Universal Studios Hollywood: 6 Tips for the Best Day

Hogwarts Night Show

The number of theme parks in Southern California can honestly get overwhelming and leave you very very poor, but if you’re a nerd like me (hey friends!), you’ve GOT to give Universal Studios Hollywood a try!

Unpopular Opinion: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter honestly gives me 10,000 times the butterflies of Disneyland. So much so that I have a season pass. Worth it!

If you are a Southern California Resident, you can buy a 1-day ticket online for $99 – $129 depending on the day you choose to go. Get a 10% discount through agencies like AAA, your school, or your bank.

Note that general parking costs you an extra $15!

For those of you outside of California, it will cost you $109 – $129 for 1 day online.

The California Neighbor pass is only $144, so if you visit one and a half times, you’ll have already made back all of your money. If you really enjoy it and live in the area, I think it’s worth it!

You really only need 1 day for this park, about 5-6 hours tops, so plan to spend some time at the Universal City Walk to fill out your day. There are a million nice restaurants, breweries, and my personal favorite: the Popcornopolis store!

Anyways, on to the fun stuff! After visiting so many times, I’ve made you a list of 5 things you should do to make your own trip amazing!

1. Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App

This most recent trip was the first time I did this and it was such a lifesaver! Biggest use is that it shows you the most up-to-date wait times for all of the rides. That way, you’ll know before you start heading to one if you’re willing to wait in their 90 minute line.

“NO thanks! I’ll choose a different one.” – You with your handy dandy app

It will also display the showtimes for the day so you can add them to your schedule and even set calendar alerts for it.

2. Warm Butterbeer

Warm Butterbeer at Water World Show

As a Hufflepuff, I enjoy the cozy things in life and this hits the spot!

Only available inside the Three Broomsticks restaurant, you’ll need to order it from the counter and pick it up there. You won’t find it on the outside carts.

It’s a bit of a hefty price of $7 buuuut it’s one of the key components of my day because I’ll time it to the early evening and bring it with me to the WaterWorld show while I am treated to entertainment and a beautiful sunset.

3. Push All the Buttons

Universal Studios Transformer buttons
Hogwarts house award gems

Little known fact, all, I repeat, ALL, of the buttons along the ride wait lines are pushable for your bored self’s entertainment!

There are hundreds of them in the Transformer ride that will light up or make sounds and some fun air squirting ones in The Mummy ride. Even Harry Potter has a few you can play with.

Beware that as much as you’re touching them, the germy humans around you are also touching them, so don’t get too crazy!

4. Don’t Arrive Early to Shows

The showtimes listed on the app or maps don’t tell you that they won’t actually begin the shows until about 15 minutes after the given time.

So if you’re running late or are afraid you won’t get a seat, don’t worry! In fact, the later you go can sometimes be better because you don’t have to fight through the crowds. You might even score a front row seat other people were too nervous to take.

The only exception to this rule is for the Harry Potter World light show on the Hogwarts castle. Get there waaaay early for this one because the viewing space is not the best design for loading hundreds of people in for standing space.

We arrived about 20 minutes before the show was scheduled to start and got a pretty good view to the side of the stage. There were already about 200 people there before we were.

Hogwarts Night Show

5. Use the Single Rider Lines

If you’re with a small group of friends on a busy day, it’s probably a good idea to use the single rider lines. You’ll then fill the empty seats of larger groups and not with your friends but you’ll make it through the lines much faster.

It will usually cut your wait time by more than half! You’ll see the directions to split groups and single riders near the beginning of the indoors portion of the lines. For a 60-90 minute wait time, these are super useful.

The best rides to do this for are Jurrassic World, The Mummy, Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, and Transformers.

6. Talk to the Characters

Hogwarts Express Conductor handshake

Not my typical cup of tea, but this time around, we got to talk to the Wand Maker and the Hogwart’s train conductor. He stayed in his character’s accent the whole time and had fun with it.

He asked what house we were (HUFFLEPUFF FOREVER!) and taught us the secret Hufflepuff handshake… the hand hug. What gentle creatures we are 😉

All of the characters we spoke with throughout the day seemed to really enjoy the acting portion and added an element of fun to the experience that I’d never tried before.

With these 6 tips, you’re set up for your best Universal Studios Hollywood Trip ever!

If you’re looking for other Southern California activities, try a visit to San Diego!

Pinterest: Universal Studios Day Trip Secrets

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  1. Kanupriyaa on March 31, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    I live in LA and plan on going here this year. Will definitely use your guide then!

    • Megan on April 1, 2020 at 2:24 am

      So glad! 🙂 If you go during the summer, the regular cold butterbeer is better than the frozen one!

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