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Our Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood

by Leap on June 27, 2023 Los Angeles

Summer Park Plan Universal Studios HollywoodThe summer season at Universal Studios is one of the most popular times to visit. We have long park hours to look forward to, but we also have the hot sun to think about. Our summer park plan for Universal Studios Hollywood will have you avoiding the crowds and the strong sun rays while hitting all of the park's must-do rides and entertainment. Our plan also helps you navigate its newest and most popular land, Super Nintendo World!

Planning Ahead for Universal Studios Hollywood in Summer

The key to a successful summer visit to Universal Studios Hollywood is planning ahead. We have a few steps to follow before you even arrive so that you'll be fully prepared with your summer park plan for Universal Studios Hollywood.

Arrive Early

You'll want to arrive early, an hour before park opening. That gives you time to park, go through security and get in line for the park. The attendants often open the gates about 30 minutes before the park opens, giving you access to the Wizarding World and letting you line up in front of the four escalators that take you down to the Lower Lot. Arriving early is one of the best ways to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Make A Toadstool Café Reservation Early in the Morning

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Toadstool Cafe QR Code

If dining at Toadstool Café is a must for you, then you may need to get your same-day reservation before you even arrive. Use this link to take you to the restaurant page, and click the phrase at the top that reads, “Make a reservation to join the waitlist to dine at Toadstool Café by clicking here.”

Here’s the tricky part: We’ve seen this reservation link open earlier than 7 a.m. and as late as 9 a.m. So, you need to go on the site at about 7 a.m. and periodically refresh the site until you see the date is open. However, all of the available reservations may fill up before park opening, so it’s important to check it as early as you can. You do not need to be on-site or in the park to join. You cannot join through the app.

Another upside to having a Toadstool Café reservation is that it gets you right into Super Nintendo World, even if the land is closed to new entrants and is operating under the virtual line. Hop over to our post on how to access Super Nintendo World.

Keep in mind that dining at Toadstool Café takes a while. Even with a reservation, it can take 20 to 30 minutes to order food. Then once you are seated, it may take 30 to 50 minutes for your food to arrive. Order everything you want all at once, including desserts, and ask for extra water because you might just finish your drinks before the food arrives. It is safe to say that you should allocate about 90 minutes of your day to dining here. It may be quicker early in the morning and later at night.

Download the Latest Version of the Universal Studios Hollywood App Before You Visit

An important detail to remember is to download the latest version of the Universal Studios Hollywood app before arriving. Add your tickets or passes to the app for easy access (although you cannot add your Early Access tickets to the app, so have those accessible on your phone or printed out). Add your credit card ahead of time so you can use the mobile order feature for select restaurants. Get familiar with the app, so you know where to go to find wait times, dining options, showtimes and virtual queues.

Consider a Universal Express Ticket

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Universal Express ticket

Summer is a great time to spring for Universal Express. It is a costly add-on, but it does ensure you'll get to do everything and skip the long lines for most attractions. It does not give you Express access to Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge though. But if the land is full and utilizing a virtual line, you can use your Express ticket for one-time access to get into Super Nintendo World without joining a virtual line.

Get Early Access

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Early Morning park entrance

Arrive earlier than early with Early Access. You can pay a little more to explore the newest and most popular land — Super Nintendo World — with low capacity an hour before the park officially opens. Then follow our park plan below for the best time to hit each ride and attraction once the park officially opens.

No matter where you purchase your Universal Studios ticket, you can purchase a separate Early Access ticket through Universal Studios. It sells out in advance, so you do need to plan your visit ahead of time and purchase those tickets at least three weeks in advance. We don’t always recommend spending money on add-on experiences, but if you want to play challenges and ride Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, then Early Access is toadally worth it.

Arrive about 45 minutes before Early Access starts (to allow time to park, walk to the park, go through security, enter the park and make your way down the four escalators leading to the Lower Lot). It will give you one uncrowded hour to complete all the challenges and ride Mario Kart before the crowds descend. Then, at official park opening, you can hit all the other attractions with the shortest lines of the day while everyone else heads to Super Nintendo World.

One more benefit to Early Access is that it keeps you out of the sun. Almost all the challenges in Super Nintendo World are outside with no shade cover. Taking care of those in the early morning will keep you out of the sun rather than waiting in longer lines later in the day.

Another perk to Early Access is that it also gives you Express Access to the Studio Tour before 11 a.m., so be sure to take advantage of that just before 11 a.m. to skip the line. Plus, you are mostly shaded on the tour as the sun starts getting strong.

Early Access Park Plan

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Piranha Plant Mishap during Early Access

Let’s assume you have Early Access.

1. Secure a dining reservation for Toadstool Café (even before you arrive, if possible).

2. Arrive 45 minutes before Early Access.

3. If you need to purchase a Power-Up Band upon arrival, we recommend the store across from where you exit the escalators in the Lower Lot. You’ll find no line here. You'll scan the QR code on the back of the band and name it.

4. Head straight to Super Nintendo World.

5. Complete all the challenges. Once you earn at least three keys, you can enter Bowser Jr.'s Shadow Showdown.

6. Ride Mario Kart before 9 a.m. (If you want to ride a second time, we recommend Single Rider.)

7. Continue with the park plan below, starting with the other rides in the Lower Lot and making sure to use your skip-the-line express benefit for the Studio Tour by 11 a.m.

Our Step-By-Step Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Jurassic World Boat makes a splash

Ready to hop on this summer park plan for Universal Studios Hollywood? This plan assumes you do not have Universal Express or Early Access. But hopfully, you arrive an hour before the park opens and have followed some of the other steps above to prepare for your visit, set up your day and be ready to go. Here's how to have a great day and stay cool during the summer. (Some of your rides or dining times may vary depending on virtual lines and Toadstool Café reservations.)

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - People ride Mario Kart

1. Enter the park 30 minutes early (if the turnstiles open early)

2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (if in the park 30 minutes early)

3. Flight of the Hippogriff (if in the park 30 minutes early)

4. Save exploring the Wizarding World for later, and go to the escalators to the Lower Lot.

5. Enter Super Nintendo World and head straight to Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge. Do Single Rider if you don't have small children with you.

6. Leave Super Nintendo World to knock out the rest of the Lower Lot while the lines are very short in the first hour of official park opening.

7. Jurassic World — The Ride

8. Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride

9. Transformers: The Ride-3D

10. Meet Transformers or dinosaurs if they are out.

11. Head up to Upper Lot (look in the app for Virtual Lines for Super Nintendo World — for later re-entry — and Secret Life of Pets).

12. Studio Tour

13. Lunch either at Three Broomsticks or Toadstool Café (both have indoor seating)

14. Wand Pairing experience at Ollivanders

15. Explore the Wizarding World (and cast spells if you have a wand) while attraction lines peak. (Be sure to ask a team member about showtimes in the Wizarding World.)

16. Kung Fu Panda Adventure

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Audience getting wet in WaterWorld

17. WaterWorld (consider the soak zones if you don't mind getting drenched and want to cool off; otherwise, avoid the green seats)

18. Meet characters.

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Girls in water play area of Super Silly Fun Land

19. Super Silly Fun Land if you have small children (bring swimsuits and shoes that can get wet for the tadpoles)

20. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

21. Secret Life of Pets (depending on virtual line return time)

22. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (if you did not ride early)

23. Flight of the Hippogriff (if you did not ride early)

24. Dinner (we recommend Three Broomsticks or Cocina Mexicana — if looking to mobile order, try Hollywood and Dine or Minion Café)

25. If the challenges in Super Nintendo World are important to you, we recommend buying Early Access or doing them during the last two hours of park operating hours.

26. Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle (through Aug. 13, 2023) — Ask about showtimes in the park.

27. The Simpson's Ride

Tools to Save Time in Summer

Use these additional tools as necessary to reduce your wait time.

Wait Time Alerts

Another tool you can use in your day is the Wait Time Alerts feature in the Universal Studios Hollywood app. On each ride page, you can scroll down to see a Wait Time Alert. You can set what you feel would be a reasonable amount of time to wait for that attraction, and when the wait time drops, you'll receive a notification.

Single Rider

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Single Riders Line

Another tool, for people willing to split off from their party, is the Single Riders line. You'll fill in empty seats on rides in exchange for a much shorter wait. The following rides offer a Single Riders line:

  • Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge
  • Jurassic World — The Ride
  • Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

You only need to use this if the wait time is longer than you are willing to spend.

Child Switch

Summer Park Plan for Universal Studios Hollywood - Forbidden Journey Child Switch

If you have a small child who is not tall enough to ride, ask an attendant about Child Switch. One parent can watch the child (sometimes in a designated Child Switch room) while the first parent rides. Then the parents can switch places. The second parent can bring a party member to ride with them, so if you have an older child, they just might get to ride twice, once with each parent! That saves you from each parent waiting in a full line to ride.

Don't froget to wear sunscreen, hats and sunglasses! You'll also want to stay hydrated all day long.

Follow our summer park plan at Universal Studios Hollywood to stay cool and avoid the longest lines. Do you know what else is cool? Saving money on your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets! Save up to $50 per ticket for 1-day general admission and up to $130 per ticket for Universal Express when you purchase authorized tickets through Undercover Tourist!

Related: How to Manage Summer Crowds and Heat at Universal Studios Hollywood

Related: When to Hop on Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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