Universal Studios Hollywood opened its doors for the first time since March 14, 2020. In this post I’ll share my observations from touring the park, as well as my experiences with their social distancing and COVID-19 safety procedures.
The arrival experience is pretty much the same as in pre-COVID times. After parking and walking through CityWalk, I arrived at the front gate of Universal Studios Hollywood. Along with an airport-style security checkpoint (bags and belongings must go through a x-ray scanner), temperatures of all visitors were taken before entry. You’ll be familiar with the temperature check if you’ve visited Downtown Disney or many restaurants in the LA area in the last year. The check consists of a quick scan of the forehead.
Inside the park many of the walkways have signs directing foot traffic.
The park’s signature Studio Tour attraction is mostly unchanged from pre-COVID times in terms of offerings. Jaws, Earthquake, King Kong 360-3D, Fast & Furious – Supercharged, and many of the famous movie sets (such as War of the Worlds plane crash) are all still a part of the tour.
The Studio Tour can last up to an hour depending on what’s open and available. There was filming taking place on a portion of the New York Street outdoor set so this segment of the tour was skipped.
In the Studio Tour trams, Universal is loading every other row, and one party per a row. This obviously affects wait times since capacity is significantly decreased.
You may even see some wildlife. This actual coyote wondered on to one of the sets. Eat your heart out, Animal Kingdom.
Animal Actors is the only show currently being offered. Each group is sat in six feet increments inside the auditorium.
Seating spots are easily identifiable by these blue stickers on the benches. Traditional character greetings are not available but there are socially distanced character photo opportunities. Here’s Scooby-Doo in The Mystery Machine.
Hello Kitty occasionally appears outside of her shop in the Upper Lot.
Marilyn Monroe appears in the upper lot near the park’s entrance.
Each of the characters have a handler present to make sure no one gets too close.
Eating and drinking can only be done in specially marked areas around the park. Each of these areas have tables that are placed six feet apart.
Gift shops are currently set up with one entrance and one exit. I noticed many of them also had queues set up but didn’t see any of them in use.
Speaking of shops, a great selection of retro merchandise is available for purchase. You have to love that old Universal Studios logo.
Handrails in queues were constantly being cleaned by Universal team members. The handrails at the loading station of Jurassic World – The Ride were being cleaned after each group got in a boat.
Universal is serious about people sanitizing their hands. Every ride had a team member whos job it was to spray everyone’s hands with hand sanitizer.
The Raptor Encounter is back. How cool is that?New for 2021 is The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash attraction. It was originally set to open in March of last year, but got delayed due to the pandemic. I hopped in line immediately after the park opened and waited less than 5 minutes. The line remained low for a couple of hours and then Universal implemented the ride’s virtual queue system. The virtual queue can be accessed in the official Universal Studios app, or at a kiosk located near the ride.
The exterior of the ride looks really nice.
The queue for Secret Life of Pets has a lot of animatronics. It’s really well done.
I won’t spoil much about the ride but I found it to be very cute and fun. The park has been missing a slow moving family dark ride, so it’s nice to see them finally add one.
We also uploaded a full ride through POV video on our YouTube channel.
Also new for 2021 is the addition of the Indominus Rex to Jurassic World – The Ride.
You can see the entire ride on our YouTube channel.
Super Nintendo World construction is well under way in the Lower Lot. The entrance will eventually be located near Transformers: The Ride 3D.
There are plenty of great vantage points if you want to take a look at construction. Seen here are views from the Starway and the queue for Jurassic World – The Ride
I’m happy to report all shops and attractions in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are open.
While most of the park’s other rides reached wait times of 60 minutes or more in the afternoon, I was surprised to see Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey never got above a 20 minute wait.
A portion of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’s indoor queue is skipped and guests take a path directly to the greenhouse portion of the line. Obviously, I had to get some Butterbeer while I was there. It’s unfortunate that visitors can’t sip and stroll through the land but it’s understandable.
There is a seating area near the Butterbeer cart where you can sit and enjoy your drink.
For lunch I got the chicken and waffle sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack in Springfield, U.S.A. It was delicious and I thought there was a great balance of sweet and savory taste.
Overall I had a great time at Universal Studios Hollywood. The park is looking great and the the new additions for this year are a lot of fun. I personally didn’t see any visitors breaking mask and social distance rules, but I’ve heard from others that enforcement from Universal team members is solid. If you plan to visit keep in mind that advanced reservations are required and no day-of tickets are currently being sold. Also keep in mind the park is currently operating with limited hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
When are you headed back to Universal Studios Hollywood? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below.