Ultimate Guide: Universal Studios Hollywood Tips for 2024

Welcome to the ultimate guide for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood in 2024! Whether you’re a movie aficionado, an adrenaline junkie, or simply seeking a day of fun, Universal Studios Hollywood continues to evolve with new lands, attractions, and dining options, providing guests with fresh experiences on every visit! To stay up to date with the changes, you’ll find our Universal Studios Hollywood tips helpful in navigating the park this 2024.

Entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD TIPS:

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything from mastering the art of avoiding long lines to crafting the perfect itinerary based on our insider experience, tips for visiting with young kids, snagging discount tickets, packing essentials, and more. With these Universal Studios Hollywood tips, first-time visitors will be visiting like a pro:

1. Buy Discounted Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets Online in Advance

Buying your theme park tickets on-site is always pricier, so it’s essential to purchase them online in advance. Make sure you’re getting them from authorized ticket sellers only. Here are some deals to take advantage of from our travel partner – AresTravel. A $2 convenience fee applies per ticket but tax is already included. This not only saves you money but also eliminates the need to wait in line at the ticket booth, saving you valuable time.

Refer to our post on Universal Studios Hollywood discount tickets for a list of the most current deals including discounts on Annual Passes that Universal is currently offering.


2. Best Time to Visit Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the most popular theme parks in the United States, drawing millions of visitors each year. To experience reduced crowds and shorter wait times on rides, the best time to visit Universal Studios Hollywood is on weekdays, excluding holidays or days close to major holidays. The park experiences its peak attendance during the summer break and holiday seasons (Halloween, Thanksgiving Week, and Christmas to New Year). Additionally, expect increased activity during Spring Break, typically occurring for a week between March to April (the specific week varies among U.S. schools).

At the line inside Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge Ride

3. Buy an Early Access Pass before it Sells Out

The new land – Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood that opened in 2023 remains immensely popular, attracting a majority of visitors who prioritize exploring it upon entering the park, including us. A very important tip for Universal Studios Hollywood is to secure an Early Access Pass for Super Nintendo World to be able to access the land one hour early before the official park opening time. It’s important to buy them in advance as they sell out fast. For our recent trip to USH (March 2024), dates were already sold out a week before our visit. It may sell out even faster if you are planning to visit during the summer.

Early Access Pass cost $20 to $30 (varies by day) and is available online via the park’s website. You can still buy discounted Universal Studios Hollywood tickets elsewhere (authorized ticket sellers only) and get the Early Access Pass from Universal.

Related: Tips for Visiting Super Nintendo World (Coming Soon)


4. Check Hours of Operation and Arrive Early

If the additional cost of the Early Access Pass isn’t within your budget, particularly when visiting with the whole family, I recommend arriving 30 to 60 minutes prior to the park’s scheduled opening time.

Arriving early affords you enough time to park your car, stroll to the gate, go through security, take photos at the Universal Studios Hollywood sign outside the entrance, and then enter as soon as the park opens. This strategy enables you to access the two popular lands (Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter) before those still caught in Los Angeles traffic.

Wearing the Power-Up Band and going to the Lower Lot at Universal

It’s also essential to verify the hours of operation since Universal Studios Hollywood opens at 9 AM on certain days and 10 AM on others.


5. Decide on 1-Day or 2-Day Visit

For those debating whether a one-day visit to Universal Studios Hollywood suffices or if two days are necessary, my suggestion is that if you aim to experience every ride, opting for two days allows for a more leisurely trip. This is particularly beneficial if you wish to return to your hotel for a nap or a refreshing dip in the pool, as cramming everything into one day can be exhausting.

At Super Nintendo World

6. Buy a Universal Express Pass to Skip Long Lines

If you can only visit Universal Studios Hollywood during the peak travel season like Spring Break, Summer Break, or during the holidays or you’re impatient when it comes to lines, you should consider purchasing a Universal Express pass to skip the regular lines. From our experience at Universal during our last 2 visits, we were able to get on rides within 5 to 10 minutes using Universal Express, in contrast to the regular lines, which often had wait times of 1 to 2 hours.

With a Universal Express Pass, you will be able to get on all the rides in a day including what we consider the scariest – The Revenge of the Mummy, and the most kid-friendly – The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! Check our list of the best rides at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Where to Line up for Universal Express

A Universal Express pass includes admission to the park and one-time express access to each ride, attraction, and seated show. The Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride is not included but it does include a one-time (per day) reservation-free entry into Super Nintendo World when reservations are required to enter the land.

Check our Guide to Universal Express Pass to learn how to use it, where to line up, which rides are included, and why it’s worth it. Make sure to get it in advance and at a discount as the park limits the number of Universal Express passes they sell in a day.


7. Consider the VIP Experience

For TV and movie buffs, take it to the next level with the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience. The VIP ticket includes a 1-Day Park admission and unlimited express access to each ride, attraction, and seated show per day but the highlight is the up-close guided tour of the backlot, along with light snacks and refreshments. Plus, guests can enjoy a special VIP Dining Experience, and complimentary valet parking is included. It is limited so book in advance, it was sold out during our visit.

Children must be at least 5 years old to attend the VIP Experience, and at least 17 years old to attend without an accompanying adult.


8. Where to Park

Parking at Universal Studios Hollywood ranges from $32 for general parking to $70 for front gate parking. If you prefer to park closer to the park entrance, you may consider opting for preferred parking or front gate parking, especially if you have mobility issues. However, if you don’t mind a 10-15 minute walk, general parking is still a good option as it allows you to walk through Universal CityWalk, an outdoor dining, shopping, and entertainment complex located adjacent to the park.

Walking through CityWalk to get to the parking lot

During one of our visits, when my husband was experiencing gout, we decided to park at the preferred parking area for convenience. However, on our most recent trip, with my husband gout-free, we opted for general parking so the kids can see Universal CityWalk, they were particularly curious about the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium!


9. Stay at a Hotel near Universal Studios Hollywood

For those planning a trip to Los Angeles, there are two hotels near Universal Studios Hollywood worth considering for accommodation. The two closest options are Hilton Universal City and Sheraton Universal Hotel. Both hotels are situated outside Universal Studios Hollywood and they offer shuttle service. It’s important to note that Universal Studios Hollywood does not have a hotel directly on its property.


10. Eat Breakfast before Arriving

To get on the most rides early in the day, I recommend eating breakfast before arriving at the park especially if you are traveling with kids. With unpredictable wait times, particularly without a Universal Express pass, it’s wise to fuel up beforehand.

If you skip your hotel’s breakfast or aim to hit the road early, though, you’ll find options like Starbucks and VooDoo Doughnut conveniently located at Universal CityWalk just before the park entrance. Additionally, the Three Broomsticks at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers breakfast options within the park.

During our most recent visit, we got to Super Nintendo World around 9:20 AM, shortly after the park opened at 9 AM that day. We weren’t able to secure the Early Access Pass so our wait time for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge was already 80 minutes long. However, in reality, it only took us 40 minutes from lining up to actually getting on the ride. Nonetheless, we were quite hungry because we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, the whole Daylight Savings Time threw our schedules out of whack and we left home early as well. Consider all these variables when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and plan for breakfast!


11. Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App

An important Universal Studios Hollywood Tip for first-time visitors is to download their mobile app in advance. The app provides an interactive map, showtimes, wait times for rides, dining options, and mobile food ordering. It also shows you where you can find Universal Studios Hollywood characters on the map so you can take pictures with them. Try to familiarize yourself with it before arriving at the park.

About to check the USH app for menus

Even for us who had visited Universal a few times, we still find the app useful as it helps us check menus and the location of new dining spots like the Power Up Cafe that I’ve heard about but didn’t exactly know where it was located in the park.


12. Explore the Lower Lot or Upper Lot First

At Universal Studios Hollywood, there are two renowned sections: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, situated in the Upper Lot, and Super Nintendo World, located in the Lower Lot.

Upon entering the park, you’ll initially be in the Upper Lot area. To access the Lower Lot, you’ll need to navigate through several escalators. A valuable tip for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood is to begin your day in the Lower Lot if you possess an Early Access Pass to Super Nintendo World or if you arrive at the park right when it opens and complete all Lower Lot attractions before returning to the Upper Lot, thereby avoiding the need to repeatedly traverse the escalators. Other areas in the Lower Lot include Jurassic World and Transformers Metrobase.

Escalator that connects the Upper Lot and Lower Lot

If you arrive a bit later, I recommend postponing your visit to Super Nintendo World until the afternoon when it is no longer as crowded and starting your exploration in the Upper Lot. In the Upper Lot, you’ll discover Production Plaza, Minion Land, Springfield, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Studio Tour Plaza is also considered to be on the Upper Lot but you’d still need to take a short escalator ride down the trams.


13. Take the Studio Tour to Take a Break from all the Walking

The studio tour provides an excellent opportunity to take a break from all the walking. During our most recent visit, we each recorded over 11,000 steps over the course of a 6.5-hour stay at the park.

I recommend scheduling the Studio Tour after lunch to avoid getting hungry during the tour as it is approximately 60 minutes long. The Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour, included with your admission ticket, is a guided tram tour that takes you through various movie sets, soundstages, and production facilities within the Universal Studios backlot. Additionally, it features two 360 3-D experiences: King Kong and Fast & Furious – Supercharged.

Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour through the Backlot

Also, take note that the Studio Tour closes earlier than the actual park, the last tour may be at 5 PM so check during your visit so you don’t miss it.

The Studio Tour is available in Spanish on select weekend dates.


14. Choose where to Dine ahead of Time

When dining at Universal Studios Hollywood, I recommend checking the menu on the app ahead of time so can choose a restaurant that fits your group’s preference and/or dietary needs. Doing this also allows you to plan your itinerary better, whether you’ll stay in the Lower Lot or the Upper Lot to eat.

The most popular dining spot right now is Toadstool Cafe located at Super Nintendo World but it’s hard to get a reservation. Try to book it on the app right when you get to the park in the morning. 

For us, I was opting for something quick and varied so on our recent visit, we dined at Springfield (Simpsons area) since they have 5 dining options (Cletus Chicken Shack, Luigi’s Pizza, Krusty Burger, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck and Sud McDuff’s Hot Dogs) so we can each order where we want. Big sis ordered pasta, lil sis had a cheeseburger, while hubby and I got a Ceasar’s salad. During a previous visit, we ate at Minions Cafe located at Minion Land.

Minion Cafe at Minion Land

If possible, try to eat before the lunch rush. We got to Springfield at 11 AM after spending 2 hours at Super Nintendo World and there was no line to get food yet and it was easy to find seats. It’s also a nice location as it’s in the middle of everything. Springfield is located on the end of the Upper Lot where the escalator to the lower lot is located as well as the escalator to the Studio Tour so this is a good middle location for lunch.

You can opt to dine at Universal CityWalk by exiting the park, make sure to get a handstamp to enter back but I prefer to eat inside the park and would reserve Universal CityWalk for dinner or drinks after we’re done, or if you are planning a midday break back to your hotel since you’re going to exit the park anyway.


15. Take Advantage of Mobile Food Ordering

Some of the Universal Studios Hollywood dining locations allow you to order your food from the USH App and select your pick-up time. Just make sure you download the app, then create a Universal Guest Account. You can also save a payment method to your account for future Mobile Food & Drink orders! When your food is ready, you can just go to the Mobile Food Ordering line to pick up your food while everyone else is still lining up to order their food. This Universal Studios Hollywood tip will help you save time so you can enjoy more rides or go souvenir shopping instead.

Mobile Food Ordering Line

16. Try the Drinks or Desserts

I always look forward to having a Frozen Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during my visits, but I must admit, the Fizz drinks at the newly opened Power Up Cafe offer an element of fun for the kids! There are 4 Fizz flavors to choose from, each consisting of a lime soda paired with popping pearls and a flavored Power Up that you can blend into your beverage.

Fizz Drink at Power Up Cafe

If you’re on the Lower Lot, get a sundae or a milkshake from Studio Scoop. We didn’t enjoy the sundae from Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream at Springfield, unfortunately.


17. Check Ride Height Requirements & Test Seats Provided

For the safety of guests, some of the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood have height requirements. Review this list ahead of time so you know which ride your kids can go on before going on the line.

  • Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge: Must be at least 40” (101 cm). Children between 40” (101 cm) and 48” (122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™: Must be 48″ (122 cm) tall.
  • Flight of the Hippogriff™: Must be 39″ (99 cm) tall. Children 39-48″ (99-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • Jurassic World — The Ride: Must be 42″ (107 cm) tall. Children 42-48″ (107-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall. Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall. Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash: Must be 34″ (86 cm) tall. Children 34-48″ (86-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • The Simpsons Ride: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall. Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
  • Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride: Must be 48″ (122 cm) tall.
Checking her height before a ride

Additionally, large-framed guests may not be accommodated on the following rides if passenger restraint systems cannot be positioned or fastened properly. There are test seats provided at the entrance of the attractions:

  • Flight of the HippogriffTM
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden JourneyTM
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash

18. Utiltize Child Switch Option

A tip for those visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with young kids – If you have a little one who is too young to ride your favorite attraction, don’t worry! You can make use of their Child Switch program. This convenient option allows one member of your party to wait in a designated area along with any children who are unable or unwilling to participate in the ride. Once the rest of your group has experienced the ride, simply trade places, and the waiting adult can take their turn while those who rode previously stay with the child(ren). These rides have the Child Switch option:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
  • Transformers: The Ride – 3D

19. Utilize Single Rider Lines

Single Rider option is available for guests wishing to experience an attraction without friends or family in exchange for a shorter wait time. Single Rider is based on availability at select attractions and subject to change without notice. Some rides with Single Rider option include:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge

20. Universal with Young Kids

Looking for Things to Do at Universal Studios Hollywood with Toddlers? You can head to Super Silly Fun Land within Minion Land, where your little ones can enjoy a ride on Silly Swirly, engage in playground play, and cool off with water play at the splash pad. Alternatively, venture to DinoPlay in the Jurassic World area, where toddlers can have fun on the jungle climber and navigate the rope plank bridge. Toddlers may also enjoy meeting their favorite characters like Shrek, Scooby Doo, Mario and Luigi, Princess Peach, and more.

Related: Universal Studios Hollywood Characters for Photo Ops (Coming Soon)

Photo Op with Universal Studios Hollywood Characters

21. Take Advantage of Virtual Line Reservation

Another way to cut down on wait time at Universal Studios Hollywood is to take advantage of the Virtual Queue. You can use the USH app to reserve a virtual line reservation to The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash Ride and head there when it’s your turn.

The Virtual Line may also be needed to access the Super Nintendo World land when it is very busy. It’s only to enter the land, and not for the ride.


22. Check the Show Schedule

A valuable tip for Universal Studios Hollywood is to check show schedules for shows like WaterWorld and plan your schedule around it. We usually save it for the afternoon, almost before going home. If you’re old enough like me, you have probably seen the 1995 film WaterWorld this show was based on. If not, you’re still going to enjoy its stunts, explosions, and the plane crash.

Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the show to get seats unless you have Universal Express then you don’t need to arrive too early for it. Tip: If you don’t want to get wet, stay away from the Splash Zone!


23. Stay Late for Hogwarts Castle Nighttime Lights (Select Nights)

It seems like you’ve gone on all the rides, drank your Butterbeer and you’re ready to go home but wait up! You may want to stay until dark to see The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle or the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle available on select nights only. We’ll keep you posted on future showings!


24. Utilize Package Pick Up

There are so many souvenir stores at Universal Studios Hollywood – from the moment you enter the park until you reach the Lower Lot. Fortunately, Universal Studios provides guests with the opportunity to purchase merchandise within the park and arrange for their packages to be picked up before departure. You can collect your packages conveniently near the exit at the Universal Studio Store. With this service, you don’t need to carry all your merchandise with you around the park so you can easily go on rides without worry.

Souvenir Shopping

If you’re a Hello Kitty fan, they have Hello Kitty-Universal Studios exclusive merchandise.


25. Check the Wand Options before Buying at Ollivanders

At Ollivanders within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, guests can partake in an interactive show where a wandkeeper selects a fortunate participant for a special wand-choosing ceremony.

Wands at The Wizarding World or Harry Potter

Following the show, visitors have the opportunity to peruse the shop and purchase their wand. The interior of the shop is adorned with walls filled with numerous boxes of wands, contributing to a captivating atmosphere. However, selecting a wand here can be challenging, as it doesn’t allow for a comprehensive view of all available options. For a complete selection, I recommend visiting the kiosk located outside the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which showcases all available wands.


26. What to Pack for Universal Studios Hollywood

Here are some essentials you should bring to Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • External Battery – So you can re-charge your phone while at the park.
  • Stroller
  • Water Bottle
  • Small Snacks
  • Jacket or Sweater – It gets really cold and windy at Universal because it’s on a hill
  • Change of Clothes for the Kids if they are going to play in the splash pad
Stroller Parking area at the Studio Tour

27. Visit when there is an Event

Experience a different Universal Studios Hollywood by visiting when there is an event like Holidays at Universal, EVE (New Year’s Eve celebration), and the highly popular Halloween Horror Nights!

Related: Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Discount Tickets


28. Plan your Visit when a New Ride Opens

A new roller coaster is currently being built at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise or just love roller coasters, then you may want to stay tuned so you can plan your next visit. We will update you when an official opening date has been announced.


29. Visit for Butterbeer Season (March 2024 Update)

Universal Studios Hollywood will celebrate Butterbeer™ Season, offering guests a chance to enjoy Butterbeer in all-new ways within “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,™” beginning March 15 and continuing through April 30, 2024.

The celebration also marks the introduction of Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream counter, opening on Friday, March 29, the all-new venue, located in Honeydukes™, will feature 10 decadent and savory soft serve ice cream flavors, including Butterbeer, Banana, Chocolate, Mint, Orange, Vanilla, Toffee Nut, Granny Smith Apple, Pistachio and Toffee Apple, served in a cup or waffle cone.

Throughout Butterbeer Season, the park will roll out delectable treats, including an ice lolly which features the Butterbeer flavor in popsicle form, in addition to the traditional items served daily. For a limited time only during this festive period, cold and frozen Butterbeer will be available for purchase in a special collectible silver stein.


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Tips for Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

I hope you found our Universal Studios Hollywood Tips helpful in planning for your trip. Leave a comment if you have any questions. Don’t forget to check Universal Studios Hollywood Discount Tickets for the most up-to-date list of deals available.


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