Visitors Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Carl Laemmle opened his 230-acre Universal City movie-studio ranch to visitors on March 15, 1915, but the advent of sound in motion pictures forced the studio to close the lot to those noisy visitors. Universal reopened to visitors in 1961, outsourcing tours to the Gray Line bus company. Following a feasibility study by Buzz Price - the same man who helped determine the locations for Disneyland and Walt Disney World - Universal decided to start its own tram tour, and what is now Universal Studios Hollywood opened on July 15, 1964.

Universal Studios Hollywood stands atop the Hollywood hills and is divided into an Upper Lot and a Lower Lot, connected by a giant, four-part "Starway" escalator. In addition to its regular attractions, the park hosts Halloween Horror Nights on select evenings in September and October, closing early on those days for this after-hours, hard-ticket event.

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New for 2023

Super Nintendo World - The first U.S. installation of Universal's Super Mario-themed land includes the Mario Kart Bowser's Challenge augmented reality interactive dark ride. Opened February 17, 2023.

The land also includes several physical gameplay activities outside of the Mario Kart ride.

What to Do

Top 10

  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ★ ★ ★
    Indoor Kuka-arm dark ride inside Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. [Note that it is no longer presented in 3D.] Height requirement: 48 inches

  2. Waterworld ★ ★
    Live stunt show that far exceeds the Kevin Coster movie upon which it is based. Located on the Upper Lot.

  3. Studio Tour
    Narrated bus tour of Universal's front and back lot film and television production facilities. Includes King Kong 360/3D, Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Jaws, shown below.

  4. Transformers: The Ride 3D
    Motion-base dark ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches

  5. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!
    An animatronic and mixed-media dark ride in Pets Place

  6. Jurassic World: The Ride
    Animatronic dinosaurs on a shoot-the-chutes flume ride on the Lower Lot. Height requirement: 42 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Jurassic World: The Ride.

  7. The Simpsons Ride
    Motion base show in Springfield. Height requirement: 40 inches

  8. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
    Motion base show on the Upper Lot. Height requirement: 40 inches

  9. Revenge of the Mummy
    A 1,906-foot indoor Premier rides coaster with a 40-mph launch and height of 44 feet. Height requirement: 48 inches

  10. Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
    Projection show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Shows vary by season.

Other Attractions

Upper Lot
  • Kung Fu Panda: Emperor's Quest: movie in the DreamWorks Theater
  • Flight of the Hippogriff: Mack Rides Youngstar coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Height requirement: 39 inches
  • Ollivander's Wand Shop: live show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Super Silly Fun Land: water play area, playground, and spinner
Lower Lot
  • Raptor Encounter: life-sized dinosaur character encounter
  • Dino-Play: playground

Where to Eat

New for 2023

Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World serves burgers, salads, a chef's special, and desserts in a Chef Toad-themed indoor restaurant.

Also Recommended

Buy Tickets

Park Map

Universal Studios Hollywood is located just off US 101 in Universal City, California - 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Universal offers a free shuttle bus up the hill to the park's entrance if you take the elevated walkway over Lankershim Blvd. from the Metro Red Line Universal City station.


Universal sells date-specific tickets but no longer requires reservations for annual passholders. Be sure to download the official Universal Studios Hollywood app before you visit, as you will need it to enter the Virtual Line that USH may use for Super Nintendo World as well as The Secret Life of Pets ride. The Universal app also allows you to link the park's $40 Power Up Band wristband that you can use to play games and track scores in Super Nintendo World.

Try to make your Virtual Line reservation through the app ASAP when you arrive at the park. Universal is selling early access to Super Nintendo World for one hour before park opening at $20 to $25 per person. If you think that's a good deal, go for it. Otherwise, go for the Virtual Queue as soon as you enter the park.

If you start early in Super Nintendo World, make a reservation for the Toadstool Cafe first, then follow with the interactive games in the land before heading into Mario Kart, just before the land opens to all guests.

Universal is divided into an Upper and Lower Lot, connected by a long series of escalators called the Starway. Universal's official app will tell you current wait times for rides throughout the park, but you want to minimize the number of times you're on that time-consuming Starway during the day, and not chase slightly shorter wait times by going back and forth.

If you started at Super Nintendo World and the wait times for other Lower Lot attractions are not bad, stay on the Lower Lot after you have finished with Nintendo and go on Jurassic World - The Ride, Transformers and Mummy before returning to the Upper Lot.

If you do not get into Super Nintendo World first thing, go for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then do other Upper Lot attractions before heading down to the Lower Lot for Super Nintendo World and the other attractions there. Universal Studios Hollywood is a relatively easy park to complete in one day without having to buy the upcharge Universal Express pass. But if your time is limited, Express might be a good investment.

The Studio Tour is the reason why Universal's theme parks exist. That should make it a high priority for first-time visitors, and its line typically moves swiftly, but it closes before the rest of the park, so do not leave it for too late in the day. Secret Life of Pets is a fun dark ride, but you might need to make a Virtual Line reservation early in the day on busy dates, as standby access might not be available then.

Otherwise, Minion Mayhem has two theaters here, making it a much shorter wait than in Orlando. Waterworld is a great show, and it has huge capacity, so pick a showtime most convenient for you and arrive about 20-30 minutes before then if you wish to avoid the soak zone.

If the Hogwarts Castle projection show is running on the day you visit, aim for a showtime later in the evening, as crowds will mob the earliest showings.

Single Rider

If you are visiting alone, the following rides may have single rider queues available, which can save you quite a bit of waiting time:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Jurassic World - The Ride
  • Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge (Note that the single rider queue here sometimes can be as long as the regular wait, and is not nearly as interesting.)
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
Ask a team member at the ride's entrance for directions to the single rider queue, if you do not see it marked.

Universal Studios Hollywood News