Universal Studios Hollywood Planning Guide: Tips for a Perfect Visit

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Known as the “Entertainment Capital of Los Angeles,” Universal Studios Hollywood offers a diverse array of attractions, from the immersive worlds of Super Nintendo World to the magic-infused streets of Hogsmeade, appealing to guests of all ages.

This Universal Studios Hollywood planning guide can not only help you save money and time but can also enhance your experience by avoiding common pitfalls such as long lines and crowded attractions.

The Universal Studios globe
Universal Studios Hollywood planning guide
The Universal Studios Globe (Photo by Go Travel California)

Visitors can benefit greatly from insider knowledge on the best times to visit, ticket options, and the wide range of rides and attractions. Strategies for planning your day, coupled with useful tips, can be the difference between an average visit and an extraordinary adventure.

» You might be interested in reading about the other theme parks in the area.

Best Times to Visit

When planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, timing is crucial both for experiencing seasonal events and managing crowd levels.

Seasonal Events

Universal Studios Hollywood hosts several seasonal events throughout the year. January is generally quiet, making it an ideal time for guests who prefer a more relaxed visit. In September, the park celebrates Halloween with its popular Halloween Horror Nights, providing a unique experience. Conversely, December is festive with Christmas celebrations, offering holiday-specific entertainment and decorations.

Crowd Levels

The crowd levels at Universal Studios Hollywood vary significantly throughout the year. Low crowd periods tend to be in January and February, right after the holiday season, and in the weeks following Labor Day in September. For guests aiming to avoid longer wait times, these periods are optimal. On the other hand, summer months, weekends, and holidays typically observe high crowd levels, so guests seeking a less crowded experience should plan accordingly.

The Mystery Machine
The Mystery Machine (Photo by Go Travel California)

Tickets and Passes

Choosing the right ticket or pass for Universal Studios Hollywood is essential. Prices may vary by season and demand, and guests should consider the benefits of each option to best meet their needs.

Ticket Types

Universal Studios Hollywood offers several ticket types to cater to different preferences:

  • One-Day General Admission: The price begins at $109, but varies based on the date of the visit. Weekends and holidays typically have higher pricing due to increased demand.
  • Two-Day General Admission: Starts at $159 and allows visitors to explore the park over two days within a seven-day period. It offers a greater value for guests who wish to take their time experiencing the park.

» Buy your Universal Studios Hollywood general admission tickets here through Viator.

Mario character costumes
Character costumes in the queue for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge (Photo by Go Travel California)

Express Passes

  • Universal Express Passes grant guests one-time (per day) express access to each ride, attraction, and seated show. The cost varies starting at $209 depending on the day. They cannot be used for the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge attraction. Investing in an Express Pass can be beneficial on crowded days or for visitors with limited time who wish to experience as many attractions as possible.
  • VIP Experience Ticket includes 1-Day Park admission and unlimited (per day) express access to each ride, attraction, and seated show. This ticket also includes a guided tour including the backlot, light snacks, refreshments, complimentary valet parking, and special VIP dining experience. These tickets start at $379 per day.
  • Super Nintendo World Early Access Ticket starts at $20 and gives you a chance to enter the park one hour before the theme park opens. A theme park admission ticket is required and availability is limited.

Rides and Attractions

Ride wait times sign
Ride wait times sign (Photo by Go Travel California)

Universal Studios Hollywood offers a diverse range of rides and attractions, catering to thrill-seekers and families alike. Visitors can expect cutting-edge technology and immersive themed experiences within each attraction.

Thrill Rides

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™: This ride places guests in the middle of thrilling scenes from the Harry Potter series. (Upper Lot)
  • Jurassic World – The Ride: Featuring realistic animatronics and a thrilling drop, this ride puts visitors in the land of dinosaurs. (Lower Lot)
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride: A high-speed roller coaster that sends guests racing through a world of ancient curses and mummies. (Lower Lot)
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D: Combines 3D media and flight-simulator technology for an action-packed experience. (Lower Lot)


  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: This motion-simulator ride is a family-friendly adventure with Gru and his Minions. (Upper Lot)
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash: A ride that brings to life the characters from the movie Pets, suitable for younger guests. (Upper Lot)
  • Silly Swirly Fun Ride: An aerial carousel that offers a gentle flight over Super Silly Fun Land.(Upper Lot)
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™: Although it features a thrill ride, it also includes child-friendly areas like Ollivanders™, where one can witness a wand pairing ceremony. (Upper Lot)
  • World-Famous Studio Tour: A behind the scenes tour of the back lot where many of your favorite films and tv shows were filmed. (Upper Lot)
  • DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda: Enter a theatre and watch Po, Mr. Ping, and Master Shifu embark on a perilous mission. (Upper Lot)


  • WaterWorld: A live-action performance that includes stunts and special effects, showcasing an epic battle on water. (Upper Lot)

Each attraction has specific operating hours and show times. It’s advisable for guests to check the Universal Studios Hollywood official app for the most accurate scheduling.

secret life of pets queue
The queue for The Secret Life of Pets ride (Photo by Go Travel California)

Planning Your Day

Efficiently planning your day at Universal Studios Hollywood is a good way to make the most out of every moment. Visitors should consider the park’s layout and attraction wait times, and whether the additional cost of an Express Pass is a worthwhile investment for their needs.

Universal Studios Hollywood App

One of the first things you should do is download the theme park app on your phone. This will be one of the best tools to help you navigate the park. You can buy and store your tickets, but it will also show you ride wait times, dining options, and give you an easy to use map of the park.

Welcome to Springfield sign
Welcome to Springfield(Photo by Go Travel California)

The Upper Lot & The Lower Lot

The park is broken into 2 parts, the upper lot where you will enter the park and the lower lot. The 2 lots are accessed by escalators like the one below. It can take 10 to 15 minutes to make the trek between the 2 lots.

When planning your day you may want to take into account which attractions are in each area. I have noted above on the attraction list which lot you can find them in.

escalator to the upper lot
Escalators to the upper lot (Photo by Go Travel California)

Itinerary Suggestions

To help navigate to park its important to have an idea of the popular attractions. It’s best to take advantage of those areas first while park attendance is still low. In this case you might want to start with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the upper lot or make your way to the lower lot to Super Nintendo World.

In between major attractions, consider scheduling time for shows and smaller rides to ensure a well-rounded day.

Make Time for a Show

Water world the show
WaterWorld set (Photo by Go Travel California)

WaterWorld is an action packed stunt show that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a great chance to rest your feet and relax, or in our case, get out of the rain. I remember watching a Miami Vice show here when I was a kid.

Beware, you might get wet! The bleachers are marked to show where the splash zone is.

Super Mario World

inside Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World (Photo by Go Travel California)

For anyone who has grown up playing Nintendo, this land is for you! Walk through the tunnel and emerge into the world of Super Mario where you can meet your favorite characters, play games, and more.

Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

Laura and Angie on the Mario Kart ride
Angie and Laura on Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

Experience Mario Kart as the driver! As you walk through the queue you will see different stages and props from the games. As you near the front of the line you will be handed special goggles that will pair with a 3-D visor in the car.

Drive alongside your favorite characters while collecting coins and throwing shells.

Toadstool Café

Toadstool Cafe
The Toadstool Café (Photo by Go Travel California)

When you are hungry and ready for a break check out the Toadstool Café where Chef Toad is cooking up tasty food.

Because of limited capacity you may need to join the wait list. Just scan the QR code at the entrance and schedule a time to return.

Interactive Experience

power up band under a yellow question mark box.
Super Nintendo World (Photo by Go Travel California)

Get more out of your visit to Super Nintendo World with a Power-up Band. It will keep your score as you complete challenges, defeat Bowser Jr, collect digital coins, and more.

Find the blocks and stations throughout the land like the yellow question mark block above and wave your power-up band under it to collect coins and more.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle (Photo by Go Travel California)

Immerse yourself in the enchanting realm of Harry Potter as you enter Hogsmeade village and journey past the iconic Hogwarts Express.

For aficionados of the series, this is the ultimate fantasy fulfilled. Don’t miss the chance to explore every corner of this magical domain, where even a trip to the restroom might conjure the ghostly presence of Moaning Myrtle. And before bidding farewell, be sure to savor a taste of butterbeer, the quintessential beverage of the wizarding world.

Interactive Experience

Spell marker in the ground at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Interactive spell markers (Photo by Go Travel California)

Visit Ollivander’s Wand Shop for a fun interactive show and then choose a want, or should we say let the want choose you!

For a magical interactive experience while in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, use your wand to cast spells around Hogsmeade. Watch for markers like the one above to cast spells.

It’s essential to check the times for interactive shows within the park to make the most of these engaging experiences.


Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – Enter Hogwarts Castle and see familiar corridors and classrooms from the Harry Potter movies. Then strap into this ride that takes you through the Forbidden Forest, high above Hogwarts, and has you fly with Harry.

Flight of the Hippogriff – As you wind your way through the line for this ride Hagrid will teach you the proper way to approach a Hippogriff. This family-friendly rollercoaster lets you ride this magical creature.


The Three Broomsticks

Fish and chips and butterbeer

This is our favorite place to eat. Enjoy the details that are straight out of the movie. There are plenty of tables, butterbeer, and English fare. We had the fish and chips and weren’t disappointed.



This legendary sweet shop is a must-stop. You can find wizarding favorites such as chocolate frogs, every flavor beans, and fizzing wizzbees.

The World-Famous Studio Tour

This tour takes you behind the scenes of a real working movie studio. The tour runs about for approximately an hour so make sure to plan that into your day.

Jupiter's Claim from Nope
Jupiter’s Claim on the backlot (Photo by Go Travel California)

Board a tour tram, sit back, and relax as your tour guide takes you through past and present movie sets. You will experience some intense 3-D movie rides within the tour. Visit Jupiter’s Claim from the movie Nope, as well as the sets of Fast and the Furious, Kong, and Jaws.

Check out the daily filming schedule board at the entrance the the studio tour to see what shows are filming that day.

Filming schedule
Current filming schedule (Photo by Go Travel California)

Pro Tip: Sit in the middle tram on the right side for a great view of Jaws.

Dining Options

Universal Studios Hollywood offers an array of dining options to cater to various tastes and preferences, from themed restaurants to quick bites and accommodating dietary restrictions.


The Hogs Head Bar in Wizarding World
The Hogs Head in the Three Broomsticks (Photo by Go Travel California)

Universal Studios Hollywood features several sit-down restaurants where guests can enjoy a themed dining experience. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has the Three Broomsticks, offering British pub food. For a touch of Hollywood glam, guests can dine at NBC Sports Grill & Brew. A notable favorite for its immersive atmosphere is Toadstool Café, themed after the world of Super Mario.

Snacks and Quick Bites

Krusty burger
Krusty Burger (Photo by Go Travel California)

Those looking for a quick snack can head to various restaurants throughout the park that are designed for a fast stop. Springfield, the area themed after The Simpsons, includes places like Krusty Burger for fast-food options, Duff Brewery Beer Garden for beverages, and Suds McDuff’s Hot Dog Stand. Visitors can also find Voodoo Doughnut for unique sweet treats.

Lard Lad donuts
Lard Lad Donuts (Photo by Go Travel California)

We saw so many people with donuts from Lard Lad Donuts. Their most popular donut is The Big Pink. It is a giant donut with pink frosting and it is served in a 12 inch box.


When planning a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, selecting the right accommodations can change the overall experience. Visitors can choose between staying on-site for convenience and immersive themes or opting for nearby hotels that offer a range of pricing and amenities.

Nearby Hotels

Budget-Friendly Options:

  • Holiday Inn Express North Hollywood: Affordable rates with essential amenities, including free breakfast and Wi-Fi.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites Near Universal: Offers free shuttle to Universal Studios and a complimentary hot breakfast.

Mid-Range Options:

  • Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City: Directly adjacent to the park with spacious rooms and excellent facilities.
  • Sheraton Universal Hotel: A short shuttle ride from the park, known for its good service and comfortable accommodations.

Premium Selections:

  • The Garland: A boutique option that provides a free shuttle to the park and has a stylish, retro-Hollywood feel.
  • Loews Hollywood Hotel: Features upscale rooms and is located within close proximity to Universal Studios Hollywood, with luxury amenities and service.
Megatron (Photo by Go Travel California)

Transportation and Parking

Planning your trip to Universal Studios Hollywood requires understanding the transportation options available and knowing the best parking tips.

Getting to Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood is accessible by various modes of public transportation. Metro trains and buses frequently service the area, with a Metro pedestrian bridge facilitating easy access from the station. For personalized travel routes, potential visitors can utilize the Metro Trip Planner or call Metro directly to find the most suitable transportation option.

Parking Tips

Pay stations for parking

When driving to Universal Studios Hollywood, choosing a parking option that best suits your needs is a good idea. General Parking can vary cost-wise throughout the day, and Preferred Parking offers closer proximity to the park entrance. For an even more convenient option, Front Gate Parking is located right at the entrance.

  • General Parking:
    • Before 5pm: $32
    • After 5pm: $10
  • Front Gate Parking:
    • Cost: $70 per day
  • Preferred Parking:
    • Before 5 pm: $50
    • After 5 pm: $20

Drivers should remember that parking rates and policies are subject to change, and it’s advisable to check the most current information before the visit.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best strategies for maximizing a single day visit to Universal Studios Hollywood?

To make the most of a single day, visitors should arrive early before the park opens. It is advisable to prioritize the attractions with the longest wait times first, such as those in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Super Mario World.
It is also helpful to download the Universal Studios app, check ride waiting time boards throughout the park, and be familiar with the park layout before you go.

Which attractions should I prioritize if I have limited time at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Prioritize unique and popular attractions such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, Jurassic World – The Ride, and the Studio Tour. These experiences offer a quintessential Universal Studios Hollywood experience.

Are there any restrictions on bringing food or drinks into Universal Studios Hollywood?

Guests are allowed to bring small snacks and bottled water into the park. However, full meals, glass containers, and alcohol are not permitted. Universal Studios also offers various dining options on-site.

What are the typical hours of operation for Universal Studios Hollywood throughout the year?

The park’s hours vary throughout the year, typically opening at 9 or 10 AM and closing between 6 PM and 10 PM. Extended hours are common during peak seasons and holiday periods. Make sure to check the website for park hours during your visit.

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Universal Studios Hollywood Planning Guide: Tips for a Perfect Visit

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