It has come to my attention that there are other theme parks in Southern California other than Disneyland! Wishing to expand my narrow theme park horizons, I got the chance to take a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood. Thanks to our friends at Coach America Tours (Gray Line), I was able to see Universal Studios through their VIP experience! This is a package you can pay extra for that includes unlimited front-of-the line privileges, a private tour guide for you and a small group, and a buffet lunch. I got a little picture happy with this post, so I hope you all enjoy!
We started off the day in the VIP lounge by the park entrance. They had some complimentary bottled water and some light breakfast items for us before we started our tour.
One of the coolest things about this VIP experience is the Back Lot tour. You and your group get to walk around and explore real sound stages and prop departments, while getting great insight into the other side of the entertainment business. Here is the Staff Shop, where they work on the textures of exterior pieces:
All the textures you see are made of lightweight styrofoam!
Here’s your transportation for the Back Lot Tour:
This is how most people would see the set pieces on the regular tour:
And this is what the VIP Experience can get you
This was dubbed “The Scary Alley” and our tour guide recited a long list of movies that filmed here, Captain America was one of them
This whole area was where they filmed “Back To The Future”. They have changed a lot of the facades so that the area can be used for other movies but the original structures remain.
This was a pretty cool moment when the people in the tram just started snapping away thinking we were celebrities!
Here’s an example of the versatility of the sets. All these buildings are just around the corner from each other, but they seem like they’re worlds apart:
On a side note, we know you have plenty of choices when it comes to hotels, but this is an example of our competition, so it’s better to just stay with us at the HoJo! 😉
Plus our staff are a lot more welcoming than this guy:
The set designers here use every inch of material they can, so if a back side of a building has a bare wall, they paint it so it can be used as a backdrop:
Or they can just use computers to digitally create the backdrop of their choice:
This cabin will be the setting for numerous Christmas commercials this season. It was also featured in the movie “Shooter” starring Mark Wahlberg
One of my favorite stops on the tour was the Prop Warehouse. They’ll have everything a movie or a TV show will need. This place is massive!
Here are some of the props up close:
For all the Desperate Housewives fans out there, our tour guide let us walk down Wisteria Lane and take as many pictures as we wanted. We could only go as far as the curb, but nobody was complaining:
Our tour wouldn’t be complete without these familiar stops:
It was so hot that day we were all thinking about jumping in! But then our tour guide said that all that water gets re used again and again.
The newly re vamped King Kong section of the tour got rid of the huge animatronic primate, and substituted it for a digital 3d version. The 3d screens were huge and were on either side of the tram which made you feel like you were actually in the jungle. Since it was dark and in 3d, pictures wouldn’t really make much sense. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself!
After the tour, we got to put our shiny VIP Pass to use. It gave us preferred seating at shows we attended like Water World:
After the show, our group was treated to a Q and A with some of the cast, where they talked about the show and passed around some props:
The ride I was looking forward to the most was definitely Transformers. We walked right up to the front of the line so quickly I only got a chance to take this one photo:
The ride itself was incredible! I’ve never been on anything quite like it and I can see why people are talking so much about it. It’s a mix between the Indiana Jones ride and Star Tours, but the screens are gigantic. Up to this point on my trip, I thought riding Transformers was the highlight of the tour – until they served us lunch!
The food selection and quality was outstanding! My only gripe was that we couldn’t stay longer. Im not sure if they change the menu all the time but we had New York Roasted Sirloin, Penne Alfredo with shrimp, Chicken Marsala, and Salmon among other things:
All the food and drinks were paid for including the beer and wine, which was a nice touch. The food and the atmosphere was so well done, it’s easy to forget that you’re inside a theme park. This was without a doubt the best part of the day! In fairness, I did feel we were rushed a bit because we had a show to catch, but we all definitely had our fill.
Overall, I thought the VIP Experience is well worth the money. Granted it is quite a bit of money and the cost can add up quickly for a bigger family, but it’s the best way to see and experience Universal Studios by far. You’ll definitely get to do everything that’s worth doing in the park and then some, plus you get a lunch buffet while being treated like a VIP all day. You can book this tour directly through Southern California Grayline or with us at the HoJo once you arrive. Just ask any one of us at the front desk and we’d be happy to help you!
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
Visiting Disneyland and want the perfect hotel for your family? Look no further than TripAdvisor’s #1 Anaheim hotel for families, the Howard Johnson Hotel and Water Playground! 2012 award winner in the category “Best Large Hotels and Resorts for Families in the United States – 2012“