Planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood?
Riding the biggest, headline rides was my family's top priority on our trip to Universal Studios. My kids were ages 10 and 12 on our last trip, and it was so fun to ride all of the park's thrill rides together.
Universal Studios Hollywood does not have a long list of rides. It's about half the size of Universal Orlando Resort or Disneyland. If you arrive before the park opens, you can ride nearly all the Universal Hollywood rides by noon, and save your afternoon for shows.
Here are my favorite rides – in the order I would ride them – and tips for avoiding long lines.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Forbidden Journey is THE Harry Potter ride at Universal Hollywood that everyone wants to ride. Get there early to avoid a long wait. A single rider line is available, and it's a great option for families with older kids – especially if you want to ride more than once.
Jurassic World – The Ride
The old Jurassic Park ride was my favorite ride in the park. It closed in 2018 and the new Jurassic World attraction opened in July 2019. This new ride is located at the bottom of the hill, and it includes much more than just the water coaster itself. Jurassic World offers a Dino Play area for kids of all ages, themed dining and shopping. Be ready for a dinosaur encounter anywhere!
Transformers – The Ride
This immersive ride is a fast-paced 4D adventure where you'll move from scene to scene as Transformers battle Autobots and save the day. Universal combines technology and movie magic to create a dark ride for thrill junkies. Find it at the bottom of the hill.
Revenge of the Mummy
Revenge of the Mummy ride is an intense indoor coaster. You'll speed through the dark at speeds up to 45 MPH, escaping from this famous movie monster. Some kids who are fine with regular roller coasters might find this ride scary. This ride is at the bottom of the hill.
The Simpsons Ride
The Simpsons Ride is like a ride and and IMAX movie in one – all with the trademark irreverent satire of The Simpsons. Ride along with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie as they visit a theme park, and chaos ensues. My family loves this ride.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
This is a fun motion simulation ride for fans of the movies. The exterior is a replica of Gru's house. Inside, you'll watch an action packed short film while your seats move up, down and sideways with the action.
This is the best ride in the park. The World Famous Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood is an hour-long tram tour of the real Universal Studios lot. The Studio Tour is high capacity, so you can save it for afternoon.
You'll see sound stages and outdoor sets from familiar television shows and movies. You'll also see special effects demonstrations. Some parts of the tour have been the same for decades, while other parts are new.
Universal Studios includes a couple of 3D movie experiences on 360-degree screens on the tour and they are lots of fun. The Fast and the Furious – Supercharged was the finale of our tour.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Flight of the Hippogriff is located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which means fans will want to ride it. However, it's a pretty basic kiddie coaster. Kids may love this ride, but I wouldn't call it a top priority.
Silly Swirly Fun Ride
Silly Swirly Fun Ride is located in Super Silly Fun Land, inspired by the movie Despicable Me. Whimsical cars rise off the ground and rotate in a circle. It'll be fun for families with younger children, but my kids (ages 10 and 12) had no interest in this ride.
Tips for Success
Arrive early. This is the #1 rule for avoiding long lines. My husband insisted that we arrive at Universal Studios 45 minutes before the official opening. I thought it was overkill, but then they opened the gates to everyone 25 minutes early and we were able to ride Harry Potter twice with no wait. If there is a “soft open” like this on the day you're there, you won't want to miss it.
Buy tickets in advance. You'll save time and money if you buy your tickets before you arrive. If you buy from the official website, you'll save up to $27 over the gate price on a one-day ticket, and you can get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 30 minutes early.
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Down first. The park is built on a hill. The entrance and main section of the park is at the top. Several of the best Universal Studios Hollywood rides are at the bottom, at the bottom of a long escalator.
Most visitors will start at the top of the hill and then visit the bottom afterward. You can beat the crowd by going to the bottom of the hill first and then coming back to the top. We made an exception to this rule and rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at the top of the hill first.
Take older kids. Most rides at Universal Studios Hollywood are built for older kids, 48 inches and taller. There are rides and play areas for littles, and the Studio Tour is for everyone. Universal Studios is a little more irreverent and edgy than other top Southern California parks like Disneyland and LEGOLAND California.
Child Switch. If your child cannot go on a ride for any reason, you can wait in line once. Then one adult waits with the child while the rest of the family rides. When the ride is finished, the person who waited can ride without standing in line again.
Express Pass? You can pay extra for a ticket that allows you to wait in the Express line once for every ride, among other perks. It's Universal's version of FastPass. This ticket costs more than a two-day ticket, but it might be a good option if you're visiting on a busy weekend or holiday, and don't want to worry about the crowds.
Related: Best Rides at Disneyland
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Universal Studios Hollywood is one of Los Angeles' best attractions for families. If anyone at your house loves movies, and especially Harry Potter, it's a must-see destination. Universal Studios is a great option for families with older kids because, while it doesn't have a lot of rides, nearly all of them are intense, high-thrills experiences for older kids and adults.