Universal Studios Hollywood is one of California’s top tourist attractions and with several top rides, some great shows, quirky food, and of course the world-famous Hollywood Studios Tour, not to mention the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, it’s not hard to see why. But there is an alternate way to experience that park and that is via the VIP Experience.
The Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience takes you on a VIP tour of the Studios, showing you behind-the-scenes areas and locales you just would not otherwise get to see. Along with this, there are a host of other perks of being VIP and offering a full premium experience when visiting the Park. However, these packages are not cheap! They can run at 3-4 times the cost of a base ticket. So are the VIP Tours worth it? we headed to the Studios to find out and bring you our detailed Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience Review
What is the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience
The VIP Experience is a full-day package where you experience a personalized tour of the Studios along with a guided tour of the Themepark (forget about queuing!) and access to VIP lounges where you can enjoy breakfast and lunch.
From the moment you arrive via the red carpeted VIP Entrance, you are treated as a VIP and given the real star treatment. It is a totally different way to experience a theme park where every need is catered for and the usual hustle and bustle of visiting a themepark are consigned to the scrapheap!
Are the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experiences Worth IT?
This really a pretty complex question, and while we can give a one-word answer, YES, That’s not particularly helpful. We need to explain that a bit better and give the reasons why.
This article is here to take a deep dive into exactly what to expect, what you get, and how that translates into Value and Worth. But for those wanting a pretty short version, The VIP Experience is actually only around $70 more than paying for the things you get separately and offers an incredible amount of extra on top of that.
It is a totally different way of visiting a themepark, There are simply no Queues, no hassles, no crowds to deal with, no low-quality overpriced Themepark food to the stomach, No spending hours on your feet, and lots and lots of extras and behind the scenes treats that no-one else gets! That’s about as short as we can make it, lets go for the LONG answer:
How Much is the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience
Prices vary based on Expected Attendance and Surge Pricing, Mid-Week and Off-Season being the cheapest.
Prices Start at $369 and go up right to $519!
You will find Base Tickets mirror this pricing structure along with the Express Pass, so it’s all relative.
Where to Buy The VIP Experience at a Discount?
We have a full article on purchasing discounted Universal Studios Tickets and this also covers the VIP Experience There is only limited scope for discounts as Universal protects its ticket prices closely.
The best choice for purchasing the VIP Experience is:
Undercover Tourist is one of the leading Re-seller sites. There Buying power means you can usually save an extra 5-10% over the Online price. It’s not a lot but every little helps.
What is Included with the Tour?
- VIP Studio Tour
- VIP Tour of the Themepark including Ride WALK-ONS!
- Personal Tour Guide for the Day
- Complimentary valet parking
- VIP Entrance to Park
- VIP Lounge with “Light” Breakfast
- Gourmet Lunch
- Free Bottled Water All-Day
- Free Poncho’s for Water Rides
- Reserved Seats for Shows
As you can see there are a lot of perks thrown in with the VIP Experience, it’s far more than just an upgraded tour of the Studios. But seeing a list of perks is not really the same as knowing if they are valuable so let’s dig into that a little.
Our Day at At Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience
Let’s Walk you through our day at the Park and show you exactly what we received, what we saw, and how our day went. This will give you the best idea of whether this experience is for you or not and if it works out as good value.
We arrived at the Park bright and early just after 09:10. We were staying in the Hilton Just across the road*, and as breakfast is included we had a bit of a lie-in really. Our tour was not until 09:45 and the Park opening was at 09:00, which meant things were pretty hectic. We had chosen to visit on a Saturday to really see how the VIP tour could cut through the crowds.
The First perk was the VIP Entrance. With the massed hordes pouring through the turnstiles it was a very welcome treat to head to our private entrance, complete with Red-Carpet, to be greeted by a personal welcome and a calm and relaxed check-in process. A million miles away from the usual crush of theme park entrances!
Here we were presented with our VIP Lanyards and Passes, something that would end up as really prized possessions by the end of the day, and were assigned a personal Host. Who we would meet later on.
*This actually meant we missed out on one of the Perks, Enjoy complimentary valet parking with a $50 value ($30 for regular parking)
Light Breakfast and Host Greeting
The Breakfast is served in the VIP Suite at the entrance to Universal Studios. It’s a pretty wonderful space and overlooks the park entrance so you can see the hordes pile into the park, while you sip your coffee.
The Light Refreshments on offer is a very poor description of the breakfast selection, but in a good way, there was a large and varied selection of food on offer, and far more than anyone could ask for. We think the light refreshments mean basically not to expect a hot cooked breakfast but other than that there was everything you could wish for!
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 sipped juice and coffee overlooking the mayhem, below in the warm Cali sun Danny came by to introduce himself. He was to be our tour guide for the day. The first order of business was tailoring our tour to suit our specific interests and wants. This worked very well for us as Danny was able to cater pretty exactly to our wishes.
One of the whole reasons for us taking the tour was to get to visit Colonial Street. This small culdesac is well known from several TV Shows and movies but is best known as Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives. Every time we have visited the studios, for one reason or another we have not been able to visit the area, usually as they are shooting there, but the chances of getting to see the street are vastly improved by going VIP and Visiting on a weekend. We did both.
Danny was delighted to ensure that we would be able to visit the Street and get out and explore, he also highlighted the problems with visiting the Street as it would be closed for all visitors from tomorrow as the set is being dressed for filming! More on the Lane later on.
Danny also explained how the day would work, first off, in the morning we would visit the themepark, then break for lunch, before heading out into the Studios for the afternoon. Finally, Danny had reserved seats for us at the Water World Show. We would say goodbye but we would still have 5-6 hours in the Park to use our Express Passes to re-ride anything we wanted.
While this is a VIP Tour, it’s not a private tour and our group consisted of 3 couples (including us) and a family of 4, so 10 people in total, and to be honest it was nice to share the experience with others.
Tour of the Universal Studios Park
Note – We did the tour of the Park before lunch and the Studio tour after, but this is not always the case, they split the groups up to limit the numbers in the studios, which gives you a more intimate experience, so you may do the studio first and the park second, but there is really no difference other than the order.
After Breakfast, we headed out to the Park. It was crazy busy and the big rides were all closing in on 1hour+ Queues however armed with our Express Passes this would be no problem. However, we had something even better…Danny.
The tour of the park basically involves your guide walking you right to the front of every ride and getting you whatever seats you want, front row, back row, hiding from the water on Jurrasic World, whatever, just ask. He also knows the Park like the back of his hand so you automatically take the easiest and shortest routes between the rides meaning much less time on your feet.
Within 1.5-2 hours we had hit all the top rides that were running that day.
- Secret Life Of Pets
- Despicable Me – Minion Meyhem
- Transformers – 3D
- Jurrasic World
- Flight Of The Hippogriff
- Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey
On top of this, Danny has fantastic crowd control and you really feel bubbled from the madness surrounding you. He also has some incredible knowledge of the park and the studios and regales you with tales and interesting titbits about the Rides, the park, and its development. Of course, you will probably get a different guide than Danny but all VIP Hosts are just as well-informed and entertaining.
Free Ponchos were provided for Jurassic World, along with free water at any point and Danny also acted as a handy backpack Mule and would hold your bags while you ride certain rides where you would otherwise have had to use the free lockers.
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 on later and ride using our Express Passes. Otherwise, these two would have been walk-ons as well.
Overall this was the easiest, quickest, and most satisfying way to visit a theme park. We had most of the rides ticked off with zero queues and had an absolute blast. At this point, we think the VIP had probably been worth it, and we still had a whole heap of perks remaining including the main event the VIP Tour.
Lunch was served in the Moulin Rouge restaurant which is only open to VIP Guests and is a really beautiful restaurant. We were greeted by Doc Brown from Back to the Future, for some reason, and shown to our seats out on the Terrace. The outdoor patio overlooks the Lower Lot and the San Fernando Mountains and is covered by vines, reminiscent of a Napa Valley Terrace.
Foodwise we were really blown away. Themepark food is not the best and even the most Gourmet of Universal’s Dining options leave a lot to be desired. But the All-You-Can-Eat Gourmet Buffet was stunning!
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, and 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! We got a good hour to enjoy our meal and endless soft drinks before we headed back to meet up with Danny and the group once more.
VIP Tour of Universal Studios
With all the perks and added extras, it can be hard to remember what the REAL reason for the Vip Experience is, the extended and personalized tour of the Studios. We love the Universal Studios’s tours, but they are really a kind of glorified ride, and half of the experience is made up of choreographed set pieces, and you kind of glide through some of the most interesting parts of the studios with a brief pause in front of choice locations with just a moment to take it in and grab a photo.
The VIP Tours are completely different. You are seated on a much smaller Tram Vehicle with two VIP Hosts and a driver, who take you on a custom tour of the Studio and stop the tram at various locations to let you out and really explore and take in the setting.
The VIP Tour Tram is super plush with comfy seats, a cooler filled with water, and great views out from both sides and it is quite a bit narrower than the monster articulated trams of the main tour. The number here doubles as two groups from the morning are pulled together on the tour and the two guides combined for double the knowledge.
It’s worth saying the Tour takes in exactly the same locales and attractions as the main tour does, you do not need to come back and do the tour as a ride later. You still get the attractions such as Kong Skull Island and The Fast And The Furious, and you get all the set pieces such as Jaws, The Earthquake Simulator, The Flash Flood, and the attack of Norman Bates (read more on this here). You get everything you expect, you just get more besides.
As the tour is personalized the locations will always vary slightly, but some are practically set in stone, such as Courthouse Square and the Plane Crash Site.
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 been featured in hundreds of movies and T.V. shows! Far more than you can recognize and probably more than is ever filmed in actual New York!
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”, It is a lovely set however, and was nice to hear the tales and history of the locale provided by our guides.
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 purchased an actual 747 jet 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 the Tour.
We stopped here and got to have a really good look around, it is seriously freaky just wandering around the charged mangled mess of a real Jumbe Jet. We thought it creepy from the Normal Tour Drive-bys, but to actually see it up close makes it feel even more so!
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 or TV show Colonial avenue is used. We are getting really good at spotting it too, recently seen in the new Bel Air series on Peacock.
Visiting the lane was our main objective in taking the VIP Tour and it was really great to finally make it here. Kate was really in her element and loved finally getting to one of her favorite streets. It really is hit or miss if the tours come here, so we were super happy to make it.
For your best chance of visiting the Street visit on a weekend and do the VIP tour.
After 2.5 hours of exploring the Studio, the VIP Experience was drawing to a close. and we headed back to the park.
The final perk we experienced was premium seating at the Waterworld show. Again, there was no waiting around. We walked up to the show, straight in, and into our reserved seats right in the center of the theater. To bag these without a VIP Host would have meant 1-hour+ Queuing and a long wait in the seats for the show to start. We are really not sure how the hosts timed this so well as we didn’t even have more than 5 mins in the seats before the show started!
The show itself is unmissable. It’s one of those things that really doesn’t make immediate sense why it’s still running! Waterworld is best known as being a bit of a flop and we never really cared for it when it was a big thing, now, nearing 30 years later when half the audience does not even know there ever was a Waterworld film it’s still running as the headlining show at a major themepark…Why?
Because it’s just so good! Forget about the theming, forget about the story, and just enjoy the amazing stunts and the incredible special effects. Watch the sparks fly as machine guns pepper the gangways, watch the jetskis and airboats blast around the stage and soak the unwitting guests who chose to sit too close. Marvel as people fall several stories into the waters below and hear the thud as your jaw hits the floor when the Airplane arrives!
This show doesn’t get old and that’s why it’s still running. It really is like watching a movie happen right in front of your eyes!
Unlimited Express Pass
With that our VIP Experience was over, but the day was not done. We met up with Danny one final time where he offered advice on what to do and see next and offered us another poncho for Jurassic World.
We still had 5 hours+ to explore the park and the VIP Passes were our unlimited Express passes to skip the line on any rides. So we tipped our awesome host generously and headed off into the park!
We got in many more rides before calling it a day (read about this here) and could have done a lot more as we baled out early, content with an incredible day!
The final perk was the feeling in our feet! After a day at a themepark, we are typically dead on our feet. That dull thumping ache in the soles of your feet that remains you, you have been on them all day was just not there! It was a long hard day, but not a typical theme park day, and when we headed back to the hotel we were tired but still had energy left despite leaving no stone unturned!
Are the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experiences Worth IT?
First, we are going to break down the Pure Numbers to see if simply adding up all the stuff we got was equal or lesser value than paying separately. This is more for interest than a real measure of importance as there are things we got we just can’t put a price on, which is where the real value lies, but we still were curious to see how it all add’s up…
*Remember these prices fluctuate in terms of the ticket price and express passes but we chose a Moderately priced day to give the best balance.
Ticket Price: $125
Express Pass: $145
Complimentary Valet Parking: $30 (we have just priced for General Parking here as not many would use Valet unless they were VIP)
Breakfast: $15 – Our breakfast was worth Way more than this, but we are just assuming you would buy a regular breakfast from Starbucks or at the Hotel if not on the VIP
Poncho x2: $0 – Seriously, no one bought these not on the tour so we are not counting them as value, but would have been $10+ Each!
Water x3: $18 – We had unlimited bottled water all day, and with Bottles costing $4 from a concession stand, that adds up quickly. We are not sure how many we drank, but three sounds pretty reasonable.
Lunch: $30 Again, the lunch we got was mind blowing, we would have happily paid $50-60 for it, but most people are not going to spend that, but they will need to eat somewhere, and we got unlimited drinks so we think $30 is about the right amount.
VIP Experience Price: $389
So no, in Pure numbers there is a shortfall in cost, but really we can’t state enough how much extra we got that you can not argue the value. And it’s value is worth far far far more than $27!
The Incredible Tour Guide, being walked onto Rides, Tailored VIP Tour of the Studio, Getting out and walking around sets, Reserved Seating for the Waterworld Show, VIP Lounge, Stunning Lunch Venue, The Quality of the food: all definitely adds up to more value than $27 could ever represent.
It is worth considering how much extra money you usually spend in a Park. Apart from a Duff Beer and far too much money spent in that Harry Potter Gift Shops, we didn’t spend a dollar all day. Everything we required was covered by the VIP Experience!
Let’s be clear, visiting Universal Studios Hollywood via the VIP Experience caused us to reevaluate how we view visiting theme parks! There are moments in your life when you suddenly realize you have been doing it wrong all these years!
I used to regularly visit soccer matches in the UK and sit in the cheap seats enjoying the game and paying heavily for any extras such as watered-down beer and terrible hotdogs. Then the company I worked for got a hospitality package to woo customers, and we were allowed to use it when it was available. Visiting the ground on a hospitality package, with a comfortable lounge, 3-course meal, unlimited wine, and guest appearances, suddenly made me realize how poor the regular experience really was!
The VIP Experience is like this. It makes you realize how much better themepark visits really can be. Forget the fighting with the masses, the hours in queues, the greasy fried food, $6 for water, and wandering around with a paper map trying not to look lost!
It’s awful! And with the VIP Tour that all goes away!
It was also really sobering to note the effect the tour didn’t have on our bodies. As we mentioned, visiting theme parks can be utterly brutal! For a comparison, just a few days after this we headed to Disneyland and were left dead on our feet.
At Disney, we clocked up 32,117 Steps over 16.2 Miles and were greeted by a 5 am alarm call. VIP At Universal meant a much later start, a measly 17,111 Steps – 8.6 Miles, and being back at the hotel in time for dinner! And we saw everything the park had to offer!
It really is just a more civilized way of doing things!
In summary, the VIP Experiences are utterly fantastic, but we do need to temper this somewhat. This review has come across as pretty gushing, and this is because the experience really is top-of-the-line. You get an awful lot for your money!
But let’s be clear, you do have to hand over quite a lot of it!
In our financial assessment, we show how close the VIP is to buying things separately, but you don’t HAVE to buy everything to have a great day at the park. Visit on a weekday, in the offseason, secure some discounted tickets, DIY Breakfast, snacks for lunch, and lots of queueing and you can see 80% of what we did for less than $100 per person!
The VIP tours also really come into their own on busy days. The Express Pass is great but at times Universal can be pretty quiet, we have been where queues were less than 15 mins for popular rides and we simply walked onto many. The value of a product that allows you to bypass a 15 min queue is considerably less than one that allows you to bypass a 2-hour queue!
We really are going to struggle to visit again without the VIP privileges, it really was that good we don’t want to go back to the regular tickets but the high costs mean we certainly will still visit as muggles most of the time.
The biggest selling point, the main reason for plumping for the VIP Experience is the Studio Tour. This was so much better than the regular tours that it’s hard to put a value on it. For this reason, we think the VIP is well worth it, especially if you are only going to visit once, or if you are a regular and just want the next level!
While the VIP Experience is expensive, at no point during our visit did we wonder or even question whether it was money well spent! Really if you want to experience the Park in the absolute best way possible the VIP Experience is worth every penny!
Have Your Say
Have you done the VIP Experience at Universal? What were your thoughts and impressions on the Experience? Did you find it good value? Did you get your money’s worth? Did you see everything you wanted? What did you make of the food? Maybe you had a bad experience, we would love to hear about that. What ever your thoughts we would love to hear them in the comments below.
And if you have any questions just fire away in the comments too.
6 thoughts on “Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience Review – Are the VIP Tours Worth it?”
I did the VIP and backlot tour about 5 years ago. After the backlot tour we pretty much were on our own, do they make you stay with a tour going on all the rides? There are the ones I don’t want to go on and some I want to do several times. I also don’t want to see Waterworld again. Is there leeway?
I think it’s totally worth it.
We did the tour of the themepark first, and did all the rides once. We stayed together but the tour guide walked you onto the rides, so if you did want to skip one, you would just have to wait 10-15 mins while everyone did it. Its worth it just so the guide can walk you on the rides, zero queue
After lunch we did the tour, but it can be the other way round, if so you “could” leave the group and do your own thing, but dont, having that walk on and guided tour is well worth hanging round out side any rides you dont want.
After that you get the best seats at waterworld.
Finally after all that you get VIP passes and can go back and do anything you want to do again. VIP passes are not as good as the walk-ons the guide gets you but stil very short waits.
Its such a good day, and such a good way of visiting a park, we struggle to do it the old way now!
Thank you for this comprehensive review. We’re planning on visiting midweek (Tue or Wed) in early December 2023. So it’ll be mid week, off season. However the exchange rate (we’re from New Zealand) is not in our favour so the VIP would be a huge cost for us. I’m trying to work out if it’s worth it or not and this write-up really helps 🙂
Oh yeah, we know all about the exchange rate, it’s so bad for us right now as we have a weak £ and a strong dollar so it’s a double whammy!
We understand everyone is different so the best way to show you if it’s worth it is just to explain honestly what you get and you can make the decision. We really love the VIP experience and think it is definitely worth it, BUT it is a big chunk of cash for just one single-day experience!
We are still trying to decide if out next visit in May will be VIP or Vanilla!
Hope you have a great trip, whatever you decide
VIP Experience at Universal Hollywood is the way to go (with the right guide). We’ve done it several times, with the latest tour being the best day ever! Our guide, Donald, was superb in every way. A VERY skilled “people person,” knowledgeable, friendly, and funny. An over-the-top professional!
Yep totally agree, we loved out guide, and we can see if you had a mediocre guide, the experience would not be quite as good, but it still is pretty awesome. We are back in May, and just couldn’t bare doing it the “basic” way. It really isn’t that much more than Entry+Expresspass and what you get for the xtr is awesome.