March 12th, 2022
The plan for today was simple. Let someone else plan it. We are really hands-on travel planners, as you can probably tell, we tend to DIY everything, but today we were handing the reins over to someone else. It was quite a relief!
Planning a trip to a Themepark should be pretty easy, but it rarely is, you need to come up with a pretty complicated plan of action, as we will see later on when ur Disney Battle plans are put to the test. If you don’t you really run the risk of missing out on quite a lot of the action! But today we were heading to universal studios and we had booked the VIP experience.
This was a few years in the making as this trip had been canceled so many times but we were finally here and ready to experience the park at its best…hopefully.
The VIP Experience is pretty pricey, we had stumped up $359 per person, vs $104 for a regular ticket! And really we were not convinced this was value for money! We are going to be pretty brief here as we are putting together our full “Is the VIP Experience Worth It?” blog, where we will go into detail about the experience. But for now, we will just briefly outline the day.
We arrived at the park just before rope drop and there was a huge amount of guests milling around, queueing and generally, the whole area looked chaotic, time to join the madness, only not. Our VIP red Carpet was laid out to the side and we simply headed in through a door with a single group in front of us.
We were processed by a charming and pleasant cast member who took all our details and assigned us a guide and provided us with our VIP Passes. We were then asked to head upstairs where we could help ourselves to light refreshments while we waited for our guide. As we headed up, Danny, our guide was waiting for us on the stairs to introduce himself, but more on Danny later.
The light refreshments were typical American “light” refreshments. There was a ton of food on offer and all really great quality. There were various filled croissants (ham cheddar, smoked salmon, egg, and cheese), assorted pastries muffins and cookies, cereals, fruit, juices, and of course tea and coffee. We grabbed a table on the terrace overlooking the main plaza and just kicked back waiting for things to get going.
While we ate and discussed the day Danny was doing the rounds and made a formal introduction. This was partially a formality to welcome us but he also wanted to know our likes and desires for the day so he could tailor the itinerary to our wants! At this point, Kate made one thing very clear, we NEEDED to go to wisteria Lane! This had been the whole point of booking the VIP and ensuring we visited on a Saturday.
Every time we have visited the park, Kate’s most pressing desire is to visit Wisteria Lane, or Colonial Street as it is actually called, the setting for Desperate Housewives one of Kate’s favorite shows. Every time, we have been thwarted! You see they only let the tours down the Lane if they are not filming. Even at weekends when the set is clear if it is dressed for filming they still don’t let the regular tours down. You actually have to be quite lucky to get to see this set.
Your best bet is a VIP Tour at the weekend, which is why we are here! To highlight the difficulty Danny explained the set was closed and No tours will be permitted for the near future…starting TOMORROW! As there were two in our group who were fans (Plus Danny) and this would be the last time he would get there for a while, this would be the focus of our VIP Studio Tour! To say this made Kate happy is a seriously gross understatement!
However, the first part of the tour is in the Park. This is varied as some tours head to the studios first and then the park in the afternoon and some hit the park first and then the studios after lunch.
Universal Studios Park
During the Moring, Danny took our group, which consisted of just 10 people, 3 couples, and a family of 4, around the themepark. The VIP Tours comes complete with Express Passes (worth $239 on our visit) but Dany has the ability to basically walk you onto every ride. Express queues are really short, 5-10 mins max, but these shortcuts basically delivered you to the front of every ride!
- Secret Life Of Pets
- Despicable Me – Minion Meyhem
- Transformers – 3D
- Jurrasic World
- Flight Of The Hippogriff
- Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey
All were straight walk-on with no cues and even personalized seating positions, so front row seats were no problem. We also got Ponchos for the very wet Jurrasic World Rides (and second ponchos in case we wanted to go back later) and endless bottled water which cost $6 remember from any of the concession stands!
Along with Danny’s funny and insightful tour knowledge, we had a really fantastic morning. The park was crazy busy and Danny’s ability to negotiate crowds was amazing. You really felt VIP and not part of the madness around.
Unfortunately, the Simpsons Ride was down for refurbishment and the Mummy had a Technical fault while we were there, but we were able to get back later and ride it on the Express. Otherwise, these two would have been walk-ons as well.
A Gourmet Lunch is included in the VIP Experience and wow, this was one of the best meals we had on our trip! After being greeted by Doc Brown (Yeah, from back to the Future and No, we have no idea why!) we were seated on the terrace overlooking the Valley in the wonderful California sun. Lunch was a buffet with a huge selection. It was simply fantastic.
We had a full hour to relax take in the setting and really enjoy the food. Roast Chicken, Roasted Salmon, Pizza, Amazing Salads, Chicken Tenders, Various Vegetables, Chicken Tikka Massala, Roasted Pork Loin, and Mac and Cheese. There was also Fresh Scampi and the most wonderful Lobster Rissoto and fresh roasted Beef Tri-Tip!
For dessert, there were a host of mini-desserts, muffins, Creme Brulees along with warm chocolate chip cookies and Nutella Crepes! And if that is not enough there was some amazing Gelato too! There was also a chilled drinks cabinet where you can help yourself and some large fountains with chilled pink lemonade and fruit water!
It was seriously impressive and really tasty!
VIP Studio Tour
After lunch was the Main Event the VIP Tour of the Studios. Really this is pretty much identical to the Main Studio Tours, with two major differences.
1 – You are in a much smaller Tram, with lush seats and far fewer people. You get two groups combined so around 20 people tops and two individual tour guides. Danny and the tour guide from the other group.
2 – You get to stop! The tour does not really go anywhere the main tour doesn’t but when you get to certain places the tram pulls up and you can get out and explore a little while the guide fills you in.
You still get all the rides and experiences the regular tour does, Jaws, King Kong, Fast And The Furious, Earthquake, the Flood, Norman Bates, etc, but you also get to stop and really explore certain locations.
Aka …Hill Valley from back to the future. You pass through here on the regular tour and try to snatch a glimpse of the town hall from the Trilogy, trying to snap a shot from the wrong side of the tram!
But on the VIP Your we pulled up and had a good look around and were even allowed to peek inside!
New York Street
Again, the main tours get a look at this famous street but got to get out and have a good look around these facades that have featured in hundreds of movies!
France was a little uninspiring for us as many of the productions shot here we had not seen but it’s a lovely little set. Recently used in “The Good Place”
The Plane Crash set was used in the 2005 feature War Of The Worlds with Tom Cruise. The stars wake up after a huge explosion to find a 747 had landed on their house. To film this Scene, Speilberg purchases an actual 747 et and had it cut up to mimic a real plane crash. After the filming, there was little use for the wreckage so the Park thought it would make a great attraction on Tour.
We stopped here and got to have a really good look around, it is seriously freaky just wandering around the charged mangles mess of a real Jumbe Jet. We thought if creepy from the Normal Tour Drive-bys, but to actually see it up close!
Erm, I think that’s it…or was there somewhere else we went…I can’t remember…
Ahh yes, The home of Desperate Housewives, one of Kate’s most loved shows and the point of much disappointment in the past. Finally, we were here, and no quick drive-by! we were treated to a good 10-15 minutes on the Lane seeing all the houses, exploring the interiors of some and the back gardens of others, and generally getting a really deep and thorough look around this iconic lane!
We got some great shots of both the interior and exterior of all of the most famous houses. It really was a thrill for kate just being here…at last!
It’s not just Desperate Housewives that are filmed here, Munsters, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Why Him, Deep Impact, Sliders, Superstore, Gremlins, Casper, and many many more! Often whenever “suburbia” is needed in a film, Colonial avenue is used. We are getting really good at spotting it too, recently seen in the New Bel Air series on Peacock.
The final act of our tour guides before we were let loose back into the park was to seat us at the Waterworld Show. We are not quite sure how they timed this as well as they did and it may have been a bit of a fluke but we arrived 2 to 3 mins before the show started. We just waltzed right in, sat down, and off the show went!
It really is a great show! It’s one of these weird things about theme parks, the ride or show can sometimes be much more loved than the IP it was based upon! No one really cared about Waterworld in 1995, they certainly don’t now! So why has this stage show lasted SO long…Because it’s awesome!
You can just ignore the story, it’s the stunts the sets, and the effects that just make this incredible! No matter how many times you see it, when that plane arrives…just wow!
And that was it. Our VIP Experience was over.
But we still had our VIP Passes and several hours left in the park. The first port of call was The Mummy. This has a 180-minute wait as it had been down half the day! But with our Express Passes, we basically walked on and got a front seat too. This was not as savage as we remembered and is definitely less violent than the Orlando version, but it’s still a pretty rough ride!
Then we headed back to Jurrasic World. We met Blue and then jumped back n the Ride for a night-time/dusk edition of Jurrasic World! As we were in the area we couldn’t resist another go on Transformers as well, it is one of our favorite rides!
Then we headed back up to Hogsmead for some Harry Potter Fun. On the way, we grabbed a Duff from Moes! This had been packed all day but was pretty quiet so we popped in. And we stopped by the Dreamworks Theatre too. At Hogsmead we had a really good look around, We are usually guilty of doing a real fly-by just heading in, hitting the rides, and leaving, but we spent a good amount of time nosing around and exploring all the shops and nooks and crannies. It really is an incredibly detailed world!
Naturally, we hit up Forbidden Journey again and had a beer in the Hogs Head. We didn’t go for butterbeer as, well it’s horrible! Finally, after getting a few great night shots we called it a day. Heading out of the park we picked up some Taco Bell to eat at the hotel and caught a Shuttle Bus Back to the Hilton!
Was the VIP Experience worth it?
We go into detail about this on our full guide here, and just in a monetary sense it’s pretty good value, you get a lot for your money and the VIP Studio tour is amazing and gets you to places you never imagined! However, this is not the deciding factor for us!
There are times when you have seminal realization. Where suddenly you realize you have been doing things wrong, and that there is a better way. I used to watch my local Football (Soccer?) team, Manchester United, and would regularly attend matches. Then the company I worked for paid for Corporate Seats for a season or two and we were allowed to attend some matches. With a 3-course Meal, Bottomless Wine, comfortable lounge, Padded Seat, and guest appearances, it changed the way you experienced a match. It made me think wow, I really can’t go back to the old way of doing things THIS IS JUST BETTER.
That’s how the VIP Experience at Universal Hollywood felt! We usually leave theme parks, utterly destroyed. Exhausted and aching to the bone. Leaving tonight felt like a bit of light effort. We had seen the park and the studio in in-depth detail and enjoyed everything the park had to offer, several times over! And we were fine.
This is a SO much more civilized and refined way of seeing a theme park we wish we had the same option at Disneyland later in the Week…
But we don’t. Back to slumming it!
Walking Total – 17,111 Steps – 8.6 Miles
A big day for our walking total but as you will see later in the week this is a really low number for a Themepark Day, and is mainly done to the efficiency that our guide got us through the park!