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How to save time at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal image. Source: Jason Campbell, Wikimedia Commons

Universal Studios Hollywood offers some truly unique attractions, having grown out of a working movie studio. Although it is very popular and often crowded, it is possible to experience everything you want to at the park in a single day – if you plan ahead. Just the follow the simple steps that we’ve collated below to maximize your time spent enjoying rides and shows, and minimize your waits in line.

Step 1: Choose the best possible time of year to go

Attendance levels at Universal Studios Hollywood are seasonal, and also vary greatly from weekday-to-weekday. When possible, heading to the park on days of lighter attendance can help you avoid wasting time in long lines.

The busiest periods at Universal Studios Hollywood are:

  • The summer (late May through early September).
  • Holidays - Christmas Day through New Year’s Day, the Thanksgiving weekend and the Washington Day weekend.
  • Spring break and the weeks either side of Easter.

The least crowded periods at the park are:

  • Mid-September through the week before Thanksgiving.
  • Between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Early January through the end of February.
  • The week following Easter through Memorial Day weekend.

Generally, the best days to attend the park are Mondays through Thursdays. Fridays and Sundays are busy, while Saturdays should be avoided.

For some visitors, such as families with kids in school, or those visiting from farther field (during their summer holidays, for instance), being flexible around dates may not be an option. Don’t worry if that’s the case – you can still save time and beat the crowds using the remaining steps in this article.

Important note: there are downsides to attending during the off-season. Most notably, the parks' opening hours may be shorter. Shows may take place less frequently (or not at all), and rides may be down for refurbishment. Check ahead on Universal’s website to avoid disappointment.

Step 2: Get your tickets in advance

If possible, purchase your tickets in advance to save time when you arrive at the park (as well as saving money). Universal offers printable tickets through its website, which you can take directly to the gate.

Step 3: Eat breakfast before you arrive at the park

This is a step that can save you time and money. Eat breakfast at home (for locals), at your hotel (for visitors) or at a diner en-route. Breakfast at Universal Studios is expensive, and will waste valuable time during the morning period when queuing times for rides are at their lowest.

Step 4: Arrive early

This is the most important time-saving tip of all. Arrive (and park) at least 30-40 minutes before the park opens, ticket in hand, and queue at the turnstiles. This will give you a great chance of riding the park’s headline attractions before the majority of the day’s guests arrive. Officially, you can’t run – but move as quickly as possible between the rides when the park opens.

Step 5: Eat late or eat early

Avoid peak lunch and dinner times (around 12:00-14:00 and 17:30-20:00), when the park’s restaurants are swamped by hungry guests. If you’ve arrived early, you’ll probably be hungry by 11:30 – take advantage of the smaller crowds and have an early lunch. The same principle can save you time at dinner, giving you longer to enjoy the rides and shows.

Step 6: Use a touring plan

Although it means losing a bit of spontaneity, planning in advance the order that you are going to experience attractions in can save you a lot of time. Hitting the most popular rides early will save you hours – on many days, you'll be able to experience all of the major attractions before lunch by following the simple plan below.

Universal Studios Hollywood is split over two levels – the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot. The Lower Lot is only accessible via an escalator from the Upper Lot, and often opens an hour or more after the Upper Lot.

  1. Arrive early and grab a schedule of the shows for the day. Decide which you want to see, and select performances that don’t clash and give you adequate time to make your way between the show venues.
  2. Check with a park employee what time the Lower Lot will open.
  3. When the parks opens, head straight to the Simpsons Ride.
  4. After experiencing that, take one of two options. If the Lower Lot is still closed, head to Shrek 4D, and (if there is still time) head to Terminator 2:3D.
  5. When the Lower Lot opens, dash straight down the escalator, turn right and experience The Revenge of the Mummy.
  6. Then head through the gates to get soaked on Jurassic Park – The Ride. Get changed afterwards if you’ve remembered to bring a spare set of clothes.
  7. Head back up to the Upper Lot and experience Terminator 2: 3D (if you weren’t able to earlier), then head to the 45-minute Studio Tour.
  8. Fill the rest of your day with the shows that you planned earlier, and re-riding your favorite attractions.

Other tips for saving time at Universal Studios Hollywood

  • Bring a bottle and fill up on water at the water fountains in the parks, saving money and time queuing at concession stands.
  • If you don’t mind riding on your own, ask the Universal employees running attractions whether there is a Single Rider line. This is used to fill spare seats and utilize the ride's full capacity, and is usually much shorter than the regular line.

Do you have your own tips for saving time at Universal Studios Hollywood? Why not share them with others through our theme park tips section? If you spot something wrong in the article, or disagree with any of the tips, please let us know through the comments or by e-mailing us.

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