Friday, December 14, 2012

We Hit Up Universal Studios Hollywood!

Even though I'm a fully-grown adult, I still have a soft spot in my heart for theme parks. I don't know what it is, but with life being so 'crazy busy' with work, stress, conference calls and deadlines - a day dedicated just to FUN sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Ooohhh and plus there's funnel cake and churros - that's just enough to get me out of bed.

Having planned an epic vacation to Los Angeles, a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood was in order. It was my first visit to a Universal theme park and Los Angeles really is the perfect setting to learn all about the movies along with Wendy and the husbands.

Set on an actual movie lot, with live shows, films, production offices and sets - you really do feel like you're part of the live excitement that is Hollywood. During the Studio Tour, our guide had to turn off her mic in specific 'quiet zones' because CSI and a few other shows were filming that day. Make sure your camera is charged and ready to go because there are LOTS of characters wandering around the park, plus you'll never know who you'll see walking to their trailer...

My favourite ride of the day was The Mummy Ride. It's like a roller coaster adventure ride that moves you in different directions while taking you through major moments from the movie. Second favourite? Transformers The Ride. Ok it's easily the best ride I have ever been on, BUT I totally got dizzy afterwards that I can't rate it as my favourite. But you FEEL like you're in an actual car chase, the wind blows through your hair, you feel heat when there's a fireball in front of your eyes and your ride car is moving along to the motions the whole time, while whipping you in front of a different movie screen to experience each section of the story.

For all The Simpsons fans out there - you will squeal with delight as I did at the sight of a real live Kwik-E-Mart next to the Krustyland virtual roller coaster. Inside The Simpsons Ride, I was chuckling at all the witty one-liners the whole way through, from the line-up video outside to the video at the start of the ride and Sideshow Bob's plot to take down The Simpsons, which results in the roller coaster chase.

Here's Wendy's take - My favourite ride was the legendary Studio Tour. It's a 45-minute tram tour that takes you behind-the-scenes of Universal's back lot - the largest working movie studio. I loved seeing blockbuster hits like King Kong and The Mummy come to life,  and taking a trip down memory lane to visit the nostalgic sites of The Bates Motel in Psycho and Back to the Future's Courthouse Square was definitely a blast. 
Of course, cruising down Wisteria Lane, where The Desperate Housewives was filmed was super cool too. Make sure you start your day with this ride first because it gets busy real fast!  

Tips to maximizing your visit to Universal Studios:

1) It would typically take 7-8 hours to get through the WHOLE park but I took down the entire park in five hours with The Front Of Line Pass ($129)! I recommend planning your day around the show times and filling it in with rides in between. 

2) If you go straight to the Lower Lot and work your way back to the Upper Lot, it is way less crowded.

3) Universal City Walk is located just outside the park entrance. Give yourself some extra time to explore this shopping, dining and entertainment complex at the end of your day. It's also a great place to grab dinner and the food selection is a lot better out here than inside the park. I especially enjoyed the food at Buca di Beppo.

Next time you're in LA, make sure to carve out a day out of all that sightseeing and shopping for a day of theme park fun. Universal Studios is geared towards an older crowd and it's all about the magic of the movies. I felt like it was more about the quality of each ride vs the quantity of them. Trust me, you never end up regretting a day of fun and Wendy and I were both really glad we went.

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