Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie studio. No, wait, it's a theme park, isn't it? It's both, with a backlot tour that's part behind-the-scenes tour and part pure entertainment. In the theme park, rides are based on the company's extensive film holdings, with the newest attractions lauded as some of the most innovative and fun of any theme park.
Before you get to the main gate, check out ticket prices and ways to get discounts. With the best new theme park rides in Southern California to enjoy, you may want to stay overnight. Find a hotel nearby.
This guide guides an overview of the place, what there is to do and some of its most interesting, fun things to do.
Scenes from Universal Studios
Enjoy our best shots on a Universal Studios Photo Tour
Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot Tour
Better than ever since the back lot was rebuilt after a big fire in 2008, the tour visits parts of the working studio, classic sets such as Jaws and Psycho and made-for-the-tour acts like the stunt cars from the film The Fast and the Furious.
The star experience of the tour is King Kong 3D, a rockin', rollin' face-to-face encounter with the big ape. Studios don't work on the weekend, so you'll see more hustle and bustle during a weekday tour, but on weekends, you may get to drive through sets that are in use during the week.
If it makes you want to learn more about how films are made, follow up with one these working studio tours.
Universal Studios Hollywood Rides
Everything at Universal Studios Hollywood has a movie or television theme. These shows and tours feature Universal films:
- Jurassic Park - The Ride: an indoor/outdoor ride that drops you down an 80-foot waterfall. Getting wet? Guaranteed. Minimum height: 46 inches.
- Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride: This dark indoor roller coaster is short, but that may be a virtue - if it were longer, it could be over-stimulating. Besides the Mummy theming, it goes forward, treats you to a creepy effect and then gets you back in reverse. Minimum height: 48 inches.
- Shrek 4-D: The fourth "D" is your seat, which seems to be constantly moving. The story is cute, like the film. If you'd rather not get jostled, sit in the back row - those seats don't move.
- Terminator 2:3D: This attraction closed in 2013 to make way for Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and an associated play area called Super Silly Fun Land, which are scheduled to open in 2014.
- The Simpsons Ride: The most entertaining attraction in the park combines a wild cartoon ride through Krustyland with a motion simulator. The storyline pokes fun at most of the theme parks in the area. See how many you can recognize. Minimum height: 40 inches.
- Transformers: Universal takes 3-D thrill rides to a new level with this simulator ride that surrounds you in 3-D images, taking riders through the "ultimate" war zone. The story line is a bit hard to follow, especially if you're not up to speed on the movie franchise, but the visual and sensory experience is so enthralling that it hardly matters.
- WaterWorld: Jet ski tricks and fire effects are just part of this stunt show. If you sit in the green seats, you'll get wet.
More at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Special Effects Stage: Learn how sound and visual effects are created and how monsters are made.
- House of Horrors: An old-fashioned carnival fun house updated movie-style, this walk-through attraction (which has some stairs) is full of screams and surprises.
- If you're with little ones under 48 inches tall, they'll enjoy The Adventures of Curious George and the Dino Play area near the Jurassic Park ride.
- NBCUniversal Experience: An interactive studio museum with props and other fun remembrances of films past.
- Billboards around the park give show schedules for The Blues Brothers and Universal's Animal Actors.
- You'll also find favorite cartoon characters around the park. Daily schedules show where and when.
- Halloween Horror Nights: Every October, the theme park puts on a special event, featuring some of their scariest slasher villains.
Universal CityWalk, just outside the park entrance is a lively shopping and dining complex open to the public. It's a good place to eat dinner or to do a little shopping, or even go to a movie after a day at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios Hollywood Review
We rate Universal Studios Hollywood 4 stars out of 5. I know what to expect when I visit Universal Studios Hollywood: a studio tour and movie-themed shows and rides. I know it will be fun, but by the time I leave, I always find I've enjoyed it more than I expected.
POLL: What do you think of Universal Studios Hollywood?
- Hours: Open daily
- Reservations: Not required, but buy tickets in advance to save time in line. Find out how here
- Cost: Admission fee, see our money-saving hints. Extra parking fee
- Location: North of Hollywood off US Hwy 101
- How Long: At least half a day, more if you do everything
- Best Time to Visit: Busiest in summer (but hot and can be smoggy). Spring and fall have the best weather. Winter is also nice but is also the rainy season. January is their least-busy month
- See It Now: Photo Tour
- Tips: Discover how to have the most fun possible
Universal Studios HollywoodTake the Universal Studios exit off US Hwy 101 and follow the signs. The Metro Red Line also stops near the park and you can catch a shuttle bus from there to the entrance.
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
From Anaheim: Universal offers a shuttle from some Los Angeles hotels and from Anaheim with a one-day admission ticket.
From San Diego: Some tour companies offer admission and transportation packages from San Diego, which can cost as much as $40 per person compared to full ticket price with no chance for discounts, and they limit your time at the park. Instead, rent a car from an inexpensive company. You can check prices at Travelocity.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of reviewing Universal Studios Hollywood. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.