Universal Studios has undergone many changes through the years. It has probably been about 25 years since my husband and I have visited, which means my children haven’t seen it – until last week. Universal Studios Hollywood is a family fun theme park with state of the art rides, shows and is a real working movie studio. It is a unique experience that will entertain the entire family with favorites attractions featuring some of our favorite block buster movies including Jurassic Park, Kung Fu Panda and Harry Potter.
We were invited to Universal Studios Hollywood to experience all of the new features and attractions. We had talked to so many friends and family members about the new additions to the theme park, we were so excited to be able to ride Jurassic Park – The Ride before it becomes extinct and wander through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and sample butterbeer ice cream and try on house robes and Hermione’s Yule Ball Dress, cast spells and watch the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle as it is featured nightly through August 19tth.
Walking through Universal Studios brought back so many memories of my childhood. I couldn’t wait to have my kids meet Frankenstein and the Universal Studios Hollywood Tour. However, we decided to be smarter and do all of the attractions at the lower lot first, then spend the rest of the day wandering through the attractions at the upper lot.
With the upcoming release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Jurassic Park – The Ride, will go extinct on September 3rd in preparation for the new “Jurassic World Ride” that will be coming in 2019. As a fan of the Jurassic Park movie franchise, I was excited to experience the ride with my family before the new, improved Jurassic World Ride. It felt like we were actually going through the amusement park, as featured in the movies. The dinosaurs – as realistic as can be, and the surprise drops – super exciting, even to my little man who was terrified of ride drops in general. The gigantic splash at the end was simply awesome, especially during our hot summer days.
Our next stop was Transformers The Ride – 3D, which was my son’s favorite! We were transformed into the Transformer movies with an elaborate flight simulation technology that whipped us around and back and forth as Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee and the crew tried to protect us. Then, we wandered into The Mummy. My husband, daughter and I absolutely loved this ride, being catapulted into the heart of the film, however it was a bit much for my son, who isn’t quite a fan of thrill rides.
TIP: One of the best way to experience Universal Studios is to purchase the Universal Express which gives you 1-Day General Admission with one-time express access to each ride, attraction and seated show. It is worth it, because on the day we visited, average wait times were approximately 30 minutes to 45 minutes per ride. With the Universal Express, our wait times were roughly 5 minutes per ride. We completed the lower lot experiences in 1 hour.
One of our favorite “MUST DO” experiences in the lower lot was the “Raptor Encounter”. We seriously enjoyed getting a chance to meet Blue, the most popular velociraptor from the Jurassic World franchise and her handlers. She may be a little scary to some, but to my kiddos, they got a kick out of seeing a velociraptor up close.
TIP: Remember, there are height requirements for rides. Since I have a youngster who is a little timid riding the fast rides, or those with BIG drops, there is an option for “switch rider”. There are areas were family members can wait while the thrill seekers enjoy the ride. While one parent stays with the individual not riding, they can switch after the first group is finished with the ride. This way, you don’t have to wait at the beginning of the line all over again.
As we made our way up the escalators to the upper level, I asked the kids where they wanted to start. Naturally, they wanted to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because there are so many rides and attractions to see. As a 4th grader, my son finally took interest in the Harry Potter books, and couldn’t wait to see how closely Hogsmeade was to the beloved stories.
As we walked through the gates, it was like we emerged into the stories. Since it was getting hot, we were on the hunt for Butterbeer. While there are Butterbeer cards in Hogsmeade, we ended up at Three Broomsticks that offers all sorts of delicious bites for traveling guests. The newly introduced lunch menu includes the Ploughman’s Lunch, Cheese Toastie with Chicken and Sunday Roast Sandwich. Since we weren’t too hungry, just looking to cool off, we ordered Butterbeer, Frozen Butterbeer AND the new Butterbeer Ice Cream.
We LOVED the Butterbeer. The new Butterbeer ice cream is delicious. While I’m not sure of the exact ingredients, it is a delicious blend of vanilla, butterscotch and a hint of chocolate. Butterbeer options range in price from $5.59 to $6.99 Take home a collectible Butterbeer mug, which bought with our Frozen Butterbeer (and additional fee applies).
As we wandered through Hogsmeade, we listened to the frog choir belt out tunes for passing townsfolk. Looking for themed souvenirs, we shopped for house apparel at Dervish and Banges, and tried on house robes at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. At Gladrags Wizardwear you can try on costume replicas of Professor Severus Snape’s robe and Hermione’s Yule Ball dress, available in adult and kid sizes.
At Ollivanders, we watched a wizard select a wand for a park guest. The kids were so enthralled and enjoyed selecting their own wizarding wands. Then, they wandered around Hogsmeade and cast spells throughout the town. This August, wizard guests will have the opportunity conjure up the Incendio fire-making spell and the Alohomora unlocking spell.
After Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Flight of the Hippogriff (both amazing rides), we continued our exploration of Universal Studios with the Universal Studios Tour. A favorite of mine since I was a kid, I was excited to see the new additions to the tour, which included an updated King Kong experience and the Fast and Furious sound stage. My son loved Earthquake and seeing how the flood was created in the outdoor square.
We also had a chance to chat with Mr. Ping from Kung Fu Panda, and ordered some delicious Asian dishes at Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop. Then loved the new Kung Fu Panda Adventure where were transported into the world of Master Po with the state of the art visual effect show.
We also enjoyed the Animal Actor’s show, The Simpsons Ride and Despicable Me, which we rode twice – it was an amazing day. With all the new additions to the park, I was delighted when we turned the corner and practically ran into Frankenstein and insisted the kiddos take a picture with him.
We spent the entire day enjoying the park. My kids were so excited to experience all that Universal Studios has to offer, that we closed the place down. During the summer, now through August 19, and September 1-3, be sure to stay to see the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. It’s a fantastic show, and will mesmerize Harry Potter fans as the Sorting Hat takes over the castle in a beautiful light show. See it here:
Plan to take your family to Universal Studios Hollywood this summer. It’s an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime! For more information on tickets, attractions and more, visit https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/