We have a plethora of amusement parks here in LA and not all local attendees have their children in tow. As a matter of fact, in adulthood, many of my friends have had annual passes to one park or another B.C. (before children). Usually, the prices are just too good to pass up compared to the daily price of admission and it gives us Angelenos endless ways to spend a few hours without having to commit a 12 hour day on our feet.
Universal Studios Hollywood had been primarily geared toward out-of-towners wanting to get a taste of Hollywood, which has always made it a good place for adults to roam. Recently though, they have added more child-friendly attractions which are good for those of us who want a break from the happiest place on earth (not to mention those skyrocketing prices). But adults can play here too. And there’s alcohol.
Here is my guide to navigating your way through Universal Studios Hollywood as an adult visitor so you don’t waste any time getting trapped in a kiddie zone. This will cover the park only, not Universal CityWalk.
First, download the official app and connect to the Xfinity wifi. You can search ride wait times and make a plan of activities you want to hit up. Okay, time to get started.
Let’s be real. For a day spent at an amusement park, we need caffeine in hand, stat. A Starbucks is situated at the first crossroads you come to after entering. It’s housed in a gorgeous art deco building which is an attraction in and of itself. There is also a Starbucks in the lower lot if you need some refueling later in the day. The French Street Bistro also has a full coffee bar and has café seating along the “French street” in the upper lot.
I know, I know. No one under the age of 30 knows what Waterworld is, but it really is the best stunt show in history and has been going strong for nearly 24 years (it started the same year the movie came out, 1995). It’s way better than any other show at Universal and is a great way to cool off and kick back when your feet are tired. Come on, they somehow land a water plane onto the set. That alone makes up for the lameness of the film. If you are into how movies are made, the Special Effects Show may be worth your time once. Both are located in the upper lot.
Unlike other amusement parks, there are abundant ways to consume an alcoholic beverage at Universal Studios. And can I just say, that I have never come across a drunk, unruly character here? Universal CityWalk, yes, but in the park, never. What 80’s, 90’s, or 2000’s kid (that’s us now) wouldn’t want to grab a Duff beer at Moe’s Tavern? A cornerstone of Springfield, aka Simpsons Land, Moe’s allows you to belly up to the bar just like Barney and Homer. Go with the margarita on a hot day. For something less cartoonish, visit Mulligan’s Irish Pub in the British district near the Despicable Me ride. It’s actually a really cool place to hang out, although kind of small. Side note: There is no actual beer in Butterbeer (Harry Potter World).
Ahh, The Walking Dead. The show we love to hate for stringing us along. This walk-through attraction started as a concept from Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights when The Walking Dead was a hugely successful theme. The attraction has you literally walk through the first several seasons, bringing back the best characters- the zombies- to scare the hell out of you. Live action, like simulated gunfire, and real actors are all throughout this experience, making it unlike anything else.
I am not a Harry Potter fanatic. I don’t think I’ve even seen two of the films all the way through. But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is something else. The forced perspective of the village is very impressive, even to an amusement park aficionado. It is home to easily the best ride at the park, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, although the wait times prove that (try to get in the single rider line if you don’t mind sitting separate). The shops that inhabit the village buildings are an attraction on their own, but are usually crowded with adults dressed in cloaks; even in 90 degree weather. My only stop these days is Honey Dukes candy store, where I can stock up on the best sugar concoctions for the day.
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since the original Jurassic Park film debuted? Even though the Jurassic Park the Ride is pretty chill most of the way, it’s still fun to see major scenes and characters from the original films. The final portion of the ride has incredible effects and an even better water-soaking drop. This ride is best at Halloween Horror Nights when they blast “Welcome to the Jungle” throughout.
Last but not least is the World Famous Studio Tour. Also lovingly known as “the tram ride,” this has been the backbone of Universal’s attractions since 1964 when they switched out tour buses for trams. The ride is about 45 minutes and mixes behind the scenes (literally) peeks and actual rides like the King Kong 360 3-D and Fast and the Furious- Supercharged attractions. Pro tip: Grab a margarita from Moe’s Tavern before you head to the tram. Drinks and food are allowed on the ride, so sit back and relax. I like to try and get the first tram car and sit all the way in the back where the seats are a bit elevated.
What to stay away from
- There’s no need to go anywhere near Super Silly Fun Land, which is all Despicable Me themed and the biggest young child zone.
- Stay far away from the Dino Play area. It’s a one-way route that leads to a dinosaur themed kiddie playground.
- Skip the Animal Actor show and the Harry Potter dance show that happens spontaneously on a makeshift stage in the Wizarding World. Yeah, it basically is what it sounds like.