Family travel to Los Angeles nearly always includes day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Makes sense; children love the theme park, and it’s got more thrilling rides and experiences than that other theme park in Anaheim, so that older kids and teenagers are just as happy there as the little ones. Summertime is, naturally, prime time for family vacations — and Universal Studios Hollywood is in “the valley,” which is typically at least 10 degrees hotter than south of Mulholland Drive or along the coast. Overheated, whiny kids and long lines aren’t the perfect ingredients for a summer vacation! There are several ways to make a summer visit to Universal Studios Hollywood more fun and manageable. These Universal Studios Hollywood summer travel tips should help decrease the complaining, and increase the awesomeness.
1. Buy “Front of Line” Passes – Yes, they’re an added expense, but undeniably worth the splurge on hot summer days. The Front of Line Pass lets guests cut to the front of every single ride, show and attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, any time (somewhat akin to Disney FastPasses, without the specific time). If you buy the Front of Line Pass, regular admission to the park is included, as is behind-the-scenes access to Universal’s Animal Actors and a couple of other attractions. You also get a lanyard to wear for the day; this makes some kids feel like VIPs at the park. Tip: Purchase them online. There are a set amount of Front of Line Passes sold at the front gate ticket booths, and they often sell out.
Now, Front of Line Passes are only good once per ride, so use them wisely. For example, my family last went to Universal Studios Hollywood on Memorial Day weekend, which was also the opening weekend of Transformers: The Ride in 3-D. The line was consistently between 90 and 120 minutes long for this new ride! But because so much of the theme park attention was on Transformers: The Ride in 3-D, we found that several other, very fun rides had waits as short as 5 minutes. We actually waited less than five minutes to get into the House of Horrors without using our Front of Line Passes, and later (when the day was hotter and the line longer) we returned for a second trip though the frightening attraction — I nearly jumped out of my skin, and I knew what to expect — this time using out Front of Line Passes.
2. Speaking of Transformers: The Ride in 3-D, it’s one of the indoor rides. Quite a bit of the queue line is indoors as well, and nicely air conditioned. Several ride simulators are also inside, such as the Simpsons ride and Terminator. It’s nice to sit down inside for these attractions, though no one would ever call them relaxing experiences. Terminator is loud and explosive; the opposite of a relaxing break.
3. Jurassic Park: The Ride – The watery Jurassic Park: The Ride will cool off your family on hot days, and may become one of your kids’ favorite rides of the day. In fact, on our recent trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, Jurassic Park: The Ride was the only ride that the entire crowd of us did twice. The Jurassic Park water roller coaster starts out innocuously enough, telling the story envisioned in the early part of the movie; a theme park ride with “real” dinosaurs of the gentle variety. Things malfunction, and the boat is redirected into a broken area housing the carnivorous dinosaurs. It’s not terribly frightening, but the 84-foot raft plunge at the end is thrilling, and passengers in the front of the ride will get very, very wet.
4. WaterWorld – Based on the clunky post-apocalyptic 1995 movie, WaterWorld probably has the highest bad-movie-to-great-theme-park-attraction ratio in the country. The rotunda seating arrangement has clear demarcations regarding where to sit to get very wet, a bit wet, or stay completely dry. This is a big show, practically a theatrical production, with tons of action, water splashes, and daredevil stunts. The 15-minute or so show is really exciting! Real Hollywood actors play the parts from the movie, and happily splash as many audience members as they can reach. Tip: Want to be sure you get doused? On hot summer days, there is no place better than the Soak Zone.
5. VIP Experiences – It’s very expensive, but to really ensure you and your family stay as cool as possible on hot summer days at Universal Studios Hollywood, consider investing in a VIP Experience. Front of the line for everything, whenever you want, plus a more immersive experience at the studio backlot. Your family will be escorted to sets and sound stages that are otherwise closed to the public, which truly is a VIP experience. The backlot tour that is a regular part of many guests’ time at Universal Studios Hollywood is enhanced by riding the “VIP trolley” and being allowed to explore Universal’s actual props warehouse and sound department, as well as movie sets.
These five tips to help your kids stay cool should make your trip to Universal Studios Hollywood more fun during your summer vacation in Los Angeles. But I have to toss in just one other small tip: Italian Ices. It sounds obvious, but the carts that sell Italian Ices at this theme park are so much better than the carts selling artificial flavors drizzled on small scoops of chopped ice that you see on many city streets. There’s a LOT of Italian Ice in each cup at Universal Studios Hollywood, and I particularly recommend the mango flavor. It really taste like an ice cold mango. The mango Italian Ice is a refreshing way to cool down without getting water splashed in your face, and for some of us, has quickly become part of our summer tradition of a family trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.
For more tips on what to do in Los Angeles with your family this summer, check out my “Kids in the City” guide on Expedia!
I wrote this post in conjunction with Expedia’s “Kids in the City” summer travel campaign. The Vacation Gals were compensated to promote the informative resource site.
For still more summer United States city vacation ideas, take a look at these posts from other family travel experts: Denver, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.