Can You Do Universal Studios Hollywood In One Day

As annual pass holders, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park multiple times over the past decade.

Universal Studios Hollywood is a relatively small theme park and therefore can often easily be completed in a single day without significant compromise on the rides and attractions you experience during your trip to the park.

However, as with all theme parks, it’s important to fully research and plan your trip to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park to ensure that your day is as successful as possible.

Things To Do Before Your Day At Universal Studios Hollywood

When it comes to how long you need at Universal Studios Hollywood, most people can experience everything inside the park in just one day. However, a successful day at Universal Studios Hollywood begins at home with the correct planning and preparation.

Decide When You’re Going To Visit

Depending on your personal situation you may have zero flexibility on when you can visit Universal Studios Hollywood and already have the dates of your trip set. However, if you have some flexibility then visiting Universal Studios Hollywood when it has the lowest crowds is going to really help you in experiencing everything the park has to offer in a single day.

Buy Your Park Tickets

The first hour when Universal Studios Hollywood opens is the most valuable as it’s the quietest the park is likely to be all day. As such the last thing you want to be doing is waiting in line to purchase your park tickets. Instead, it’s both quicker and easier to purchase your park ticket in advance.

Stay In A Nearby Hotel

To avoid having to leave your hotel hours prior to the theme park opening, or arriving stressed thanks to the notoriously bad LA traffic, we recommend staying in one of the many hotels close to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.

There is a vast number of hotels within walking distance of Universal Studios Hollywood and several hotels with a shuttle to Universal Studios Hollywood. Staying in one of these hotels is not only convenient but can also help you save money on parking at Universal Studios Hollywood which currently costs a minimum of $35 a day.

Investing In A Universal Express Pass

With a Universal Express Pass, you’re able to skip the standby line for the vast majority of rides and attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood which can save you 85% of your time on average when compared to the standard wait time (in our experience).

However, a Universal Express Pass isn’t always worth it. In most cases, you can see everything at Universal Studios Hollywood in just one day, especially in the low season.

That being said, much like Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tickets, Universal Express passes are sold on a dynamic pricing model.

You can purchase a Universal Express pass when you arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood. However, you’ll want to do this as early as possible to maximise its value, which again takes away from your vital hour inside the park.

This means that a Universal Express Pass is typically cheaper during the off-season (when it’s likely the passes won’t save you as much time) and more expensive during the peak season (when you’re most likely to benefit).

Thankfully, however, Universal Studios Hollywood is a lot smaller than Universal Orlando, which combined with the fewer number of attractions means that the Universal Express Pass sold here is significantly cheaper.

Research The Rides & Attractions At Universal Studios Hollywood

Once your ticket and accommodation are all sorted, we recommend taking the list of rides and attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood and doing two things;

  1. Ensuring that everyone meets the height requirement for the rides
  2. Ordering the rides based on which ones you would most like to experience

Doing this allows you to know ahead of time whether there’s going to be any disappointment on the day when a little one can’t go on a ride because they aren’t tall enough and also allows you to plan for a worst-case scenario if the park is crowded or you experience bad weather.

Just because a ride is number one on your ‘most like to experience’ list doesn’t always mean you should go to that ride first. Instead, you’ll want to combine that list with the average wait times / popularity of rides.

Download The Universal Studios Hollywood Mobile App

There are several informational boards around Universal Studios Hollywood that share the latest show times and current wait times for rides. However, you can have all of this information at your fingertips with the Universal Studios Hollywood mobile application.

The mobile app is available for both iOS and Android and while it will require internet access Universal Hollywood has complimentary Wi-Fi available throughout the park.

Decide How You’re Going To Get To The Theme Park

If you’re not staying in a nearby hotel offering a shuttle bus to Universal Studios Hollywood, then you’ll need to decide how you’re going to get to the theme park and plan your morning accordingly.

If you’re driving to the theme park you’ll need to decide whether you’re happy to pay for general parking, front gate parking or valet parking. If you choose general parking then you’ll likely be over in the parking garages at the far end of CityWalk and will therefore need to add an extra ten minutes onto your morning schedule to give you plenty of time to walk over to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park entrance.

If you’ve decided to get a carpooling service such as a Lyft or Uber to Universal Studios Hollywood then these drivers are able to drop you off at one of two locations which can be pre-selected when ordering your ride.

In that case, you’ll need to consider how long it might take the driver to come and collect you from your accommodation, as well as how long it will then take you to walk from your selected drop-off point to the entrance of the theme park.

One Day At Universal Studios Hollywood Itinerary

Being Silver Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Pass Members we’ve visited Universal Studios Hollywood a number of times over the past couple of years and typically this is the itinerary that we follow to maximise our time at the park.

7:00am: Breakfast

One of the most common mistakes we see people making when visiting the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is arriving at the park early, and heading for breakfast instead of to a ride or attraction.

The first hour after the park opens is the quietest you’ll likely experience it all day. It’s the best chance you have of waiting in a 10 minute like for The World Famous Studio Tour or Flight of the Hippogriff instead of 30 or even 45 minutes later in the day. As such this can be the difference between going on 8 rides within the park or all 12.

Therefore we highly recommend you have breakfast before you arrive at the theme park and bringing snacks with you to keep you going throughout those key morning hours.

8:00am: Parking & Security

Assuming Universal Studios Hollywood is opening at 9:00am we aim to arrive one hour prior to give ourselves plenty of time to get parked and head through security.

In most cases, you’ll be able to have your tickets scanned and head through the turnstiles at around 8:30pm. Staff members then hold guests on Main Universal Way between the Hello Kitty Store and Starbucks until 9:00am.

9:00am: Park Opening & Super Nintendo World

The most popular area of Universal Studios Hollywood is the newly opened Super Nintendo World. However, this area of the park also happens to be the furthest area from the entrance of the park.

To get to Super Nintendo World from the main entrance you’ll want to head straight, past the entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on your right and then follow the street to the right into Springfield.

If you have a wheelchair or a pushchair then you’ll be advised by staff as to where you can get the complimentary tram down to the Lower Lot instead.

From there keep walking towards The Simpsons Ride before turning left to the escalators down to the Lower Lot.

Once you get down to the Lower Lot you’ll want to take a right off the escalators and walk towards Transformers: The Ride 3D. Just as you reach the ride’s entrance take a left and you’ll see the warp pipe into Super Nintendo World.

Entry into Super Nintendo World is limited based on the capacity of the land. If you’re unable to arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood for the park’s opening and are looking to guarantee experiencing Super Nintendo World then I highly suggest paying a little extra to get a reservation.

Inside Super Nintendo World you’ll find;

  • 1 Ride
  • 2 Meet & Greet Locations
  • 1 Store
  • 1 Restaurant
  • 5 Mini-Games (Super Nintendo World Power Up Band required)

I recommend heading straight for the one ride in this area of the park, Mario Kart: Bowsers Challenge which has had wait times of up to 3 hours during the peak times of the park (even in the off-season).

10:30am: Lower Lot

Once you’ve finished inside Super Nintendo World, you’ll exit this land into the Lower Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood. Here you’ll find;

  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
  • Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride
  • Jurassic Park: The Ride

Here you can also interact with dinosaurs during the Raptor Encounter (located just to the right of the escalators back to the Upper Lot of the park) and meet Transformers including BumbleBee.

There is also a number of food stands here perfect for grabbing a drink or snack including the Super Nintendo World Popcorn Cart and Studio Café.

12:00pm: Lunch

By the time midday comes, you’re no doubt going to be ready for lunch, and while this is the worst time to try and grab food, it’s sadly unavoidable with this itinerary.

At this point, you’ve finished down in the Lower Lot so you can either have lunch in one of the many restaurants here or head to the Upper Lot and eat in one of the restaurants up there instead.

Universal Studios Hollywood is home to some fantastic restaurants for all tastes and budgets. Some of our favourites inside the park include;

  1. Three Broomsticks – Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  2. Toadstool Cafe – Super Nintendo World
  3. Minion Cafe – Super Silly Fun Land
  4. Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck – Springfield, home of The Simpsons

All of the restaurants above (except for Toadstool Cafe) are quick-service. We’ve therefore allowed just 45 minutes for lunch. However, you may want to extend this time if you’re travelling with young children who need more time.

If you would like to eat at Toadstool Cafe inside Super Nintendo World, which in our opinion is the best place to eat at Universal Studios Hollywood, then you’ll need to join the Toadstool Cafe waitlist when you arrive at this area of the park.

You’ll then be alerted by text message when your table is ready and be able to head inside and order your food.

12:45pm: The World Famous Studio Tour

Rather than heading straight back on rides after lunch, we recommend heading down to The World Famous Studio Tour. This one-hour tour of the backlot of one of the oldest film studios in Hollywood still in operation is our favourite thing to do at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The entrance to The World Famous Studio Tour is located at the back of Springfield, home of The Simpsons and once again requires you to use escalators (or an elevator) to head down to a lower area of the park from which you will board the Studio Tour tram.

2:00pm: Springfield

Once you exit The World Famous Studio Tour and take the escalators (or elevator) back up to the Upper Lot you’ll find yourself in Springfield, home of The Simpsons.

This area is home to one motion simulator-based ride, The Simpsons Ride. Multiple eateries and some fun fare games (which are available at an additional cost).

If you’ve got a Universal Express pass or are visiting during the off-season then you shouldn’t even need an hour in this area of the park and will be able to move on to our next stop, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter earlier.

3:00pm: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located just off Main Way Universal in the Upper Lot. This area of the park is dedicated to Harry Potter and features two rides;

  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  2. Flight of the Hippogriff

Here there is also the Ollivanders store where you can see the wand choosing the wizard performance, and even shop for your own interactive wand which can be used to cast spells in this area of the park.

Meanwhile, if you fancy a bite to eat or a drink Three Broomsticks and Hogs Head are both popular choices serving up a range of British cuisine and Butterbeer.

4:30pm: Upper Lot Rides & Shows

The final area of the park is the Upper Lot which is currently home to one show; WaterWorld and a number of rides and attractions;

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Secret Life of Pets
  • DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda

There’s also Super Silly Fun Land which is perfect for younger kids (and where we spent most of our time when travelling with our 14 month old). This area is home to a playground, splash pad and the Silly Swirly ride.

Be sure to check the WaterWorld show times as at 4:30pm you may have already missed the final showing, and subsequently will need to slightly adjust your plans above if you wanted to catch it.

Here you’ll also find a number of character meet-and-greets including;

  • Hello Kitty
  • Scooby-Doo & The Gang!
  • Minions
  • Gru
  • BeetleJuice

This is also the best area inside the theme park for shopping for all your favourite souvenirs with the dedicated Hello Kitty store and a large Universal Studio Store.

Hints & Tips For A Successful Day At Universal Studios Hollywood

There are a couple of other hints and tips we’ve found help to make a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood an even better experience. Not all of these maybe suitable for everyone, but they are worth knowing nevertheless;

Use Single Rider Lines

Single-rider lines are the fastest way to get on a ride without having a Universal Express Pass. However, they also mean splitting up your party.

As a result, the single-rider line isn’t for everyone, and depending on how long the standby line is, riding solo may not always be a worthwhile trade-off. The following rides at Universal Studios Hollywood have a single-rider line;

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
  • Jurassic World: The Ride
  • Mario Kart: Bowsers Challenge

Use Child Switch

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with children then make sure you’re aware of the Child Switch service. Child Switch is designed for rides that adults or older kids want to go that other shorter members of the party can not ride.

This means that an adult can wait with the younger members of the party in the attraction’s Child Switch room while the rest of the party goes on the ride. Once the rest of the party returns you can switch – allowing all eligible guests to go on the ride without waiting in line twice.

Stay Late

If you’re visiting on a Friday or over the weekend then you’ll typically find that Universal Hollywood is open late (8pm and 9pm instead of 6pm). However, people generally leave the park to head back to their accommodation between 4pm and 6pm.

Subsequently, the average wait times for rides tend to drop between 20% to 30% when compared to the peak times of the day. If you don’t have an Express Pass then this is the perfect time to go on some of the more popular rides within the park that you might not have already had the chance to experience.

Pack Light

Wherever possible we recommend you only bring a small bag or a fanny pack to the Universal Studios theme park.

While you will still be required to put these inside a locker during selected rides it’s generally significantly easier and less time-consuming to do so. Bringing just a small bag also allows you to comfortably and easily move through the parks.

Of course, depending on the time of year you’re visiting, what you bring to Universal Studios will likely vary dramatically. For example, if you’re visiting in the summer then a sunhat, sunblock and a chapstick are essential. However, if you’re visiting in the winter months then a light jacket and an umbrella will likely be a better choice.

Budget Your Spending Money In Advance

With ticket upgrades, food, drinks and souvenirs the cost of visiting Universal Studios can often increase very, very quickly. For that reason, when deciding how much money you should bring to Universal Studios I recommend being realistic and doing your very best to stick to that budget on the day and not get carried away.

Budgeting $20 per person is often unrealistic and is likely going to leave you either depriving yourself of fun, unique experiences or going above and beyond. Instead, based on my multiple visits to Universal Studios Hollywood I recommend somewhere between $70 – $120 per person.

Realistically planning for this expense in advance prevents you from getting into debt, and also allows you to have a fantastic, memorable vacation at Universal Studios.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *