“What am I most looking forward to? Jurassic Park: The Ride of course!” This was the answer I gave to anyone who asked me about my forthcoming three-week tour around the USA. It was the truth. I’m a big kid at heart, and I’ve always had a bit of a thing for theme parks. But I’ve got even more of a thing for big Steven Spielberg blockbusters, especially ones made in the nineties and featuring dinosaurs – hence the excitement.
Hop onboard Jurassic Park: The Ride more than once
It didn’t matter how excited I was, nothing could prepare me for how incredible Jurassic Park: The Ride actually turned out to be. I don’t care how old you are – animatronic dinosaurs and dramatic overtures while being squirted with water jets is always fun. I won’t spoil it, but the ending will really impress too. And all that requires more than one ride. Head here first thing in the morning and the queues will be shorter, so you can go round as many times as you dare.
…and the same goes for Revenge of the Mummy
Undoubtedly the best, and fastest, roller coaster in the entire park, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride really brings the movie to life, catapulting you around an ancient tomb as you dodge the vengeful spirit of Egyptian high priest Imhotep. Indoor and in the dark, it will really get your pulse racing while putting a huge grin on your face – who wouldn’t want to experience that multiple times?
Visit every building in Springfield
Of all the lands at Universal Studios Hollywood, I was most impressed by Springfield. They’ve got all the favourites – Moe’s, the Kwik-E-Mart, the Springfield Powerplant and Krustyland to name a few – as well as lesser-known spots like Lard Lad Donuts, Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Krusty Burger and the Aztec theatre. Make sure you visit and take photos of every spot, and also take time to discover The Simpsons Ride. Matt Groening and team have gone to the trouble of creating bespoke animations just for the experience and, albeit a bit weird, it’s a must for any hardcore Simpsons fan.
Buy a butterbeer
One of Universal Studios Hollywood’s newest attractions, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter not only offers a full-size Hogsmeade in all its snowy glory, a ride inside Hogwarts and the family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster – it also has butterbeer. If you’ve been lucky enough to sample this delicious sugariness at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Watford, you’re in for a real treat here. You can get a traditional chilled butterbeer, but you can also get it in frozen form. CHEERS.
Become a wizard
I omitted one thing while talking about the WWoHP above: Ollivanders. The dusty wand shop from Diagon Alley is recreated in all its glory here and, although you might have to queue, once inside you can choose the perfect wand for you (or let the wand choose you). There are also character wand replicas, as well as interactive wands which, when waved around Hogsmeade, will bring magic to your very fingertips.
Scare yourself silly
After being initiated into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you might find yourself feeling pretty confident. Well, good, because to stomach the park’s newest offering you’ll need a lot of courage. Opened in July 2016, the new The Walking Dead attraction is based on the hit AMC show and forces you to enter the programme’s post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged world. It’s a fully-immersive, walk-through journey, where you’ll have to navigate derelict streets overrun by brain-hungry ‘walkers’ in order to survive. GULP.
Take the Studio Tour
A Universal Hollywood mainstay, the Studio Tour offers a glimpse behind the scenes of some of the most beloved films and TV shows to grace our screens.
I was most looking forward to catching a glimpse of anything Back to the Future related – i.e. the Lyon Estates entrance pictured above – but I also loved visiting Amity Island to see Jaws, spotting Norman Bates outside the infamous Bates Motel and riding through the plane wreckage from the latest War of the Worlds movie starring Tom Cruise. And if you’re worried about it not being childish enough, you needn’t be concerned – the tour also includes two rides: King Kong 360 3D and Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
Watch the WaterWorld show
Inspired by the eighties Kevin Costner flop of the same moniker, the world-famous WaterWorld show does exactly what the film didn’t do and manages to thrill and enrapture its audience. Before the show’s even begun, the actors immediately interact with the crowd – so much so that it’s easy to see why this experience is one of the park’s flagship attractions. For the best experience, opt to sit in a ‘soak zone’. That’s right ‘soak’ not ‘splash’. You will get wet if you sit on a blue seat for this one. It’s worth it for a front-row seat, though be warned: you are setting yourself up for 20 minutes of in-your-face explosions, stunts and high-octane boat chases. Jumping jet skis, Mad Max-style costumes and death-defying plunges are just the tip of the iceberg.