* Prices may differ from that shown
In a country where size matters and everything is HUGE - I was quite surprised at how small Universal Studios Hollywood is...
It's located on the outskirts of LA, we were driving in from San Diego so it's difficult to say how long it would take to reach from central LA. On the way out, we got stuck in the rush hour traffic and it took about an hour and a half to get to our hotel. Parking was not an issue - it has a number of huge car parks and plenty of helpful attendants to point you in the direction of a free space.
When you enter the complex, you walk through what can be best described as a high street - offering all sorts of gift shops, bars and restaurants. We were pretty keen to get into the park so I didn't pay to much attention on the way in. At the end of the day, I did have a look around but none of the shops really caught my eye - expensive tat! Miniature Oscar statues, movie memorabilia - that sort of thing.
We didn't have to queue for too long to get into the park, around 30 minutes and this was peak season. Once in the park, I picked up a map and I have to say I was quite surprised as to how few big rides there were in comparison to some of the UK theme parks. On average each ride lasted about 90 seconds and the queues were on average 90 minutes - I know that's pretty standard for theme parks but... The only ride that I felt was worth the two hours we queued for was the brand new Simpsons ride - that was pretty incredible and I would strongly recommend going on if you ever happen to find yourself at Universal. None of the other rides really stood out and I'm struggling to recall any of them - I went on every ride in the park.
One of the attractions is a horror walk, you know the sort thing, walk through a maze of dark creepy tunnels whilst various monsters and horror movie characters jump out and scare you... That was quite creepy but I'm afraid American legislation means they cant actually touch you for fear of being sued... So it's not actually that scary! I was spoilt with Halloween at Fort Amerhurst in the UK. The characters there will drag you away from the group and shut you in a coffin - bearing in mind it takes place in the supposedly haunted underground fort tunnels - after that experience - everything else seems pretty tame!
Back to Universal and I found the facilities to be the usual excellent standard that I'd become used to in the US. The toilets were regularly cleaned and kept fully stocked. Bins were regularly emptied and accessible all over the park. Food and drink was a little on the pricey side both in the park and the areas outside - but then I think that's pretty standard in theme parks. A nice touch was the ice cream man who would walk the queues selling ice cold drinks and lolly's!
We spent a day at the park and that was quite enough time - by about 5pm we had seen all of the shows and been on all of the rides. The ticket was around $60 USD and I think that was quite reasonable for entry into a theme park but I'll be honest, I didn't rate it as highly as Chessington or Thorpe Park...
Also on Ciao
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, my boyfriend and I visited the infamous Universal Studios in Hollywood. We had been told by many people this was a must do, so on 29th March 2010, we decided to make our way.
Universal Studios is located in Universal City and is not accessible by walking from Hollywood, you must arrange a taxi or transfer. (Transfer review to follow).
The morning was warm and we pulled up outside to see the large globe spinning with Universal Studios written across it. The trademark that everybody would recognise and associate with Universal Studios, so after a few pictures we headed for the red carpet and walked to the entrance gates under the big arch.
The ticket price was $69.00 (this was the price to buy on the gate, but we also got included the transfer included). This works out currently to be £45 approximately. Although this is quite pricey we thought we had to go whilst we were there.
If you are less than 48" then the price was $59.00 which works out at £40, which is very expensive for a child in my view.
I would personally say this theme park is not particularly ideal for children and I personally wouldn't have paid to take any child under 48" at that price. The park itself, although child friendly seems more for teens and adults.
The park is not like any traditional theme park, it is made up of two sections, the upper lot and the lower lot. In both of these lots are 'rides' or 'shows'. Although you queue like a theme park, what you're queuing for isn't a rollercoaster ride that lasts 30 seconds; some of the shows can last 20 minutes.
The park is also filled with novelty shops, food outlets and of course the 'rides' and 'shows'.
**The Lower Lot**
This is where the magic happens; this is the smaller lot (in terms of public access) but the larger overall (with working productions). To gain access to the lower lot, you head towards the back of the park and have to descend down 4 separate escalators (that are longer than the longest London Underground ones) and make your way down the side of the mountain to it.
On the way down, be sure to stop and take a look at the view, it is pretty amazing, you can see the Warner Brothers Studio with the infamous Water tower, and more studios in the distance.
The lower lot is home to the infamous studio tour. This is where you get to experience the behind the scenes at Universal Studios.
As you enter the park at the main entrance there is a large board, this board tells you what is being filmed in the studios on that day, and in which lots and studios. The day we went, the board said, Desperate Housewives and CSI - Las Vegas. I was already over the moon at the thought of seeing two of my favourite shows, or at least the sets and maybe if I was lucky some of the stars.
You are advised to do the studio tour first as it is very popular and queues get very long, luckily for us, we went straight there and waited 10 minutes for the next bus.
**The Studio Tour**
You get onboard the bus, there are rows of 6, it has no windows but a roof (you need it in that heat). Once inside the cart/bus you set off and start the tour, there are TV's in each carriage with sound, you see the tour guide sitting in the front with the driver, he talks you through all the sets and gives you information about what films have been set here.
You do not go near the actual live sets so therefore do not see anything being filmed, although we were told he was not allowed to talk for 3 minutes as we went past Wisteria Lane, which was about 30 feet above us on the mountain edge. This totally disappointed me, I didn't think we would be allowed to drive down it, but thought we may drive past the end of it, or of other current TV shows that aren't being filmed on the day.
The best two bits of the tour were; seeing the war of the world's crash site, and seeing Jaws. All this really made me feel was let down, I like films and I like the fact I thought King Kong was filmed in some outrageous location, but apparently not. The water and scaled model they used for the film, is just disappointing. I thought films were grand and exciting; all they really are is a con.
I find films that are made on location (not in a studio) far more exciting. I don't like flashy camera angles and trickery.
Overall I found this rather disappointing and it didn't meet my expectations at all.
Also on the lower lot, you have:
**Jurassic Park - The Ride**
This ride was in my opinion the best, I am a dinosaur fanatic and we had just come back from Hawaii and seen where it had been filmed. (This isn't the reason I thought it was the best). The ride is a water ride, it is designed like a traditional log flume but the log is not single seated it is more of a boat.
You can fit 4-5 people in each row and there are a few rows on each boat. The ride is designed that you are actually floating around Jurassic Park.
You start off seeing the empty cages and some smaller well known dinosaurs from the film, you really do feel like you are in Jurassic Park and you don't know what to expect next.
The ride has been in place for a good few years but you honestly would think it was brand new, the technology is amazing and there is a great surprise in there too.
My favourite ride but I wouldn't recommend this ride to little children as it is quite scary and you do get very close to dinosaurs that look very real to life.
**Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride**
This is a rollercoaster, the only one in the park and by far the best ride for adrenalin junkies. You queue for this ride, then sit in a cart, the whole ride is in pitch blackness and once you think it is over, you go round the track again, but this time the way you came and BACKWARDS.
It is pretty fast and quite unexpected if you don't know what is coming. We both thoroughly enjoyed this ride and probably queued for the longest time of 25 minutes. It was definitely worth it.
From the film (that flopped) backdraft is all about fire, you witness 10,000 degrees if blaze sweeping through the warehouse and see how Hollywood had to keep it under control, and when they couldn't what happened.
It is very warm and has great pyrotechnics but all in all it is just some fire.
**Special Effects Stages** (Seasonal)
The only ride we didn't make it to. We weren't too upset; we had seen enough special effects throughout the day anyway. I didn't want to see anymore, I like believing in the magic of film.
**The Upper Lot**
Back on top of the mountain is the Upper lot, this is bigger is size, in terms of there is more for the public here, this is the purpose built area and the main theme park.
**Universals Animal Actors**
This was without a doubt one of my favourite shows (if not my favourite), this is for all the family and those animal lovers. The show opens with a sequence of all different animals, cats, dogs, pigs, pigeons, parrots and many more. The opening is entertaining and funny.
The main trainer comes out and introduces some animals and tells you where you may have seen them, they also have the current Lassie. With help from the audience, you get to witness training techniques and see how Hollywood makes the animals look like they are doing what they should be.
This is highly entertaining and doesn't ruin any illusions you may have, it really does all come down to training with a little help from camera trickery.
**Terminator 2 - 3D**
I have never seen a terminator film and did not really know what to expect, my boyfriend however, had a friend at school over 10 years ago, tell him how awesome this 'show' was. He had high expectations.
You are invited in to a room to take a tour of the premises of the new Skynet and its products, you then witness a break in and are told by Sarah and John Connor that Skynet is bad and will ruin the future.
You then proceed to the main theatre for a show that is 3D and very cleverly done. Perhaps it was more exciting when the film came out and the technology was brand new, or perhaps at 27 my boyfriend has grown out of it. We both thought it was ok, but weren't overly impressed.
You didn't need to know the story of Terminator to watch this and it was very clever how the film co-insides with the actors and their roles.
**Universal House of Horrors**
This ride is a walking maze and is again quite scary; I wouldn't take small children on it. There are real life actors and it is very dark and the aim is to scare you.
I felt like I was walking through a crypt and was holding my boyfriends hand rather tightly even though I know it isn't real life; I don't like things jumping out on me. Look out for the notorious baddies from your favourite horror films.
Expect things to jump out at you!
This is very similar to the Terminator ride, with a simple idea, it starts in a room which turns out to be a dungeon (this ride is a continuation of the first film). Inside the dungeon are you, Pinocchio, the 3 pigs, and the magic mirror. The ginger bread man is located in another dungeon.
Farquad is holding Shreks friends captive because even though he is dead, he still wants Princess Fiona.
This is one for the whole family, you continue to sit down and watch the big screen and let the story unfold. It is interactive and really quite fun. In my opinion another good ride.
Another flop but the show here in the park is quite active and fun. The arena seats a lot of people; the show lasts about half an hour and is full of action and adventure on Waterworld. It is basically a shorter version of the film, although the beginning is a bit mid film and if you haven't seen it, although you can guess, you might not know who everyone is.
This is one where 90% of the audience gets wet, there are jets skis and gun shots. It is very good fun, I'd say better than the film, purely for seeing the tricks and jets skis disappearing under the water.
**The Simpsons Ride**
This is a simulator, we didn't read this before we queued, or else I would not have gone on it, I suffer from motion sickness but I'm fine on rollercoaster's just not simulators.
The queue in itself is quite fun, you get sent in all different directions and it makes you wonder if you are all queuing for the same thing. You are.
You enter a room and there is up to 8 in each room, you walk in and see a cart sitting in the room, you all get in and the safety bars come down, you then get raised up from the floor out of the room through the ceiling. This is a building is a screen in which the animation is played, you are in a simulator like many others around you (they are hard to see) and you ride the ride with the Simpsons.
The ride is well designed and really clever, I really would have enjoyed it, had I not felt so sick.
**The Blues Brothers**
Yet another show, with actors singing and dancing on a stage acting as the Blues Brothers. We didn't watch the whole thing but they could sing and dance.
A children's area that we didn't go on, us being adults and all.
**Food & Drink**
There are food outlets that follow:
Pizza Hut Express
Louie's Pizza & Pasta
Doc Brown's Chicken
You can also buy an all you can eat pass for $24.99, this allows you unlimited food from certain outlets.
This was a good day out, the queues were not long which definitely added to the enjoyment, had I been queuing for hours I think I would have got easily frustrated with what I'd been queuing for.
As for value for money, I think the prices are quite steep in comparison to our theme parks in the UK and there is definitely less in terms of rides.
This is a good day out, it is worth doing, to say you've done it; I would not go back though. They could do with some newer rides from films and perhaps more child friendly areas, like a mini park for them with younger films featured.
I was totally disappointed about the Studio Tour and in all honesty that was my biggest let down.
I suppose it just wasn't really what I thought, although enjoyable, I think I would have preferred to visit Knotts Berry Farm instead. As for a theme park, it really isn't, it's an entertainment park, and it is good but there is a difference.
On a brighter note, this is definitely a place to star spot, we saw Mel B from the Spice Girls and her husband and the kids.
My personal rating: 7/10
This review is solely about the Tower of Terror 'coaster', in Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Universal Studios) theme park, in Orlando Florida.
To give it its full title, it's called "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror".
If you're old enough, you may have seen The Twilight Zone, an American TV show hosted by Rod Serling which originally aired between 1959-64. I'm not old enough to have seen the original, but I remember enjoying the re-runs of this 'horror' show in the UK while I was young.
This ride centers round the Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel featured in a specially commissioned mini-episode of the Twilight Zone show.
The majority of your queuing is done outside the building (fast-pass available), in an old-style hotel garden with atmospheric mist sprays. The hotel itself, from the outside, has an old 1930s look to is and scorch marks on the outside, where the lift shafts should be.
When you finally get inside the abandoned hotel, with authentic dust and cobwebs, you're almost at the start of the ride. s you wait the final few minutes, you can see the ride staff are kitted out in bell-hop outfits, adding to the authenticity of the hotel look-and-feel.
First, you are led, en masse, into the library, where you are locked in, in the dark. Then a TV comes on in the corner of the room and you get to watch our old friend Ron telling you a bit of the history of the hotel, and how it was struck by lightning in the 1930's, causing an elevator and it's occupants to disappear into the twilight zone.
At the end of the short film, another door opens and you join the queue again in what appears to be the boiler room of the hotel. Here, you await your journey on the 'service elevator'.
Tower of Terror Coaster Vital Statistics
* Type of ride: Sudden drop coaster
* Height: 199 feet
* Riders: 21 per 'service elevator'
* Ride time: 3:10 minutes
* Height requirement: 40 inches
* Opened: July 1994
* Manufacturer: Disney
When your time comes, you're ushered in to an elevator, where there are three rows of seats. You can get the preferred front row by standing in the '1′ or '2′ positions at pre-boarding, if you get the option. Once you're in it's a lap-strap seatbelt for all, which doesn't seem much really. The bell-hop, in true wanna-be actor style will bid you farewell in their own unique style while closing the doors - some are quite imaginative, if a little hammy.
Then the entire elevator then trundles into position, in the pitch darkness; first to a point to allow you to see the next part of the 'show', giving a bit more of the twilight zone experience, then to its final position for the commencement of the ride proper. You can tell the fun is about to begin when you see the image of an old TV 'closing down' to a vertical bar of light then compressing to a single dot in front of you. A few more clunks, in complete darkness, and we're good to go.
This is a sudden drop coaster, with a difference. Well two differences really.
1. The drops are fairly random and unpredictable, and between drops, you are hauled back upwards rapidly.
2. They're not plain old gravity-drops, some are forced pull-drops, meaning you drop faster than gravity.
These to differences make for a more interesting ride really, especially if your 8 year-old insists on going on again, and again, and again. You actually lift out of your seat and if, as I did, you leave your waterproof jackets on the floor, you will have to search for and retrieve them from somewhere else later.
The doors on the side of the building open randomly while you are begin dropped and lifted too, which gives you a bit of perspective on the height you are being dropped from. This is even more impressive in the evening, when the rest of the park's lights are on, so I'd recommend trying it in the dark too.
The final time we rode this coaster on our recent trip there was a huge thunder and lightning storm in progress. As we neared the doors to go on the ride, my 8 year-old turned to me and said, "This is just like the movie", with a grin. That's my boy!
** This review also appears on my blog.
Universal Studios - Hollywood
Universal Studios in Hollywood is the largest film and television studios in the world. It is also a larger than the one I went to in Australia. To see the shows and the whole area properly it would take two days. I only took one day to go around it but I wasn't going on most of the rides available. We decided to do a tour to the studios from our hotel with a company called VIP Tours. To be in the park all day it cost $89 for an adult and $75 for a child. One American dollar is equal to 0.57 United Kingdom pounds. This price was transport to and from the park and entry into the park itself. Once inside the park you can do as you please. In this price all rides and attractions are included. So trust me you will be entertained all day!
**SHOWS & TOURS**
- Special Effects Stages
This show lasts 30 minutes. It will let you see how to create special effects for Universal's biggest movies. The audience are included and can participate. I found it interesting and you seen how easy it was to bring a movie to life by sounds. The only thing I would say is that they have a robot and things go wrong and he comes to life. He runs around the stage after people which might be frightening to younger children, maybe take a seat at the back far away from the front of the stage would be advisable. I do recommend this show a lot!
You are warned before you go into this show that some effects may be too intense for children. It is based on the hit movie and really is a demonstration on how they can use fire as special effects. It really is impressive you can feel the heat on your face once you are inside.
- Fear Factor Live
I went to see this show and to be honest, as I have never heard of Fear Factor before I wish I hadn't. It is an audience participation show, which goes to the extreme. You could have signed up if you had of wished to do the stunts. It included gravity defying stunts (had to hold onto bars from a height), live creeping creatures (like maggots and spiders) and audience participation. Personally this show is my type of thing. I felt like I had wasted 30 minutes but if you are a fan of the show you may like to see this.
- Universal's Animal Actors
This is a lovely show, which brings out the animals that are used in films. They will show you how they train them to do tasks and you can watch them perform live. It lasts 15 minutes and I feel it is worth while to go to watch for all the family. Children will enjoy this show as much as adults will.
- Shrek 4D
This is a 4-D movie where you will watch Shrek and Donkey trying to save Fiona. It made me laugh and the effects were fantastic you really feel like you are inside the show itself and on the mission with Shrek yourself. The 3-D movie is the best I have seen and the special effects were funny to feel. If you wish to not have a moving seat you can sit in the back. I would recommend that you wait in the queue for this one as it was worth every minute if I had enough time I would have went on it over and over.
There was a lot of hype going into this show and unless you have seen the film you may not find it extremely interesting. It includes stunts, explosions and at the end an aeroplane flies onto the stage. My partner loved the show but I found it less interesting than him, it only lasts 15 minutes. We had to wait over half an hour to get into the show though.
- The World Famous Studio Tour
This was one of my highlights of the day! You get to see how Hollywood magic really happens. You get to see the famous backlot with the sets of several famous films and how they work behind the scenes. One of the most spectacular ones was the smouldering plane crash set of War of the Worlds it was rather eerie driving through. Other sets were from Ghost Whispers, Jaws, Fast and Furious and Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately the day we were there Desperate Housewives were closed so we only got to see the outside of it. We also got to see the outlay of Skull Island, which is very tiny. Within the backlot you get to meet King Kong and experience some mishaps! You may be lucky to see a star or catch some filming, unfortunately we seen neither.
- The Blues Brothers
This is a show where you will see the Blues Brothers on a mission to get the Chicago band together. They will play some song live and it will last 20 minutes.
- Revenge of the Mummy Ride
I never went on this ride but it is a rollercoaster, which will throw you forwards and backwards in the dark. Not really my kind of thing!
- Jurassic Park The Ride
Another ride, which I didn't go on but my partner did, and he loved it. He said it was one of the best rides he had gone on in a long time. It is a water ride where you come face to face with a dinosaur and from you plunge down an 84-foot vertical drop to the bottom where you get soaked!
- Terminator 2:3D
I wanted to go on this but unfortunately time would not let me as the queues were very long. All I know really is that it is a 3D-cyber adventure.
I really enjoyed this park and felt that every penny I had spent was well worth it. If you like to go on the rides and see everything you would need about 2 days in this park. We had one and we got around it all but I felt it was rushed, as there was so many things to see and do. I wanted to see as many shows as I possibly could. They have restaurants and toilets scattered about the park. Water fountains were scattered about the place too, which was handy to fill up your water bottle, as it was rather warm when we went. If needed lockers, an ATM, stroller and wheelchairs could be got if needed. I liked the atmosphere of the park even though it was busy. There were lots of shops with different themes, which you could spend hours browsing in. They had so many souvenirs it was hard to pick which ones to buy. All in all I would recommend that if you were ever in LA to give here a try as it is an enjoyable day out for all the family.
Who Needs Mickey Mouse?
When we were in LA we had the choice of whether to go to Disney World or
Universal Studios. Never being big Disney fans we went to Universal. Of course I can't comment on how good Disney World is we definitely do not regret choosing Universal for our day.
The park opens at ten and we were in the relatively short queue at the entrance with our tickets, after our fingerprints were taken we were in. Being a weekday the park was reasonably quiet although it did pick up as the day progressed.
We decided to go on the studio tour first to leave us the rest of the day to explore the park. I can recommend doing this as when we looked later the queues were much longer. We were ferried into an open air bus and with out driver and guide were taken around the lots and sets. There are a number of stop and setups. For example you will find yourself in a San Francisco subway during an earthquake, fire sparks up and thing fall down, water rushes in. Excellent.
Now, the park is not really for thrill seekers, there are a few rides, the scariest
of them being the Mummy, although we didn't go on the new Simpson's ride as the queues were very long and there was a lot else to do.
The Mummy ride is a roller coaster in the dark that goes in both directions and is pretty fast with very fast acceleration. Jurassic Park is basically a kind of log flume with dinosaurs around, all very well done.
The heat can be very oppressive at times, luckily there are so called cool zones dotted around the park that are basically fans that push out a fine mist of water. They were a god send. There is also an area where you can shoot water canons at each other and generally get yourself soaked, it's no problem as you're dry in minutes.
There are a few attractions that run at specific times during the day. The Water world show is a live action show based on the film (the film was a big flop). The show is very good with stunt men on jet skis all over the place, flames and explosions and bodies dropping into the water from up above. Great stuff. The T2-3D attraction also runs at specific times and is a mix of live action and 3D cinema, it's very good despite the film being quite old now.
If I was running Universal I would start to update some of the attractions, sure they are very good and as a first time visitor it's no problem at all but surely they must have more recent films they can make attractions for. We thoroughly enjoyed out visit to Universal studios Hollywood and wouldn't hesitate recommending it to anyone visiting Los Angeles.
Entry price at time of writing is $64 for a day pass and $54 for children and if you book online you get two days for the price of one, although I think one day is enough to see everything.
I don't want to repeat myself too much here, as this information is in the Sea World review too, but as it is applicable to both I think it's only fair that I include a little refresher in case anyone hasn't read it.
Before going on honeymoon, my hubby and I decided that the main attraction we would visit whilst in LA was Universal Studios. This was mainly because my hubby is a total film buff and really wanted to see the Studio Tour rather than the many rides at the park. Anyway when we looked online we could see that there was a special offer that would enable us to get to this park and Sea World in San Diego for unlimited visits within a 14-day period. This worked out a lot cheaper than separate tickets and cost us £52 each from a site called Attractiontix. We also knew that both parks would take more than one day each to explore so this was the perfect solution for us.
The vouchers for the tickets arrived via email almost instantly and we had taken them to the information desk at Sea World first where they were exchanged for the entry tickets to both parks. This meant that when we arrived at Universal we just had to go straight to the ticket booth. General parking costs $10 at the park or if you want to be nearer the entrance then you can pay $20 per day for the privilege. Luckily we didn't have to worry about that, as the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn provided a free shuttle bus so we were dropped off right at the front gates with a piece of paper informing us of the return times, which were plentiful, as the hotel was only about 10 minutes drive away.
The first day we arrived around 11am so the initial rush for the gates was over by then. We realised that like Sea World, you weren't allowed to take in any food or drink with you and we were a little bit more prepared for this here.
Outside is the famous Universal Globe that spins around and sparkles as the sun reflects off its silver edges. Fountains rise up from below and it is quite a spectacular sight as you approach the gates. This looks lovely during the day but is even more beautiful at night as the sun sets behind it.
Getting through the gate was easy for me with my Sea World pass and all that was required was for me to place my finger on the scanner so that they could check my details through my fingerprint. Unfortunately, my hubby's ticket didn't want to work but the staff were very patient and helpful and after a couple of attempts released the barrier and let him through.
When you first walk in through the gates there is an immediate atmosphere of the silver screen and I have to admit a little rush of excitement went through me at this time. We were handed an information leaflet that included a map of the park and times for the many shows that make up this theme park.
The main area of Universal is set out like a lot of streets and each area had a different feel to it. The first area centred on New York and a yellow cab and Dodgers sign were a cool reminder of this. One of the first things we noticed though was the vast amount of shops and food outlets, and to be honest these take over the streets a little bit and detract from the main events.
We had learned from experience at Sea World about the benefits of refill cups for drinks and because of the intense heat we decided that our first stop would be to get ourselves sorted with these so that we could relax as we looked round without getting dehydrated. The cups here were a choice between Sponge Bob and Spiderman for $10 each. I love Sponge Bob and hubby loves Spiderman so the choice of one of each was easy for us. These large containers were filled to the brim with lemonade for us although other soft drinks were available too. Refills would later only cost us $1 each so it was well worth it as normal bottles of water or soda were selling for $2 a pop and held about half the amount.
***The Studio Tour***
Well the main event that we wanted to see was the Studio Tour so we decided to do that first as the information boards around the park said that it was only a 15 minutes wait. These board were very useful as they also gave the times of some of the shows that only played at certain times during the day, as well as waiting times for the rides.
We found the area easily, although this was more to do with the helpful signs on site rather than the map, which we found a little bit confusing at first. Queuing up we immediately thought we would be longer than 15 minutes but we soon noticed that the tour cars were continually pulling up and each set held around 40 to 50 people so we continually moved up and down the lines until it was our turn. All the way round there were information boards about different actors and films.
We sat in the back cab and waited excitedly to see what we would see. We hadn't really known what to expect but we were told that we would have to be quiet in certain areas as shooting was going on around us for shows like CSI and Desperate Housewives. We were a little bit disappointed that we wouldn't actually see these areas but there was plenty of other things to see and a few surprises along the way.
Our guide told us that a lot of the facades in the building areas are changed on a regular basis to make them look as though they are in different parts of the world. We saw areas that were familiar to us from recent programs such as Heroes and a few older films such as the original Psycho and Jaws. Newer films such as The Grinch and King Kong were also featured on the tour and going into a tunnel we were treated to glimpses of how the scenes from The Mummy happened, including a bit where the surrounding walls spun around. Even though we knew we were staying still the feeling of dizziness was bizarre to say the least.
Cars from various films such as Back To The Future and The Fast & The Furious were on display and we were shown that cars are made to look like they are flying and twisting through the air were done by hydraulic displays. It was all very impressive.
We learned about how flood scenes were filmed and how they add milk to the water used for rain and such, so that it shows up on the screen. Neither of us fancied trying that out in the heat that day. Driving through Western sites made us laugh as we saw a coffin parked up against the side of a building, much like the one that my hubby had stood in, when we stopped off in the Wild West town of Oatman earlier on our trip. Dodging spitting dinosaurs from Jurassic Park was fun before we were driven into an underground station area where an earthquake takes place and traffic start to fall through the roof. There were a lot of screams from other passengers at this point, especially when water gushed in from one side and a huge truck looked as though it was about to crash into the side of us. Of course we were all perfectly safe and it was all harmless fun to show us how scenes were set up.
The most impressive film set that we saw had to be the one from War Of The Worlds showing a real 747 crashed into a suburban area. It was quite spine chilling to see such devastation on both sides of us and it was all made the more real by children's toys lying abandoned at the side of the road.
This tour was extremely good and we enjoyed every minute of it so much that we actually decided to do it again the second day we visited the park. This was a worthwhile thing to do, as we made sure that we sat on the opposite side of the cab and got a good view of the things we hadn't seen the day before. We were also lucky enough to be able to get onto the Desperate Housewives set the second day and it was strange to see Gaby's car parked at her house and the garden area in the centre of the street where weddings or fetes take place. We also had a different tour guide the second day and we were told different snippets about actors and filming from the first day so we were never bored.
There was only one ride that I refused to go on and that was Revenge of the Mummy, purely because it was a roller coaster and advertised to be pretty bad. I have had neck problems in the past so I have to be careful when it comes to rides like this so I left it to my hubby. He did say though that it wasn't nearly as good as he had expected it to be and that some of the rides at the likes of Alton Towers or Flamingo Land had more thrill factor than this one.
Backdraft isn't as much a ride as a walkthrough area. It features scenes from the films and showed us how they were filmed with huge pyrotechnic displays throughout the journey from set to set. Be prepared to get very hot in this one. This is one that you don't really have to queue long for as they take lots of people into the first section every 5 minutes or so.
House of Horrors was great fun to walk through with lots of famous movie characters ready to jump out at you along the route. We found that we had a great view from the overhead walkway and stood for quite some time watching Frankenstein jump out at unsuspecting travellers. It was all good fun and the atmosphere was very spooky with cobwebs and fog all around the house. I would warn anyone with small children that this might not be the best place to go.
Back To The Future is a simulator ride and takes you flying through time with Doc Brown. Through streets and volcanoes, you are swept up in a fluffy of excitement with special effects that make you duck down to avoid flying missiles. I found that this ride wasn't really to my liking, mainly because the jolting really hurt my neck. The effects were really good though but I believe that this one was going to be stopped sometime soon and replaced with another ride instead.
The best ride at the park in my opinion was the Jurassic Park ride. I was a little bit concerned about this water ride as I knew that there was an 84 foot vertical drop at the end of it and I'm not too good with heights, but it was so much fun that we did it more than once. The ride starts off in a boat with about five rows deep and each row sits 4 people. It actually felt really secure although that didn't stop the apprehension on the first part of the ride, as I was continually worrying about the drop at the end. When we had done it once and I found out it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, I had to go on it again. We sat in the middle row the first time, but got right into the front the second go and got totally drenched to the skin. Luckily it wasn't long before we dried off again although we did get quite a few smiles to start with as we rung out our tops and shorts. The ride takes you on a journey through Jurassic Park where you see all sorts of dinosaurs rising from the water and splashing you along the way. You travel under waterfalls and basically get soaked so be prepared if you have cameras etc with you. There are lockers available too.
The Special Effects show was very interesting as we learned how different effects are done for the big screen. Of course a lot of it is all down to CGI these days but we found out how small models can be combined with real life actors to make it all look real. There was also a monster section where animatronics were shown off to us and the presenters made sure that the audience participated along the way.
The Animal Actors show was a bit disappointing really and I was sad more than anything else to see some of these pets being made to do things that didn't quite seem natural. In particular a young orang-utan was being taught how to walk on his back legs and to make kissing sounds but it didn't really seem to want to do this and I have to say the whole thing was very uncomfortable to watch. The trainer obviously knows his job but seemed annoyed that the animal wasn't performing as he was meant to.
The Terminator 2 show was a 3D effect screening with live actors helping to take us on a journey of this cyber adventure. It was very impressive with lots of good effects and blasts going on although I have to say I have never been a big Terminator fan so I wasn't as impressed as my hubby with this one.
Another movie type experience was Shrek 4D. This was excellent and was similar to the Haunted Lighthouse show at Sea World. Not only do you see things coming out from the screen at you, thanks to the lovely glasses you have to wear, but you also get water and wind effects going on round you. Having Donkey spit in my face was not the nicest experience but it was extremely well done and you couldn't help but notice everyone ducking from side to side as things came at you from the screen. This was great fun to do and the build up in the waiting area was excellent.
The Blues Brothers has always been a favourite of mine and the site of them pulling up in their famous car to perform on stage was excellent. These musicians made a fantastic job of entertaining the crowd outside with all the favourite songs from the film.
The most impressive show was the Waterworld show. The film was a huge flop for Kevin Costner who spent millions of dollars on the production and special effects. Luckily the show was a continual blast of explosions, splashes and amazing stunts on water scooters who took pleasure in soaking certain parts of the audience. This really was the most spectacular show and we were pleased that this was actually the last show we went to, as it was certainly the most memorable. Actors in the show that day included some of the lab guys from CSI who had days off from filming the show.
I have to say that I really enjoyed my visit to Universal in LA. The Studio Tour was probably the best part of it and it was amazing to see the actual sets that were used on so many programs and films that we have watched. The rides were adequate although to be fair there aren't really that many but the shows were all pretty good too.
There are various characters going round the site too and they have photo opportunities where you can actually take pictures yourself rather than just a professional photographer. My favourite was at Donkey's Waffle Stand where the lovable character made an appearance and delighted the children.
The streets do get pretty busy to wander round during the day and it is quite easy to lose track of where you are, especially near the London section where you could walk along and see red telephone boxes and go to an Irish pub just round the corner from it all.
The second day we arrived early, before the gates opened and this is to be recommended if you don't want to queue for hours for the big rides like Jurassic Park and The Mummy. We were able to come straight off Jurassic Park and get on again about 5 minutes later then, but later on in the day, there were often queue times of at least an hour.
One thing that did annoy us a little bit on the second day was that a lot of the places where you could get refills for the cups we had bought the previous day, didn't actually open at the start of the day, which meant that we couldn't fill up for quite some time. Not surprisingly, as a marketing ploy, there were coffee stands open and places where you could get a full breakfast but these didn't partake in the refill scheme. I would say though that our refills were never checked as we entered the park on the second day so you could probably get away with filling them up before you go in.
The park is well worth the entrance fee and I would have to recommend it to everyone who loves the world of movies. The shops are quite expensive here and we were a bit disappointed really, as there were no cheap souvenirs that kids could buy with their pocket money.
There were plenty of places to get food around the park and most places were reasonably priced. We ended up at the Pizza Hut stand for lunch but there were also Chinese restaurants, grills, diners and even a Doc Brown's Chicken spot. There were also a couple of Ben & Jerry's places to cool off with some of their delicious ice cream.
If you are visiting LA then I would definitely advise taking some time out to see this attraction. It really has something for everyone and you will find that one day just isn't enough to fit it all in.
This review also appears on Ciao with pictures.
My wife and I have visited Universal Studios about four times now, we have been to the one in Florida and the one in California. California is a little bit smaller than the Florida one but it's still a brilliant day out. On the 14th of October, we will be flying out there again, that's if it's safe, and we probably will visit Universal Studios again. The park is quite big, it has some brilliant rides, like Back to the future. You firstly go in a lift, there are screens in the lift showing a quick movie clip. You then get into the car from the movie, about six people can fit into the car. You get strapped in, then all of a sudden it seems to set off into the sky. A massive screen appears in front of you and you look as though you are flying into the movie. At one point a dragon opens it's mouth and you get swallowed. Everybody screams it's that real.The first few times I enjoyed it, it's a lot better to sit in the front of the car, you have to be quick to get a seat. I sat in the back and you seem to get jerked about , at one point I hurt my hand. You can go on the backlot tour and see Jaws, the shark appears at the side of your tram and trys to get you. The first time is OK but after that... There is the chance to experience an earthquake,you go under ground and everything around you falls down, I actually experienced a real-life earthquake in 1999 in Las Vegas, believe me that was a REAL One. A tanker falls on it's side and sets on fire, you can feel the flames against your face, it's red hot. Once everything has caved in, don't worry nobody get's hurt, it all goes back together again ready for the next visitors. I think the best thing I see is Terminator 3D, you are handed 3D glasses on the way in. Then you have to watch a presentation , there is a stupid girl stood on a stage, all she can say is "Super" in the most stupid voice. Sa
ying that we couldn't stop saying it afterwards. She does a little act, then lets us into the studio. You sit down in what looks a cinema, then all of a sudden, there are massive robots which appear at the sides of the studio, they lift their guns up and shoot at the ceiling. Pieces of paper land on your hand as they hit the targets. Then the actors come down the ropes dangling from the ceiling and go onto the stage. Linda Hamilton is played by an actress , she looks quite like her, Arnie comes on the stage on a motorbike, then he disappears into the screen. These effects are excellent. When you have your 3D glasses on , things jump out from the screen, there is a skull which looks as though it's on the persons shoulders in front of you. Then there are monsters which look like silver octopuses , they nearly poke their tentacles/legs in your eye. You are not allowed to film any of this or camcorder it. We did but sneakily, don't tell anyone. Twister was a bit disappointing, you go in and walk down a dark corridor expecting something to jump out on you, then you watch the pretend huricane in action. A cow flies up in the air, a car turns over, theres a fire, there are sprinkles of water. The best bit is the end, if you are stood on the bridge, it drops making you jump. My wife liked the Animal Actors best, there was Benji the dog, Babe ,Beethoven dog and a cute Orangatang. They got someone out of the audience, a little boy to go along with the show. At the end we realised it was a set up. The animals were excellent, they did tricks and obeyed their master. My wife didn't like the birds flying out of the holes in the wall though, she's scared stiff of them. There are plenty of eating places, they were relatively cheap compared with Disney for instance. There was the Classic monsters cafe where you can get Monster salads,Pizza,Pasta and great dess
erts. We went in Finnegans bar and Grill, we had a great meal for about $6.00. The service is always excellent in the US, they show you to your table , then send someone else to serve you, they introduce themselves and say Iam your server let me know if you need anything. They always make sure that you are enjoying your meal. It seems like nothing is too much trouble for them. There is a seafood place called Lombard's Landing, here you can get Fresh Lobster,Seafood, Steak,Pasta and sandwiches, their sandwiches are always on the large side. There is the hard Rock cafe just situated at the side of the park you have to get your hand stamped to gain entrance back into universal. You can visit this cafe without paying to get into Universal. here you get great service, you can eat all different types of burgers, sample different types of frys for example curly fries. We always get a souvenir from these places, we buy a tshirt everytime, I know we are sad, but we can't stop now. There are loads more eateries, you always get served fairly quickly. There are also several souvenir shops where there is quite a good choice of things to buy at reasonable prices. We bought t-shirts in the sale for under £7.00, with the Universal logo on. What I like about this park is that you can visit in the morning, then go back at night for the entertainment, you just get your hand stamped. I can't remember the entrance fee, I think it was in the region of £25 per person, it really is a guess. You can buy passes and return the next day free of charge if you like. The opening times are 9am until 12pm some days. They might have changed now, we went in 1998 so things are changing all the time. Don't be worried about getting lost in the park, there are maps to put in your pocket or bag. These have all the sections clearly marked out. I could go on and on about Universal, there's so m
uch to say, why not try it for yourself.
Universal Studios was one of the places that I did not visit when I last visited the States way back in 1991. I was in Los Angeles for two days and only had enough time to visit “Magic Mountain” which was a park containing something like a 100 different rides. My disappointment was somewhat alleviated when I first visited their site at: www.universalstudios.com As most of us are aware Universal Studios are one of the oldest and largest producers of “block buster” movies like “The Mummy”, “The Grinch” and “American Pie”. They have diversified into TV shows, Theme Parks and hotels and all this information is provided on their site. The main page has the major links on the top and in the middle, dominating most of the screen, is the “Universal” logo. To the right hand side of the page you have options of clicking on links of movies that have just been released and ones that are about to be. These links will provide you with a movie clip (trailer) of the movie. It takes a bit of time to download. However if you’ve not seen the particular movie then it might be worth it. Back to the links on the top of the page. These are the main links and will cover the whole of the Universal Studios package. Ones to watch out for are: Theme Parks ---------------- This page partly loads. You will then have to wait for a movie clip to download before it opens fully. This was the one I was interested in since it’s the one that I missed. It provides you with full information on all of there Theme Parks around the world and these are: Orlando and Hollywood (LA) both in the States, Japan, Spain and China. You can get tickets, make hotel reservations and get full information about each park from here. Universal Kids ------------------ This section is great for kids. It basically takes you to a page that contains
many more links for great pages for children. Some of these are: Casper’s Haunted Christmas, The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas and many more. Kids can spend a lot of time here visiting these pages, joining clubs, watching cartoon clips and the likes. Community -------------- They have a very nice Message Board here where people talk about all aspects of movies, cartoons, TV shows. Become a member (which is free) and ask you questions. They have many users and the response will usually be good. Movies --------- This gives detailed information about all of Universal’s movies, in the theaters, on DVD and Pay-per-view. Television ------------- Detailed information on all of Universal’s TV shows such as Jerry Springer, Blind Date, Hercules and many more. Also links for TV related sites such as Studios USA, Universal Television and Network Group, Sci-Fi UK and several others. Games -------- Again very interesting for the children. They have many games, which the kids can play online. All unique games and all based on their own movies. Some of these great games are: The Mummy Returns, The Grinch, Woody Woodpecker and several more. If you explore the site you will find a lot more useful information that I might not have touched on. Overall I was well satisfied and now instead of being pacified about not having gone when I had the chance, instead now have the urge to go even more. Albeit I will have to wait until next year, when my family and me plan to visit the States for our Summer holidays.
With Theme Parks threatening to take over the Earth, you could do a lot worse that take a trip to what I regard as the BEST – For all the Family UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, in the heart of Hollywood, L.A I am not a great fan of Theme Parks generally. I say that at the outset. Most seem geared to provide the scariest rides, which attract queues the length of the Great Wall of China. I don’t want to go out for the day – and spend it queuing to go on a ride that will have me spewing my guts up five minutes later. A thrill – I think not. You want a scary ride – just sit in the passenger seat of my son’s car while he’s driving – PHEW!!! And you can do that for free – no queues! Anyway, I digress. Since our sons have become too old to go out on trips with Mum and Dad, we choose where we go to please ourselves rather than the family. But on visiting the United States two years ago – for the first time – a visit to Universal Studios was a definate highlight, while in Los Angeles. Obviously the most notable – no, Legendary, Theme Park in LA is ‘Disneyland’, but having gone to L.A as it’s the ‘heart’ of the movie industry, we thought we’d give Universal a go, because of it’s more Cinematic themes. Arriving on a sunny November day, we paid the $35 each entrance fee (is it really that much to visit Theme Parks these days?) and went in through the gates. Instantly as we entered, our pictures were taken by a Universal employee who gave us a number to pick up our picture later. Lots of Universal employees were around dressed as famous stars and they were ever willing to pose for pictures. My wife even managed to ‘snuggle up’ to ‘Hercules’, while I got an ‘armful’ of ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ (and no, I was NOT about to take liberties with her!) The rides at the park included Back To
The Future (a simulated adventure), E.T. (fun for young and old, but too long of a queue for the entertainment value), Backdraft (more of an experience than a ride, but pretty cool, nonetheless), and of course, Jurassic Park (WOW! - with an 80 foot vertical drop, but not for us, thank you very much). One highly recommended way for movie fans to spend a couple of hours is to go on the ‘Backlot tram tour’. This is definitely a very good time for any age of park-goer. The mini tram takes you around the park, showing you some of the old sets and settings where famous films were actually shot. The Studios are no longer a ‘working studios’ any more, but the tour guide makes the journey facsinating and there a few surprises along the way too – Godzilla, for one! There are also many shows that play all day. We watched a western comedy show, with cowboys and horse riding stunts and some funny gags thrown in (literally at times). There is also ‘Waterworld’, based on the Kevin Costner film (which excited my wife as she’s a huge KC fan!). The show was indeed excellent and we couldn't help thinking was actually better than the movie on which it was based (well I did anyway). Lunch from the one of the themed restaurants was pretty tasty (surprisingly – but the Americans do know something about food), but quite high priced for what it really was, but you expect that at a Theme Park anywhere, don’t you? There is an awful lot of ground to cover in one day (and hard on the feet – I am on holiday you know) and it's definately worth another trip. Seriously, don’t let the thought of all that walking put you off, as the park has a number of escalators and motorised walkways to get you up and down to various areas. As we were leaving the park was beginning to get lit up and that adds a whole new dimension to it, an evening visit next time, maybe! You can look down toward
s the valley below and see all the City lit up, plus the coloured lights throughout the park There are lots of places to shop for memorabilia and other unique items. In addition, outside the Theme Park itself there is ‘Universal Walk’. A whole galaxy of more shops, restaurants, and bars including a large Hard Rock Café - just in case you've got more to spend and you are still feeling a bit peckish. All in all it was a fabulous day out, even for us non ThemePark-o-phobes and we will be back again next time we hit L.A, DEFINATELY !!
We visited Universal Studios in the summer of 2000. We had previously been to the Orlando park so were keen to see how it compared. We went quite early in the morning, to beat the crowds and were pleasantly surprised at the quick and easy parking in a multi-storey on site. Lifts take you to the attractions. You enter the park via Universal City – a shopping mall of sorts with lots of shops, restaurants etc. On entry you get a map of the park, we headed for the bigger rides first, knowing the queues would only get longer later. Terminator 3D is a must, this is the experience that makes the entry fee worthwhile. I consists of a film show featuring the original cast, including Arnold, acting out a story specially created for this attraction. There is lots of gun fire and special effects. Whilst the film is showing - in 3D, live characters mimic the action live on stage – and within the audience. Things pop out of the screen and because of the superb 3D effect looks as though it will hit you in the face. It is fantastic. If the queue is two hours long – join it! Jurassic Park is a water ride, taking you through a river with dinosaurs etc and ending in a dramatic free fall and getting soaked by tons of water. Back draft is a special effects show involving – yes you guessed it – fire. It gets very hot in here, but you are never in danger. It is a good idea to visit this attraction after riding the Jurassic Park ride – you will dry off quicker and they are next door to each other. Water World is a show put on based on the film with lots of gun fire, stunts on jet skis etc. Quite entertaining as is the similar Wild West Show and Indiana Jones Show. Back to the Future is a stomach churning simulator ride. Here you ride a car chasing Biff under the guidance of the Professor. Very good ride with excellent effect but not for those who suffer motion sickness. You can go
on a Backlot Tour, which basically means you get on a tram and it takes you round the back of the park to see film sets etc. As you ride you get involved in an earthquake, chased by Jaws and King King and encounter a land slide. All very good but compared to the Orlando version, very poor. In Orlando the Jaws, King King, Earthquake etc encounters are separate rides in their own right and are much more dramatic. All in all the Universal experience is worth visiting, but the LA version can’t hold a candle to Orlando. Orlando is much cleaner too.
I visited Universal studios while on holiday in California, being a bit of a theme park fan and a lot of a film buff, I thought the Universal studios was high on our list. I have to say that we were not disappointed. If your looking for white-knuckle rides this is not really the place to go, but then again that’s not really the idea. The biggest attraction is Terminator 3D. It is one of the most awesome spectacles that I have ever witnessed. The lines (sorry queues) were pretty long by comparison to the rest of the park but it’s worth it. It’s not really a ride more of an experience. Without giving too much away it’s a mix of live action and video clips, of which the special effects are breathe taking. It’s almost worth the entry for this alone. The other attractions range from a superb live action shows of “Wild Wild West” and “Water World”. The Back to the future ride was more of a simulation than a ride but was ok. One of the attraction that really got my heart pumping was the Backdraft attraction, here you are placed right in the middle of a warehouse blaze and actually its pretty realistic, and very hot. The only disappointment for us was the Jurassic Park ride, which provided the second biggest queue and was basically log flume with one drop. Don’t go home without going on the backlot tour, which is a bus type tour of old, film lots. On the way there are some real cool special effects, well worth doing. We went on a trip where the bus picked us up from the hotel and dropped us off at the end of the day. This was ideal for us, oh yes one last thing there’s a cool shopping mall there too to pick up those bargains. I really look forward to going to Orlando later on, I’ll definitely check out the Florida one.