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 of those cars on the roads can lead to terrible traffic. When you are on vacation, you want to relax like you’re chilling on a lily pad, floating downstream and watching the scenery pass by. Doesn’t that sound better than feeling like Frogger while dodging brake lights on unfamiliar freeways? If traffic and parking stresses you out, then taking public transportation to Disneyland and Universal Studios might put you in a hoppier state of mind.
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! Some of these methods will save you some green compared to paying for gas and parking. We love saving money, and we bet you do, too! Here’s how to hop on public transportation to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Taking Public Transportation to and from Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood
All Aboard! Taking the Train to Disneyland
Whether you are coming from Los Angeles, South Orange County, North San Diego or Riverside/San Bernardino, you can jump on the train to the 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). Kids love trains, so the ride to Disneyland just might be equally exciting as visiting Disneyland itself!
The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner offers daily service between San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Both Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink train tickets will get you a free shuttle from ARTIC on Route 15. To take the shuttle after exiting the train, use the elevator or stairs to cross the bridge from the platform to the station. Exit on the right side of the station, which is the same side as the Amtrak ticket window. Head to Bus Bay 12 to hop on the Anaheim Resort Transit to Disneyland. Route 15 operates every 20 minutes, and the bus trip takes about 10-15 minutes. The bus will drop you off just outside of the security checkpoint off of Harbor Boulevard. Route 14 also takes guests to the Disneyland Resort.
Shuttles follow Disneyland hours, so they start usually an hour before park opening, and the last shuttles leave about 20 minutes after park closing. Keep in mind that in comparison, it can easily take much longer than the shuttle ride to park at Disneyland Resort and wait for a resort shuttle, so you might be able to maximize your time if you don’t drive to the resort. To head back to the station, walk back to the transportation area and wait at #15 to take Route 15 back to the station. Be sure to show your train ticket.
How much does this cost? An adult weekday roundtrip Metrolink or Amtrak ticket varies based on day and distance. The bus fare is $5 per adult and $2 per child for all-day passes. 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 $25 per day.
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).
Hopping on the Bus to Disneyland
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 bus stops outside many Anaheim hotels, so you can simply hop on buses from your hotel to Disneyland to avoid the hassle of parking. Tell the tadpoles it's their first ride of the day!
If you are coming from further inland, such as Riverside and San Bernardino, you can take the Commuterlink Express Bus 200 for just $3 each way ($2 for seniors/disabled/veterans) and get dropped off just outside of security. The bus starts at 3:42 a.m. weekdays and 6:00 a.m. weekends. (The early frogs get the flies, we always say. And at Disneyland the “flies” happen to be arriving for Magic Morning or rope drop.)
The last bus leaves Anaheim at 9:29 p.m. weekdays and 9:09 p.m. weekends. (Times subject to change.) The route pick-up and drop-off locations include:
- San Bernardino Downtown Transit Center
- Downtown Riverside at Lemon & University
- Downtown Riverside Metrolink Station
- Riverside Galleria at Tyler
- La Sierra Metrolink Station
- The Village at Orange
- Disneyland (Harbor Blvd. near East Shuttle Way)
The Commuterlink busses have Wi-Fi, charging ports and comfortable seating. Ribbit, ribbit!
Hopping on the Disneyland Express to Disneyland
If you fly in and your one and only stop is Disneyland, there’s no need to rent a car. Hop on the Disneyland Express from LAX or Orange County airports to your hotel, whether it is on or off Disney property. Buses depart about every hour from each airport. Did you know you can save money by booking your Disneyland Resort Express trip through Undercover Tourist? Hop aboard for savings and smooth travels!
Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
It may not be the Hogwarts Express, but 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 via Amtrak and Metrolink), you can use your Metrolink ticket to transfer to the Red Line Metro Rail subway. Travel on the Red Line Westbound the direction of North Hollywood, and exit at Universal City/Studio City. There you will find a free shuttle that will take you right to the front gate of Universal Studios Hollywood. The shuttle runs every 10-15 minutes, seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. until two hours after park closing.
Note that if you are already in the LA area, you can probably buy the Metro Rail tickets for much less if you do not need to use Metrolink to get to Union Station. You can find the Metro train schedule here. Be sure to check your dates before your trip just to be sure there aren’t any closures or changes.
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 Front Gate 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 really 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 buses. Also, there is a new Metro rail line that takes riders to Santa Monica! Santa Monica is home to the 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 your hotel in 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 cost of taking the train or simply renting a car and parking. Parking at Universal costs $25 per car (more if you choose closer parking).
If you are flying in and need transportation, you might consider the nonstop LAX FlyAway buses. They can get you from the airport to Union Station and locations throughout the city, including Hollywood, inexpensively. From those locations, you can hop on the Red Line to Universal City.
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 or bus rather than navigating traffic and unfamiliar freeways (which can stretch up to seven lanes wide in some spots yet shrink down to one lane in others) is 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.