My husband and I have always loved visiting Universal Studios. You have the opportunity to experience a studio tour and an amusement park all in one!
Parking: During our last visit it was $15 for regular parking and $20 for preferred (close to the park entrance). We usually do general parking because we like to walk through the City Walk before and after our visit to the park.
City Walk (http://citywalkhollywood.com/): This is an area located outside of the park that has many shops and restaurants. It's very interesting and fun. We usually eat at the Hard Rock Cafe and stop at many of the unique shops. There are a lot of other famous restaurants like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Tony Romas, Wolfgang Puck Bistro, and Pink's Famous Hot Dogs. We have had character drawings done of our kids by vendors. There is a fountain area that kids love to play in (mine usually get soaked at the end of a hot day in the park).
|Hard Rock Cafe|
Tickets: I always recommend doing your research ahead of time to find out what deals are offered. Last year we took advantage of a "buy a day, get a day" (two days for the price of one) deal they were offering. This year we purchased a CityPass which included one day at Universal Studios which is all we needed for that trip. My husband and I love Universal Studios but there aren't a lot of rides for small children so one day is enough for us right now. We also found a deal on a combo pass through Universal Studios and Seaworld to visit both parks as much as you wanted for 14 days. There are 3 main kinds of tickets: regular, Front of the Line (bypass the regular lines for rides), and VIP (includes front of the line, you get a much more indepth studio tour, may include a meal, and you get the "royal treatment" all day).
Studio Tour: All park guests get a studio tour of the back lot. This is a caravan ride (no walking unless you are VIP) that you don't want to miss! It's like a tour and ride all in one and you get to take pictures. I even used the video on my camera to record some of the interactive portions of the tour. It's about an hour long ride with no stops so make sure you are prepared. I also recommend doing the tour first if you don't have front of the line passes. Without ruining all the fun, here are some highlights of the tour:
|The Bates Motel from "Psycho"|
|"War of the Worlds" crash site|
|Lynnette & Tom's House|
|Gaby & Carlos' House|
The first time we visited this location they were offering a deal on VIP tickets so we decided to go VIP. I recommend booking your VIP tickets ahead of time but we got lucky and they weren't busy that day. We had a great breakfast in the VIP room as we waited for the other guests and our host to arrive. VIP tours are done in smaller numbers of people. Our tour only included one other couple but I think they go up to 10 people. We were carted around the studio area with a personal host. The tour took us through the back lot portion that all visitors can experience but we also went into many of the studio areas, got to see some interior sets, walked through the costume and props area, and a few other unique things. Included in the VIP experience is Front of the Line passes. Our host took us on all the rides once and assisted us in getting the VIP experience. Once we were done with the tour and one trip on each ride we were free to explore the park on our own.
Strollers: There's great stroller parking at every ride. They are not responsible for lost or stollen items so I don't recommend leaving your personal belongings with the stroller. I usually bring a backpack to carry all of the families stuff in (water, diapers, wipes, money, cell phones, camera, ...) and I haven't had any issues with taking it on rides.
Parent Ride Swap: If there is a ride that you want to go on but your littles ones aren't big enough you can check into the ride swap. It's a spot in line where you can have one parent ride while the other watches the kids and then you swap so the other parent can ride. That allows you both the opportunity to ride but reducing the wait time in line.
Meals: there are plenty of places to eat. If you plan on a long day at the park you might want to consider their all you can eat meal plans (I don’t think it includes the vendor carts). There is a location near the entrance where you can purchase these meal passes. When we last visited it was $19.99 per adult and $9.99 per child. Sometimes discounts are offered if you apply for a credit card. We generally only eat lunch there and, although the food is pricey, it hasn’t made sense yet for us to buy the meal plan. Our last trip there we spent $35 for lunch on 2 kids meals (chicken nuggets & fries or pizza or Chinese, small drink, large cookie), 2 adult meals, 1 regular soda, and 1 chocolate milk. But, when our kids are more interested in spending a long day at the park I am sure the meal plans will be very appealing!
Characters: Bring your camera! Some times they will have people taking pictures at the character sites. You will be given a card to identify your pictures for purchase later. It's not cheap though. If you want a family picture just ask them to take one with your camera - they are always willing to. Make sure you check out locations and times for charters that you want to see. There are a variety of characters that will just be hanging around but during one of our trips we wanted to make sure our kids got to visit Spongebob and Curious George so it was helpful to know when and where to find them. Also, the lines are usually short and the characters are able to spend time joking with the kids (and parents) - unlike Disneyland!
|Spongebob joking around with the kids|