One Day? No Problem!
The team at Inside Universal has got you covered with the One Day Trip Planner to help guide you and your family through an action packed day at Universal Studios Hollywood. By outlining your day at the park, we have created a way to make the most of your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. Let’s get started!
Tip 1: The Logistics
Before we get into the fun stuff, we have to get a few of the logistical items covered and out of the way.
Purchase and print your tickets online!
We highly recommend purchasing (and printing) your tickets before visiting the park on Universal Studios Hollywood’s official website, UniversalStudiosHollywood.com. By doing so, you can avoid the crowds lined up at the ticket booths and at the studio box office! Instead, you can head straight to the turnstiles and start your day! On average, this process will save an extra thirty minutes of your day that can be spent on the world famous Universal Studio Tour! More information about ticket options and how to purchase these tickets can be found in our Ticket Guide.
Get there early!
We cannot stress enough the importance of getting to the park at, or as close as possible to, opening! It is extremely necessary to arrive within two hours after park opening for this One Day Trip Planner to be effective. Like most major theme parks, the morning is almost always empty and starts to fill up in the early to mid-afternoon. Since Universal Studios Hollywood has a relatively low attraction count, you can get most, if not all, of its attractions completed before the normal crowds even arrive!
With that said, this tip is very important. In typical Hollywood manner, L.A. residents like to arrive fashionably late – with the bulk of the crowds arriving around noon. If you and your family are willing and able to wake up early and arrive prior to the park’s opening, head directly to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
But wait – have you heard about Early Entry?
Keep in mind: Universal has been offering Early Entry to guests on select dates. If you purchase your ticket in advance online through Universal’s official website, you’ll be eligible to enter the park one hour before official opening. Please remember that Early Entry is not offered throughout the year, so be sure to check Universal’s official website for up-to-date information.
Early Entry generally applies to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we recommend taking advantage of this feature whenever possible if you wish to beat the crowds.
Tip 2: Proceed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Explore Universal’s latest land
After years in the making, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is now open.
Featuring two attractions (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff) along with two eateries (Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Pub), The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an immersive land within a theme park. As Universal’s largest addition, we highly recommend planning your day around the Wizarding World first.
Here’s what you need to know: the Wizarding World is – by far – Universal’s most crowded area in the park, so it is essential that you arrive early as we’ve noted above. When you arrive, hit Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey followed by Flight of the Hippogriff first. Both will garner high wait times as the day progresses, so take advantage of re-rides early when you have the chance early into the day.
When you’ve finished riding both attractions, head to Ollivanders, makers of fine wands. This gift-shop/show experience will allow you to witness firsthand how a wand is matched with its proper owner. But be warned – wait times can be somewhat brutal, and the queue for this experience is bare. Hit this shop up after you’ve ridden both of the land’s rides, and do it early to avoid the crowds.
Finally, when you’ve explored the land’s shops, have breakfast or lunch at Three Broomsticks. This is – by far – the park’s best restaurant, so grab a Butter Beer (a must!) and enjoy some authentic English cuisine.
During especially busy days, entry into the land is restricted using Universal’s Timed Entry Ticket system. Think of this free ticket as something that’s comparable to Disney’s FastPass system. You will likely not need a Timed Entry Ticket if you arrive early, but we recommend getting your Potter fix now instead of stressing to finish the land later into the day. By that time, your entry into the land may be restricted by a ticket.
Tip 3: Head Down to the Lower Lot
With Wizarding World out of the way, proceed directly to the Lower Lot. The Lower Lot – connected by a series of escalators known as the StarWay – is home to the bulk of Universal’s rides.
Exhilarating rides and attractions
Universal Studios Hollywood’s most exhilarating rides can be found on the Lower Lot. These include Transformers: The Ride – 3D, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride. Once you’ve visited all three attractions, you can come meet the Transformer’s Bumble-Bee, Optimus Prime, or Megatron. Don’t forget to head over to Raptor Encounter, where you can come face-to-face with a carefully trained velociraptor, before heading back upstairs! The Raptor Encounter is located to the right of the escalators, just in front of Jurassic Park: The Ride’s splash zone.
Depending on your reception of the Transformers franchise, you may consider experiencing Transformers: The Ride – 3D first. As one of Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest attractions, wait times for this ride tend to be higher than Jurassic Park: The Ride and Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride.
Insider Tip: If you have a small group, we recommend going through Single Rider for any attraction with a long wait time. This gets you to the front of the line quickly, without having to wait in the regular queue. If you don’t mind splitting up, and you don’t have a Front of Line or VIP Experience pass, this is the quickest way to get on your favorite rides!
Beware: The Infamous StarWay
If you plan ahead and hit all rides and attractions in a row, you can save the hassle of trekking up and down the infamous Universal StarWay. For those of you who aren’t aware, the StarWay is a bank of four large escalators that connect the Upper Lot to the Lower Lot. Its large size leads to at least five to ten minutes to make a one-way trip, and can become a tremendous bottleneck if you aren’t prepared. If possible, we recommend doing everything you want to do on the Lower Lot in one go around, thus eliminating to make the up and down trip on the StarWay more than once.
Did You Know? Along with its selection of thrilling rides and attractions, the Lower Lot also features a variety of dining and shopping experiences! Check out our Shop and Restaurant profiles for more information. When you’ve finished the Lower Lot, proceed back to the Upper Lot.
Tip 4: Take the Tour
The Universal Studio Tour is Universal’s flagship attraction. Because of its prominent location within the park, just to the right of Springfield, and its popularity, we recommend hitting this attraction as your first experience on the Upper Lot. Not only does the Studio Tour include popular attractions like King Kong 360-3D, Jaws and Earthquake, but you now get the chance to join Dominic Toretto and friends in a high speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles.
What can I expect?
Along with the attractions mentioned above, the Studio Tour takes you through a real working movie studio, which means you get the chance to see film and television making happen right before your eyes! More information on what you’ll see on the Studio Tour can be found in our Studio Tour Attraction Profile.
Insider Tip: Keep your eye out as you go past the Court of Miracles! The Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family, which stars Mark Steines and Cristina Ferrare, films in the big white house located just before the Earthquake attraction almost every day, and they love Universal Studios Hollywood guests. Who knows? You might even make it on TV!
Quick restroom tip
We highly recommend using the restroom prior to boarding the Studio Tour. If the restrooms located in Springfield are too crowded, fear not! The Studio Tour has restrooms located down the escalators and to the right (more information about Universal’s restrooms can be found in our Restroom Guide).
Tip 5: Focus on the Upper Lot
With its recent expansions and updates, the Upper Lot is quickly becoming a happening place to be. Featuring rides, shows, shopping and dining, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Upper Lot continues to grow into the powerhouse of the park.
Catch some shows
Now that the Wizarding World, Lower Lot and Studio Tour have been checked off your roster, it’s time to plan the rest of your day. Since shows do not play continuously back-to-back (not including Shrek 4D), it is important to figure out which shows and show times best fit your schedule. Posted show times for WaterWorld, the Special Effects Show, and Universal’s Animal Actors can be found on any digital studio directory scattered throughout the park. Keep in mind, unlike the rest of the shows, Shrek 4D runs continuously throughout the day. Therefore, we recommend putting the other three shows higher on your priority list when scheduling out the rest of your day and visiting Shrek 4D in between show times.
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend arriving to any show at least 15-20 minutes prior to the posted show times. Shows tend to fill up quickly, and the posted show times are an indicator for when the show actually starts – not a guide for when to line up.
For tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your show experience, visit our Attraction Profile page for full descriptions on each of your favorite shows.
Insider’s Tip: A complete list of show times throughout the day can be found on one of the inserts inside the brochure you received as you entered the park. Lost your brochure? Have no fear! Park employees wearing a red polo shirt should have extras, or can tell you where to find one.
Grab some grub
With the rest of your day scheduled with shows, you now have an idea of times you need to fill. Since you have already had a full day of rides and attractions, we recommend taking a break at one of Universal Studios Hollywood’s many Upper Lot dining establishments.
Assuming you’ve tried Three Broomsticks already, we also recommend checking out one of the restaurants located inside Springfield! With plenty of food and drink options, as well as an expanded seating area located upstairs above Cletus’s Chicken Shack, Moe’s, and Krusty Burger, collectively, it’s hard to go wrong. If you’re in a bit of a rush, check out one of Universal Studios Hollywood’s grab-and-go options: Palace Theatre Café or French Street Bistro – but be warned. Universal’s grab-and-gos may close especially early, so do check operating hours before you plan to eat.
You can find more information on where, what, and when to eat in our Restaurant Profiles!
Have some fun!
If time permits, you also have the option of checking out the Upper Lot rides and games. The Upper Lot currently features two major rides: The Simpsons Ride and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Both areas surrounding these rides feature franchise-themed games and shopping.
Insider’s Tip: Which area you visit first depends on your next scheduled show. If you’re planning to see the Special Effects Show or Universal’s Animal Actors, we recommend checking out the Springfield area and The Simpsons Ride. WaterWorld is next on your list? Head over to Super Silly Fun Land and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem first.
More information on how to get the most out of your ride experience can be found on our Attraction Profiles page.
Upper Lot summary
In short, revolve your Upper Lot experience around shows. This will afford you plenty of time for food, shopping and additional attractions, including Shrek 4D.
Tip 6: End Your Day With a Souvenir
Now that you’ve experience everything the park has to offer, it is finally time for some souvenirs. Since you only have one day, we recommend devoting most of your time to the Universal Studio Store and Feature Presentation, both located towards the front of the park.
The Universal Studio Store, Universal Studios Hollywood’s flagship store, features Universal-branded souvenirs, clothing, candy, posters, and toys! Here, you can find merchandise from your favorite Universal movies and rides. Conveniently located on the right as you make your way out of the park, the Universal Studio Store is the perfect place to get your favorite souvenir.
Feature Presentation is an editor favorite as it changes seasonally to showcase some of Universal’s newest franchises and attractions. This store generally features a large selection of franchise-specific merchandise that you can’t find anywhere else. Anything from t-shirts to prop-replicas, this store has everything you can think of within its current franchise.
Check out our Shop Profiles page for more information on Universal Studios Hollywood’s Upper Lot shopping options.
You did it!
Congratulations! You have successfully completed a full day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Now is the time to take your last photos of the arch and globe and head on home (or to your hotel) to relax your tired feet.
Insider’s Tip: If you still have some energy left, check out CityWalk Hollywood for additional shopping and dining, and to catch a flick at AMC Universal CityWalk. Don’t forget to present your parking stub at the AMC box office when you buy your movie ticket to take advantage of their $5 Movie Parking!
We hope you enjoy your day at Universal Studios Hollywood!