You have all been to a theme park and seen someone like me. Maybe you are just like me. Some of you probably even prefer to have us around at a theme park. We are the ones who hold your purse and keys, your half eaten snacks and drinks while you get in an hour-long line for that stomach scrambler you call a ride. We will be standing at the ride’s exit, all of your belongings in tow, minus most of the popcorn you left with us. You see, I wasn’t blessed with sea legs or air legs or whatever kind of legs are needed to flip, spin, bounce and speed through the air. In short, rollercoasters make me sick.
It is not fear that keeps me off these mountains of metal. On the contrary, I secretly long for a pill that will release me of this motion sickness. That is why, with two tickets to Universal Studios firmly pressed in hand, I rejoiced, knowing that this theme park is all about entertainment, not the wrenching of one’s gut. Here, the rides are less roller and more coaster, and there are plenty of shows and live music to stretch out the time in between being shaken and stirred.
By far the most entertaining of the rides is the Simpsons ride, built on the spot of the popular Back to the Future ride in 2008. Riders join the Simpsons on their visit to low-budget Krustyland, owned and operated by Krusty the Klown. Original storylines were created for the waiting area leading up to the ride, all of which is guaranteed to make you belly laugh while you wait. Note: Some Simpson’s knowledge may be required for maximum belly laughter.
Die-hard fans love being able to walk into the Kwik-E-Mart and buy a can of Duff beer (actually, an energy drink) from Apu (actually, a bored teenage Universal employee), or head to Moe’s Tavern across the street (actually, more overpriced merchandising).
Other must-do rides include the fastest ride in the park – Revenge of The Mummy, and Jurassic Park. The Mummy qualifies as a real rollercoaster, but at only 30 seconds, even I felt the ride was too short. Jurassic Park – The Ride bringsyou face to face with dinosaurs and feels like being on the film set as you float through a river on a raft. The 84-foot drop at the end was, at the time of construction, the largest drop on a water ride in the world.
Make sure to see some of the shows. Terminator II – 3D starts as an unveiling of ‘new’ Terminator robots and ends leaving the grown-ups nostalgic for Eddie Furlong and a time when Arnold was known for his physical, rather than political, muscle. Waterworld is a high-budget, interactive series of explosions and a platform for ‘famous’ Hollywood stuntmen and women to work on their acting skills. It was cheesy, but you get soaked and the stunts and playful staff leave you satisfied.
On the other hand, it is recommended to skip the House of Horrors entirely. Shuffling through the overcrowded attraction means that the scary scenes are happening to someone ten feet ahead to someone whose shrieks serve as one spoiler alert after another.
Hands down, the Studio Tour is the best attraction of the day, and not only because bringing your popcorn onto the ride is encouraged. The tour starts with an up close and personal look at the backlot where Hollywood’s biggest stars can be found on a daily basis. Tip: Visit Universal Studios between September and April, as many shows stop filming for the summer. The tram continues through sets used to serve as Europe, ancient Greece and the Wild West, past the Bates motel from Psycho, up and down Wisteria Lane, home to the Desperate Housewives, through the secrets behind the pyrotechnic stunts of the Fast and the Furious, the Earthquake simulation, a look at the King Kong set for the 2010 movie, and on to the Tour staple, Jaws, though this part has been scaled back in recent years.
After this hour-long tour, it was time for a snack. Since I normally do not ride the rides, I would like to think I know my way around a theme park food court. Never have I seen more food options than at Universal Studios, which seems to be as much about food as about film. Inside the park there are 17 restaurants, both themed (Flintstones Grill) and comfort food (Pizza Hut, Cinnabon). Outside, the Citywalk is a mile-long strip of 25 restaurants, bars and cafes to satisfy any palate.
Noticeably lacking at the park are hands-on, high-tech exhibits. Here we are, digital age in full swing, so where are the green screen or even CGI experiences? Let the kids both big and small jump out of a burning building or battle a giant CGI monster, and they will buy the DVD or the ‘I defeated King Kong T-shirt at the end, guaranteed.
That missing element aside, as two late-twenties ladies with no children in tow, we had a great day out. No matter how hard we tried, between the rides, the shows and all that eating, we didn’t have time to hit even half of what is on offer. Believe me – I never thought I would be saying that about a day at a theme park.
Universal Studios Hollywood
1000 Universal Center Dr
Universal City, CA 91608