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12 Tips for Universal Studios Hollywood With Kids of All Ages

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If you’ve never been to Universal Studios Hollywood with kids, you're missing out. The theme park still functions as a real-life movie-producing studio, making it a must-see for film and TV junkies. Back in the day, Universal Studios was little more than a one-ride pony, with its impressive Studio Tour taking center stage. Universal, however, has taken great strides to make this an all-day amusement park to please visitors of all ages. Read these 12 tips to maximize fun at Universal Studios Hollywood with kids of all ages.

Universal Studios Hollywood with kids of all ages!

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1. Scope out Universal Studios attractions that will suit your kids.

When visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with kids, it's important to know which rides are appropriate for your brood. Most attractions have height restrictions, but there are currently six rides that allow children 40” or smaller. These rides include the Studio Tour, Flight of the Hippogriff, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Silly Swirly Fun Ride, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and The Simpsons Ride. Some of these rides may be too scary or intense for some young children. Even if they CAN ride it, it doesn’t always mean they should. You know your children best, so make sure to look up ride descriptions before entering the sometimes VERY long lines.

If traveling with tweens or teens, Universal Studios has so much to offer. Most big kids will enjoy such thrilling attractions as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Walking Dead Attraction, Jurassic Park – The Ride, and Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride.

Find the right rides for your kids at Universal Studios Hollywood

Find the right rides for your kids at Universal Studios Hollywood (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

2. Step into the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If your children are Harry Potter fans, then the Wizarding World of Harry Potter no doubt will be their favorite part of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood! Wandering through the amazingly true-to-story shops and restaurants is fun for all ages, Harry Potter fans or not. In fact, my tween daughter refused to read the books or watch the movies until we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and now she is full-blown Potterhead.

Wizards and witches will want to select a wand at Ollivanders

Wizards and witches will want to select a wand at Ollivanders (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Your family will definitely want to stop by Ollivanders to purchase an interactive wand to “cast spells” on interactive scenes within the Wizarding World. Shop keepers will happily help guide your little wizards to the appropriate wands. Wands of favorite characters like Snape, Dumbledore and Harry himself are also available for purchase.

Use wands from Ollivander's to make magic throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Use wands from Ollivander's to make magic throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Check the schedule to see when the Frog Choir will be playing — an a cappella group of wizards and witches that sing some favorite songs from the Harry Potter movies.

Of course, your family will want to taste a Butterbeer, too. The butterscotch-flavored non-alcoholic beverage comes in two versions: frozen and bubbly. They're so sweet, you may want to share.

Which butter beer do you think you'd like best, bubbly or frozen?

Which Butterbeer do you think you'd like best, bubbly or frozen? (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Look for two rides in this area of Universal Studios Hollywood. Harry's youngest wizard friends may be keen to ride Flight of the Hippogriff, a not-too-scary junior roller coaster.

Kids who are tall enough to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (48″) are in for a memorable adventure. Riders come face to face with mystical creatures while taking flight with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Soar above Hogwarts while visiting iconic locations like Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Pictured here, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a must-ride for true Potterheads (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Ride the Studio Tour.

The Studio Tour is what started the theme park and it remains the signature attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. All ages and sizes are welcomed on this one-hour ride through actual television and movie sets, guided by Tonight Show Host Jimmy Fallon. There are some scary scenes (including a raucous and violent fight between King Kong and Godzilla) with special effects like real fire, a faux flood with actual water, and shaking vehicle. If you're nervous about riding with younger kids, choose a middle seat and cover their eyes when necessary (or skip it all together). Most of the ride is mellow, though, and you'll see sets from movies like Back to the FutureThe StingThe Great Outdoors, and Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Studio Tour is still one of the star attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood with kids

The Studio Tour is still one of the star attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood (Photo credit: marcorubino, Depositphotos.com)

4. Get splashy at Super Silly Fun Land.

One of the most popular attractions for young children at Universal Studios is Super Silly Fun Land. This Despicable Me-themed play area is equipped with over 80 water play features and slides, which are sure to put a smile on any kid's face on a warm California day. If you’re planning on spending time at Super Silly Fun Land, make sure to bring swimsuits, towels and sunscreen. Of course, if you forget, you can purchase these items at the park.

Super Silly Fun Land is a super splashy place at Universal Hollywood with kids

Super Silly Fun Land is a super splashy place for kids to play (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Enjoy live entertainment throughout the park.

If your child isn’t a big fan of thrills, don’t fret! Universal Studios Hollywood has a wide variety of live shows that kids can enjoy. One of the most family-friendly shows at the theme park is Universal’s Animal Actors. Here, you can see some of Hollywood’s most famous critters showcase their tricks and animal antics. Some of the animals in the show have appeared in movies like Evan Almighty, Night at the Museum, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Dr. Doolittle and more. If you sit close enough, your child might just get picked to be a part of the show! Even if your child doesn’t get chosen, you can meet these furry friends after the show.

Kids of all ages will enjoy Universal’s Animal Actors show

Kids of all ages will enjoy Universal’s Animal Actors show (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

More intense shows are available for older kids as well. If your children love action, then WaterWorld is the show for your family. This fan favorite show includes jet-skiers, fire fights, jumps and explosions that will knock both kids and adults off their feet.

Waterworld is one of the star shows at Universal Studios Hollywood

Waterworld is one of the star shows at Universal Studios Hollywood (Photo credit: friday, Depositphotos.com)

6. Take advantage of the Rider Swap option.

If you have children that are too small (or scared) for certain rides, you can always take advantage of Rider Swap. This program allows family members to ride the attractions while someone waits with the children who aren’t able to ride quite yet. Once the family members have ridden the attraction, they can switch with the one that stayed behind. The best part? There's no need to queue up in the line again!

Make use of the Ride Swap option for scarier attractions like Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride

Make use of the Ride Swap option for scarier attractions like Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

7. Meet Universal movie and TV characters.

Kids can meet some of their favorite characters from Universal movies and television shows at this theme park. Among others, your family just might run into SpongeBob SquarePants, Curious George, Shrek, and your favorite Minions from Despicable Me. Bonus: character lines tend to be shorter than at Disneyland and other Disney parks.

Meet beloved characters like Curious George at Universal Studios Hollywood with kids

Meet beloved characters like Curious George (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

8. Play with dinosaurs.

Big kids will dig Jurassic Park – The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. For little ones, take them to Dino Play next door. This area has water misters, dinosaur fossils and so much more. This makes a great place for kids to play while mom and dad sit down and relax.

Jurassic Park – The Ride uses 1.5 million gallons of water!

Jurassic Park – The Ride uses 1.5 million gallons of water! (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

9. Know where to eat at Universal Studios Hollywood with kids.

Harry Potter fans will likely want to dine at Three Broomsticks, which features traditional English pub fare such as fish n' chips, shepherd's pie as well as Butterbeer. Next door, parents can queue up for a real pint or simple cocktails. (If traveling with more than one adult, send one person to buy the food and another to line up for the grown-up beverages to save time.)

A Lard Lad Donut is a treat the whole family can share...and still have some leftover to eat later!

A Lard Lad Donut is a treat the whole family can share…and still have some leftover to eat later! (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

There are a lot of food options in Springfield U.S.A. including pizza, burgers, and fried chicken. For a sweet treat the whole family can share, head to Lard Lad Donuts for a giant doughnut bigger than your kid's head. Parents can even belly up to the bar for a mug of Duff's Beer at Moe's Tavern.

Sip a Duff Beer with Barney at Moe's Tavern

Sip a Duff Beer with Barney at Moe's Tavern (Photo credit: Universal Studios Hollywood)

Other dining options in the park include Panda Express, Mel's Diner with 1950s diner theme and eats, a taco stand, and other standard fast food options.

Located just outside the park's entrance you'll find Universal’s City Walk with potentially less greasy dining options. Here you'll find well-known options like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Hard Rock Café Hollywood and Voodoo Doughnut. It's best to make reservations in advance for sit-down restaurants here. 

Universal CityWalk offers all sorts of dining and shopping options just outside the theme park

Universal CityWalk offers all sorts of dining and shopping options just outside the theme park (Photo credit: Lstock, Depositphotos.com)

10. Schedule your day with the Universal Studios Hollywood Official App.

It's important to plan out your day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Attraction lines tend to get longer and longer as the day goes on, so plan to arrive when the park opens and head straight for a popular ride, such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It's easier to schedule your day with the Universal Studios Hollywood Official App. Download this to view wait times, show times, and where to meet your favorite Universal characters.

It's easy to plan your day at Universal Hollywood Studios with kids with the Universal Studios Hollywood Official App

It's easy to plan your day with the Universal Studios Hollywood Official App (Screenshot of the app)

11. Invest in the Universal Express Pass.

Lines for rides can be enormous at Universal Studios Hollywood, especially if visiting on summer weekends or during the winter holiday season. My family saw wait times of 2.5 hours and longer during our visit during the first week of January! There is an option, however, for families with deep pockets and shallow patience: the Universal Express Pass. This upgrade enables park goers to head to the front of the line of each ride, once per attraction. Not only does Universal Express Pass save loads of time, but also it enables your family to experience everything that Universal Studios Hollywood has to offer.

Feel like a Hollywood VIP with the Universal Express Pass

Feel like a Hollywood VIP with the Universal Express Pass (Photo credit: marcorubino, Depositphotos.com)

12. Book your Universal Studios Hollywood vacation with Get Away Today.

To book your Universal Studios Hollywood vacation, visit GetAwayToday.com or call 855-GET-AWAY to speak to one of their travel experts directly. Get an additional $10 off when you use promo code TravelMamas when booking a hotel + ticket package. Make sure to mention that Travel Mamas sent you!

Book your Universal Studios Hollywood trip with Get Away Today!

If you like amusement parks, you'll love our theme park directory. Go take a look!

What do you think you would enjoy most about visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any discounts or comps from Universal Studios Hollywood related to this story. This post includes affiliate links for which Travel Mamas receives a small commission at no additional cost to consumers. Your clicks and purchases help to keep Travel Mamas a free resource for readers like you. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! Theme parks like Universal are so much fun, but if you don’t have at least some idea of how to maximize your time and limit hiccups, they can get gnarly.

  2. Much appreciate the tips! Theme parks are amazing for the “seasoned” theme park goer, and can be a daunting task for newbies.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The app really does help everyone feel like more of expert at Universal Studios Hollywood!

  3. Bill Sweeney says:

    These are great tips. Going to Universal was a great time with our kids. We had some moments of trying to decide where to go, what to see; but, we made a plan, and stuck to it.

  4. Kim Croisant says:

    I hear it’s fun for adults too. I know I’d love it. I especially like your #10. I’ll definitely schedule my day with that app. One day we will get out that way. Thanks for the tips.

  5. MJ Lechtrecker says:

    My family and I are pass holders at Universal in Orlando. I have always wanted to visit the one in Hollywood! Looks very similar to the one in Orlando but also different. Great info!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      We are the opposite! After our visit to Universal Hollywood, my kids are itching to visit Universal in Orlando! Can’t wait to see how they compare!

  6. Marcie W. says:

    I have not visited Universal Studios Hollywood since I was a teen, but this post has me super excited to return. Between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Animal Actors show, our family would have a blast!

  7. Carol Cassara says:

    So much to do and experience in Universal Studios Hollywood. I really love that they have a lot of things for kids in different ages. It’s definitely a lovely choice for families.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Yes! I think many people think Universal is just for big kids, but there are definitely things for the littles to enjoy as well!

  8. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    SO FUN! My kids have been begging us to take them to Universal Studios! Thank you for your tips, I hope I get to use them!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I hope you do too! Fingers crossed for a Universal Studios Hollywood trip for your family!

  9. I would love to go to universal with my kiddos. I’m sure they’d have such a blast as would I!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I bet you’re right – I hope you can take your kids to Universal Studios someday soon!

  10. We haven’t been to Universal yet. It is the very next visit on our list.

  11. Toni | Boulder Locavore says:

    What a fun idea for summer with kids! Looks so much fun!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Wintertime, too! We went the first week of January & even though it was crazy busy…we had a blast!

  12. We are headed there next week! I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so I’m thrilled to walk my walk through the magical section of the park. But I’m even more thrilled for the rest of the park now!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      How exciting! I hope you have an incredible time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the rest of Universal Studios Hollywood, Melanie!

  13. These are such great tips for Universal! I only went once with my children and definitely felt a bit lost. I didn’t realize it was so big!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Next time use the Universal Studios Hollywood App – it really does help organize your day!

  14. Great tips! The best advice is to get that express pass…we didn’t get it and the entire time I wished that I had. I really enjoyed the Special Effects Show. Besides getting a chance to sit and relax while getting relief from the sun, it’s an entertaining look at how they execute stunts and special effects for the screen. Also, I went through The Walking Dead attraction which is basically like a haunted house where people jump out at you and try to scare you as you walk through. Luckily for me the line was relatively short towards the end of the day but I wouldn’t spend too long in the line for this one.

  15. Ive never been to the Universal in Hollywood. I always grew up near the one in Orlando and I can see lot of difference!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I can’t wait to check out Universal Orlando so I can compare and contrast the two parks!

  16. Shannon Gurnee says:

    Our kids love to visit Universal Studios! It’s been quite some time since the pass prices changed, but we loved to visit the World of Harry Potter. We really wanted to get the interactive wands, but budget was tight. These are some great tips!!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I hear you. Those wands are expensive. Lucky for us, Grandma & Grandpa bought them for our kids as part of their Christmas gift. I hope next time you can buy them – they really bring the magic alive for Harry Potter fan kids!

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