Universal City is a community in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, most of which is given over to the world's largest motion picture studio and its associated visitor attraction, the popular Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
Universal City is just four miles south of Burbank's Bob Hope Airport and about a 45 minute drive to Los Angeles International Airport. Both airports have rental car centers and public transit connections; see the individual guides for airport transportation information.
Universal City has its own exit from the 101 Freeway traveling northbound from Downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood. The 134 freeway can also take you to the Universal City area by exiting Cahuenga or Lankershim Blvd and turning southbound. General parking at the theme park is $17 before 3PM and $10 after 3PM, with more expensive parking located closer to the park entrance.
By public transit
Metro offers bus and rail service to Universal City. Of particular use to visitors is the Metro Rail Red Line subway, which stops at the Universal City/Studio City Station on Lankershim Blvd on its way between Downtown L.A./Hollywood and North Hollywood. Universal Studios Hollywood provides a complimentary shuttle between the subway station and the theme park, or you may walk. Across the street from the subway station is a bus hub that serves Metro routes #150/240, #155, #224, and the (weekday only) Metro Rapid #750, which connect Universal City directly to various communities throughout the San Fernando Valley.
Getting around Universal City is not a serious matter, given that it's small enough to easily walk around. The Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is the primary attraction, while the adjacent CityWalk offers dozens of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Each of the two nearby hotels (Hilton Universal City and Sheraton Universal) are within walking distance and have additional bars and restaurants available to experience.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios was established at this location in 1915 by Carl Laemmle. Following an acquisition by MCA (Music Corporation of America), staff accountants suggested that a studio bus tour of the massive backlot and a stop at the commissary would boost profits. The famous backlot tram ride at the park today is a direct descendant. In the 1960s, the humble tour was expanded to include staged events. In the 1980s, a large scale motion picture-themed amusement park evolved to accompany the tour.
The heart and soul of the park is still the Studio Tour, a tram tour of the backlot that lasts about 45 minutes and winds through many famous sets and past working sound stages. Among the highlights are actual sets from Back to the Future, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and Stephen Spielberg's War of the Worlds, simulated attractions based on the films Earthquake and Jaws, and King Kong 360 3-D, a giant 3-D experience based on Peter Jackson's King Kong.
Other film-based attractions include:
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem — A 3D motion simulator ride based on the animated film Despicable Me.
- Super Silly Fun Land — An elaborate children's play area based on the carnival from Despicable Me, with water play features, playground structures, and carnival rides and games.
- Transformers: The Ride — A 3D dark ride based on the Transformers film franchise.
- The Simpsons Ride — A motion simulator attraction where the Simpsons visit "Krustyland," the Krusty the Clown-themed amusement park from the show. The ride is situated amidst a simulated Springfield filled with recreations of landmarks from the show, like the Kwik-E-Mart and Moe's Tavern.
- Revenge of the Mummy — A high speed indoor roller coaster based on the Mummy film franchise.
- Shrek 4-D — A 4-D theater attraction based on the Shrek films.
- Jurassic Park: The Ride — A water thrill ride based on Jurassic Park where you float past various animatronic dinosaurs before making a steep waterfall plunge; note that you will likely get soaked on this ride.
- Waterworld — An elaborate stunt show based on the film Waterworld. While the film has a reputation for being underwhelming, the show is much more highly regarded, with lots of stunt actors, pyrotechnics, and water effects, as well as an explosive plane crash. The arena seating is split up so that seats closest to the stage get soaked while those further away stay dry.
- Special Effects Stage — A live show with demonstrations on how special effects are created, including CGI, motion capture, and stop motion effects.
- Universal's Animal Actors — A live show where a variety of animals perform stunts and tricks.
- The NBCUniversal Experience — An exhibit with numerous costumes, props and artifacts from various popular Universal films and NBC television shows.
In addition to the rides, numerous costumed characters can be found throughout the park; ask an employee for specific times and locations. The park has also become the filming location for the tabloid television show Extra, with various celebrities sometimes interviewed in front of a live audience; check the website for times and guests.
Universal CityWalk, located just outside the gates to the theme park, is an outdoor shopping mall and entertainment complex built to resemble an urban street, albeit with over-the-top colorful architecture and talented street performers. The mall has dozens of restaurants (all price points), shops, and a wide range of entertainment options, and is usually packed on weekends and summer nights, which adds to the energy and atmosphere.
CityWalk Cinemas. A 19 screen movie theater with stadium seating, surround sound, and digital projection, as well as an IMAX screen.
iFly Indoor Skydiving, ☎ . A skydiving simulator attraction. Experience the thrill of falling from the sky without even leaving the ground!
Jillian's, ☎ . M-W 11AM-9PM, Sa 11AM-1:30AM, Th-F and Su 11AM-midnight. A sports bar/restaurant with a bowling alley, arcade, and billiards lounge.
Universal Studios has an abundance of souvenir stores; just about every attraction has a gift shop attached selling merchandise particular to whatever franchise the ride is based on. CityWalk has a wider variety of retailers, selling a wide selection of apparel, sweets, collectibles, toys, and souvenirs. A complete list of CityWalk vendors is available here.
The theme park has plenty of eateries, most of which serve typical theme park fast food at theme park prices. A wider variety of food is availabe in CityWalk, which has over 20 restaurants ranging from fast food to casual sit-down dining. A complete list of CityWalk eateries is available here; among the options are national chains Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Buca di Beppo, Hard Rock Cafe, Johnny Rockets, Tony Roma's, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Most of the fast food places are in a food court on the second level across from the movie theater.
The second level of CityWalk surrounding the fountain court holds a few nightlife spots:
Howl at the Moon, ☎ . Su and Tu-Th 7PM-2AM, M 7PM-1AM, F-Sa 6PM-2AM. Live music nightclub with a dance floor, dueling pianos, and a bar serving novelty bucket drinks.
Infusion Lounge, ☎ . A huge nightclub with two dance floors, dramatic lighting and decor, and DJs spinning house tracks. Happy hour daily 6-9PM.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, ☎ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-9PM. The Los Angeles location of a San Diego-based brewery restaurant, with a microbrewery on-site and good pub food.
Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 818 509-2058.
Sheraton Universal Hotel, 333 Universal Hollywood Dr, ☎ , fax: +1 818 985-4980.
- Hollywood is just to the south and an easy trip by way of the Red Line or the 101, and has numerous attractions celebrating the history of cinema beyond just those films produced by Universal, including the Walk of Fame, Gruman's Chinese Theater, Paramount Pictures Studios, and plenty of museums and theaters.
- Adjacent Studio City and nearby Burbank are home to numerous film and television studios; plan carefully and you may be able to attend the taping of a show!
- Orange County is home to the L.A. region's other two beloved theme parks: Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. By public transit, take the Red Line to Union Station in Downtown L.A. and transfer to Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner or Metrolink's Orange County Line.
|Routes through Universal City|
|Santa Barbara ← Studio City ←||N S||→ Hollywood → Downtown L.A.|
|END ← North Hollywood ←||N S||→ Hollywood → Downtown L.A.|