If you’re traveling to Southern California to visit Disneyland, you’ll likely have a few extra days for other sights and theme parks. Consider taking a drive up the I-5 to Universal Studios Hollywood to see what the park has added over the past few years.
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash was pandemic-delayed (it was supposed to open in March 2020) but it is worth the wait! This clever dark ride doesn’t require any knowledge of the franchise it is based on. Storyline: You’re a pet. You’re traveling to be adopted. Of course there are hijinks along the way.
The line is almost as fun as the ride and I’d consider it the first part of the attraction. You wind your way through apartments in a NYC high-rise, viewing a mix of screens and animatronics that show the pets’ “secret lives” while their owners are away.
Once on the omnimover ride, you’ll journey through a mix of real sets and screens. It’s fun for adults and catnip for kids. Pro tip: when you see yourself a pet near the end, it’s all interactive — raise your paws, shake your ears, etc.
Another oversize addition to the park is the recent conversion of the Jurassic River Adventure to Jurassic World. The older attraction has been updated with newer technology and bigger scarier dinosaurs (just like in the movies). The mosasaurus tank effect is particularly stunning. You will get sprayed/dripped/drizzled throughout the ride.
And of course it still ends with the classic splashdown. As the park’s only water ride, this attraction gets popular midday and in nice weather.
The old Shrek 4-D theater attraction has been updated to a “Dreamworks Theatre” that currently houses a Kung Fu Panda Adventure and theoretically could eventually use other Dreamworks films (I’d love to fly with Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon).
After a cute preshow that employs characters from various Dreamworks franchises, we enter the screening room. Each seat has a motion base. It’s impossible to capture all of the effects that will be thrown at you, but it’s a wild ride with Po the panda and his friends. It’s a great fit when you want to sit down in air conditioning for a little bit during a long day.
Universal’s CityWalk is always changing and adding new restaurants and shops. I was excited to see they are bringing Toothsome Chocolate Emporium to Hollywood in place of the old Hard Rock Cafe.
Universal Studios Hollywood is compact and can easily be done in one day. It’s a day trip from Disneyland, about an hour to an hour and half away (always dependent on the notorious LA traffic). Along with the new attractions detailed above, the park’s classic Studio Tour, unique Waterworld stunt show and Wizarding World of Harry Potter area make it worth a side trip during your time in Southern California.
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