Universal CitySan Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, most of which is given over to the world's largest motion picture studio and its associated visitor attraction, the popular Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
By planeUniversal City is south of Burbank's Bob Hope Airport (BUR) and about a 45-minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport. Both airports have rental car centers and public transit connections; see the individual guides for airport transportation information.
By carUniversal City has its own exit from the 101 Freeway traveling northbound from Downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood. The 134 freeway can also take you to the Universal City area by exiting Cahuenga or Lankershim Blvd and turning southbound. General parking at the theme park is $17 before 3PM and $10 after 3PM, with more expensive parking closer to the park entrance.
By public transitMetro offers bus and rail service to Universal City. Of particular use to visitors is the Metro Rail Red Line subway, which stops at the on Lankershim Blvd on its way between Downtown L.A./Hollywood and North Hollywood. Universal Studios Hollywood provides a free shuttle between the subway station and the theme park. The shuttle stop at the bottom of the hill is accessible via a pedestrian overpass. Instead of the shuttle, you can walk up the hill to Universal in 10-15 min. Across the street from the subway station is a bus hub that serves Metro routes #150/240, #155, #224, and the (weekday only) Metro Rapid #750, which connect Universal City directly to various communities throughout the San Fernando Valley. Fare for Metro services is $1.75 each way.
Getting around Universal City is not a serious matter, given that it's small enough to easily walk around. The Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is the primary attraction, while the adjacent CityWalk offers dozens of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Each of the two nearby hotels (Hilton Universal City and Sheraton Universal) are within walking distance and have additional bars and restaurants available to experience.
phone: +1 818 623-4166address: 3919 Lankershim BlvdA California historical landmark. The foundations of an adobe ranch house where the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed, ending hostilities between the US and Mexico in California.
Universal Studios Hollywood
address: 100 Universal City PlazaUniversal Studios was established at this location in 1915 by Carl Laemmle. Following an acquisition by MCA (Music Corporation of America), staff accountants suggested that a studio bus tour of the massive backlot and a stop at the commissary would boost profits. The famous backlot tram ride at the park today is a direct descendant. In the 1960s, the humble tour was expanded to include staged events. In the 1980s, a large-scale motion picture-themed amusement park evolved to accompany the tour.
The heart and soul of the park is still the , a tram tour of the backlot that lasts 45min to an hour and winds through many famous sets and past working sound stages. Among the highlights are actual sets from Back to the Future, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and Stephen Spielberg's War of the Worlds, and simulated attractions based on the films Earthquake, Jaws, Peter Jackson's King Kong (King Kong 360 3D), and the Fast & Furious franchise (Fast & Furious Supercharged in 3D). International language tours are available in Spanish and Mandarin a few times a day.
Other film-based attractions include:
- — A simulated Springfield filled with recreations of landmarks from the show The Simpsons, like the Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's Tavern, Krustyland and more.
- — Enter a recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, designed to resemble the world of the Harry Potter films. In Hogsmeade are many shops and eateries that replicate fictional places from the Harry Potter universe, such as Honeydukes sweet shop and Ollivanders wands. Numerous collectible shops, film props, and character performers can be found throughout this area.
- Frog Choir - A presentation of songs by a small choir of Hogwarts students and their frogs that occurs multiple times randomly throughout the day. You can take pictures with them after each performance.
- Triwizard Spirit Rally - A procession of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students that occurs multiple times randomly throughout the day. You can take pictures with them after each performance.
- Shop Windows - Most of the windows throughout Hogsmeade have varying animations/animatronics/etc. Some can only be activated by the wands that are for sale. There are markers on the ground indicating where you should stand and what movement you need to make with the wand. There are a lot of people who buy the wands, so you don't have to buy one yourself to see the extra content.
- Public toilets - The main (and only) restrooms within the Wizarding World are themed, complete with Moaning Myrtle. The men's bathroom is also 'haunted' by a recording of Moaning Myrtle.
- — An elaborate stunt show based on the film Waterworld. While the film has a reputation for being underwhelming, the show is much more highly regarded, with lots of stunt actors, pyrotechnics, and water effects, as well as an explosive plane crash. The arena seating is split up so that seats closest to the stage get soaked while those further away stay dry.
- — A live show with demonstrations on how special effects are created, including sound effects, motion capture, and a fire stunt.
- — A live show where a variety of animals perform stunts and tricks.
- Meet Your Favorite Characters - In addition to the rides, numerous costumed characters can be found throughout the park; ask an employee for specific times and locations. Many classic characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, etc. appear near the Universal Plaza.
- Raptor Encounter - Meet a live velociraptor and its handler in the lower lot near the Jurassic Park ride roughly on the half hour.
- Transformers - Meet Megatron, Optimus Prime, or Bumblebee in the lower lot near the Transformers gift shop. Times are posted for when they will each be available for photos. Occasionally, Optimus and Bumblebee appear together.
- Dora the Explorer - In Dino Play in the lower lot.
- Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Puss n Boots - They appear at Donkey's Waffle Cart near the former location of the Shrek 4D ride. They usually appear in groups of 2.
- Despicable Me - There are 3 different minions (one eye, and 2 two eyes) that appear near the Minion Mayhem ride. The girls and Gru appear in groups of two near Ms Hattie's school between Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land.
- The Simpsons - One or two of the Simpsons family (Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart) appear in front of the Kwik-E-Mart throughout the day. Sideshow Bob or Krusty appear around the corner outside the Springfield DMV.
- Madagascar - King Julien and Alex the lion appear near the animal show.
The park has also become the filming location for the tabloid television show Extra, with various celebrities sometimes interviewed in front of a live audience; check the website for times and guests.
Universal Studios Hollywood
address: 100 Universal City PlazaThere are several film-based rides including:
- Upper Lot
- — A 3D motion simulator ride based on the animated film Despicable Me. Offers child switch area.
- — An elaborate children's play area based on the carnival from Despicable Me, with water play features, playground structures, and carnival rides and games. There is a spinning ride that is open to all ages above a certain height.
- — A motion simulator attraction where the Simpsons visit "Krustyland," the Krusty the Clown-themed amusement park from the show. Offers child switch area. The ride is situated amidst a simulated Springfield filled with recreations of landmarks from the show, like the Kwik-E-Mart and Moe's Tavern.
- *Ollivanders Experience - Small groups of people can enter Ollivanders wand store and see a wand choose a wizard/witch (usually the youngest person in the group). It can get very backed up in the middle of day, but wait times are usually 5min or less towards the end of the day.
- *Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — A motion-simulator dark ride starring Harry, Ron, and Hermione leading you on a flight around Hogwarts. This is a very popular and well-received ride, with a queue that takes you through faithful recreations of Hogwarts sets. Wait times can be as high as 3 hours, but are usually 15 min or less at the start and end of the day or on weekdays. Lockers are available (free for 2 hr) since no bags are allowed on the ride. Offers a child switch area that can be crowded since children under 48in are not allowed on this ride.
- *Flight of the Hippogriff — A junior roller coaster in which riders ride a "hippogriff" around Hagrid's hut.
- — A haunted house style walk-through attraction with zombies and jump scares. With AC, it can get a little backed up in the middle of day, but wait times are usually 5 min.
- — A 3D dark ride based on the Transformers film franchise. Offers child switch area.
- — A water thrill ride based on Jurassic Park where you float past various animatronic dinosaurs before making a steep waterfall plunge; note that you will likely get soaked on this ride. Offers child switch area.
- — A play area for children near the Jurassic Park ride.
- — A high speed indoor roller coaster based on the Mummy film franchise. Small bags can be brought on the ride, but there are lockers available for slightly larger items (free for 90 min). Offers child switch area.
address: 100 Universal City PlazaLocated just outside the gates to the theme park, Universal CityWalk is an outdoor shopping mall and entertainment complex built to resemble an urban street, albeit with over-the-top colorful architecture and talented street performers. The mall has dozens of restaurants (all price points), shops, and a wide range of entertainment options, and is usually packed on weekends and summer nights, which adds to the energy and atmosphere.
CityWalk CinemasA 19-screen movie theater with stadium seating, surround sound, and digital projection, as well as an IMAX screen.
phone: +1 818 985-4359A skydiving simulator attraction. Experience the thrill of falling from the sky without even leaving the ground!
phone: +1 818 985-8234A sports bar/restaurant with a bowling alley, arcade, and billiards lounge.
Universal Studios has an abundance of souvenir stores; just about every attraction has a gift shop attached selling merchandise particular to whatever franchise the ride is based on. CityWalk has a wider variety of retailers, selling a wide selection of apparel, sweets, collectibles, toys, and souvenirs. A complete list of CityWalk vendors is available here.
address: 100 Universal City PlazaThere is usually one or more shops for each attraction in the park:
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- * — Candy shop which is connected to Zonko's. Sells Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, large chocolate frogs, Butterbeer fudge, chocolate wands, sugar quills and many other Harry Potter themed candies.
- * — A shop with novelty items/jokes/toys which is connected to Honeydukes.
- * — A large general Harry Potter merchandise store at the exit of the Forbidden Journey ride. There are several props from the movie hidden about the store such as a Skele-Gro bottle and several Harry Potter glasses.
- * — A wand store which is connected to Wiseacre's.
- * — A clothing store with Platform 9¾ merchandise which is connected to Ollivanders.
- * — Another clothing store with pins and other merchandise which is connected to Dervish and Banges as well as the Owl Post.
- * — A general Harry Potter merchandise store which is connected to Gladrags and the Owl Post. They have a caged monster book which will occasionally move and growl.
- * — A stationary shop with stuffed owls for sale. You can get a real Owl Post cancellation stamp here. If you have postage, there is a mail drop box as well. They do not sell postcard stamps, only Harry Potter themed stamp books.
- — A general Simpsons merchandise store within Springfield. They also sell Duff energy drink in cans. Outside of the Kwik-E-Mart there are 2 penny-smasher machines with 8 different Simpsons designs.
- — A Despicable Me themed gift shop at the end of the ride. They also have themed baked goods.
- — A large themed gift shop near the entrance to the park that has Harry Potter merchandise, some of which is only sold within this store.
- — A general Universal Studios merchandise gift shop.
- Lower Lot
- * — Transformers themed gift shop near the ride. There's a penny smasher outside with 4 designs.
- * — General character-themed merchandise from various Universal animated movies.
- * — Jurassic Park themed gift shop at the end of the ride. There's a penny smasher inside and another outside with 8 designs total.
The theme park has plenty of eateries, most of which serve typical theme park fast food at theme park prices. A wider variety of food is availabe in CityWalk, which has over 20 restaurants ranging from fast food to casual sit-down dining. A complete list of CityWalk eateries is available here; among the options are national chains Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Buca di Beppo, Hard Rock Cafe, Johnny Rockets, Tony Roma's, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Most of the fast food places are in a food court on the second level across from the movie theater.
address: 100 Universal City PlazaThere is usually a restaurant or food cart for each attraction in the park:
- — The only restaurant within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They serve English Breakfast first thing in the morning (a fanastic deal that includes a 12-oz drink for only $13) and then serve a typical British pub menu for the rest of the day including fish and chips and bangers and mash. They have additional/seasonal dishes as well. They also sell a family-sized Great Feast for $67 which serves 4 people. They have several desserts including the exclusive Butterbeer Potted Cream. It's attached to the Hogs Head Pub, but that side only serves drinks.
- - Strictly speaking it's a candy shop, but they exclusively sell Pumpkin Pasties and Butterbeer fudge.
- Springfield (The Simpsons)
- * — Giant donuts for $6 each. They always have The Big Pink (pink frosting with sprinkles) and then have several rotating flavors such as maple bacon. There's outdoor seating available next door at the Android's Dungeon.
- * — Sells burgers, Ribwich, Sideshow Bob Footlong (hot dog), the Clogger and a veggie burger. There's additional seating available upstairs.
- * — Sells chicken and waffle sandwich, chicken thumbs (tenders), deep fried chicken, and chicken caesar salad. There's more seating available upstairs.
- * — An outdoor 'food truck' at the Duff Brewery with tacos and nachos. There's seating available next door at the Duff Brewery.
- * — Sells hot dogs, popcorn, churros, and the twisted pretzel of Marge Simpson. There's seating available next door at the Duff Brewery.
- * — Sells various pizzas, pasta, and salad. There's seating available next door at the Duff Brewery.
- * — Sells varying ice creams and sundaes. There's seating available next door at the Duff Brewery or across the street at Android's Dungeon.
- — A BBQ-themed restaurant at the plaza with outdoor seating.
- — Has outdoor seating.
- — Sells desserts, snacks and drinks with outdoor seating.
- — Sells El Macho's nachos, chicken, Vector's grilled cheese pulled pork sandwich, salads and minion-themed desserts with indoor seating.
- — Grab and go salads, sandwiches and snacks.
- — Beef/chicken/veggie burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, turkey legs, milkshakes and desserts with indoor seating.
- — Outdoor seating only.
- — French-themed sandwiches, salads, pastries with indoor seating.
- — Closest restaurant to the entrance that sells pizza, salad and sandwiches with indoor seating. They are the only place in the park to get funnel cakes.
- Lower Lot
- * — Burgers, pizza, chicken, salad, and turkey legs with indoor seating.
- * — Indoor seating.
- * — Grab and go salads, sandwiches, snacks, and turkey legs.
- * — Ice cream and desserts with no seating.
address: 100 Universal City PlazaDrinks are available at all restaurants and carts.
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- — Restaurant/pub connected to Hog's Head that sells several kinds of beer including 3 brewed exclusively for Universal's Wizarding World. They also sell other drinks including Butterbeer and souvenir steins.
- — A pub connected to Three Broomsticks that sells regular and frozen Butterbeer, the same 3 exclusive beers as Three Broomsticks, Fire Whisky, other spirits, wine and souvenir steins.
- — Outdoor carts that sell frozen Butterbeer and souvenir steins.
- — Outdoor cart that sells ice cream, Gilly Water, pumpkin juice, and beer.
- — Sells Flaming Moe's (non-alcoholic), Duff beer (2-3 kinds), and other beers, wines, spirits and a souvenir plastic Moe's pilsner glass. Indoor seating.
- — Sells 2-3 kinds of Duff beer and a souvenir plastic Duff pilsner glass. Outdoor seating.
- — Sells squishees, snacks, cotton candy and popcorn.
- — Sells Duff energy drinks in cans and Buzz Cola.
phone: +1 818 755-9970Live music nightclub with a dance floor, dueling pianos, and a bar serving novelty bucket drinks.
phone: +1 818 308-1330A huge nightclub with two dance floors, dramatic lighting and decor, and DJs spinning house tracks. Happy hour daily 6-9PM.
phone: +1 818 753-2739address: 1000 Universal Studios BlvdThe Los Angeles location of a San Diego-based brewery restaurant, with a microbrewery on-site and good pub food. They sell pick-your-own flights and have rotating drafts.
The closest hostels are in Hollywood.
phone: +1 818 506-2500address: 555 Universal Hollywood Dr
phone: +1 818 980-1212address: 333 Universal Hollywood Dr
- Hollywood is just to the south and an easy trip by way of the Red Line or the 101, and has numerous attractions celebrating the history of cinema beyond just those films produced by Universal, including the Walk of Fame, Gruman's Chinese Theater, Paramount Pictures Studios, and plenty of museums and theaters.
- Adjacent Studio City and nearby Burbank are home to numerous film and television studios; plan carefully and you may be able to attend the taping of a show!
- Orange County is home to the L.A. region's other two beloved theme parks: Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. By public transit, take the Red Line to Union Station in Downtown L.A. and transfer to Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner or Metrolink's Orange County Line.