There’s so much to do, even if you’re not counting the park’s vast collection of attractions that include live shows like “Fear Factor” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon." If you do somehow end up exhausting all of the park’s options, Universal CityWalk is right outside for movies, clubs and shopping.
Universal Studios Hollywood has witnessed enormous growth since its opening in 1915, when owner Carl Laemmle began charging the public 25 cents to see movies being shot. The theme park, however, wasn’t officially created until 1964 when Universal unveiled its popular tram ride through its backlot. Named the “GlamorTrams,” the tour also featured a makeup demonstration, Doris Day’s dressing room and an old-fashioned Western shootout. The tram tour has since drawn more than 80 million visitors, making it the major highlight of the theme park.
Today, Universal Studios Hollywood's tram is set up to be an actual ride-like attraction, complete with unexpected surprises and thrilling action, in addition to access to Universal’s most popular movie sets. You’ll dodge Jurassic Park’s spitting dinosaurs, get a close up of Jaws’ teeth, experience an earthquake and get to see the destruction of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and the charming absurdity of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville.
If you’re looking to hit the highlights of this sprawling theme park, use the following guide to help plan your day beyond the tram.
The Ride-3D is an immersive, next generation thrill ride that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Fusing HD 3D media and flight simulation technology, this epic ride creates an experience unlike anything this planet has ever seen.
Based on the popular movie franchise, this mind-blowing new Transformers adventure puts you in the middle of the ultimate war zone. Fight alongside Optimus and try to survive as you protect the Allspark from DecepticonsR over four stories tall. Remember, the future of the human race is counting on you.
Prepare for the greatest battle you'll ever ride. TransformersTM: The Ride-3D.
King Kong 360 3D, a new attraction, based on the Oscar®-winning 2005 Peter Jackson film, is Universal Studios Hollywood’s signature attraction. Riders on the Studio Tour tram are transported, via a darkened soundstage, back to King Kong’s home — Skull Island. The action, which takes place before King Kong ever makes his way to the modern world, culminates in a ferocious battle between the worlds’ most famous ape and a 35-foot dinosaur. Through the magic of the world’s largest Surround Digital 3D projection system, visitors are thrust in the middle of the action and feel the tram jolt and reverberate as the 3D battle unfolds around them.
After fire damaged the world's largest working movie studio lot, Universal Studios has re-opened its iconic sets, built with creative consultation by Steven Spielberg himself, unveiling innovative shooting locations designed to meet contemporary film production needs. The new and re-created sets are featured on the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.
You can count on Krusty the Clown to dream up The Simpsons Ride, one of Universal Studios Hollywood's newer rides. You’ll board one of 24 motion simulation vehicles (aka “Krusty Mobiles”) where you’ll be whipped through a thrilling six-minute ride through Springfield. The mission: to escape from Sideshow Bob’s evil plans of revenge. In the process, you’ll meet some 30 characters from the hit TV show, including Abu, Milhouse, Moe and others. The ride utilizes some of the latest theme park technology available, with 80-foot dome screens and a video projection system four times the resolution of HDTVs. All that is to say that the Simpsons Ride is an “upsy-downsy, spins-aroundsy, teen-operated thrill ride” you won’t want to miss.
Shrek and Donkey are back! And so is an unexpected villain from the first film, along with voice actors and actresses Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow. The story picks up shortly after Shrek and Princess Fiona’s wedding, triggering an all-out adventure in 4-D. This popular attraction uses 3-D filming techniques (what Universal Studios Hollywood has dubbed “Ogrevision”) and features an added dimension to put you right into the action. Hint: you’ll be able to really feel the experience.
Fans of the movie will want to check out this frightening experience of a ride, which hurls you along twisting turns and blasts you with 18,000 watts of sound. Taking you through the tomb of Imhotep, the villainous mummy from the first two films, the indoor roller coaster uses psychological tricks to tap into primal fears of darkness, insects, speed and evil spirits. It’s a breathtaking ride and one of the park’s most exciting.
Board jungle boats and float through the imaginative world of Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs come alive in harmless and not-so-harmless ways. Well, mostly not-so-harmless ways, given near-misses with a gigantic T-Rex, falling Land Rovers and an 84-foot waterfall drop. Exciting, enchanting and at times utterly frightening, this ride gives you a feeling of what it must have been like to be hunted by prehistoric creatures.
It’s not every day that you can be a part of a cyber-war, and in Terminator 2: 3D, you’re actually pulled into the action, whether you like it or not. Arnold Schwarzennegar and Eddie Furlong both make their appearances to save the day. With special effects galore, T-2 battles its way to victory with lasers, explosions and smoke, including live action thrown into the mix.
It’s a sunny LA day and both you and the kids seem to need something refreshing. How about a five hundred gallon water dump at the Curious George’s play area? Along with photo-ops with the lovable and mischievous monkey, the family will have opportunities to battle friends with water guns and foam balls. Just make sure to bring a change of clothes!
For more detailed information, make sure to visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com.
Getting to Universal Studios Hollywood
By Car: From LAX, take the 105 Freeway East to the 110 Harbor Freeway North. Connect to the 101 Hollywood Freeway North and exit at the Universal Studios exit. Turn right onto Universal Studios Boulevard.
By Metro: The easiest way to reach Universal Studios Hollywood by Metro is to take the Red Line to the Universal City stop. Cross the street to get to the free shuttle, which takes you to the main entrance of Universal Studios Hollywood.
• Lines are shorter when the park first opens, so getting an early start is a good idea.
• Plan ahead: download a park map and see which attractions you want to see. Live shows have set schedules, so plan your route around these times.
• A good place to start the day is to take the Studio Tour to beat the crowds, and then work your way through the park.