West Coast Chronicles: Universal Studios Hollywood

My first amusement park visit during this trip would be Universal Studios Hollywood.  It’s also my first ever Universal Studios experience anywhere so I was naturally excited!  Join me as I look back on one of the best amusement park experience I’ve ever had so far!

Welcome to Universal Studios Hollywood!

This is part of a series

My Universal Studios Hollywood experience started with driving through the parking of the park.  It’s not the prettiest, but it adds to the suspense for first timers like me.  And once we’re out of the parking, you still have to navigate through the CityWalk before you get a glimpse of the entrance.

Universal CityWalk Hollywood

Universal CityWalk Hollywood (or simply, the CityWalk) is a three-block entertainment, dining, and shopping promenade.  It’s actually pretty nice here as you have a decent selection of places to eat, get some souvenirs, watch a movie, and shop!

Good place to eat and shop

When we finally arrived at the entrance, we were greeted with a live broadcast of EXTRA and we were even invited to be in the background.  I think I had a few seconds of live TV fame then so my first impressions of Universal Studios Hollywood was really great!  I really am in Hollywood!

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Live broadcast of EXTRA

The Park

Then comes the moment of truth.  Universal Studios Hollywood, here we come! 😀

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Getting our tickets
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Front of Line tickets!

Travel Tip: If you’re pressed on time, a Front of Line ticket is a lifesaver.  Sure it costs about 50% more than regular tickets, but the time you save from queueing in line makes it worth it!

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This is the first sculpture you would see upon entrance
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And just like that, we’re in New York!
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Could you tell that this was taken in California? 😀

Universal Studios Hollywood is basically divided into the upper and lower sections due to the huge differences in elevation within the property.  Thankfully, there are escalators so we didn’t have to step up and down the stairs, but it was really hot that day so walking would still give you some sweat.

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The lower section where more attractions await
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At the lower section of the park
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This is how you get here and there…

The Tour

Perhaps the most convenient way of seeing Universal Studios Hollywood is via the guided tour.  You get into this long shuttle that will take you all around the park, and you have a tour guide that tells you what’s going on.  And it’s not your ordinary sit down and listen kind of tour—it is really, really entertaining!  I wouldn’t spoil it for first timers but I really, really recommend it!

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Along the tour you get to see actual sets used in filming Hollywood movies
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You’d be surprised at how “Hollywood magic” can make these small sets appear huge
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You don’t even have to travel to New York to shoot a scene in a New York neighborhood
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This is just one of the many very, very exciting part of this tour! 😉
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Now we are back in time, in the Wild West!
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At this tour we learned a Hollywood “secret” when filming heroes and damsels in distress in Wild West movies (which I won’t tell 😀 hahaha)
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Now we’re going to “Mexico”
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And here, we’re inside the subway where we encountered a strong earthquake and flash flood, among others!
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And we’re back in the Wild West
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This is another interesting encounter 🙂
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And this is another set from a movie
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Also used in another movie
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And this is the actual set used in the 2005 movie, War of the Worlds!
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And that is an actual 747 plane!
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And to cap this trip is this warehouse where the latest addition and one of the most interesting part of the tour happened 🙂

By all means, there’s so much more in this tour that I wasn’t able to include and I wouldn’t be able to appreciate Universal Studios Hollywood that well had I not took this tour.  Next stop, the attractions!

The Attractions

With so many attractions and so little time, it’s quite difficult to pick where to begin!  So let’s start with the one where you’d most likely get wet…

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Jurassic Park
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Here we go…
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I used to be scared of these when I was a kid
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Just before the climactic end of this ride…
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And this is how it ends (seen from the other side)

Watch out for dinosaurs roaming around the area…

Next stop, a visit to the world of Shrek…

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Even the food cart plays the theme 🙂
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Have you seen them?
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Donkey entertaining the guests
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And so do this tandem, just before everyone was let in for the show

As always, I won’t spill the beans!  Next up, Springfield and the Simpsons!

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This is as close as you can get to Springfield
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Complete with a Moe’s Tavern
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A Kwik-E-Mart where you can buy souvenirs
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While waiting for the ride, Abu is there to keep you company 🙂

Quite surprisingly, The Simpsons ride was really fun!  It’s not really for the little kids as I expected and is a bit dizzying.  Moving on…

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And there’s the Lard Lad Donuts
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Where you can actually get these huge donuts!  Regular-sized donuts are available as well.
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Krusty Burger is also here
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Taking a photo with Lisa Simpson 😀

Of course, a trip to Universal Studios would not be complete without a visit to The Minions’ lair!

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Does this look familiar?
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Gru’s family portraits
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The Gru family tree
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After an interesting experience with the minions 🙂

There are still a lot of other attractions that we went to that I won’t be including here so as not to make this post too long. 🙂

The Shows

Aside from attractions, there are also shows you can enjoy.  Again, let’s start with something we could get wet:

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WaterWorld

WaterWorld is a show based on a movie with the same name.  It is an action-packed show filled with amazing actors doing amazing stunts with some explosions all around.  You really can get wet but you don’t have to if you prefer to stay dry as seats are marked clearly as to where the wet and dry zones are.  And this being Hollywood, the show we saw was star-studded as the actors who played have appeared on TV series and movies.

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Universal’s Animal Actors

Universal’s Animal Actors is another show that we got to see and it’s another star-studded one.  If you’ve seen a recent movie with animals in it, it’s most likely they were here in this show!  We were shown what these animal actors can do and some techniques on how they film them.  Note that it’s not just the usual cats and dogs!

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Here are the ducks
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A raccoon
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And this parrot flying with a green screen on the background
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And of course there’d be a dog…
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…And another one 🙂

And there were some more other animals on the show that I wasn’t able to take photos of!  Overall, this show is for all ages and it’s quite entertaining and informative.  It’s pretty interactive too!

The Views

Universal Studios Hollywood provides some very nice views of the surrounding area.  And the park itself provides some really good place to take photos.

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Look at that view!
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From another part of the park…
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Going back to the park…
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Enjoy the flowers…
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Moulin Rouge
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Along Minion Way
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Fun Land, where you can also get yourself wet 🙂
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All that walking sure is tiring! 😀

That’s a Wrap!

As the sun slowly sets, so too must our day in Universal Studios Hollywood end.  But before we end our day, the CityWalk still have some things to show us…

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Finally, the crowds have gone and I can get a decent selfie! 😀
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Walking the CityWalk one last time…
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Did you know that you can get some “sky diving” experience here?
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And here is another show being recorded, this one being E!
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They were a few minutes before wrapping up when we were on the scene

A day at Universal Studios Hollywood sure is too short to really cover everything even with Front of Line tickets!  Regardless, I sure had lots of fun!  And just as I thought I was just entering a typical amusement park, I was actually stepping into actual TV and movie studios!  Universal Studios Hollywood is really unique and won’t be easily matched by any amusement park with all the shows and movies that have been recorded and are still being recorded within its premises.  Being here made me feel that I really was in Hollywood!  Looking forward to returning in the future! 😀

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