Zane was turning seven and he wanted a birthday party at the local bowling alley. We thought he deserved better. We’re givers. We discussed our options and decided to spend the day with his best friend, also about to turn seven, and his family at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. Maybe you have heard of it.
We arrived early and paid the extra five dollars for preferred parking (total of $20), which, after winding through all the suckers that saved a few bucks, was totally worth it. We were able to park a quick stroll from the main gate to the theme park, and we liked it. The day was off to a great start.
One of the ticket options that Universal Studios Hollywood offers its guests (for an additional charge) is the Front of Line Pass, which may seem expensive—it costs nearly twice the general 1-Day-Pass, but saved us, literally, hours by skipping the kind of queue one would expect on a sunny holiday weekend in Southern California. Time is money and all that.
What Universal Studios Hollywood offers is a distinct mix of thrill rides with movie history and the ability to visit actual sets from shows and movies that people know and love. One minute you are having a blast on the Simpsons ride, and the next you are literally on Wisteria Lane (although the actual wisteria may not be there when you are).
The park is full of characters from Universal’s long list of classic horror films, the Scooby kids, Spongebob Squarepants, Shrek, the Simpsons, Transformers, Woody Woodpecker, and plenty more.
In addition there are a number of shows that explain movie magic without ruining movie magic, and that is a nice touch—just because we look behind the curtain doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the smoke and mirrors.
The two shows that we enjoyed the most couldn’t have been more different. The first was an interactive display of animal training and tricks, and the second was a stunt show spectacular based on the film Water World (don’t worry, the show is better than the movie) that left much of the audience soaking wet.
Our favorite ride was the new Transformers adventure, which combines 3D effects with a moving vehicle through a storyline of nonstop action. Transformers: The Ride-3D is an amazing advancement in the art of theme park excitement, and spoiler alert: the good guys win (just in case the kids start to worry). Note, the majority of rides (as far as I could tell) tend to be aimed at kids of a certain height and younger children may not be able to experience most of them.
Despite the large crowd the park closed fairly early (although they did extend it an hour), which funneled the majority of us into Universal City Walk with its collection of fun restaurants, bars, shops, and indoor skydiving.
We ate a fantastic birthday dinner at Buca di Beppo, bought some unique items (DO NOT BUY BACON MINTS) in the stores, made the short walk back to our car, and had the boys in bed by 10:30. We’ve done worse.
Conclusion: Universal Studios Hollywood is a very fun place to spend a birthday, or any day really, and pairs perfectly with the easily accessible sites of Hollywood and the surrounding area.
My family and I visited Universal Studios Hollywood as their guest. Universal provided four Front of the Line Passes for our use. We payed for parking and everything else. All opinions are my own.
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).