Sunday. Mid-July. Universal Studios. You’re already on to a loser. Then let’s add on to that arriving after lunch. Had I arrived in hell? There were minions there, so probably.

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The view from Universal Studios
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And the other side

Weekends aren’t the best time to visit a theme park if you can help it and behind Christmas/New Year and Halloween, the summer break is the third worst time to visit any theme park. Universal Studios in Hollywood has been on my list for a while and even though this was my third time in Los Angeles, I’d gone two trips without trying it.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will soon open it’s third branch here after the success of the two phase version in Orlando and the crazy busy one in Osaka

This park is crazy expensive, it’s the same price as a day at Disneyland in Anaheim, which surprised me but people are obviously willing to pay the price. I would like to note that this is a park with little space and limited attractions. Unlike other parks you might be familiar with, everything feels like it’s on top of each other. So, I think this is a park that would feel busy even when the capacity isn’t so high.

Every theme park lover knows, you turn up before the rope drops. You get a head start on everybody and sometimes that means you can do twice as much. Unfortunately, we didn’t stick to the golden rule. The queue outside the parking lot at around 12:30pm was the first indicator of what we were about to walk into. But it really dawned on us the kind of crowds were there when we looked at the queuing times at the front of the park and the shortest queue in the entire park was 90 minutes. And that was for the bloody Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride.

My priority that day was the studio tour. Getting in that queue was painful to me, I had a bit of a tantrum. But we got in the queue first to get it out of the way, it was a long wait time but by the time we got closer to the ride the operators were looking for smaller parties to fill up trams and skip the last part of the line. So, our wait ended up being just over 90 minutes in the end. There’s a lot of cool stuff on the tour and it is the main draw to this park, without it I’d tell people to fly to Florida instead or just skip this park forever. The most important thing to me was seeing Courthouse Square made famous by the Back to the Future movies. It was pretty exciting, I think I punched Carrie’s arm a little too enthusiastically.

Off the tram and we explored the rest of the park. The wait times had not decreased so we headed to Jurassic Park… It was closed! We did single rider on Transformer’s the ride. Which is a very good ride which here doesn’t have to compete with other amazing motion simulators. Shame it’s based on crappy IP. Still worth going on, even if you are not a fan of Transformers (I’m certainly not a fan). Jurassic Park was still closed so it was time for Revenge of the Mummy. Single Rider was closed so we got into the 90 minute queue, that really was 90 minutes. This is a roller coaster and dark ride in one, so is famous for it’s great themeing. The coaster part leaves you wanting more so I really consider this more of a dark ride than a real coaster (even if it really does have coaster parts).

When we walked out of that I noticed the Jurassic Park display board was a little funny but it hadn’t been announced as opened so headed over to it. Just in time as when we were walking over to investigate, the queue opened. We snuck into the single rider line and were on the ride in less than 10 minutes. That was one 2 hour queue I was incredibly happy to avoid. Even though I’ve now been on all of the Jurassic park rides, I find them unskippable so I would have been highly disappointed if it was closed all day. I think my favourite incarnation is the Singapore version but they’re all great rides.

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Krustyland, meh

I can’t remember if we bothered with The Simpsons. I’m not a fan of that ride, especially as it took over from Back to the Future but then didn’t improve much on the technology. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was, well, okay. I don’t understand Minions, they make me feel alienated from other humans as I don’t find them cute or funny or whatever they’re supposed to be. So don’t ask me about that ride. It wasn’t memorable anyway.

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Velociraptor and his trainer
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Like you could tame an actual velociraptor, also why’s he so big the Jurassic Park films already super sized them but this thing is huge

The new attractions were Fast and Furious: Super Charged, which is actually part of the Studio Tour. Very fun addition, liked it a lot more than King Kong 360. And also, the velociraptor encounter down by Jurassic Park. My polaroid appeared to stop working as Carrie tried to take my photo with one, however later on I put new batteries in and one popped out. So I got a little surprise from the trip when I came back to Hong Kong.

At the end of the day, this is not an enjoyable park. There aren’t enough smaller rides and the crowds are too big for the space. Disney has the second problem but not the first. Also a ticket to Disney does not feel like quite the rip-off that a ticket to Universal is. I’m not happy to give the parks that much money, but I’m much happier with the bang for my buck that Disneyland gives me. It’s unlikely I’ll visit this park again, why would I when every other park in the area is better at something. I’m glad I went just to be in Courthouse Square and to be able to say I’ve been to every Universal, but with no room for expansion and everything else in the area I think I will always skip this one in future. Also as a theme park fan it’s good to remind yourself why you head to parks early, so this was a good reminder of that before I go to Tokyo Disney Resort next month (a place where I already have a plan…)

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Me in the tram at Courthouse Square
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