Universal Studios
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Harry Potter brings another dimension to Universal Studios

Five tips to navigate Universal Studios Hollywood without a Fast Pass

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings another dimension to Universal Studios Hollywood.  For us locals who have had a couple of Annual Passes (previously the best value for money Annual Pass in SoCal) it is bittersweet.  Yes, you get two more rides and there’s so much more to see and do but with that comes the increased park fees, less attractive Annual Pass options and bigger crowds.  All in the name of progress it seems.

When it comes to Universal Studios one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Do I need to buy a Front of Line Fast Pass?” or “Should I get VIP Tickets?”  The answer is no … and yes.

VIP tickets essentially get you a special Studio Tour, VIP access to the Shows and front of line to all the rides so it’s a good package.  But that good package comes at a pretty hefty price tag so it doesn’t always work with people’s budgets.

Front of Line gets you front of line to all the rides and Shows but also comes at a pretty hefty price tag.  And once again doesn’t always work with people’s budgets.

The correct answer is Universal Studios is achievable at all budgets and here are my tricks-of-the-trade to help get you around the Park with minimum wait times.

Five tips to navigate Universal Studios Hollywood without a Fast Pass.

1. Buy tickets online before you go

It will save so much time at the gates and so much effort.  Be sure you’re able to print your tickets before you go too.  Most hotels have printing facilities.  It pays to decide what date you’re going and book it well in advance.  Universal is now selling a limited number of tickets per day at the discounted rate so the earlier you do it, the more savings you can maximise.  If you don’t know what day you are going to go it will cost you up to $16 more.  (Yes, I found this out the hard way!).

Click here to buy tickets.

2. Get there early

I can’t stress enough how it will change your experience—the earlier you get there the better.  If you are driving get there half an hour (30 minutes) before the Park opens, this gives you time to wait in the queue to pay for parking, park and walk to the Park.

Yes, it can take that long—especially if you’ve got little ones.

3. Go during the week (if you can)

Three reasons to go during the week:

  1. It’s cheaper
  2. It’s less busy
  3. You get to see more in the backlot.

The backlot is active all the time but it is most often in actual use (you know? For actual shoots—ad, TV or movies) during the week.  That could mean that you are diverted from seeing certain parts of the Backlot but it’s kinda cool that they’re shooting something—it feels more like you’re in Hollywood.

4. Do the rides first

If you’re reading this (and not just scanning the sub-heads) then you’re being rewarded.  Do the rides in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter World first.  (See how I did that?)  Being the newest attraction in Universal Studios Hollywood Harry Potter world is the most busy—and with reason.  My advice is to make a beeline there first and try to beat the crowds.

After that I would double back just a little and experience the Minions.  This ride is also pretty new and gets crazy busy.  (If you don’t want to double back and you have arrived right on opening it is pretty safe to start here).

Once you’ve done Harry Potter then head for the bottom lot, it’s got three rides, The Mummy, Transformers and Jurassic Park.  Do Transformers first.

Once you’ve done that then The Simpsons ride is right at the top of the escalators.  Don’t do it on the way down, do it on the way back.  The queue for the Transformers ride can get long.

Then you’re safe to head to the Backlot tour (check wait times as they vary through the day) and pick a couple of the shows to see.  If you had to pick one Show I’d go to Waterworld, it’s fun, entertaining and keeps everyone amused.

The only other ride I haven’t mentioned is Shrek.  We only did it the first time we went.  Don’t get me wrong we enjoyed it but it can be quite a wait.  The upside is the attraction fits a lot of people so a lot of people get in at once.  The drawback is the number of Front of Line pass holders that jump the queue and get in before you.  If you miss out because there are a number of them then the wait for the next time around seems like an eternity.  It’s not always the case. Fingers crossed it’s OK for you.

5.  Eat early

Come 12:00 everyone’s body clocks are telling them it’s time to start thinking about food, but they hold off because they’re having so much fun.  But …  come 1:00 everyone is eating, or trying to get food and trying to find somewhere to sit.  So eat before the masses eat and avoid the queues (not to mention get a table) then ride the rides when the masses are eating.


Universal Studios is a lot of fun.  You’ll notice after about 1:00 that the sea of people grows and it becomes harder to walk around.  That’s your cue to exit stage left.  Not really but if you’ve done most of the attractions and you don’t need to battle it out and stand in lines then it’s a much, much better experience.  Have fun, I’m jealous, I still love going.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: I’d love to hear about how you went. Was I right? Can you offer some advice? Chime in.

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