Rides And Attractions
We headed straight for the Studio Tour, a good place to start the day, especially if you can get on one of the first trams. It is a guided tour through the movie sets of Universal Studios. The trams feature monitors showing movie footage and interviews with stars and directors. We got to see the sets of some famous movies including Jaws and Psycho as well as the backlot streets used to make countless movies. The trip takes you into the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb and through a simulated earthquake. There's also scene from King Kong, a collapsing bridge, a flash flood and the parting of the Red Sea. The tour is quite long and can be a bit scary for younger children.
Universal Studios studio tour. image © Universal Studios
First stop for the kids was the Nickelodeon Blast Zone, a water based area which would be great on a hot day. Without getting wet the kids can spend some time in the Wild Thornberry's Adventure Temple where they get to shoot and fire foam balls at each other.
The Shrek 4-D show is a new Shrek and Donkey adventure in 3D. The kids enjoyed it, managing to keep their glasses on for most of the show. It features bouncing chairs, spiders running around your feet and water spray - pretty much standard for the latest 3D shows.
Like Disneyland, there are plenty of the kids favourite characters to be found at Universal, like Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, Spongebob Squarepants, Frankenstein and the Marx Brothers.
The Val Helsing: Fortress Dracula is a walk through the sets of the movie and you are guaranteed a good scare when you least expect it.
One of the highlights is Animal Planet Live, a show featuring dogs, birds, apes and monkeys. Great fun for the family.
The Back To The Future Ride is a simulation ride based on the movie. In groups of 8 you are led into a vehicle which takes you back and forward in time. Reasonable simulator ride with a massive screen.
Nickelodeon Blast Zone. image © Kids Holidays
The Terminator 3D is a combination of a 3D movie and live actors in one of the better 3D experiences you're likely to have. Plenty of surprises and thrills and the final explosion of the computer, along with plenty of smoke will have you on the edge of your seats.
WaterWorld is a stunt show featuring extreme jet ski action with crashing sea planes and a fiery finale. Some funny moments and watch out that you don't get too wet when the sea plane crashes.
Other attractions include the Blues Brothers live show and The Flintstones Carnival games area.
All these attractions are located in the Upper Lot. After lunch it was off to the Lower Lot, down a series of huge escalators.
Jurassic Park Ride. image © Universal Studios
First ride on the lower lot is the popular Jurassic Park Ride, a ride in a raft through Jurassic Park which starts off travelling through the peaceful world of friendly dinosaurs and then all of a sudden you are being chased by T-Rex and other dinosaur terrors. The only escape is via an 85 foot drop and you will get wet. Plenty of scary moments throughout the ride and you don't just get wet on the final drop.
The new Revenge Of The Mummy Ride is an indoor rollercoaster which starts off fairly sedately, but you'll soon find yourself propelled forward at tremendous speed and just to make it a bit scarier it's pitch black. Not for the younger kids.
The Special Effects Studio is a tour through various stages where you get to see how sound and visual effects are made in the movies (similar to the one at Movieworld). The first two rooms are focused mainly on visual effects while the third room is for sound effects. Watch out that you don't volunteer for anything.
Backdraft is a video presentation of how the movie was made, then you move on to the chemical warehouse set where it explodes in a hot and loud firestorm. Watch for a surprise ending.
Facilities available include security lockers, strollers, wheelchairs, a kennel service, first aid, visitor information centres, lost and found centre and ATM machines. Travellers cheques can be used to purchase tickets and in gift shops. You can also make purchases in the park and arrange to pick up these items as you leave.
The usual theme park fare. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, pizza, snacks and ice creams. If you want a decent meal visit Universal Studios City Walk after you leave the park for a choice of some excellent restaurants. If you are trying to see everything in one day you'll need a quick lunch, and there are plenty of areas around the park with eating facilities.
Plenty of souvenir shops available including the Universal Studio Store, Backlot Store, Jurassic Outfitters, Nickelodeon Stuff and the Hollywood Shoppe. There are also a number of toy and clothing shops and film and camera supplies.
We didn't notice any problems with queues, but this will be dependant on the day or time of year your visit. Mid week in October was quiet, however it's a good idea to get the Studio Tour done first, as we noticed plenty of people waiting for the second tour of the day. If you have small children you can take advantage of the child switch program on certain attractions. It allows one member of a party to watch over the child while the the rest of the party waits, rides and then switches places so they may enjoy the ride as well. Some rides have height restrictions: Revenge Of The Mummy - The Ride 48 inches tall; Back to the Future…The Ride 40 inches tall Jurassic Park - The Ride must be at least 46 inches tall.
The Universal Studios Tour was easily the highlight. There are some unique rides and attractions with the pick being the Jurassic Park ride, Animal Planet Live and Shrek 4-D. Nowhere near as crowded as the Disneyland parks and you can probably get to do everything in a day. Unfortunately getting there from Anaheim will probably cost you more than the park entrance, but its certainly worth the effort.
For more info check the Universal Studios web site.