Taking the family to Universal Studios is so much more fun if you arrive prepared.
It is a universal truth that taking children to a theme park can increase anxiety and decrease liquidity.
So, our friends in Los Angeles looked confused when we offered to take their kids to Universal Studios Hollywood for the day. “Four kids, under 10. Are you sure?” they asked.
Well it turned out to be the best day – ever. For all of us.
The trick? We came prepared and made sure we did the following:
TICKETING The Holy Grail can be bought at universalstudioshollywood.com/tickets/front-of-line-ticket. This pass, which does not cost much more than a regular ticket, allows you to skip the queues. However, they can only be used once per ride. Your best bet is to arrive as early as possible, head to the Lower Lot for Transformers: The Ride 3D, the Jurassic Park River Adventure, and Revenge of the Mummy rollercoaster, before the crowds descend. Then, go to the Upper Lot for The Simpsons virtual roller coaster, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and the Studio Tour. Only use your passes in the afternoon to go on your favourite rides a second time. You also get preferred seating in the big shows, like the fascinating Special Effects Stage and action-packed WaterWorld.
CHILD SWAPPING Believe it or not, you can switch your kids! And who wouldn’t want to do that? Oh hang on. Apparently the Child Switch room is NOT so you can swap your kids for better-behaved ones. It’s for those times when one of your children doesn’t want to ride a particular attraction. In that case, an adult can wait with the scaredy cat, I mean, precious progeny, in the Child Switch room. When the rest of the family returns, the patient carer can have a turn, without having to line up again. Genius.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD I know this sounds stingy but, truly, the food options are expensive and unhealthy. Sure, it’s fun to pretend you’re Homer at a buffet, with lunch at Krusty Burger, a beer in Moe’s Tavern and dessert at Butterfat’s Ice Cream Parlor in the all-new Springfield precinct. But it gets a bit much. The amusement stalls are also costly. Funnily enough, the kids had more fun sitting on barrels of “nuclear waste”, pressing buttons to make the power plant malfunction.
WORDS OF WARNING On the Studio Tour, you’ll be chased by a knife-wielding Norman Bates, rocked by an earthquake, and attacked by King Kong and Jaws. This is a highlight for older kids, but can be frightening for littlies. Explain to them beforehand that it’s all make-believe. It’s also worth packing a couple of devices to play while queueing. Don’t forget the sunscreen and water: there’s little shade under the searing California sun. The Super Silly Fun Land water park is the perfect place for kids to cool off.
DON’T DRIVE We hired a car for a day, to see the Hollywood sign, shop at the outlet malls, and buy an “I Pooped Today” hat from Venice Beach. (Yep. Things Bogans Do.) But it’s not worth the hire charge to leave it in a car park. Buy a Starline Tour Hop-on/Hop-off pass, with 70 stops throughout LA. There’s sure to be one near your accommodation.
To mark its 50th anniversary this year, the theme park is opening a new thrill ride, Fast & Furious-Supercharged, and a night studio tour. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens next year.
At day’s end the verdict was clear – Universal Studios was worth every cent.
Tracey Spicer travelled as a guest of Universal Studios Hollywood.