoy the pub food in the Wizarding World. It is really tasty. We suggest an early or late lunch at the Three Broomsticks. The foods and drinks in the Wizarding World are surprisingly good and come in generous portions. They say the Great Feast feeds four, but six people (especially if some are tadpoles) could easily share it. The best time to get in without a wait is early when they are transitioning from breakfast to lunch.

If you plan to eat dinner in the park, be sure to check out the restaurant's closing times. Some restaurants close early. We recently had our hearts set on some pizza at Luigi's and some nachos at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck. But we found out a little too late that they closed early (two hours before park closing). The restaurants post their hours in advance on in-park signs, so do your research earlier in the day. At the end of a long, hot day, you do not want any surprises.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Toadstool Cafe

Toadstool Café is the newest and most popular restaurant. You can find it in Super Nintendo World. We have a whole post on Super Nintendo World food and novelties. In the morning on the day of your visit, at about 7:30 a.m. follow this link to the reservations page. You do not have to be in the park or on property to reserve for Toadstool Café. All the reservations for the day fill up within an hour or two of park opening. The good news is that if you get a reservation for Toadstool Café, it allows you into the land without a separate virtual line reservation. Budget some time for this dining location. It can take some time to wait to order food and then wait for the food to arrive. So don't arrive starving! Be sure to order everything you want, including dessert, all at once. Use your time in there as an escape from the sun.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Food at Toadstool

CityWalk has dining options as well. The security equipment in front of the park makes for a long walk from the exit to the CityWalk restaurants. A long walk on tired feet and with a hungry belly does not sound good at the end of the day. But if you park in regular parking, you’ll likely be walking through CityWalk anyway. Just plan ahead for dinner so you don’t miss out. You can make dinner reservations at the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in advance. May we recommend their insane shakes? You don't want to be making decisions about eating in or out of the park with low patience and hungry kids.

How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood - Toothsome shakes

Managing Summer Crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood

Most summers, the crowds start to pick up about the second weekend in June and drop off toward the end of August. With the opening of Super Nintendo Land, many families will be visiting Universal Studios Hollywood in summer this year.

Have more tips for beating the heat or managing the summer crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood? Share them in the comments below, along with any questions you may have!

Related: Not-to-Miss Universal Studios Hollywood Attractions and Shows

Related: Yummiest Places to Eat at Universal Studios Hollywood

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Jun 7, 2023 at 5:37 p.m. Jamie M Says...

We're thinking about the Go City Pass since in includes USH. However the pass generically states 9am as the arrival time for all attractions while USH itself often opens at 8 during the summer and then has the 7am early entrance to Nintendo World. Do you have an any insight here? Is the Go City Pass not valid until 9am or is that just a general listing?

Jun 7, 2023 at 12:49 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jamie!

We see that GoCity's Guidebook recommends checking the Universal Studios Hollywood site for the most up-to-date information on park hours, so we think you should be able to visit during regularly scheduled operating hours. You would, however, need a separate ticket for the Early Access hours if you wish to take advantage of that time. Those can be purchased directly through Universal.

Keep hopping!


Jun 8, 2023 at 1:10 p.m. Jamie M Says...

So you're saying if the park opens at 8am, we will be able to get in with our Go City pass (even though it generically states 9am)? Just confirming.

Aug 5, 2023 at 4:50 p.m. alyx Says...

did you find out if u can get in before 9? i am wondering this too. we are going on the 15th and i will update what happens but i hope to find out before we go lol.

Jun 2, 2023 at 3:24 p.m. Kayla Says...

We're going outside of the summer season, early September and purchased Universal Express Tickets (at a great discount l, thank you Undercover Tourist!) Would you still recommend the early Access?

Jun 5, 2023 at 12:27 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kayla!

If you're wanting to play the game challenges and they're a top priority, then the light crowds during Early Access will make a difference and we'd recommend. Otherwise, it's up to you! By getting it done earlier in the day, you'll maximize time inside the park but not a necessity since it's usually a slower time.

Keep hopping!


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