Universal Studios Hollywood

Outside the Bay Area

Located in Los Angeles, California

Parent Q&A

  • Harry Potter World

    (3 replies)

    (Checked the archives & found nothing) We're considering taking our 9 and 4 year olds to Harry Potter World in So CA for the long weekend in February. Does anyone have any advice on 1). Where to find the best discounted admission tickets? 2). Which airport is closest? 3). Recommendations on specific hotels or VRBO rentals near by? Places to avoid? 4). Restaurants you enjoyed, and which ones to avoid? 5). Any other general advice you can provide? Thank you!

    RE: Harry Potter World ()

    We just did Universal Studios specifically for Harry Potter world on January 2. I clicked around trying to find discounted park tickets but didn't really see any. Besides, we are SO glad we bought tix directly through universal studios' website (at a little discount compared to the gate) because it includes 1 hour early admittance to the park just for Harry Potter. We got there at 8:05, walked back to Harry Potter directly and the line was already 60 minutes long. Throughout the day it just got longer - at one point I saw that it was 5+ hours! I can't even imagine anything being worth that. That said, it was worth the 60 minute wait for sure! Once you're waiting inside Hogwarts there's lots of fun stuff to see/interactivity. Then the ride itself is really fun if you like rides that really whip you around and make you feel like you're falling! (i.e. high motion sickness potential!) The rest of the Hogsmeade village is really well done. Again, because of huge crowds in the park it was a complete madhouse and hard to walk through when we went back later in the afternoon. We did not buy wands ($50 each) but you can, and then use them to make interactive things happen in Hogsmeade - you'll see big groups of people standing around specific areas waving the wands.

    I think we were there on a day that the park 'sold out' - so I would avoid holiday weekends - we thought we'd be relatively okay since it was Jan 2 and some schools were back in session. But we ended up waiting at least 2 hours for the studio tour (which itself takes an hour) - but it was fun to see sets and they have a couple of 'experiences' on the tour which are fun. The Minion ride was fun. For us grownups, the Simpsons area and ride were hilarious - kids didn't really get the jokes though. Shrek was meh. The Jurassic Park water ride was fun (and not much line since it was very chilly when we were there, and fortunately we didn't get that wet). 

    As far as location - we drove, and stayed in an airbnb in silverlake because we wanted to be more central. For restaurants, don't expect much within universal - we went to the 'studio cafe' which seemed to be the healthiest choice in the lower part of the park, and it was barely passable and expensive. 

    The rest of the park has a lot of big long lines too, and an emphasis on 3D type rides where you are stationary rather than in a roller coaster. We felt it was quite geared toward teens. If you have time, I would highly recommend LegoLand for kids your kids' ages - much lower-key, very tongue-in-cheek humor for the grownups - in Carlsbad which is just north of San Diego. If you can swing the price, stay in the Legoland hotel for early park access and very amusing theme rooms with a separate area for the kids with bunk beds in each room.

    Have fun!

    RE: Harry Potter World ()

    We just went with our Potter-crazed 11-year-old, who has read all the books and seen all the movies. I would definitely say that in general Universal is better geared for this age range on up and the Harry Potter area itself is actually fairly small and I think mainly appeals to HP fans, though my child loved it. There are really 2 rides and then mainly stores to buy things. The main Harry Potter ride has very extreme virtual motion - too scary for younger kids, even the tween was a bit scared and the other ride is a small but not kiddie roller coaster. The "wand experience" is a show but is really meant to sell you an expensive wand. I didn't like that many things in the HP area didn't have prices, such as the booths selling wand and the restaurant. As for the rest of the park, I would agree with the other poster that it is really geared towards older kids/teens. For instance there is a "Walking Dead" attraction, and even the studio tram tour has some special effects that would be scary for a little one (such as, simulated earthquake, King Kong attack) plus not very interesting to younger kids.

    We purchased annual passes from Costco, which you can purchase online or in-person. They have a lot of black-out dates, but you can choose any day as your first day to use it. The downside is that you don't have early entry, unlike some of the other passes. I thought the price was good, even with the blackout dates since we at least used it once and if we use it again, that's gravy. We didn't know about other passes offering early entry and that is worth considering, as the HP ride wait exploded to 3 hours by mid-morning. Someone told us that if you book at a Universal hotel, you an also get early entry. We stayed in Pasadena to be near friends, but I would also say that it's a good place to stay to get a decent price and not be too far from Universal.

    Another tip - Universal does not have the capacity for crowds that say, Disney does, and it doesn't take much to fill up, because the park is small and the public areas are all very small in scale. We were there a few days after New Year's, and it wasn't a peak time, but it felt crowded much of the time. I can't even imagine what it would be like with big crowds or extreme weather. 

    For younger kids, my recommendations would be the Minions ride and the animal actors live show, plus there are kids play areas. Personally, I wouldn't really recommend Universal as a place for your kids based on their ages, but of course it is up to you. 

    RE: Harry Potter World ()

    The "Forbidden Journey" ride is the marquee attraction at Wizarding World of HP Universal Hollywood; the line and wait times to enter the Hogwarts castle and board the ride can be very long if it is not the first thing you head towards when the park opens in the morning. The 3-D ride is very fun and exciting (if you are not prone to motion sickness), but before you go, check the park website to find out what the size/height restriction is for the ride. Your 4-year old might be too small to fit in the individual seat, and it might be too intense for him/her anyway. I believe that it is also possible to walk through the Hogwarts castle without standing in the line to board the "Forbidden Journey" ride. The "Flight of the Hippogriff" ride is age-appropriate roller coaster for younger kids, and a bonus is that you get a view of Hagrid's hut from the ride line.

    The Ollivander's wand demonstration is fun, I guess, if you haven't seen it before. However, only one child is singled out (somewhat randomly) to participate in the demonstration while everyone else watches. Then everyone gets herded into a crowded adjoining room where there are wands for sale. Some of the wands can be used for an interactive activity around the HP section of the park--look for wands that have a small, rounded sensor tip; some other "character" wands lacking the sensor tip, like the Elder Wand, don't work on the interactive spots around the park.

    Somewhat to my surprise, my boys (ages 10 and 13) enjoyed watching the "Triwizard Pep Rally" show that features ribbon-dancing Beaubatons girls and acrobatic Durmstrang boys, so consider stopping to watch the show when it appears on the mainstage platform. Also, the frozen butterbeer is better than the regular butterbeer version. Finally, check out the "Owl Post"--at least when we visited, if you have stamped U.S. mail, you can mail it there and get a Harry Potter postmark on it.

    Despite being familiar with the rest of the attractions at the Universal park (Simpsons, Jurassic Park, etc.) my kids were not too interested in exploring those areas of the park. Wizarding World of HP was the main draw for them, and they were ready to leave the park when they felt that they had done everything within the WWHP section of the park.

    We bought our tickets through a vendor affiliated with Undercover Tourist. Legit site, we've used them to buy tickets for both Universal and Disneyland several times. 

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Universal Studios for very young children

June 1998

Since this is a season when some folks may be headed for Southern California amusement parks, a word of warning about Universal Studios: this is NOT a good destination for very young children. We took what we thought would be a benign tram ride through the backlot, and did not heed the recorded warning this ride may be too intense for young children because the tram was filled with other young kids. But the very realistic earthquake-in-a-subway scene, with the shaking tram, loud noise, flames, explosions, and flood was too much for our just-turned-five-year-old, who added her very realistic screams of terror to the special effects. She just didn't understand it was all pretend. Our fifteen-month-old stopped crying after we emerged from the tunnel but her big sister remained traumatized. So we looked for something milder--avoiding the Jurassic Park and Backdraft rides. ET must be a sweet attraction, right? Well, after the earthquake experience, the dark, misty forest and spooky lighting of the entrance to the ET ride forced us to hightail it out of there even before we got on the ride. Problem is, there's not much else to do with small kids at Universal Studios. Lots of escalators so strollers are inconvenient. And the entrance fee is $38 for adults, and not much less for kids! And the food's very expensive. For little ones, stick to DIsneyland.

I would like to echo the warnings about Universal Studios contained in the previous posting (i.e., not very appropriate for younger children).

Also, when paying for tickets, Universal Studios lists only the single adult and children prices on the entrance fees. We had heard that there is a family pass - 2 adults, 2 kids, for $80, significant savings over the $38 per adult, $28 per child normal fees. They sold us the family fare, but had we not known in advance, we would have paid the higher rates.