Hi! It’s Annie!
Recently I returned to Universal Studios Hollywood after being fully vaccinated and waiting the designated two weeks afterwards to make sure I had no symptoms after the fact. If you are going to return to a theme park I highly recommend making sure you also have done all of those things I mentioned above. For your safety and everyone else’s safety. With the safety precaution out of the way, I had so much fun returning to Universal after over a year and I also have a lot of thoughts. There have been a couple of changes and additions that I was able to enjoy this time around. So, I just figured I would recount my experience with some reviews on the new stuff and some words of warning about some of the other stuff. Let’s go!
The Secret Life of Pets-Off the Leash:
This new ride just opened after it was scheduled to open last year and I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait. The entire facade to the building is disguised like a city apartment complex, complete with a preschool that’s actually one of the exits to the ride. I highly recommend hitting this one first when you get there for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Universal is currently hosting several grad nights for both 2020 and 2021 high school grads, and they only have a couple hours of regular park time to spend towards the end of the day before grad night starts for them. Also, most people who are new to going to the park will be excited for Harry Potter and will start their day out there. My family hit this ride first and we waited for five minutes. Towards the end of the day it was more like an hour long. But this ride is so incredibly cute. The line feels like it’s half the experience. Inside the line you walk through several different apartment rooms within an apartment complex. Each room has its own details that hint at a different sort of person living there. For example, there’s what looks like a very small toddler’s room, a little girl’s room in all pink, a living room with a giant television, and a kitchen. Throughout the line as well as the ride you’ll find several animatronics. In the kitchen there’s a dog using a mixer to scratch himself. Every room is so detailed, and then the ride itself is the same way. Universal has been receiving requests for a long time now hoping that Universal would open a more family-friendly ride that used mostly practical effects. I talked more about this in another post, but Universal is known to over-utilize screens in their rides and to focus more on thrill rides. This is definitely an answer to that. The practical effects in this ride are great! There’s a part where an animatronic dog is shaking after being given a bath and water splashes on the guests. I only have two complaints about this ride. The first is that it moves really slow. While I’m all for having more time in the ride, it moves at such a pace that it would be much much faster to get out and walk. (You aren’t allowed to do that, I just though I’d make that clear just in case. Because ahhhh.) Though I do like seeing every detail so I’m not hugely upset with this. The other is that sometimes the ride suffers from having too many noises going on at once. There was one section of the ride where a construction vehicle was making a lot of noise directly next to a character who was talking to the audience. For all the time we were there, I couldn’t tell what that character was saying because it was much too loud. But over-all I loved this ride! Especially for pride month considering the families that come in to adopt guests in the ride are all different, including an LGBTQ+ family.
Of course, I couldn’t make a post about going back without mentioning this. Everyone is required to keep their masks on at all times except for while actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas. They are also seating each ride every other row with only one party per row. My sister and I were actually sat alone at the very front of Jurassic World and that was an amazing experience. It almost felt like we had the entire ride to ourselves because no one else was there. And for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, we really did get the entire ride to ourselves considering it’s just one bench. There’s also social distancing places for you to stand throughout the line. Unfortunately, my family were some of the only people heeding these markers. So be prepared to deal with a lot of people who are determined to break all the rules. Though the workers are pretty good at making sure everyone keeps their masks on. Also, if you are sensitive to heat, like me, keep in mind that air conditioned lines are not going to be a fall back for you here. They are limiting the amount of time people spend inside, so most of the lines are outside and you get about five minutes to walk through the inside.
I’m not quite sure what made them decide to do this, put they decided to pull out all the stunt cars for the re-opening. During quarantine they got rid of Whoville inside the Studio Tour, probably because it was not made of heavy materials and much of it was breaking and the paint was also fading. That entire area is now made up of rarer stunt cars. Also, because of the upcoming release of ‘F9’ a bunch of cars from the ‘Fast and Furious’ are displayed in the main plaza area. They’re cool to see!
I just want to give a general warning; for the most part Universal has shortened the amount of places to eat. This also means less options for those who might be vegan or vegetarian. This is just fair warning, just because a restaurant says it has vegan options on the app doesn’t mean it does. Sometimes it just means that they are prepared to make substitutions to certain meals. Which generally means holding the ceaser dressing on a ceaser salad rather than actually having a substantial vegan meal. There are places to eat that have regular vegan options, but be prepared to hunt for a while.
Over-all I really loved my time back at Universal! Their precautions are very well thought out and most of them are as enforced as possible. It’s really not their fault that people are not heeding the overhead announcements that comes on every five minutes in the line. But for the most part, things are going pretty smoothly. My best advice if you’re going is to plan it out. Make sure you know where you’re planning to eat and where you’re looking to go. But most of the places remain pleasantly accessible without as much hassle as you probably think there will be. And all the new additions are amazing and adorable! I just ask that you please follow the rules.
See you across the pond!