Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Universal Studios Hollywood Trip Report, June 2022

The second park we hit on our trip was Universal Hollywood. To be fully straightforward about this, we were primarily going to go on the backlot tour, which is the entire reason the park was built in the first place. All of the other attractions are secondary, and frankly I am glad that we were not really into the different IPs because each ride had a 45 minute wait. We basically went and rode the backlot tour first, saw lines that were 45 minutes to 90 minutes for each ride, and decided to just head out. 
The park is landlocked and has a small footprint, that is understandable, but I think it is unacceptable to charge about 30 bucks to park and over a hundred bucks to get in to the park, just to basically have a walking around pass and no guarantee on getting on pretty much any of the rides unless you go and blow another hundred bucks on the line skip pass. I would prefer if the park came up with a way to have set reservation times in a logical manner so that everyone can get to ride. Maybe make a nominal gate pass price to walk around that is much lower than the current ticket rate, and then maybe 10 dollars additional per ride reservation on a sliding scale with a guaranteed ride time, similar to what you would get with a reservation for a session time at a ski area or something. I am sure the park has no motivation to change as long as the money keeps flowing. After a while though, I think enough people will have a bad experience that their attendance will begin to drop. Especially with families who want to make their recreation dollars count when they realize that their admission ticket is basically just a gate pass to walk around and not really ride anything. 

Anyways, on to the real star of the show, the legendary Studio Tour. The neat attraction that almost makes the exorbitant admission prices worth it. 
Courthouse Square has been showcased countless flicks, including, most notably, Back to the Future. It is done up a little differently for something they are filming there at the moment.

Magnum PI's Lambo
Back to the Future cars, Biff's car in the 1950s and the future flying car from Back to the Future II
Flintstones movie vehicles
Jurassic Park vehicles
Jurassic Park lab vehicle
Jurassic Park vehicle
Part of the western set. This area has been used for countless flicks too, including a ton of westerns with John Wayne, Tom Mix, and Jimmy Stewart.

It is cool walking around the themed areas, but I think it is ridiculous that you have almost no guarantee to ride more than one or two rides after you plop down all of that money. I will say that the studio tour is *almost* worth the amount of money you spend, and I am sure the kiddos love random stuff like Minions and whatever, but I am glad that the only themed area that one of us had any interest in was Harry Potter land, because it would be brutal having to obligatory wait for one of the rides, let alone all of them. I feel bad for parents of little kids that blow a ton of money to get in, only to have their kids probably have one long wait for a ride in them. I have a little bit of interest in the Simpsons, but not enough to wait an hour for. I also rode the Simpsons in Orlando and thought it was kinda boring. I miss the old days with the Star Trek Adventure in Hollywood, ET, Back to the Future, Battlestar Galactica on the Studio Tour, Terminator II, and the old King Kong experience, which was destroyed in the fire that also destroyed countless priceless tapes and films of American cultural significance. I have to say though that the King Kong and Fast and Furious sections in 4D are pretty neat. 

The theming in the Harry Potter Land is pretty incredible. People were packed in like this all across the park. It was lively but absolutely jammed. 

The Star Trek Adventure was one of my fondest memories of the park from when I was little, and the slightly later Star Trek Experience in Vegas. Walking though the Harry Potter land and seeing all of the intricate details, and seeing the die hard Harry Potter fans getting to walk around in their fantasy land made me a little envious of them It made me wish that I could still have that same kind of experience of wonder with an IP that matters to me, like Star Trek. 

Did I mention that the walkways were absolutely jam packed with people? The food options were few and far between and of low quality and exorbitant price, basically only burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, pizza, and tacos. People were waiting 30 minutes for a standard hamburger. Themed food options seemed like a swing and a miss. By no means is this problem isolated to just Universal, because Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knotts had similarly long waits for overpriced food, but at least with a place like Knotts, the stuff is of decent quality and they have some signature entrees. 
Simpsons land had Duff beer brewery, but the food options were in a separate area and pretty weak and jammed up with people. Harry Potter land had the butter beer, which was cool, but minimal theme otherwise with the food? With some creativity, they could do cool things with the food, but then again, why bother if people are willing to wait 30 minutes for a 15 dollar bland hamburger? They had the Moulin Rouge themed sit down restaurant and we were like "hmmm maybe lets shell out for that" only to find out that the proletariat aren't allowed to go there without buying another separate VIP experience thing. We ended up just leaving when we were getting hungry and had no interest in waiting for the rides. We ended up eating a little better and a little more affordably out in the CityWalk area, but once we walked out there, we weren't going back in the park. Don't get me wrong, we had an alright time, but I wouldn't say that we had several hundred bucks worth of fun. Feels like a tourist trap rip off. Still a cool place and the backlot tour has so much priceless Americana on it. If it were not for the backlot tour, it would be a rip off. If you are a real movie buff, you are better off just driving and walking around for free in Hollywood. Next time we go we will probably go check out some of the other studios as well. Overall, it was neat and we recommend that everyone goes on the Studio Tour at least once, but if you are pressed for time and money, go on a tour through Hollywood instead and wrap up by heading up to Griffith Observatory and seeing the numerous scenic overlooks to experience real Hollywood magic. 


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