If you had to guess where my favorite travel destinations are, I am sure that you would pick Disney World. But, you probably didn’t know that one of my husband’s and my favorite places to go is Southern California. Now, of course, Disneyland is there, but that isn’t the only reason we love to travel to California. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with Hollywood, Los Angeles, and all things movie-making.
In the (almost) nine years that my husband and I have been together, we have traveled to Southern California four times. We visited famous Hollywood landmarks, the beach, and we did the Warner Bros Studio Tour on those trips, but wanted to try something different on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, the Warner Bros Studio Tour is excellent, but we have always wanted to see another movie studio. When I was in high school, I went to Universal Studios Hollywood, but I couldn’t remember what it was like, and my husband had never been, so we decided to give it a try. Universal Studios Hollywood is a theme park AND a real working movie studio, and I knew it would be right up our alley.
Our trip would be short, four days and three nights, with most of the time being spent at Disneyland. We found a very (very) early morning flight that would have us landing at LAX at 7:30 am. I thought that if we carried on our bags and rented a car, we could get to Universal Studios Hollywood by 9:00 am, which would give us an entire day there. Then, when we were done with Universal, we could drive to Anaheim and check in to our Disneyland hotel.
Universal Studios Hollywood isn’t very big, but we knew we wouldn’t be going back any time soon and wanted to make the most of it. Upon researching the park, I found the option for the VIP Experience and thought it could be our best option. The VIP Experience ranges in price $349-$419 a person, depending on the date you go, and includes: 1-day park ticket, breakfast, lunch, snacks, valet parking, an expert-guided tour, and Universal Express Pass. I felt that The VIP Experience would give us the best opportunity to see EVERYTHING the park had to offer. A few days before our trip, I booked our two tickets with an arrival time of 9:45 am.
We landed in Los Angeles at 7:30 am on Thursday and headed straight to pick up our rental car. We carried on our bags and rented a car from Budget, where I am a “Fastbreak” member; it honestly only took about 45 minutes from when we landed until we were in our car on the LA freeway. Our tour began at 9:45 am, but we could check in at 9:15 am, so we went directly from the airport to Universal Studios Hollywood.
We valeted our car at the Jurassic Park Valet lot and took a very quiet walk through CityWalk and then to the Universal Studios security checkpoint. Once we were through all of that, we went to VIP Experience check-in, which is at a little booth to the right of the main gate. Here, we were greeted by a VIP Team Member who checked out tickets, gave us our lanyard passes and ponchos (for Jurassic World™ – The Ride), and sent us upstairs to the VIP Lounge. In the lounge, we found complimentary breakfast, pastries, coffee, tea, and juice, a nice place to sit, restrooms, and even a place to charge your phone. We met our VIP Tour Guide, Ursula, who let us know that we could grab some food and she would find us when it was time to go.
At 9:45, Ursula rounded up our group (there were eleven of us) and let us know what we could expect from the day. The plan was to ride every ride in the park, have a special backlot tour, and have lunch mixed in the middle. Ursula also let us know that once the guided part of our day was over, we could use our badges as Universal Express Pass to skip the lines on any attractions in the park until the park closed. Our first activity was the backlot tour, so we set off through the park to the VIP Trolley for our ride. Now, anyone at Universal Studios Hollywood can do a backlot tram tour, but ours was more personalized and in-depth. We were able to get out and walk around some of the sets and really take our time experiencing it all; this tour was my favorite part of the entire day.
During the tour, we saw sets from some of our favorite movies and tv shows; we also got to see some production offices and sound stages. Some of our favorite sets to see were “the Good Place” from the show The Good Place and “Hill Valley” from the movie Back to the Future. At one point, we were able to get off the trolley and walk through the giant crashed airplane set from the movie War of the Worlds. I had never seen War of the Worlds before, but the set was incredible. Ursula gave us a ton of information on everything that we were looking at, and it was so cool to be able to walk through different sets.
After our two-hour backlot tour ended, we put our rain ponchos on to ride our first ride Jurassic World™ – The Ride. I liked that Ursula would give us a rundown of what we could expect on each ride in case anyone wanted to sit out. Then, she would take us through the Express Pass queue, put us on the ride, and wait for us at the end. We rode Jurassic World™ – The Ride, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Revenge of the Mummy before it was time to head to lunch.
I’ve always thought that Universal Studios had great food, but our lunch was even better than I expected. We were escorted to The Moulin Rouge restaurant, where we were greeted by Doc Brown from Back to the Future and seated on an outdoor patio. There was a HUGE buffet waiting for us with just about everything you could imagine to eat. We had a leisurely hour to eat, and during that time, Lucille Ball and Doc Brown walked around and talked to us. They also had a spot for us to charge our phones while we enjoyed our lunch.
After stuffing ourselves at lunch, Ursula met up with us and escorted us to the show WaterWorld. The show was thrilling, exciting, and the perfect way to let our food settle before riding more rides. Once WaterWorld was over, we rode the brand new Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash Ride (which was adorable) and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem before we headed off to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
While in the Wizarding World, we had Butterbeer, rode Flight of the Hippogriff, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This part of the Universal looks exactly like Universal Studios Orlando, although their Wizarding World is much smaller. We also had the option to do a VIP Experience in the wand shop, but no one in our group was really up for it.
At this point, we had been on the tour for just over six hours, and everyone was visibly exhausted. Ursula asked if there was anything else that we wanted to do as a group and then reminded us that with our VIP Experience, we could use our badges as an Express Pass and ride any of the rides over again. Both my husband and I were so tired from our morning of traveling, so we decided to do a little shopping and then head out.
We walked back through City Walk, picked up our rental car from the valet, and headed south for Anaheim. Overall, I thought that VIP Experience was absolutely the best way to see Universal Studios Hollywood. We were able to ride every single ride without waiting, eat fantastic food, experience a one-of-a-kind backlot tour, and have an experienced tour guide to lead us. My husband and I agree that if you only have one day at Universal Studios Hollywood, you should consider splurging a bit to do the VIP Experience. It was 100% worth it.
Tomorrow I will be sharing the Disneyland portion of our trip, so stay tuned!
Sending love and magic.