Ryan and I recently took a trip down to Los Angeles this past November to celebrate American Thanksgiving and to visit his parents. Surprisingly, though as a kid (and a spoiled one at that) I’d been to Anaheim twice to visit Disneyland, I’d never actually been to LA. Of course, my immediate thought when we accepted the invite was – YES! I can finally fulfill my childhood dream of going on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. I would also – at last – be able to step foot into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This was big news.
I don’t know about you, but my favourite part of amusement parks isn’t the shows, attractions – or even the rides. It’s all about the food. My memories of Disneyland revolve entirely around my 8-year-old determination to sample every. single. one. of the different flavours of churros they sold throughout the park (a stand-out was the Winnie the Pooh honey churro… do they still make those?). Even when I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo Disneyland for my 16th birthday – all I cared about were the churros. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you too are all about amusement park food, and are perhaps planning a trip to LA in the near future, keep reading for our hand-picked Foodie’s Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood!
First Stop: Donuts are Forever
Before we even reached the gates of Universal, Ryan and I were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming sight of an old Portland favourite – Voodoo Doughnut. I didn’t even know they had a branch in Universal City! And Ryan – raised in Atlanta and Los Angeles, but whose heart is in South Carolina – had never eaten a Voodoo donut. Since he is a self-proclaimed Donut Guru, this had to change.
Needless to say, he was very impressed.
Second Stop: Swish & Flick
**Pro-tip: purchase your tickets online in advance. You’ll save at least $10 each, and all you need to do is show your e-ticket at the turnstile!**
HARRY POTTER WORLD. Immediately upon entering Universal, I made a beeline to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, dragging my giant along for the ride. I’d recommend grabbing a map of the park to help save you precious time when trying to avoid the massive ride lines. If you’re still too lazy to do that, then I’ll save you the hassle:
As you can see, the land of HP is straight ahead to the right! When you get there, head straight to Honeydukes and pick up a treat to tide you over while you wait in line for HP and the Forbidden Journey (which is worth it, in my opinion).
Third Stop: Butter Not Forget!
Dare I say more?
Our insider tip for acquiring the insanely sweet concoction of butterbeer is to skip the lines leading to the butterbeer trolleys scattered throughout Hogsmeade, and head into The Hog’s Head. There was absolutely no line, and plenty of outdoor seating available in the back – despite it being prime tourist season and packed to the brim in the rest of the park.
A final tip for those of you who’d like a little extra kick in your butterbeer is to order a round of Firewhisky – a specially made cinnamon-flavoured whisky inspired by the book (think Fireball on acid). Paired with the butterbeer (the frosted version), you’ll be all set for exploring the rest of the park!
Fourth Stop: Hold on to Your Butts
While it’s critical that your food journey is not marred by the temptation to purchase overpriced Universal Studios memorabilia (hem hem, I may or may not have succumbed to this), don’t forget to visit the most anticipated attractions. For us, they were:
- Every shop in HP World
- Springfield U.S.A.
- The Walking Dead
- Universal’s Animal Actors
and OF COURSE…
- Jurassic Park: The Ride
**Pro-tip: If you don’t bump into our new best friend Tyler, then you probably won’t be randomly gifted with the “secret code” that allows you to skip the line for the ride. However, if you’re in need of lockers to store your belongings, there’s no need to pay the $5-10 required in the Jurassic Park area. Pop over to The Revenge of the Mummy lockers and store your things there (90 minutes free) instead. Oh, and don’t bother with The Mummy Ride – it’s a whole lot of waiting around for a very anticlimactic 20 seconds.**
Fifth Stop: Think of the Children
We also played an obscene number of carnival games (Ryan won me a massive Blinky from The Simpsons) after purchasing a relatively cheap game pass that allowed us to try a handful of the park’s games 2x each, with a bonus “buy one get one free” deal for a game of your choosing. I can’t remember what it’s called, but most of the staff working the games booths would offer it as an option when you go to purchase a regular game. It may seem like a scam at first, but we had a lot of fun (losing) AND saved some time and coin.
Sixth Stop: I Love You Very Mu-CHURRO
As mentioned previously, an amusement park visit just wouldn’t be complete without a churro. It was just our luck that after emerging (soaking wet) from the Jurassic Park ride, what was there waiting for us (kismet) but a snack stand selling fresh, delicious churros?
It was worth every moment of my keto-cheating ways that day.
I regret nothing.
Things to Avoid
This wouldn’t be a complete guide without mentioning some of the “buts” of our experience at Universal Studios. Though we were lucky and had an overall amazing time during our visit, here are a few notes to consider if you’re planning on checking out the park.
- Skip the Revenge of the Mummy ride
- Skip the Flight of the Hippogriff ride
- Avoid waiting in line for Ollivander’s – just visit the gift shop instead
- Don’t purchase the Gilly Water – it’s literally just $5 water
- Skip the Hogwarts Christmas light show
Of course, aside from the above stipulations, just make sure you go in with an open mind, adventurous spirit… and plenty of cash!