It felt so good to hop down the red carpet, scream our way down the drop on Jurassic World — The Ride and drink Butterbeer. Finally, we put on our wizard robes and flexed our wand hands to return to our magical place! We frogs were toadally excited to visit Universal Studios on its official reopening date on April 16 and ride a new ride!
It felt like we had never left. Obviously, some things are different for now, but it felt great and super safe to be back. We even frogot we were wearing masks for a while. If you have caught wind of how things have been operating at Universal Orlando, know that Universal Studios Hollywood is a bit stricter in terms of face coverings, as expected for a theme park in California. You cannot eat food outside of a dedicated area — no taking the popcorn to any old bench to sit down to eat. But we love all the new places tables are set up to dine. A table by the water in the Lower Lot? Yes, please. Dinner with a view of Hogwarts Castle? Absolutely. But we'll get into all of the details below.
There's been a ton of frogciting news hopping up around Universal Studios lately! First of all, Universal Studios held a ticketed Taste of Universal dining event in March and April. But the big news is that Universal Studios Hollywood is open as of April 16, 2021! Even better? The all-new Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! ride opened with the park, as did a new ending for Jurassic World — The Ride! Let's jump into the action!
Universal Studios Hollywood Events, Rides, Shows and Restaurants
Theme parks in California were allowed to reopen as of April 1 under new guidelines. Our post on what to expect when the California theme parks to reopen has all of those details.
In the meantime, Universal Studios Hollywood recently reopened for the Taste of Universal event. It was not a full reopening, but this separately ticketed event got us in the gates for shopping and outdoor dining. We filled our bellies with food and finally set foot into the theme park we'd been missing since it temporarily closed in March 2020. You bet we dusted off our wizard robes, grabbed our wands and checked it out! Lucky visitors near the end of its run got to experience technical rehearsals of rides. How exciting!
Here's Tad's video on our YouTube channel.
There were also fun photo-ops and character backdrops! We chatted with Donkey about waffles, took a distanced selfie with the Hogwarts conductor, met some minions, blew kisses to Hello Kitty and smiled with the Simpsons. On March 26, we could also talk shop with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in the Lower Lot.
Universal CityWalk is open now, and the park is operating a little differently as it reopens. The new norm is limited capacity, physical distancing measures, limitations on some indoor rides, new sanitation protocols, distanced characters, outdoor dining and, of course, required face coverings.
What rides and shows are open during the Universal Studios Hollywood reopening period?
The following rides are operational (subject to change):
- Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash (prepare to use a Virtual Line)
- Jurassic World — The Ride (with a new ending)
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Transformers: The Ride – 3D
- Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride
- Silly Swirly Fun Ride
- The World Famous Studio Tour, featuring Fast & Furious Supercharged and King King 360 3D (tours are only in English at this time)
- Games are open at Super Silly Fun Land and in Springfield U.S.A.
The following rides are temporarily unavailable (subject to change):
- DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda
- The Simpsons Ride
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Ollivanders (you can walk through the wand pairing room)
- Dry and Wet Play Areas - Super Silly Fun Land (Silly Swirly Ride is open)
The following shows are scheduled:
- Universal's Animal Actors
The following shows are closed:
- Special Effects Show
Show capacity is limited to ensure physical distancing. Arrive at least 30 minutes early. Some rides and attractions will reopen at a later date.
What restaurants are open or closed?
Restaurant locations are more limited these days. We were hoppy that some of our favorites were open, such as The Three Broomsticks and Jurassic Cafe. Hollywood & Dine, Mel's Diner, Cocina Cucamonga, Panda Express and most of the Springfield U.S.A. locations. You can still get your Krusty Burger and Lard Lad Donuts! Limited snack stands and shops are open, and Starbucks in the Upper Lot is open. Isla Nu-Bar is open too in the Lower Lot! You may see more limited menus at this time, as well. Of course there is the new Minions Cafe. We hopped by for some cute snacks.
We noticed that the following restaurants are temporarily closed (subject to change):
- Hog's Head
- Butterbeer Carts
- Mulligan's Irish Pub
- Palace Deli & Market
- Despicable Delights
- Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck
- Cinnabon (no longer in the park, but there is one in CityWalk)
- French Street Bistro
- Moe's Tavern (used for seating and you get get your Duff Beer across the way in the Duff Beer Garden)
How to Get Tickets or Make Reservations
Tickets are available online as of April 8, 2021; attendance is initially limited to California residents. Party size is limited to a maximum of three households and 10 people. Guests with a ticket purchased prior to April 8 can make a reservation beginning April 5. Visit this link to access the reservation system. Reservations are not required for guests who purchase their tickets after April 8. Date-based tickets serve as the reservation. Theme park reservations are limited and subject to availability and vary by date. Discount Undercover Tourist Universal Studios Hollywood tickets are on sale now! (You can save up to $34 when you purchase from your favorite froggy friends!)
A Pass Member Preview Day was held April 15, with select Bonus Days through May 16 for pass holders; these Bonus Days can be reserved online as of April 5. Pass Members will be able to resume regular use of their passes starting May 17. If you are a Pass Member who lives outside of California, call 1-800-Universal to ask about your pass and its expiration. You may be receiving an e-mail about it, as well.
Attendance is initially restricted to California residents. You could be asked to show ID. The state is strongly discouraging out-of-state travelers from coming to California.
Here's what you need to know about Universal's new ticketing procedures:
- Tickets went on sale April 8.
- Guests with a ticket purchased prior to April 8, 2021, can make a reservation. Hop here to access the reservation system and scroll down to your appropriate ticket.
- Reservations are not required for guests who purchase their ticket after April 8, 2021. A ticket purchased counts as your reservation since it is date-based.
- Tickets are not available at the front gate.
- Tickets must be purchased online and in advance.
- Ticket purchases require that guests select a date to visit.
- Theme park visits are limited to California residents. (When you register or purchase, you attest that when visiting the park, you and each member of your party will be a California resident.)
- Tickets may be purchased for a maximum of three households at a time (group size is limited to 10 people).
- Theme park reservations are limited and subject to availability, and will vary by date.
Reservations for pass holders:
- Pass holders may select “Bonus Days” on select days between Thursday, April 15, 2021, and Sunday, May 16, 2021.
- The "Bonus Days" period will not count against the terms of the pass. At the end of this period, the expiration date of the Pass will be extended by the number of days the park was closed, including the additional “Bonus Days” period.
- Regular use of the pass in accordance with its terms begins on Monday, May 17, 2021. Pass holders will receive a new printed pass upon entry to the park at the time of the first visitation on or after May 17, 2021, which will include the new pass expiration date.
- Pass members are eligible to make one reservation per day online each day (scroll down to Annual and Season Pass Holders). Reservation capacity is limited and subject to availability; first come, first served.
Hours and New Parking Rates at Universal
You can check the hours calendar online for the latest information. Universal Studios is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. select days through the initial reopening period. Parking rates have changed. Parking generally opens an hour before park opening.
Daily parking fees:
- General parking - $28 from open to 5 p.m. and $10 after 5 p.m.
- Preferred parking - $35 from open to 5 p.m. and $20 after 5 p.m.
- Front Gate parking - $50 from open to 5 p.m.
- $5 parking with purchase of General Parking and a movie ticket at Universal Cinema at CityWalk Hollywood. To receive your $5 parking, present your general parking receipt at the Universal Cinema ticket window. Offer cannot be combined with any other promotional offers, discounts or prior purchases. Offer subject to change without notice.
Valet parking is available at this time. The following parking rates apply:
- $25 for the first two hours
- $45 after two hours
Valet parking with validation from CityWalk full-service restaurants:
- $10 for up to 2.5 hours
- $15 for 2.5 to 3.5 hours
- $45 after 3.5 hours
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (rate is $0.35/kWh). Prices subject to change without notice:
- Frankenstein Garage: 4 ports (Level 2 and Level 7)
- Jurassic Parking Garage: 8 ports (Level 1 and B1M)
- ET Garage: 16 ports (Level B1)
- Woody Woodpecker Lot: 1 port (near Front Gate parking)
- Curious George Garage: 2 ports (Level 1)
Universal Studios Hollywood Reopening Health and Safety Procedures
Expect new health measures for the theme park and CityWalk. These guidelines are based on recommendations from health agencies and state/local government.
New health measures in place during the Universal Studios Hollywood reopening include:
- Required face coverings to cover nose and mouth. No exhalation valves allowed. Universal has masks available for purchase.
- Guests can only remove facial coverings to eat when seated in designated areas.
- People with disabilities can bring a face shield and hop into Guest Relations to discuss wearing a shield if they cannot wear a facial covering. Guests cannot wear face shields on some rides.
- The state limits theme park capacity (and indoor restaurants).
- Temperature checks upon arrival to CityWalk or Universal Studios Hollywood. Security officers will wave a contactless forehead thermometer in front of guests. Visitors should remove any hats or anything blocking their forehead. Guests with temperatures 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above will not be admitted.
- Guests should maintain proper physical distancing of at least 6 feet (or 2 meters) between their party and other parties or employees.
- Where present, guests should stand on floor markings until the group in front moves forward.
- Guests should avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Attendants will stagger parking in garages to maintain distance.
- Expect to find social distancing guidelines throughout entertainment venues, restaurants and shops.
New safety measures are in place around the property, including:
- All team members undergo temperature checks and are required to wear masks.
- The park limits capacity to maintain social distancing.
- Employees continuously clean and disinfect tables, chairs, ride vehicles, escalator railings and all high-touch areas.
- Cashless payments are available at all areas (although cash is accepted, as well).
- Hand sanitizer locations are available throughout the park, and individual bottles are available for purchase.
- Guests must use provided hand sanitizer before boarding ride vehicles — a team member will spray your hands before you ride.
- All team members participate in extensive training.
- Wet and dry interactive play areas are temporarily unavailable.
- Designated dining areas for meals and snacks.
- Single Rider lines are temporarily closed.
- Virtual Lines are in use for some attractions.
- Child Switch will be unavailable at some rides (the Wizarding World rides will conduct Child Switch outside).
- You can rent wheelchairs, strollers and ECVs for your visit. Per usual cleaning protocol, each wheelchair, stroller and ECV will be cleaned and disinfected between each guest use.
- The procedure for getting to the Lower Lot for wheelchair users is generally the same with reduced capacity.
What to Expect When Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood
Virtual Line Pass
During the Universal Studios Hollywood reopening, you can expect changes to the line system. Note signage and floor markings to remind you where to stand. The newest ride — The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash — may offer a Virtual Line at times through the Universal Studios Hollywood app, or you can collect a physical ticket from a subway ticket machine — in theme with the surrounding city buildings. You can still use Universal Express to skip the line. But then you'll skip part of the toadally adorable and immersive queue. You cannot join a Virtual Line until you have entered the park for the day (online it says you may join when you arrive on property). When we arrived there was just a 10-minute wait and the Virtual Line was not yet open, so we could not test it from CityWalk or the parking lot. But we will hop on it and find out on a future visit!
When you join a Virtual Line, you input your party size, so you only need one spot in line. We were able to join the Virtual Line in the app and at the machine at the same time. They are not linked to your ticket. We liked having a physical ticket because when the ride broke down just as we were going to get in line, we could just bring it back later to get in.
A New Ride and Store
It was exciting to ride a new ride when Universal Studios Hollywood reopened. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash ride opened with the park. Lily was extra excited as this ride works for smaller tadpoles with its height requirement of 34 inches! It's a slow and gentle ride, perfect for tadpoles. But the ride vehicle was a tight fight for Leap's long legs and frog belly. You are supposed to be a puppy in a box, but Leap's a big dog, I mean frog. Try the test seat out front to see if you fit. The new gift shop is toadally cute! You can "adopt" a plush pet.
Hop along with our Secret Life Of Pets: Off the Leash! ride video on our YouTube Channel.
Jurassic World — The Ride debuted a new ending too! That was toadally fun. You'll want to ride this one first thing in the morning, as the wait climbed to 90 minutes and stayed there all day on our visit. The boats are seated every other row with one party per row. That means long lines when you have only six people in a boat that holds 25.
A New Restaurant
There's also a new restaurant in Super Silly Fun Land. The new and colorful Minion Cafe serves El Macho Nachos, various grilled cheese sandwiches, Gru's rotisserie chicken, Dispica-Bowl ramen, salad and adorable desserts. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a unicorn cupcake, a felonious float (raspberry slush with banana frozen yogurt topped with whipped cream and banana candy), chocolate banana pudding with hazelnut spread, a Minion cookie and more!
Be sure to use the photo op outside the restaurant to take fun food photos!
Changes to Ride Seating and Sanitizing
In order to promote social distancing, ride queues will have signage to indicate where to stand. Universal will seat you with your party. Depending on the ride vehicle, ride attendants may skip rows or give your party its own vehicle. The team members will sanitize and disinfect the ride vehicles. Ridership for the Studio Tour and rides will be limited. You may expect longer lines due to the distancing on vehicles.
Shows and Play Areas
The park will reduce seating capacity for shows for some time. Some shows remain closed and will reopen at a later time. If you have a tadpole, expect to find the wet and dry play areas (and play structures) closed and plan accordingly for some alternate activities to get the wiggles out.
Your favorite characters will still visit with you and entertain you. Honestly, it did not affect our visit to stay a safe distance from the characters. We were still pretty close and had many fun interactions with them, from Hello Kitty to Frankenstein. You can still chat and wave and take a socially distant picture, but you will not be getting that high five or hug for some time.
Look for the Transformers and Raptor Encounter in the Lower Lot and the Hogwarts conductor in front of the Hogwarts Express (just behind a rope). Blow kisses to Hello Kitty and have fun watching the mischievous Minions at play. We spotted the Simpsons and Scooby Doo too.
Universal Mask Souvenirs
Universal Studios Hollywood sells masks in case you want to get your Universal spirit on or are looking for a unique souvenir that will be useful for the next several months. It's also good to know where to purchase a new mask should you lose yours on a ride or get it dirty or wet. You can hop by CityWalk to purchase one outside the park or find them at souvenir shops in the park. They have Wizarding World masks too!
VIP Private Theme Park Experience
The traditional VIP experience is temporarily unavailable. In the meantime, you can enjoy the most exclusive way to go behind the scenes with a private VIP Theme Park Experience.
Call (818) 622-8477 to book your tour 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
At this time, theme park visits are limited to California residents. In accordance with government guidelines, the tour size will be limited to a maximum of 10 people and three household groups (with no group intermixing) at this time. Reservations for the VIP Private Theme Park Experience are limited and subject to availability, and will vary by date. All VIP Experience tour content is subject to availability based on production schedules and other factors.
Wand Pairing at Ollivanders (temporarily closed)
One of our favorite things to do in the Wizarding World is to hop into Ollivanders, Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC for a wand pairing. Sadly, this attraction is closed. Usually, the wandmaker chooses a young witch or wizard from the small audience to demonstrate a wand pairing. In Orlando, during the reopening period, only one party could enter at a time. Hopfully, this can return soon. In the meantime, the entrance to the experience is the new entrance to the wand shop, which you can tour.
If you will be purchasing a wand, you might want to hop over to Tad's posts on wands. You'll find Choosing a Wand at the Wizarding World in Hollywood and Toadally Cool Wizarding World of Harry Potter Spells at Universal Studios Hollywood most hopful.
Tips for Visiting During the Phased Universal Studios Hollywood Reopening
Here are few tips and some advice for visiting during Universal's reopening period:
- Arrive early — You'll want to maximize your time in the park!
- Purchase your dated theme park ticket in advance (and you can save some extra green when you purchase from Undercover Tourist!)
- Opt to upgrade to Universal Express early in the day. The park is not at all crowded, but popular rides have a 90-minute (or longer) wait to space out riders. Without Single Rider, you'll need another way to skip the lines, and Express is just the ticket.
- Hit the Lower Lot early.
- Save the Wizarding World for the last two hours of the day for short waits.
- Note the time of the last Studio Tour and be in line before that time.
- Enjoy the many tables in new locations.
- Plan your meals — some locations remain closed for now.
- Bring a back-up mask.
- Only dine indoors if you are only with members of your household.
- Outdoor tables may be shared by up to three households.
- Use the Virtual Line for Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!
- You can try out the test vehicle for Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! out front. But even if it's not a good fit, the queue is just as enjoyable as the ride, so hop through!
- Consider whether this is the best time to take young children. With closed play areas (both wet and dry), several attractions that appeal to younger kids temporarily closed and knowing that Child Switch is more limited, you may want to delay your visit until things open up a bit more in the near future. Your teens and tweens will have plenty to do.
What to Expect at Universal CityWalk
Universal CityWalk reopened before the theme park June 10, 2020. A number of restaurants and shops are open, which we detail in our CityWalk Hollywood guide. CityWalk Hollywood complies with health and state/local government guidelines. The same guidelines for the theme park apply to CityWalk. We keep the most updated list of open restaurants and stores in our CityWalk post.
Are you excited to make some magic during the Universal Studios Hollywood reopening? If you need tickets for your next visit, you can get a hoppin' deal on discount Universal Studios Hollywood Resort tickets.