Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Gate

So for my second park if the trip I had a decision to make between Universal, Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm. If the Marvel area were open at Disney, that would’ve been a no-brainer but it isn’t so it was out of the running. I ended up choosing Universal because (as you can tell from my rankings and coaster bucket list) I’m a big Revenge of the Mummy fan. I’ve been hearing rumors through to the years about RotM getting the axe and without knowing when I’d be able to be back to SoCal, I’d be incredibly disappointed with myself knowing that it closed before I got a chance to ride it. So I decided on USH and went on a Friday.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera at home so I had to make use with my cell phone. These shots are less high quality than you’ll find on the rest of this site but I still found plenty of good ones!

Hollywood Cream Donut

I got there just a few minutes past opening since I decided to get the Hollywood Cream donut at Voodoo Donuts. Walking into the park, I was shocked how much more I like the entrance area here vs in Florida. But I figured that Hogsmeade would fill up later in the day and that I needed to get it done with ASAP so I headed there.

Hogs Head

Forbidden Journey - 75/100

So this is more or less the same as the Orlando version so I knew what I was going to get. But I still hugely enjoyed it! Even though I have the controversial opinion of liking Escape from Gringotts more than Forbidden Journey, I still think this is one of the best dark rides in the business. I enjoy the large set pieces like the Whomping Willow and the dragon and think the motion of the Kuka arm really enhances the experience. The one difference I did notice was the extra dementors that the Orlando version didn’t have.

Flight of the Hippogriff - 50/100

Not a ton to say about this ride. I rode it for the credit and it was a perfectly standard family coaster. The Buckbeak animatronic at the beginning is pretty cool, though!

At this point I headed down to the lower lot to do Mummy and Transformers. I’d heard about how long the stairway is but I don’t think I expected that level of elevation change between the upper and lower lot.

Revenge of the Mummy - 73/100

Mummy Queue
Mummy Queue
Mummy Queue

So I have a lot of thoughts for this one and how it compares to the Orlando version considering that the Orlando version is currently ranked as my #2 coaster. But I’ll leave most of the comparing and contrasting for a blog post that I’m working on writing and instead stick to just describing the ride at Hollywood and my ride on it. So since I got down to the lower lot so early in the day, it was empty and I was able to walk through the standby line without a wait. I wasn’t able to absorb the story told in the queue this time around but I would be able to later in the day. So the ride itself was excellent as a coaster but less good at telling a story. So the first few rooms were really great, with my favorite part being the mummy hands reaching down and coming to life as you go past as well as the Imhotep animatronic with the book of the dead. The launch that followed packed a surprising punch given that it only accelerated to 45MPH especially compared to the disappointing Superman launch from a few days ago at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The rest of the coaster section was full of airtime and tight turns. After the scarab beetle room, the backwards section was similarly airtime filled and backwards airtime is definitely more cool than forwards airtime. The turntable room was just weird though. It starts out great with the room filling with fog and going dark as you rotate around but then you see Imhotep’s face suddenly appear and flash away(?) Then a door opens and you roll into the station. I’m very much unsure of what happened but I still thought it was an excellent ride.

Transformers - 60/100

So this is also completely identical to the Orlando version as far as I’m aware so I knew what I was getting going in. This ride is perfectly fine to me, nothing mind blowing but enjoyable. I love the Spiderman ride vehicle system and like the increased ride time that comes from a multilevel layout but I don’t think the story nor the IP itself is half as interesting as Spiderman.

Mummy x2

Mummy Queue
Mummy Queue

Got two more quick rides in before the hordes would descend on the lower lot. The most interesting thing was a guy sprinting past me in the single riders line, all dressed in athletic gear with a Powerade and headphones in, posing for all of the cameras during the ride. He was reriding as many times as he could. Any chance this guy is a well-known USH attendee? He looked like he was trying to set the record for most rides in an hour or something and I was super curious what was going on with him!

At this point, I decided to go take my first studio tour. I decided to climb part of the stairs and wow, my legs were dead after a few flights. It’s a really good workout though!

Studio Tour - 80/100

Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights

So I know that this is the heart of this park and I see why. This is by far the most standout and unique ride in the park. In a world where so many of the staffed rides (Jaws, Kongfrontation etc) have been phased out, adding the human element really does add another dimension to a ride and increases readability. I loved our guide’s commentary and the facts she added really enhanced the tour of the lot. I’ve heard a lot how the Jimmy Fallon addition to the video ruined the tour but I can’t imagine why, because he had maybe two or three minutes of screen time over the hour ride? It was also interesting seeing so many favorite rides from Universal Studios Florida again.

Earthquake
Amity
Amity
Amity

We got to revisit Amity as Bruce attacked our tram and experience an earthquake in a San Francisco BART station. The earthquake room in particular felt much different from the USF version considering the lack of fire effects and that the other train didn’t crash on the tracks opposite you.

Kong 360
Kong 360
Fast and Furious
Fast and Furious

Kong 360 and Fast and Furious were also fun to experience in their original form and gives you a new appreciation for the pluses that USF gave them (An aside - I actually really enjoyed Fast and Furious at USF. At the end of my most recent trip, I had time for two last rides and my choices were Gringotts and F&F - over MIB and Mummy).

Lunch at Gru's Cafe

For lunch I was debating between a Springfield restaurant and the 3 Broomsticks but after some thought I decided to get somewhere I can’t get at USF. So out of all of the options left, the most interesting to me seemed to be Gru’s Lab cafe by Despicable Me. I went with the Meatball Sandwich and Freeze Ray smoothie/milkshake. The meatball sandwich was shockingly large for theme park and it and the salad kept me filled up all day.

From here, I met up with some others and since they wanted to do the studio tour, we started to head that way but got distracted by the special effects show which was starting soon.

Special Effects Show - 7/10

Special Effects Show

So a little context, I have been going to USF almost yearly for a long while now an every time I go, the Horror Makeup show is a must see. We love the mix of humor and content as well as the periodic updating that makes the content more relevant as the industry changes. And so we were hoping that this show would be Hollywood’s equivalent. So it was and it wasn’t. The demonstrations were impressive, especially the fighting scenes. What seemed to be missing was the detail of how those effects were accomplished, even if it were just a sentence describing. I wanted to see them show me how I can convincingly fake punch someone. The humor also never felt as good as the Horror Makeup Shows. As such I enjoyed this show but found myself wanting more.

Studio Tour

Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights

The coolest part of the Studio Tour is just how different another tour guide makes the experience. This guide seemed a lot more charismatic but left out a lot of the facts that was the strength of my previous one. In addition for this tour, they were filming on the Wisteria Lane sets and as such we couldn’t drive down them Because of this, I think I enjoyed my first tour more but both were great experiences!

Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights
Studio Tour Sights

Walking Dead - 64/100

Walking Dead Queue
Walking Dead Queue
Walking Dead Queue

Halloween Horror Nights is on my bucket list but to this point, I haven’t been able to get to the parks during. So I see all of these elaborate houses on the Internet but never get to experience them myself. Until now! This walkthrough was really great fun with some awesome set pieces and scenery that none of the other haunts I’ve been to can ever get close to. There were even a few moments through the haunt that made me feel uneasy and scared. This just whetted my taste for Horror Nights. If this is what the year round version looks like, I can’t wait to get into the Halloween ones!

Revenge of the Mummy

Mummy Queue
Mummy Queue

Since my group wasn’t with me when I rode Mummy the first few times in the morning, we headed back down the stairway to ride it. This time, we had plenty of time to absorb the story in the queue. And honestly, we didn’t miss a whole lot. So as far as I can tell, the story is just that Imhotep is a bad guy that wants to take over the world? Regardless, it’s still. fun ride and a good coaster!

This time I tried climbing up the whole stairway by the steps. About halfway through the third stairway, I was having the hardest time even walking up, much less taking steps two at a time like I had been doing. I made it though!

Dreamworks Theater - 65/100

So this was the final ride that had significant differences/weren’t present in Orlando. And after a quick wait, we were into the preshow room. I was just expecting a Kung Foo Panda only ride and was pleasantly surprised to see old favorites like Shrek and Donkey and Marty the Zebra interact with Po. The ride itself was much shorter than I remember Shrek 4D being but I love the potential. Projection mapping worked really, really well and I love the idea of rotating the ride film out every year or two, always giving the park a fresh new ride at a low cost. If they let this ride stagnate and never change it, I could see this ride becoming even more hated than Shrek.

So for dinner, after looking at all of the options available for us in the park, we ended up deciding to head out into Citywalk. And for us, there’s nothing that says “Universal vacation” like Bubba Gump. And after a delicious shrimp dinner, I hustled back into the park to get a few more rides in before the last showing of Waterworld for the evening. And if I had to pick any ride at USH to get a few more rides again, I’d choose none other than the main reason I chose USH over Knotts, Revenge of the Mummy! So I hustled down the stairway again and hopped in the Single Riders line.

Revenge of the Mummy x2

After a pair of Mummy rides, I decided it was time to do some souvenir shopping so I made the (bad during but good in hindsight) decision to walk up the entire stairway just to see if I could since all my precious times going up, I would take the escalator for one or two of the sections. And it was brutal with my legs feeling worse than they might have ever felt. But I pushed through and was able to accomplish what I was hoping to. So after spending a little bit of time looking through the stores, I was sad to see that there really wasn’t anything I wanted (theme parks, is it that hard to make clean, well designed high quality shirts, mugs and desk pieces for your rides and parks?) so I headed to the Starbucks and got the “You are Here” mug to add to my Universal Orlando one. I decided to head over to Moe’s and grab a Duff before I headed over to Waterworld for the show.

Waterworld - 8/10

Deacon Enters
Waterworld Finale
Waterworld Finale
Waterworld Finale

What an entertaining show. So I had never heard of this movie considering that it released before I was born. But I found the story pretty easy to grasp without knowing the plot of the movie. The pyrotechnics and special effects were incredible (especially the finale) as were the stunt driving of the jet skis. The dialog was a little cheesy at times but then again, it is a theme park stunt show so you take what you can get. The best part of the experience was definitely the beginning as the supporting actors interacted with the crowd before the main show started. So since there were special splash seats, the supporting actors took it upon themselves to make sure all the people that were sitting in them on a chilly for SoCal (aka 50*) night knew that they would be getting wet by splashing them with squirters and water buckets. Watching the victim’s faces and expressions were priceless! Overall, I was really impressed with this show and would definitely like to see it again when I make it out to the other two Universal parks I need to go to.

After watching the show, it was 8:!0, giving me only 50 minutes to get some last minute rides in. I decided that my time would be best spent getting a few Forbidden Journey rides in and catching the Holiday light show on the castle. So I did just that!

Forbidden Journey x2

So I walked into Hogsmeade just as the 8PM show was ending and as such I was able to sneak into FJ’s queue right before the crowds. When you combine that with the fact that I was able to use the single rider’s line, I got on the ride within a span of a few minutes. After that ride, I went right around again and when the single rider line merged with the regular line, there was no one directing us where to go so I just merged straight into the standby line (which I felt bad about since hey had to make through the whole castle and I just walked right up). This last ride was eventful since right after we missed the falling rocks, the video cut out and the arm stopped. The stoppage was only for a few minutes but it gave me plenty of time to inspect the technology in the light. I only wish we’d been stopped in front of a physical piece like the dementors or the Whomping Willow.

After my second ride was over, it was almost exactly 8:30 so I hopped into the designated watching area and waited for the castle show.

Hogwarts Castle Show - 6/10

Castle Projections
Castle Projections
Castle Projections

So I’ve seen the regular castle show in Orlando and was a huge fan of how they show off all of the houses and color Hogwarts appropriately. As such I was less impressed with this show. It was visually pleasing, just as I’d expected but it didn’t seem as interesting or as good in storytelling as the regular show. Maybe that’s just me embellishing on past memories but it did seem that way. Regardless, it was a good show!

By this point, it was almost close and I wanted to hit the gift shops in the front to do one more check and see if there was anything I wanted. But before I left Hogsmeade I couldn’t not get a hot Butterbeer (which is by far my favorite way to do Butterbeer). Then began my leisurely walk to the front of the park where I again struck out on finding anything interesting. Then it was a walk through Citywalk to my car. So overall, I like USH. It feels like it’s missing one or two more large attractions to be truly a one day park. I think that might be coming on the way with Nintendo. In addition I’d love to see one more true E-Ticket type ride. I also really like when the rides in Hollywood are different than the ones in Orlando. I understand that making them identical cuts down on R&D costs significantly but I’d love to see every ride have some differences, even if they are completely minor like a slightly different preshow. But I’m very glad I got a chance to visit this park and get one step closer to finishing a theme park bucket list item of mine!