The people of Southern California have a love affair with their cars. They love the freedom and control that driving gives them, but with a dense local population, all those cars on the roads can lead to terrible traffic. When you are on vacation you want to relax rather than white knuckle it on unfamiliar freeways.
We frogs have been getting a lot of questions from our customers on alternative ways to get to Disneyland or Universal Studios, so we hopped on the trains and did the research for you. It turns out it’s easier and less stressful than we thought. Here’s how to take public transportation to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Taking Public Transportation to and from Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood
Getting to Disneyland
Whether you are coming from Los Angeles, South Orange County, North San Diego or Riverside/San Bernardino, you can take the train to the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). This giant dome of a building is located within walking distance of both Angels Stadium and The Honda Center (where the Ducks play). If you take a Metrolink train to ARTIC, you can use your ticket to transfer for free on the ART shuttle (route 14 or 15) to Disneyland. Shuttles leave every 30 minutes and follow Disneyland hours, so they start usually an hour before park opening, and the last shuttles leave about 20 minutes after park closing. The shuttle ride has some stops and lasts about 30 minutes even though it is only going a few miles. Keep in mind that in comparison it can easily take much longer than that to park at Disneyland Resort and wait for a shuttle, so you might be able to maximize your time if you don’t drive to the resort.
How much does this cost? An adult weekday roundtrip Metrolink ticket varies based on distance. From San Juan Capistrano in South Orange County, it runs $17; and a youth/student runs $13. An adult can bring up to three children 5 and under for free. Metrolink tickets are a flat $10 per day on the weekends, but the hours are much shorter, so make sure you check the return schedules before deciding if that is the right choice for you. There are multi-day discounts. Amtrak is another option for taking the train. Prices vary based on distance and they do offer some later hours on the weekend. But you would have to pay separately for the shuttle to Disneyland if you choose Amtrak. (You might consider getting a one-way ticket home on Amtrak if you miss your Metrolink train.) The bus fare is $5 per adult and $2 per child. Prices of all tickets are subject to change. There is free parking at ARTIC, so you can also park there and take the shuttle. In comparison with driving yourself, parking at Disneyland costs $18 per day.
Keep in mind that if you are staying in Anaheim, you can use the buses to get around. Some offsite hotels offer free shuttles to Disneyland, and some offer transportation for a fee. There are many great day trips you can make using the trains. You can travel up to Union Station in LA, which is located near Olvera Street Historic District. You can also take the train for day trips down to south Orange County to historic San Juan Capistrano (home of the Mission and petting zoo) or San Clemente (one of the best beach towns with great walking trails, dining, shopping and a pier).
Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
We were surprised and excited to learn that you CAN take a train to Universal Studios from Union Station In LA. From Union Station (which has trains coming to it from all directions in the surrounding areas), you can use your Metrolink ticket to transfer to the red line Metro Rail subway. Travel in the direction of North Hollywood, but exit at Universal City. There you will find a free shuttle that will take you right to the front gate of Universal Studios Hollywood. Note that if you are already in the LA area, you can probably buy the Metro Retail tickets for much less if you do not need to use Metrolink to get to Union Station.
We recommend buying your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets in advance since they are much more expensive at the gate. Our tickets can save you up to $26 from the ticket window prices (depending on when you want to visit). If you are taking Harry Potter fans to the Wizarding World, you can pretend that the train is the Hogwarts Express. That’s the best we can offer since you can’t arrive by broomstick, Floo powder, portkey or by disapparating. But if we figure out how to arrive by magic we’ll let you know!
Here are some Metro tips worth noting: The Metrolink tickets are also good for Metro busses. Also, there is a new Metro rail line opening May 2016 that will take riders to Santa Monica! Santa Monica is home to iconic pier and beautiful beach.
Using Bus Tours
There are a number of companies that offer transportation and tours between LA and Orange County. Some of them take you from Anaheim to Universal Studios Hollywood and include a bus tour of Hollywood. You will have to shop around for the best deal, but a family of four can expect to pay about $120 to $200 for this service and much more if it includes theme park tickets. You might have to weigh the costs of taking the train or simply renting a car and parking. Parking at Universal costs $18 per car (more if you choose closer parking).
You have to weigh in your family’s ages, time schedule, interests and budget to find the right form of transportation for you. For some people, being able to relax on a train rather than navigate traffic and unfamiliar freeways, which can stretch up to seven lanes wide in some spots yet shrink down to one lane in others, to be priceless. For others, they want to come and go on their own without adhering to a schedule.
We are hoppy to present the various options in travel planning so you can find the plan that works best for you and your family. Have a question about public transportation to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood? Share it in comments below.