Universal Studios Hollywood is an action-packed theme park that can hold its head up high against many of its rivals and competitors. However, there is one thing that really sets it apart from the competition. The Park is located on the edge of Universal Studio’s actual Back-lot Filming locations. For decades the Studio has offered tours of the facility and is now one of the premier “rides” at the Park. The Tours have changed vastly over the years so are they still any good or just a gimmick, find out with our Universal Studios Tour Review.
- Location – Upper Lot, Universal Studios Hollywood
- Type – Tram Tour With 3/4D Tunnel Rides x2 and Special Effects Zones
- Duration – 1 Hour +
- Height Restriction – None
- Average Queue time – 30 mins – 1 hrs
- Single Rider – No
- Additional Info – Tours available in Spanish and Mandarin (as well as English, obviously)
Universal Studios Tour
We really do love the Universal Studio Tours and Actually, it is not only one the best attractions at Universal but possibly up there in all of L.A. The Park itself is good but it’s not outstanding and falls well short of its sister Park in Florida. But that is without the Tour, With that factored in the Hollywood park is right there as a must-visit, the tour really is that good. That’s a pretty bold statement. So let’s take a look at the actual tour to try and show you why we love them SO much.
Things don’t start well. The Queue line is awful. A total cattle pen with little organization and nothing to see. If it is hot there is no shelter from the sun as you wait in line for the trams to arrive. The only plus is the queue moves quite well as the trams are large and regular.
The Trams are pretty impressive beasts, seating up to 46 (Rows of 6) People per tram and usually 3 trams per train. These beasts are powered by a pretty beefy engine, and pump out a lot of heat. They really are a thing to behold and we have a lot of respect for the drivers especially in some of the trickier parts of the tour.
NOTE – If you are having a hard time choosing a side try and go for the left-hand side of the tram. Most things happen on the left and you get the best views. It’s not perfect and some things are better from the right, there is no perfect choice unfortunately
The Tour is currently narrated by Jimmy Fallon. Obviously via a recorded link but as the tour is different every day you still get a real tour guide to point out the sights, scenes, and people you are actually seeing, To Be honest, the Jimmy Fallon Tie in is a bit of nothing, the Tour Guide is the Star of the Show.
We will Describe the typical route and things we have seen on our tours but you should understand this is a live studio and areas and locations can and are used for filming and tour trams make bad movie backdrops, so routes and sights can and do change, but we are going for typical.
The tour starts off touring the Sound stages of Universal. These are where Tv Shows, Indoor sets, and complex sets are built. The tour here is pretty dull actually, while some of the sound stages are incredible inside you don’t get to go in. So apart from a sneaky open door, you are just looking at buildings. Dull Buildings at that. The guide will point out any current Movies or programs being shot. The best part about this tour is this is where you are most likely to see Celebs!
Will We See Celebrities?
This is one of most people’s big questions and the answer is …probably. There is NO guarantee and the quality may be dubious, but there is a very good chance. Unlike other Studio tours, Such as Warner Bros, where the Celebs hideaway and the tour guides are not allowed to point them out (They Still do, subtlety) They are encouraged to interact with the tours, even stand and wave and inviting pictures. Seeing Celebs is part of the expectation for these tours so it’s great to see it embraced. Don’t expect it though it’s all about timing.
Movie Sets and Locations
The Tour then heads into the Outdoor Facade areas. These are Metropolitan areas that resemble different City’s and locations to save shooting on location saving $millions and not requiring shutting down a real city street. These locations feature in many films including the brownstone from Home Alone 2 and Bruce Almighty. The Tour also takes you to the clock tower from Back To The Future
This Whole area is pretty fantastic and is one of the highlights of the tour for us. The amount of cinema history created here is pretty moving and it gives a real insight into the goings-on behind the scenes in the Film Industry. To be honest some of the fakeries are a little disheartening but it’s nice to feel “in on it” rather than being fooled.
After a good 15 mins exploring this area, you head off for your first “ride”
King Kong 360 3D – Ride
Similar to its counterpart in Orlando the King Kong Ride is an HD 3D Tunnel ride where the tram drives into a digitized Tunnel and the action appears all around the occupants. Riders will be Given 3D Specs that are useless for the most part of the tour and really just a pain but are finally put to use in the Kong Ride.
The Journey takes you through a prehistoric jungle where the trams are predictably attacked by Dinosaurs and then embroiled in a duel between the dinosaurs and Kong. The Ride uses air and water effects along with tram movement and is pretty immersive. Some of the action can be missed as it takes place on either side of you and it’s easy to be looking the wrong way when something exciting is going on behind you.
The best effects are the swinging tram effects which do feel a lot like swinging across an abyss. The too and fro war of the beasts does provide a few
Overall it feels a bit awkward. you are not really sure why during a tour of the studios suddenly you are thrust into this King Kong duel. But another way of looking at is you are getting a ride thrown into the tour without the need to queue. And it’s a pretty decent ride at that.
After exiting your tour moves on. The next stop is the Star Cars where you get to see some famous cars from movies such as Back To Future, Jurassic Park, and Fast and the Furious. In all honesty, they have seen better days and could do with a good detailing.
As the Tour takes in the Wild West and Old Mexico Sets which are really cool to see, it stops by a dried-up river bed. Within Seconds the streets are filled with gushing water as the flood cascaded down the hill and into the side of the tram. Before you know it it’s over and the tram moves on.
The Earthquake zone is a Special effect demonstration where the whole set transforms from a regular San Francisco Subway into a disaster set as a huge earthquake rips through the stage. There are Exploding Trucks, Flying Sparks, and cascading floods as the set is torn apart.
Once the Tram
Amity Island – Jaws
The Jaws scene is as old as time, or so it seems, and was introduced in 1975 a year after the Film. It is a very dated attraction but is really charming and dripping with nostalgia. We fear the datedness of the ride makes it a target for removal/replacement but this would be sacrilege in our opinion so hopefully it lives on for decades more!
You start off arriving at Amity Island before things take a turn for the worse. There is fire and explosions before the Tram is attacked by the shark. The Dummy shark is every bit as realistic as the films Shark, which is not very! But that’s not the point at all. It’s just a fun romp down Memory lane.
The Tour now takes in Wisteria Lane, However, this is a Heavily used film set and is very often left out due to filming. It’s quite frustrating to drive by the junction of Wisteria Lane, or Colonial Street as it’s called, and not head down for a look. Which seems to be the case whenever we go! And, yes, we are fairly bitter about it!
Bates Motel – Psycho
The Tour then swings past the Bate motel from the Psycho movie, with the house set on the hill behind with mother rocking in the window. As you pass the Motel Norman will leave one of the rooms with a “package”. He then makes a beeline for the Tram to Silence the Witnesses. It’s all a bit Cheesy, yes. But good fun.
War Of The Worlds – Plane Wreck
During the production of
Passing through the wreckage scene is genuinely unnerving and creepy. Some people really just dislike this part of the tour as it makes them that uncomfortable. It is very lifelike as it is an actual plane so it doesn’t get much more real. Thankfully there are no gore effects as that would be too much.
After the Wreckage, the tour loops around falls lake with its giant green screen and cabin from “the great outdoors” before heading to the final segment of the tour it’s another ride Segment.
Fast and the Furious – Supercharged – Ride
Like the Kong Ride, we treat this as a “Free Ride”, However unlike Kong, you will be really glad you didn’t queue for this one. The intro is long, pretty uninteresting, and forgettable. You are then thrust into a Fast And Furious Car chase. However, unlike Fighting Dinosaurs and Giant Gorilla’s Car chases surprisingly don’t work too well in a tram.
There is a lack of suspense, realism, fear, or excitement, it really isn’t a good ride. The Imagery is a bit low-rent video game and doesn’t feel real or convincing. It’s worth saying we love the Franchise (and I particularly love Japanese performance cars, have owned several, and consider the original Film one of my favorite films of all time) We really wanted to like the ride, but it just doesn’t work. In our opinion of course, but we left very underwhelmed.
Still, As we say, look at it as a ride you don’t have to queue for and it’s actually better than the standalone version in Orlando!
This marks the end of the tour apart from some great views studios and valley off to the left of the tram.
Overall we love the tour. It is completely unique and takes you to some epically Iconic and unique locations. Some of the tour is very dated but the nostalgia element completely overrides this. Although for younger people this may be lost.
Some of the set pieces are a little out of place and some pretty rubbish (F&F) but as it’s one queue for nearly an hour of fun it’s great value in terms of queue time for entertainment.
Simply Put, Everyone heading to the park should DEFINITELY take the tour. It is, without doubt, the number one attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. In fact, if the above description of the Tour leaves you a bit cold, it might be worth skipping the entire park. It is such a major part of the Studio experience. Without it, the park is a little bit weak and we question the $119 ticket price.
Universal Studios Tour
Have Your Say
Let us know what you think of the Studio tour? Have you done the tour or are you planning on going soon? What was your favorite part? What are you hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to ask any questions below.