Last Sunday, I went to Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time in 10 years to celebrate my brother’s birthday. Since I was only around 6 years old the first time I went, I decided to critique “The Entertainment Capital of LA..” Because of the lapse of time in between my visits, I only vaguely remembered the "E.T." ride and the "Jaws" shark attack on the Studio Tours. Now as an older and more experienced theme park enthusiast, I saw the theme park in a different perspective. This is my pros and cons list of Universal Studios Hollywood (in no specific order).
1. The mist fans found in the queues and scattered around the park
It was the middle of summer in Los Angeles. I am so thankful that the temperature was not over 100, but 90 degrees is still pretty darn hot and humid given the fact that you’re walking around everywhere. Whenever I saw the mist fans, I breathed a sigh of relief and savored the coolness until another sweaty person pushed in front of me. These fans were blessings sent from above.
2. Free Wi-Fi
Excuse me for sounding cheap, but not everyone has unlimited cellular data. The Wi-Fi in the park was decently strong, but don’t expect it to be like your home Wi-Fi. I was able to catch Pokémon and update Snapchat without having to worry about my dad calling me up and yelling at me for using up all of my family’s data. Free Wi-Fi was very generous of Universal Studios.
3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This was the main reason we chose to go to Universal Studios for my brother’s birthday. As avid "Harry Potter" fans, we were so eager to see a favorite childhood series come to life right in front of our eyes. I really enjoyed pretending to be a wizard that attended Hogwarts and drank butterbeer on a daily basis. The wands that can be bought are interactive with the park and you can even cast your own spell, which was really magical. Throughout the whole day, all I wanted to do was go back to Harry Potter World and explore the magic more.
I had no idea what to expect when I sat in the soak zone of this show. Before the show even began, the actors were so engaging and funny that they made the wait go by faster. Once the 20-minute performance began, I was already blown away with the skilled acting and special effects. The plot was interesting and kept you on your toes from beginning to end. I respected and commended the actors for being able to swim, dive, stage fight, steer a boat, climb, and still act extremely well all at the same time. At the end of the show, the actors took the time out of their day to take pictures and have conversations with audience members. I was thoroughly impressed and “wowed."
5. Jurassic Park: The Ride
Although the wait time was super long, what ride’s wait time isn’t? I am fine with waiting an hour as long as the ride is worth it. And this one definitely was. It really was like you stepped foot into Jurassic Park with the dinosaur animatronics and the lush greenery all around you. The build up for the drop was nerve-wracking, but fun. As soon as the drop began, I screamed so hard that the choker necklace I was wearing snapped off of my neck! It was that intense. During the drop, we got blasted with water coming out from all directions; we were drenched from head to toe. It was very refreshing to cool off on a hot day.
6. The Studio Tour
This was a comforting, yet very exciting attraction. The 45-minute ride allowed us to rest our feet and relax. My mom liked to call it “nap time.” The tour was comprehensive and allowed you to see where various films and TV shows were shot at. You can even see the actual props that were used on set. With a video playing on the screen and an engaging and hilarious tour guide, there was no time to be bored. With 3-D attractions from "King Kong" to "Fast and Furious" and thrilling, near-death moments with a Great White Shark and a serial killer, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. When the tour concluded, all I could say was, “Aw, it’s over already?”
1. The 3-D rides
I can’t be the only one thinking there were so many simulation rides. Even with a bare minimum of rides and attractions, half of the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood were 3-D rides. After about three of these rides, all you can do is just stop and ask, “OK, I get the point now. Bring on the big kid rides!” But alas, there are only a few of those “big kid” rides. I soon came to realize that 3-D attractions were Universal’s crutch and back up. With a limited amount of space, they cannot fit huge roller coaster rides. However, I still feel that 3-D rides lack originality and creativity. All you have to do is create a video, make the seats move, insert sound effects, add aromas, and there’s your ride. In addition, these types of rides also make you very dizzy and cause you to get huge headaches. In my opinion, 3-D rides are not worth an hour-long wait.
2. The lack of attention to detail
Even though the rides and attractions are only connected to each other because they are produced by Universal Studios, there was little attention to fine detail in the ride queues and throughout the park. On "The Simpsons" ride, I didn’t feel like I was immersed in Springfield, Oregon. Overall, I just felt like Universal did not take the extra step to make everything much more believable and lively.
3. The workers
I understand that people don’t always enjoy their jobs. I understand that people have bad days. I understand that some people don’t want to work in a theme park. But you work there for a reason, and your attitude and engagement can impact someone’s overall day at the park. If you’re working as a student at Hogwarts, then you’re a student at Hogwarts for that shift. If you’re working as a minion in Gru’s lab, then you’re a minion for a few hours. You don’t have to have Academy Award winning acting skills; you just have to look motivated and happy to be there. Smile to make the kids happy.
4. The prices
Amusement park food and merchandise is always overpriced. That’s how they get you and your money. But, in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the prices were way too much. For a student uniform, it cost $120 including tax. For a wand, it was around $60 including tax. For a pack of 10 postage stamps, it costs $12. That’s just outlandish! Logically, these things aren’t even worth the money since you can only use them in the park. Deep down, however, they beckon you to buy them and spend your whole bank account on them. It takes serious willpower and strength to resist buying pointless merchandise from theme parks.
5. The locker systems
Before I even got in line for a few rides, I was told to put my bags into a locker. I was surprised and taken off guard since I was used to being able to put bags and belongings into little baskets in front of you during the ride. The lines to register for a locker were so long, and the crowds within the tiny locker room were stifling and huge. Once you finally get to the front of the line, you have to put your finger on the fingerprint scanner for identification. It opens your locker, and you realize that the lockers are smaller than any locker you have ever seen before. If you thought your high school lockers were small, then you were sadly mistaken. After finally squeezing all of your belongings into the locker, you’re then plagued with anxiety that someone could hijack the whole system and steal your stuff. The lockers were unnecessary nuisances when a person can just hold onto their stuff or put it on the side during the ride.
Generally, I am not too much of a picky person when it comes to amusement parks since I am an adrenaline junkie. I had a great time at Universal Studios bonding and spending time with my family. It was nice to bond over a live show rather than a show on Netflix. However, as an avid Disney fan, Disneyland still remains my favorite theme park.