1. Buy your tickets in advance! We opted for the Front Of Line tickets since we were only able to allocate 1 day out of our hectic Los Angeles schedule. When we arrived there were already queues starting to form for purchasing at the gate tickets. Another bonus, when buying from Universal in advance they normally have a few different offers on that can save even more pennies!
2. If you are visiting LA just to go to Universal then I would recommend staying at one of the hotels next to Universal Studios. You have the choice of Sheraton Universal or the Hilton Universal. There are other hotels available that offer free shuttles to and from Universal. For our trip we were staying at the Best Western PLUS Sunset Plaza so we just jumped in a taxi for around £20.
3. If you arrive early don’t worry! We had a stroll around Universal City Walk and stopped off for a quick drink at Starbucks before returning to the gates opening. For us, this was mostly because we weren’t entirely sure how long the taxi ride would take at that time of the morning but luckily the traffic all seemed to be heading in the opposite direction.
4. Make sure you hold onto the leaflets you are given. One is your park map which is essential for working out where your most sought after rides are located. The other will have all of the show times. This is very important as the shows only happen a couple of times a day so make sure you plan your time so you are on the right floor at the right time.
5. Right floor at the right time? Universal is split into an upper and lower floor with the slowest, longest set of escalators ever that connects the floors. It takes at least a good 10 minutes to get between the top and bottom levels to factor this into your time management if you are jumping from the lower to upper floors to catch different shows.
6. As soon as you enter the park head to the locker area on the right and dump all of your things there. We held onto our phones but that was it. You can’t take all your bags onto the rides and I didn’t fancy abandoning them at the entrances like some people did.
7. Now is when the fun begins. My advice is to head straight for the Studio Tour. This is the ‘ride’ that fills up the quickest and tends to have the longest lines. We used our Front Of Line passes and skipped straight to the front of the queue and had about a 2 minute wait until we set of.
The Studio Tour is what makes this Park so unique. It still operates to this day as a fully functional TV and film studio. Whilst we were there we visited sets such as the village of Whoville:
We also saw the remains of this aeroplane crash! It was scarily lifelike! (This is from a film but right now I can’t remember which!)
8. Now you’re finished the Studio Tour, it’s time for the rides! Stay on the upper floor and ride everything from The Mummy Returns to Shrek 4D and of course, take a trip to Springfield:
9. Next, head on down those never ending escalators to the bottom floor. As soon as you enter you’ve got Jurassic Park to your left and Transformers further along to the left. I knew which one I was going on first..
10. Make sure while you’re going from ride to ride to check out what times the characters are making appearances:
11. Once you’re happy you’ve accomplished all you can on the bottom floor you can either gab some lunch down there or head back up to the top floor and find something at one of the many restaurants and takeaways there.
12. After lunch is when we really explored the rest of what the park had to offer. We watched a couple of the shows and had a walk around London…
13. By now it should be the middle of the afternoon. Because we’d been there so early we decided to head out of the park around 3pm and have a look around the City Walk where all of the stores were now open and ready for business. You don’t need a ticket for Universal to visit the City Walk. If you are staying at any of the nearby hotels and are tight for time I would recommend coming here to get your shopping fix instead of heading into down town LA.
14. Feeling completely shopped out, we chowed down on a Pinks Chilli dog before catching a taxi back to Sunset Strip and collapsing in our bed! What a fantastic way to spend a day in Los Angeles!
*Book your tickets in advance and get Front Of Line passes if you are visiting at weekends or in high season.
*Be sure to arrive for the gates opening to make the most of your day
*Take some spending money for lunch and souvenirs. I had to restrain myself from buying everything in the Transformers shop & Kris had to do the same in the Jurassic Park shop!
*Wear comfortable shoes…you are going to be doing a LOT of walking! Also make sure you pack plenty of sun cream. It gets very very hot in the afternoon.
*If Universal is the main reason you are visiting LA, perhaps stay in one of the hotels that offer a free shuttles like the Loews, The Garland or the Sportsman Lodge.
**We visited Universal in June 2013. All information correct at time of writing.