What makes visiting Universal Studios Hollywood so Hollywood? It may sound like a simple enough question however if you have been to Universal Studios Orlando, the differences in visiting Universal Studios Hollywood are certainly there.
I mean, it is located in Hollywood…
Having already visited Universal Orlando a couple of times I didn’t feel the need to stop in at Universal Studios Hollywood on my recent trip to LA. That was until thinking about this question: what makes Universal Studios Hollywood, well, Hollywood? Are the parks actually different? Do they have the same rides? What about Harry Potter and Homer Simpson?
Let’s find out.
Same but Different
First impressions upon pulling up to Universal Hollywood will be very familiar to Universal Orlando. Both theme parks have expansive City Walks leading to the gate – a collection of shops and restaurants, and entertainment options. Many of the restaurants and bars are the same such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Notable standards in Hollywood CityWalk is the surprisingly good beer at Karl Strauss Brewing and Portland’s favourite treat – Voodoo Doughnuts.
Inside the gates, the similarities are still there however on a much smaller scale. You can still visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter although there’s no Diagon alley and no Hogwarts Express connecting it to Hogsmeade.
Wondering what Hogwarts house you belong in? Take this quiz before you go!
There is a Springfield USA so you can still have a pint at Moes, but again, in a scaled-back version.
The rides are sometimes smaller than those found in Universal Studios Orlando and the park is more condensed. Why? Because visiting Universal Studios Hollywood is actually visiting a real (fake) Hollywood film studio. Being a theme park puts you in the action in a uniquely Hollywood Way.
Behind the Scenes
One “ride“ that is unique to visiting Universal Studios Hollywood is the World-Famous Studio Tour. This attraction sets Universal Studios Hollywood apart on its own. Guests are taken on an hour-long tour through Universal/NBC sound studios and sets. Although you never leave the tram car, you do go past studios where current shows like The Voice are filmed as well as locations that have been used in classics film and television scenes spanning a century. These include Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and The Grinch.
Notables to me included a collection of cars used in film including Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS and the set of Jaws/Murder She Wrote. Yep. Jessica Fletcher’s small New England town and the Jaws ride are one and the same.
Then there is the unreal apocalyptic setting of a downed 747 used in the 2010 remake War of the Worlds, which is truly out of this world.
This isn’t the first time I have been behind the scenes in Hollywood. Over at the adjacent Warner Bros. studio, I took a walking tour of the set there. Where Universal Studios Hollywood differs is, because it is a theme park, the studio tour is actually a ride.
During the tour, the tram pulls into three different sets for a little Hollywood magic. This includes two 3-D rides – Fast and the Furious, and the Peter Jackson directed King Kong. The latter puts you and your tour bus in between a T-Rex and the famous giant ape.
Hollywood’s Furriest Stars
Although there is a version of Animal Actors at Universal Orlando, seeing the show at Universal Hollywood just feels more Hollywood. This 30-minute show was actually the highlight of my time visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. Who knew rats and cats could actually be trained?
While visiting Universal Studios I stayed at the nearby Garland Hotel and highly recommend it. It truly is a classic California hotel with a motel feel straight out of the 60’s. On top of a good nights rest and a complimentary shuttle to Universal Studio’s front door, The Garland offers a great place to relax after a day out. Sit poolside, chill in the hotel’s hip courtyard, or partake in one of its many theme nights. On my short visit, it was California Craft Beer Night. I can (and did) totally drink to that.
There are plenty of great hip motels like this in Garland in the area. I suggest checking out Motel Matcher to find one that fits your tastes and budget.
Worth the Visit?
At the end of the day, visiting Universal Studios Hollywood is well worth it for the studio tour alone. Even if you have been to Universal Studios Orlando, visiting Universal Studios Hollywood just feels more authentic. Opposed to being located next to a swamp, Universal Studios Hollywood is next to used-to-this-day sets and sound stages. This, perhaps not shockingly, makes all the difference and adds that Hollywood magic film is known for.
What say you?
Thoughts on What Makes Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood so Hollywood?
Let’s hear it!
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Although I was provided a complimentary day visiting universal Studios Hollywood,
the experience, opinions, and fangirling are my own.
Thanks for the great guide