If you have one day to spend at Universal Studios Hollywood, you want to make sure you hit the most important, can’t-miss rides, experiences, foods and beverages. With so much to do, it can be hard to know where to start. Never fear, your froggy friends and self-proclaimed wizards (we are technically still waiting for our acceptance letters from Hogwarts any day now) are here to help make your day as magical as possible and help you hit those must-do items. Consider us your theme park wizards who will take you on a tour of which rides, experiences and foodie stops you won't want to miss at Universal Studios Hollywood!
You have one day to do it all. You can do this with our what-not-to-miss Universal Studios Hollywood guide. We have advice for you families with tadpoles and for you thrill-seekers, Nintendo fans and movie fans alike. Here’s the highlight reel for what not to miss at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Not-to-Miss Universal Studios Hollywood Rides for Tadpoles and People of Most Ages
If you are visiting with tadpoles, you'll want to hop over to our hopful Universal Studios Hollywood height requirements post for the most complete information. Even if your tadpoles meet the height requirement, most rides require anyone under 48 inches to ride with a supervising companion. If you have toddlers in your crew, you may find our guide to taking toddlers to Universal Studios most hopful.
Mario Kart: Bowsers Challenge (in Super Nintendo World in the Lower Lot)
This ride officially opens Feb. 17, 2023. But we've already had a chance to preview it in advance.
Ready, set GO! The newest ride is not quite as fast as racing in the video game, but it still has a lot going on. The interactive moving track ride combines augmented reality (assistance from head-mounted goggles) with projection mapping technology and set pieces. It one of the most complex rides ever made in the entertainment industry! The 3D and 4D ride has a height requirement of 40 inches (102 cm). Riders 40–48 inches (122 cm) require a supervising companion age 14 or older.
You'll climb aboard four-person, stadium-style Mario Kart vehicles from the dungeons of Bowser's Castle. In the quest to win the Golden Cup, you will steer through courses in the clouds and even underwater! You can battle Team Bowser alongside Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach, throwing shells and collecting coins along the way (via buttons on your steering wheel). The ride appeals to guests of most ages, even those with little gaming experience (as long as you are tall enough to ride).
Even though it's a race-themed ride, this ride is pretty slow. It's unlike anything you've ever seen. The queue is incredibly detailed. You can earn your score with a Power-Up Band, available for purchase (and works for playing other games and doing challenges in the land). When the land officially opens, you may need to make a reservations to enter the land.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land (Upper Lot)
Despicable Me riders (40 inches and up) can be turned into minions to join Gru, Margot, Edith and Agnes on a fun-filled adventure. But kids of all ages can bring a swimsuit and water shoes to splash in the water play area of Super Silly Fun Land, ride Silly Swirly and play carnival games.
Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash (Upper Lot)
This is one of the only really slow rides without a screen in the park. It’s perfect for young tadpoles 34 inches and up. The highly themed queue is toadally cute and prepares you for your ride. You see, you learn that you are a puppy in need of a home and the pets in the building are going to help you make it to the adoption event to help you find your “furever” home. Be sure to try to fit into the puppy-sized ride vehicle out front as it’s a tight fit for you big dogs.
World Famous Studio Tour
This is it. This is what you came for. You cannot get this Hollywood experience anywhere else. The tram takes you down into the working movie studio Backlot and Metropolitan sets. There is no height requirement, but there are thrills. Grab a pair of 3D glasses before you board, as you’ll need them a couple of times. Be on the lookout for sharks, flash floods and dinosaurs.
Flight of the Hippogriff in the Wizarding World (Upper Lot)
Be sure to bow to Buckbeak as you ascend the first hill of this kid-friendly coaster. It’s the perfect level thrill and length for a new coaster rider who is at least 39 inches tall. Plus it offers great views of the castle and the Wizarding World!
Not-to-Miss Universal Studios Hollywood Rides for Thrill-Loving Frogs
We recommend hitting the Lower Lot attractions early as lines can get long later in the day. All four of these rides offer Single Rider lines, which can be a great way to skip the lines if you are the only person in your party who wants to ride or if you are willing to split your party up in exchange for a shorter wait.
Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride (Lower Lot)
This coaster in the dark brings as many scares from Imhotep as it does from the hairpin curves and deep drops. If you've ridden its counterpart in Orlando, this version is a bit shorter and gentler. It has a 48-inch height requirement and a test seat out front.
Jurassic World — The Ride (Lower Lot)
Board a raft for an adventure through Jurassic World — The Ride. Riders 42 inches tall and up should be ready to make a splash (poncho, anyone?) as you encounter dinosaurs and characters from the movies, as well as a few surprises along the way. The ride has evolved from the former "Jurassic Park" water ride to include new scenes, dinosaurs and even an underwater view. Of course, things don't always go as planned in the movies or on this ride.
Prepare for a drop! You'll plunge 85 feet down into a pool of water while narrowly escaping Indominus Rex heading to battle with Tyrannosaurus Rex. If you like to control how wet you get, consider the front seats a soak zone whereas the back seats are more of a splash zone.
Transformers: The Ride-3D (Lower Lot)
This immersive, multi-sensory 3D flight simulation experience is based on the blockbuster film series. Are you prepared to battle Decepticons with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee? Even if you are not a fan of the films, you'll be awed by the 3D special effects. You must be 40 inches tall to ride.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World (Upper Lot)
You will start your journey by walking through Hogwarts castle, visiting Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom, the Gryffindor common room and much more. For "Harry Potter" fans, that is exciting enough! And if you are susceptible to motion sickness, you might want to wait for your party in the Child Switch room. You riders with brave hearts and stomachs will board the ride as Hermione casts a spell to send you airborne. You will follow Harry and Ron on their broomsticks. You'll twist and turn, weaving through Hogwarts, encountering dragons, giant spiders, dementors and a game of quidditch along the way.
You'll want a Butterbeer to settle your stomach after this harrowing journey. I love this ride with all my Gryffindor heart, but it always turns me a shade of Slytherin green. Riders must be 48 inches tall. Check the test seat out front for fit.
Not-to-Miss Experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood
Wand Pairing at Ollivanders, Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC
Witness a wandmaker help a young wizard from the audience test wands with a little magic on their journey to find the right one. Whether or not you get chosen for the wand pairing, everyone can enter the wand shop to purchase their own wand. The interactive wands can be used to cast spells at spots around the Wizarding World. If you have a tadpole who identifies as more wizard than muggle, this is a must-do. Our tween Tad has a whole post on using wands to cast spells in the Wizarding World.
Don't miss this stunt show! Set largely on crystal blue water, the show features plenty of stunt work, special effects, pyrotechnics, and, if you're in the soak zone, a good soaking.
Frog Choir or Triwizard Spirit Rally
On the smaller stage, "Harry Potter" fans will flip for these short acts in front of Hogwarts Castle. Showtimes do not appear in the app so ask a team member in a wizard’s robe for the best times to catch these performances.
All of the rides in the Lower Lot are thrill rides with height requirements. If you have young tadpoles with you, take them to the DinoPlay area (to the right of the Jurassic World entrance) while the rest of the family gets their thrills. If you want to ride too, be sure to ask at each attraction about Child Switch, which allows you to swap places with the riding members of your party so they can babysit while you ride without having to wait in line again. Your whole family can also meet several dinosaurs from a recent hatchling to a gentle triceratops to a pretty realistic and scary velociraptor!
Whether it's minions, your favorite DreamWorks characters (ahem, there's a troll who farts glitter) Scooby-Doo, a Transformer or a Hollywood classic, you'll find "stars" from your favorite films to meet in both the Upper and Lower Lots.
Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
This nighttime projection show only appears at certain times of the year when the park is open late, such as summer, between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and sometimes spring break. The shows can vary but all include music projections, pyrotechnics and a little bit of magic. Hop over to our Best Viewing of the Nighttime Lights At Hogwarts Castle post to learn more.
Leveling up in Super Nintendo World (Lower Lot and open as of Feb. 17, 2023)
As of Feb. 17, 2023, Super Nintendo World joins our list of what-not-to miss at Universal Studios Hollywood. Grab a Power-Up Band and enter a real-life Super Mario Bros. video game (through a warp Pipe!) that is this colorful new land. You can become one of the characters in the game. Interacts with colorful animatronic scenery with spinning gold coins, boxes with question marks and more.
Not-to-Miss Food & Drink Items at Universal Studios Hollywood
Butterbeer in the Wizarding World
Can you even visit the Wizarding World without trying Butterbeer? We can’t. We’ll let you choose between frozen, cold or hot. We all have different favorites in our family! You can get cold and frozen from the Butterbeer carts and all three inside The Three Broomsticks and Hog's Head (along with pumpkin juice and other themed beverages).
The Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World
Step into this restaurant and you are transported to a pub in the Wizarding World. Do we have a favorite? We have many! The English food at this location is the best food in the park. You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner. The desserts such as the sticky toffee pudding and Butterbeer potted cream are our Frog Family's faves. If you are serving a group of hungry people, you can’t go wrong with the Great Feast. With smaller groups, we enjoy fish & chips, spare ribs, shepherd’s pie or bangers & mash. The atmosphere makes you want to bring your suitcases in to check in to the inn for a stay.
Jurassic Café and Isla Nu-Bar in the Lower Lot
Jurassic Café is serving Costa Rican-inspired cuisine such as slow-roasted mojo pork (my personal fave), fish, burgers and more. If you want a tropical adult beverage, stop by the nearby Isla Nu-Bar out front for blended and made-to-order cocktails such as mai tais and more in a souvenir tiki.
The Flaming Moe in Springfield U.S.A.
There are a lot of special Simpson's-themed foods (from giant doughnuts to Krusty Burgers to Cletus' Chicken thumbs to icy Squishees), but the one item you can't get just anywhere is the nonalcoholic Flaming Moe. It's an orange drink with dry ice. It's toadally fun to go to Moe's Tavern and order it up at the bar. Plus the cup is a souvenir!
Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World (open as of Feb. 17, 2023)
Dining here is an experience. You'll be greeted by Chef Toad as you wait to order. All the menu items are themed and so fun! Our favorite was the Luigi Pesto Chicken Burger with seasoned fries. The desserts are too cute. The colorful dining room has warp pipes hanging from the ceiling. While you wait for your food, pay attention to the windows, as the scenery may entertain you.
Coca-Cola Freestyle Machines
This is not unique to Universal Studios Hollywood, but if you drink a lot of soda, you might want to invest in a souvenir cup for $17 (or two cups for $16 each) at several locations. You’ll get free refills (every 10 minutes) all day at participating locations. (One large soda is $5 if you want to compare and see if you’ll get your money’s worth.)
Not-to-Miss Holidays, Openings or Special Events
There are a few times a year that have special events that we think you might enjoy too. You’re going to want to check out the best times to visit Universal Studios Hollywood to find the balance between the least crowded and least expensive times to visit, and the days with the longest hours and most entertainment. Here are a few of our favorite events!
Halloween Horror Nights
If you love Halloween and getting so scared that you jump practically out of your skin, then this separately ticketed, after-hours event is perfect for you and family members ages 13 and up. There are several themed mazes, scare zones and even a Terror Tram that takes you to the backlot. It takes place on select nights in September and October.
Grinchmas and the Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood
From around Thanksgiving through the new year, Universal Plaza is taken over by Whoville, with a Christmas tree, real live Whos and even Grinch and Max, his dog (along with special entertainment). The Wizarding World has special holiday décor and foods along with the Holiday Frog Choir and the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projection show. The characters wear Christmas sweaters, scarves and Santa hats to greet you with holiday cheer.
At times, there are themed runs that take you through the parks. Characters can cheer you on along the way.
Summer brings longer park hours, fountains of water play and the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle in the evening. It also brings heavy crowds, so this is the time to spring for Universal Express or even to book a VIP Tour, which will help you see and do it all, plus give you access to soundstages and prop rooms that are behind the scenes. You can save money on both (as well as base tickets) if you purchase through Undercover Tourist.
Do you have any questions about these or other not-to-miss Universal Studios Hollywood attractions, shows or foods? Let us know in the comment section below. If you are planning your visit, be sure to look at the savings we offer on Universal Studios Hollywood tickets, including Universal Express (to help you skip the lines).