I like to gather little tips to record when I visit someplace new to help make my second trip smoother. Here are a few things I picked up from my visit to Universal Studios this month.
Universal Studios Tips and Tricks
1. If you plan to visit the parks, it's best to get there early and leave early rather than arriving late and staying late. It's a giant pain to get up early on vacation, I know! But, you will have a much better time.
Now, I don't mean get there at 9:00 when the parks open...you need to get there around 8:00 - 8:15 to stand in line. They will let you in around 8:30 once the gates actually open and though they say the rides won't operate until 9:00 - we always rode before that.
2. Before you enter the general area of the City Walk, you will need to go through bag check. For some reason everyone piles up at the first line. Keep walking aaaallll the way to the right until you reach the furthest line from the parking garage. It moves much faster. Oh, and have your bag open when you hand it to the guy, but you knew that.
3. You are allowed to bring food into the park. Pack a lunch to save lots on cash. There are so many places to sit at a table and eat. In this respect, it was much easier to do this than in Disney.
4. If you want to really see Harry Potter and have any prayer of riding the Forbidden Journey ride (or shop for a wand, or get candy at Honeydukes, or taste a Butterbeer) you need to get a pass to enter the park an hour early. It's the only way. Even the lines to enter the shops are very, very long.
You can get this pass in a couple of different ways. If you stay on Universal Property, you can enter early and get a "fast pass" that works on many of the rides. We went on a time share tour to earn our ticket. We grumbled during the 90 minute presentation until we walked through those gates the next morning. Suddenly, it seemed well worth it!
If you get into Honeydukes to purchase candy, you can pay for it in the attached toy shop to avoid the long lines.
5. If you aren't interested in seeing Harry Potter, you can line up early to see the rest of the park. We got in line around 8:15 and the gates opened around 8:30-ish. We realized everyone was headed toward Harry Potter, so we hung a left and rode many rides far from Harry Potter alone!
6. Don't forget to put your bags in a locker for many of the rides. They do not allow you to put your bags in a pouch like Disney does. If you carry your bag through the line, you will not be allowed to ride. You will have to walk all the way back to the entrance to stow your bag.
The lockers were confusing to me and there is a sense of panic when everyone is running up to open one in a hurry! So here are my locker tips:
The lockers are operated by a touch screen located in each bank of lockers. You can stow your bags for free as long as you take them out once you exit the ride - this is confusing because there is a price scale for the lockers on the screen when you first see it. Just press "rent a locker" and it will tell you to place your finger on the light to be scanned. It will then tell you what locker to open. You can find your locker by the blinking green light if you can find the number easily. You won't be charged unless you leave your belongings in a locker after you ride.
Don't forget your locker number! You will need the number and your finger scan to get your bag back out.
Don't use the lockers right in front. Lines usually form at the first bank of lockers, but you can often move down the line or around the corner to find an open touch screen. You will get in and out much faster.
7. Don't wear your sunglasses on your head or tucked into the front of your shirt on The Mummy or on The Cat in the Hat. They will fall off and be lost. Ask the Big Guy about his $150 Ray Bans. Just sayin'.
8. If your kids are too small for the Harry Potter ride, you can walk along in the line to tour the castle. It's super cool.
9. Butterbeer is a cool novelty, but don't waste your money getting one for everyone. Our family of 5 shared one frozen and one regular butterbeer and it was plenty. It's rich and would be hard to drink a whole one. It's fun for a taste.**
10. They will try to scare you out of line for Jaws by telling you that you could get soaking wet from your head to your toes, but we had a wet butt from the seat and wet shoes from sitting in the front the second time. Unless something was broken, I can't see how it is possible to get that wet on that ride. Many people left the line after these repeated warnings.
11. Fievel's Playland looks like its for babies, but there is a really cool unmentioned water slide there the kids can ride down in boats!
12. If you stand in the front row of Twister, all the way to the left, they will dump a bucket of water on your head. Seriously.
13. If you are prone to motion sickness, you should take Dramamine or something before you ride. Many of the rides are simulators and I was ruined for the day after riding two in a row! Peppermint gum, ginger, and sniffing lemon slices can also ease nausea. You'll need it.
14. I don't know if it was a special for the day, but Finnegan's Wake did not charge for kids sodas if you ordered an adult beverage. Cha-ching!
15. It's a good idea to stick an extra Ziploc baggie in your things in case you ride the Popeye barges, the Dudley Do Right Ripsaw Falls, or Jurassic Park River Adventure. Lockers cost money there and your phone/camera/ipod will get wet.
Okay, that's all I can think of. Do you have any more tips for me?
**Come on back to visit on Monday to learn how to make Butter Beer!*