For some people, a trip to Universal Studios is a trip to Hell itself. The crowds. The blatant consumerism. The pandering to our lowest common impulses, like sex. For others, and we count ourselves among them, a trip to Universal Studios is close to Heaven. The rides. The thrills. The pandering to our lowest common impulses, like sex.
Universal Studios offers up almost every conceivable entertainment. On one hand, you have to admire the energy and resolve to pack so much fun into one place. The park’s infrastructure is so sophisticated, city governments should hire its engineers to design public transportation. We’d all live in a happier, more efficient place.
On the other hand, despite the efficient design, long long long lines plague the park. People are waiting everywhere . . . for rides, for food, for toilets, for the exit. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find lines, each longer and slower-moving than the last. It’s a nightmare for the ADD-challenged among us. Imagine the horror, the horror, if city governments hired its engineers to design public transportation.
While you can whine about the prices—and they are outrageous—you should have known what you were getting into when you paid your admission. It’s the lines that will stick with you like a bad burrito. Those lines will haunt you deep into the night, assuming you make it that long. For the good rides, the ones you came to experience, the lines can stretch into an hour-long, bone-numbing wait.
But that’s not the really bad news.
As you’re enduring that wait, shifting from one tired foot to the other, trying half-heartedly to keep your kids from starting a major international incident, you might notice a few people somehow bypass the line altogether and make their way stealthily but straight to the entrance. Who are they and how can they get away with this? Where are the park police when you need them?
Welcome to Los Angeles. Those “chosen few” are likely movie industry insiders. They know all the tricks. Don’t ask us how they do it. Life isn’t fair. You’re stuck in line, boiling inside, for another forty-five minutes just to catch a glimpse of the Jurassic Park ride, when a couple of hot blondes and an industry mogul out to impress them cut right to the front.
You somehow persevere to enjoy the ride, but the vision of those blondes etches itself onto your brain. The whole experience irks you. It helps explain why people enjoy the tabloid stories of movie stars in compromising positions: it’s the satisfying feeling of revenge.
But back to the present. While Universal Studios has its drawbacks, any thrill-seeker worth his salty dog has to go, to experience first-hand the rides that have won the park fame and stature. Because despite the wait, despite the long lines, the rides are worth it.
When preparing for your visit, develop a plan of attack. Decide which rides you absolutely must hit, then using a map of the park, devise a strategy for the day. The order you do things can make a huge difference. For example, during one visit, we made the mistake of sweating it out in the Backdraft ride first when the obvious move was to get soaked on the water toboggan ride and then dry off by the fire.
The rides change year to year, so make sure you have a current list. The major exhibits change constantly, too. When you need a rest, take the trolley tour for a relaxing hour. And we didn’t even mention CityWalk, the food-and-entertainment pedestrian-friendly stroll at the park’s entrance/exit. Want a beer? Want to see a show? Want both? CityWalk might be the answer. Just remember, you’re in LA. There’s lots to do out there.
Lessons Learned: If you can’t score those VIP passes and the blondes that come with them, wake up early, pack a lunch, and bring every major credit card you own (you’ll need them). You won’t regret your trip, and it’ll give you a reason to check the tabloids.
How We Saw It
Communication Breakdown: 1
Customer Dis-service: 1
Discomfort Level: 3
Grunge Factor: 1
Inactivity Guide: 1
Spontaneous Consumption: 2
Fun Fraction: 5/5
If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: Los Angeles International Airport (aka LAX)
Native Population: 4,100,000 (city only)
Normal Attractions: Are you kidding? Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Dodger Stadium, the culture, the food, the population, the Valley, the architecture, the drugs. You could find a worse place to visit. We certainly have.
Final Point of Interest: LA actually has a subway system. It’s not as extensive as New York’s, but whose is? Just don’t get caught on the subway during an earthquake.