A day at Universal Studios Hollywood (and a few tips!)

Hello!  So, as many of you saw on my Instagram feed + stories (@ourlittlelifestyleblog), we took a last minute trip to Universal Studios Hollywood on Saturday.  In true Sarah fashion we woke up that morning knowing that we were going to go somewhere but not sure exactly where.   I always hem and haw over these “impulsive little trips.”  I like them to be fairly inexpensive and the weather to be ideal.

So, I had planned on going to a southern California beach but when the beach temps were going to top out around 67 I quickly changed plans to somewhere in the valley (where it would be 75 – 80 degrees).  The kids and I have spent a couple days at Universal Studios Hollywood but Matt had never gone so we packed our bags and jumped into the car.

It’s about an hour and thirty minute drive from our house and I booked a hotel along the way.  We opted to spend a little bit more and stay at the adjacent Hilton Universal Studios which is a 3-5 minute walk which is ideal for how I planned to attack the day.

TIP #1: If you plan to go back and forth to your room it is very much worth it to stay at one of the hotels right next to the park.

Our room wasn’t ready yet (we were way early for check-in) but they held our bags and we headed over to the park!  So, here is where I want to share some tips with you and also a “flow” that I have found worked great for us.

[12:00pm – 3:00pm ] We headed into the park but made sure to stash away some bottled water and snack bars.  My friend Shannon lives a mile away and goes all of the time and last time I went with her we walked in with pizza and soda.  Now their site asks you not to bring outside food and beverage so I am not going to make it an official tip.  I would hate to be wrong or get you into trouble.  But if you had a bottle of water and a few granola bars / almonds I would bet that they let you carry them in.

We had our passes but want to mention that you should buy and print all tickets and passes online first.  Not only is it cheaper but you can walk right up to the turn style vs waiting it that long ticket line.

TIP #2: Purchase tickets before hand.

The park is often very crowded midday so we used this time to walk around, see the characters, catch good vibes and then get soaking wet.  This is a great time to try the Studio Tram Tour as well.  Go there first and you have a good chance of not waiting too long! Plus it’s pretty long and it closes earlier than other rides and you don’t want to miss out on experiencing it!

Speaking of soaking wet.  There is a large open space splash pad and there is also a big multilevel water fun zone.  Your kids will get soaked if you let them play here.  And PS: shoes are required.  We totally ruined a pair of sneakers because I didn’t have another option.  So, either bring a suit and water shoes or do what we did and let them go crazy and then head back to the hotel.

TIP #3: Bring water proof shoes.

[3:00pm – 6:00pm]  We went back to the hotel.  This worked out great because Matt wanted to catch a nap and the kids and I wanted so swim (ie: have cocktails LOL) at the pool.  So, we did that and also ate some food at the pool bar / snack bar at the Hilton Universal Studios.  It is a nice big pool and has a large grassy space with a variety of loungers, tables and even cabanas!

Around 5:30pm we noticed the line wait times were dropping fast.  How did I know?  They have an app.  Make sure to download that! Wait times are very accurate and you can set up an alert for where it reaches a particular time.

TIP #4: Download the Universal Studios App

[6:00 pm – 10:00pm] So, with dry clothes, full bellies and a light jacket we set out to conquer the night.  This is something big that I learned on my last visit! A few hours before closing it is like a mass exodus.  Line times from from 2 hours for the popular Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride to just 20 minutes and then just 5 minutes even later. So, pay attention to the park hours for your visit and rest up.  We had so much fun racing from ride to ride laughing and running through the empty lines!  And they do sell $9 24 ounce cans of beer.  We are cocktail people so this enhanced my evening. LOL.

TIP #5: Ride all the rides… at night!

Make sure to bring a jacket though because it gets a little cooler at night.  And the best part about it is that we can go back again and again if you want to!  Universal offers a California Neighbor Pass on their website for $129.  You can go on ANY DAY for your first visit and then have access to visit on many other days for the next 9 months.  There are a lot of black out dates but if you are local you can easily plan around that.  Or if you are not local check to see if the following day is not blacked out. That is what we did last time.  We went back for a few hours in the morning.  Regular rates are $109-$115 so the pass is a good investment.

TIP #5: Buy the pass!

We went back to the hotel that night and c r a s h e d!  So many great memories made that night!  We slept in and then grabbed some coffee and breakfast sandwiches from the hotel coffee shop and went out to the pool for a few hours before heading back home.

** Disclaimer.  I am not a Universal Studios Expert.  I am sure there are other resources with full itineraries, etc. but we aren’t really plan ahead type of people. That said though…these are some things that I took out of my first two days at Universal and used to make our visit on Saturday as ideal as possible!

I hope that this inspires you to plan a visit sometime.  The kids really do love it there!

Oh man.  I almost forgot my favorite tip!  Do yourself a favor and buy them some Harry Potter  (or whatever their jam is)  gear before you visit.  The gift shops are pricey and while I would maybe splurge for the super cool wand that interacts with the window displays within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I don’t enjoy buying random souvenirs.  I bought them scarves on Amazon and Jake the cutest glasses at Amazon.  We brought them along and it saved me $100 and hours of whining.

TIP #6: Bring your own souvenirs!

Cheers to making memories!  Here are a few photos from our day.  I only brought my camera for the first couple hours so didn’t take a ton but you have to see how wet they got!

Universal1 Universal2 Universal3 Universal4 Universal5 Universal6 Universal7 Universal8 Universal9 Universal10 Universal11 Universal12 Universal13 Universal14 Universal16 DSC_4223 WEB DSC_4246 WEB UNI1




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