April 1, 2015 – In preparation for the Studio Tour and the theme park’s continuing fiftieth anniversary celebration, we would like to take the time to point out the top 10 StarWays that make up Universal Studios Hollywood. If 10 sounds likes a tall order, it is. But sit back, take in the vistas, and see if your own list matches up with ours.
To kick off our list, we start with a hidden treasure.
First impressions mean a lot at the park and this StarWay has it in spades. You get fresh out of your car, often on an even-numbered level and can be confused on where to go. The elevators are often out of the way and have a wait, and the stairs take too much effort. But these single-serving-sized stairs are perfect for giving each person their own experience of what it’s like to be chased by a slow-moving extinct reptile. Upon completion of the steps, you’re greeted by a themed elevator and a beautiful stainless-steel wall with circles carved in it creating a shape of the Jurassic logo. This is a simple StarWay, but not one to be missed.
Hot on the heels of the smaller escalator in Jurassic Parking, is the daddy of it. This one spans more stories and has more sites to see. While the Jr. escalator only had Jurassic-themed sites for guests to view, this Senior StarWay has movie posters at each floor and distinct coloring as you change levels. It’s a much more mature experience that really completes the day, whether you’re coming or going. And if you’re a sharp eye, you could even spot some posters for Telemundo – just to brush up a bit on your Spanish. See? Learning can be fun! Especially at Universal!
Dinosaurs aren’t the only creatures to get a dedicated StarWay. No sir. On the flipside of the park, there’s one that rivals both of the previous StarWays combined. That would be the Frankenstein Parking StarWay.
If you’re lucky (or rich enough) to be able to park in this structure, you can be treated to a beautiful hand-sewn canopy above that is perfect for any weather. The open-air environment makes sure it’s always fresh as you slowly ascend from the bottom floor up to theme park level. At a casual pace, one can complete this 6-part stroll in just under 2 minutes and 40 seconds. A sharp eye will notice that not all levels are built the same, either. Each level has a color code to it, creating a wonderful rainbow of numbers to keep an eye on as you ascend the 60ft. But that’s not all! For the full experience, you need to start from the bottom, where the initial section is thinnest. Riding for the full length, from start to finish, you’ll easily notice how each floor widens, creating a thinning effect on the guest, priming the mind to think they’re ready for a day of hot dogs and cotton candy.
It really is a wonderful experience and a StarWay we should feel lucky to have.
We’re getting into the big time now. No more parking lots. These next two StarWays can be argued about their placement, but I bet you’ll agree that they are still first-in-class experiences that are unparalleled in the themed-entertainment industry.
First up is the CityLoft StarWay. This one, while closer to the park entrance itself, is less often used than the Food-based cousin, for a myriad of reasons, and it is why we ranked it at #7. Still, the CityLoft StarWay stands alone. Above, as you traverse it, you can see the honeycomb-like structure above that simply does nothing to protect you from the elements and simply exists to confuse the guest into thinking there’s a functional skylight. Plus, here you can people-watch more than any other StarWay. This is the perfect nexus point to watch other guests strolling into the park and to get an idea on fashion tips on what kind of group shirt to wear, or even how many tour groups are traveling with telescoping flags as mindless guests follow them without question. We’re happy to have this StarWay as part of the Universal family and hope it stays for generations.
Closer to the 5 Towers is the CityFood StarWay. Here you can see a much more expansive part of CityWalk. A careful eye can even try to spy on the movies available at the AMC Theater and maybe even the props put out for any new movie debuting this week. To the right would be the aforementioned 5 Towers Stage and on a good Summer night, one could experience a brief concert as they ascend or descend wherever they may be going. Further, one can peek into the newly re-opened Things From Another World, reclaiming its corner where a flagship Gamestop store existed for so long.
If you happen to be ascending this StarWay, then you’re in luck. As you go up, the various and eclectic choices of theme park dining slowly come into view at 2.5 miles per hour giving you ample time to decide which cuisine would compliment your day of taking a selfie with a French woman on stilts and selfies with a piano man and just selfies in particular. It would be hard to say you spent a full day at Universal if you didn’t give this Starway a chance.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this special hidden gem of Universal. While many people are well versed with the existing Frankenstein Parking StarWay, few are aware that it goes in reverse as well, taking the guests from the top floor of 7 all the way down to the ground floor of 1. We often get comments and questions on articles asking for hidden tips about ways to get around the park and other StarWay-related conversations for people parking in Frankenstein, this is the most valuable tip of them all. Building on the previous horizontal subtlety, in reverse this effect is just as useful. As you descend, the pressure going from wide to narrow heightens your awareness of your surroundings. This awakens tired guests who have been trodding all over the park all day. The slight squeeze is just a bit of encouraged safety, like a goodnight kiss from Universal wishing you well on your fun day you undoubtedly had at the park. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day.
While our #4 pick may not be as old as its namesake, it still has a special place in our heart and we hope it is as much a part of the 50th celebration as the tour is.
For us, it always will be a key part of the Universal experience. It’s your first introduction to the movies and now has a refreshed view of Springfield as you descend past Hogwarts and Hogsmeade into a team member wishing you well on your tour today. To your left are guests fresh off the tour, chipper and ready to tackle the rest of the park with churro in hand! To the right are the bathrooms and a smoking area to get in your final puffs before embarking on the most thrilling 45 minutes you’ll have today. For the kids, games can be played. One thing they can do is be asked to keep an eye out for the Jaws Penny Press machine. If they are quick enough with that, then they can be directed to tell you if the final Spanish tour has departed for the day before the StarWay bottoms out. Really, the possibilities on the Studio Tour StarWay are pretty limitless and the re-rideability of this is critically high. That’s why we’ve ranked it so highly on this list. But, as with all things, you shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a long queue for this StarWay.
Try to ride this earlier in the day or ask a friendly team member for the best time that day to ride it. They’ll be happy to oblige.
There’s only one thing that can compete with the Studio Tour StarWay and that is itself. That’s why we picked the Studio Tour StarWay in Reverse as our #3 pick on our list. After sitting down for nearly an hour, and experience the world’s biggest, most immersive 3D experience that is King Kong 360 3-D and the soon-to-be-opened Fast & Furious Supercharged Finale, most guests will be itching to be moving around into the park. That’s where this StarWay shines. No other StarWay is as well equipped to get guests to where things matter the most. Exiting the tram, you feel knowledgeable about the movie industry, whistling the famous “Tramtastic” tune as you rush to the bathroom to return that Coke you nursed out of the head of Homer Simpson for the last 30 minutes. You pass by the cast member in the director’s chair with a confident stride. Other attractions come into view. Marquees featuring the attractions in the park now face you. You have a whole park ahead of you. It can almost be overwhelming. If it’s too much, feel free to ask a cast member to take a break or a re-ride ticket to get a chance to ride it later. But no matter what you do, you have to be sure to make it to this StarWay when visiting Universal.
While most other StarWays are complimented by their reverse companions, and often surpassed, nothing really tops the original StarWay.
The original StarWay in reverse lands firmly at #2 on our list and with good reason. No other StarWay is more desired than when guests have finished the myriad of attractions in the expansive Lower Lot and are ready to tackle the Studio Tour before the last one leaves for the day. It also offers a great view of the fresh memories you made, looking at the Revenge of the Mummy show building. These reasons alone are enough to get the original StarWay in reverse the penultimate spot on our list, but it goes further by offering a second chance for attractions such as “looking at the Warner Bros. Studio” or “posing next to a cardboard cutout of Tom Hanks and half of a space capsule”. If you’re lucky, you can also find an out-of-place Simpsons Hot Dog cart in case you get hungry halfway up.
Some health-conscious folks recommend taking the stairs, but given that you’re on vacation, you want to conserve every calorie possible. Exercise is unthinkable while at theme parks and these stairs exist only for the most insane of masochists. In fact, most people that try the stairs can’t be eventually bothered by the allure of the StarWay in Reverse. Even if it’s not a full length, everyone gets a taste of the StarWay in Reverse at some point.
And finally, we end this list with the big one, the head honcho, the StarWay of StarWays. This is the StarWay that all escalators aspire to be. For just a few nights a year, you too can experience this once in a lifetime experience. During the “Halloween Horror Nights”, the StarWay audio is replaced with a sarcastic narrator, explosions and carnage – all of which are more than willing to mock those who dare take the metal steps of terror down into the Lower Lot.
While this experience can be thrilling, it definitely is not for all ages, especially for those who are pregnant, scared of gypsies or easily frightened. While we have yet to see the StarWay’s Revenge used as scare zone, one can hope in the future that monsters could one day be seen patrolling up and down, ready to take this experience to the next level. We can’t think of any better way to experience a StarWay and that’s why we had no trouble naming this as the number one StarWay in not just Universal Studios Hollywood, but the entire world.
We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive look at all the Starways that Universal Studios Hollywood has to offer and hope it aligns with your opinions as well. If not, feel free to let us know how you would rank them. Did we leave off your favorite? Or maybe we forgot to mention some aspect of a Starway that you find special. Regardless, we’d love to have feedback.
Chris Glass is an editor for Inside Universal.
Chris is a Los Angeles native who grew up visiting the best theme parks in the world, but that wasn’t enough. Whenever he has the chance, he flees the comfort of Southern California to see what the rest of the world has to offer, and is always happy to return home.
You may contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.