In what used to be a dusty street right out of the Old West now stands a symbol of Universal Studios Hollywood. Built in less than year from the ground up, the Universal Plaza has finally opened to the public on August 29, 2013. While the Plaza still has many little finishing touches to come, and is still waiting for the completion of a few more parts, the effect it has had on the flow and feel of the park is unmistakable.
Universal Plaza brings new shopping and dining experiences, a water play area, expanded shade and seating, and opens up the formerly dense middle of the upper lot to allow for a more open, breathable area for guests. On both the literal and figurative levels, Universal Plaza is a release of pressure for guests, employees, and traffic in a park that has been and will be marked by construction for quite a long time.
Here is a brief overview of the new Universal Plaza:
The entrance – and indeed the majority of the Plaza – has been done in art deco, with an entrance arch on the side in similar form but smaller scale to the arch at Universal Studios Hollywood’s sister park in Florida.
The Universal Plaza Tower gives the park a new icon to stand with the famous globe and neon sign, visible from quite a distance away. The Tower will soon be home to the new Universal Box Office – replacing the Hollywood Ticket Outlet that once stood nearby. There’s still much more to come from this part of Plaza.
The perimeter of Plaza adds to the open and expansive feeling, with a smooth and clean cement finish and detailed lighting fixtures for an evening stroll.
There’s a great deal of seating available, some from the area in front of Mel’s Diner, and some brand new brought in specifically for Plaza. The music and décor blends well with the New York themed street on the right side, lending excitement and the feel of the big city without the congestion that once marked this area of the park. With the new setup, you can walk from the entrance to Animal Actors – located across the park – with ease.
Replacing the already closed Coke Soak and the soon to close Curious George playground is a star-shaped water play fountain with multi-colored flooring. This is similar in design to the small water jet play area on CityWalk near Camachos and Jamba Juice, with jets that shoot straight up and some that shoot at an angle.
Like much of Plaza, the fountain also lights up with LED displays beneath each jet which looks stunning at night. The music seems to surround you as you move in and out of the fountain, creating an immersive experience of sound, water, and light for adults and children alike.
Expanding on the small cart that occupied space near Animal Actors, Pink’s has become its own free-standing location in Plaza.
Like all theme park food, it is on the pricey side, but it’s unlike any dining experience currently in the park. It offers a selection from the nationally acclaimed Southern California classic – one of the truly iconic Los Angeles original eateries on par with Tommy’s Burgers or Randy’s Donuts. The food here is amazing and on a tier above almost anything else the park has to offer. The Studio Tour Dog is sure to please with onion rings wrapped around the frank – and that’s just a hint of what Pink’s has to offer!
If you want a taste of Los Angeles without leaving the park, this is the best place to visit – even better than the location in City Loft!
Adriana Morgan – also known by her internet handle Miss Betty Juice – is an editor and one of the field reporters for Inside Universal.
Adriana made her first trip to Universal in 1995 during Nickelodeon’s Big Help-A-Thon, and was hooked from day one. Since that first trip, her passion for films and for Universal Studios has grown, and she continues to enjoy the park and its history today as an annual passholder and a reporter for Inside Universal. Her areas of Universal expertise include Jurassic Park, the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, and the Studio Tour.
Adriana currently resides in Los Angeles. You can reach her at her blog on Tumblr at MyUniversalExperience.tumblr.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.