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Tips for Taking Grandkids to Universal Studios Hollywood

Planning, Passes Will Make Your Trip More Fun

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Front of Line passes for Universal Studio Hollywood are smart for grandparents and grandchildren.

Grandparents and grandchildren will love the Front of Line passes.

Photo © Susan Adcox

Theme parks are great fun, but can be tiring for grandparent legs and for little ones' legs. Universal Studios Hollywood is a good choice for all generations because it has certain features that make it easier to negotiate than other theme parks. Get off to an energized start with these hints, and then get ready to enjoy Universal!

Relax With Front of Line Passes

If you are visiting Universal Studios in the summer, pay for Front of Line passes. You'll be glad you did. Front of Line passes give you immediate admission to all rides and shows. It's true that you may have to wait ten minutes or so with other passholders, and you'll still have to plan which shows you want to see and be in the right spot at the same time. Still, Front of Line passes make it possible to see the entire park in a day, even in the summertime. It's a system that's infinitely preferable to Disney's Fast Pass. It's true that Fast Passes are free, and Universal's passes cost considerably more than regular admission. Still, when you consider the cost of getting to the park and the associated expenses, springing for Front of the Line passes to make it much more enjoyable just makes sense. Buy them online because a limited number are sold each day. If you wait until you get to the park, they could be sold out. Learn more about getting your tickets.

Take a Break on a Tram

The feature that sets Universal Studios apart from other theme parks is the Studio Tour. Occupying the better part of an hour, it consists of a restful ride in a tram--restful, that is, except when King Kong is menacing the tourists.

I had been hesitant to take my 7-year-old granddaughter on the studio tour, thinking that it would be dull for her. Wrong! Although she didn't share the thrill that older generations get from seeing features such as the Munsters' house and the Bates Hotel, the tour intersperses exciting bits with the nostalgic sites, keeping everyone entertained. We experienced a flash flood, survived an earthquake in a subway station and dodged hurtling cars in a Fast and Furious scenario.

The most hyped part of the tour is the King Kong 360 3-D by Peter Jackson. The tram drives between two curved screens, the equivalent of 16 regular movie screens put together, and passengers witness an epic battle between King Kong and a T-Rex. Production values are extremely high, but viewing the film from a tram dilutes the effect a bit. Action is occurring on both sides, but it's impossible to watch both sides at once.

The King Kong attraction may be a little over-hyped, but the Studio Tour lives up to its reputation as the soul of Universal Studios. Don't miss it.

Escape the Hubbub at CityWalk

My recent theme park dining experiences have been almost nightmarish. Some theme park restaurants now take reservations and can be almost impossible to get into without them. Other restaurants are so packed and chaotic that it feels as if your food is thrown at you. And that doesn't even get into the matter of food quality.

Realizing perhaps that people would really rather eat outside the park, Universal developed CityWalk, a three-block long area of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues just adjacent to Universal Studios. It features around 30 restaurants. Some of them may get crowded, but it's a normal busy restaurant crowdedness, not a theme-park madness. And, yes, they are primarily chain restaurants like Bubba Gump and Hard Rock, but they are real restaurants where grandparents can catch their breath.

Other Favorites Will Vary

We enjoyed almost every activity at Universal Studios, some of them twice, thanks to Front of Line. My granddaughter didn't like the Mummy ride because it was too scary. After that, we declined to take her to the House of Horrors. Her favorites were the Simpsons, an amazing ride simulator featuring the Simpsons brand of humor, and the Jurassic Park, which does get you wet, although we also enjoyed Shrek 4-D.

I enjoyed the separation between the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot. The Lower Lot is smaller and farther away from the entrance, so it's a little quieter. I enjoyed the string of escalators that take you down the hill. It gives you a good view of the surrounding area while being easy on the feet.

Like I said, it's almost as if Universal had grandchildren and grandparents in mind from the start.

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