In the first two parts of our exploration into Universal City (to start from Part 1 click here)—located just north of downtown Los Angeles—we had entered the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, a vibrant, energizing, in a way over the top attraction undeniably befitting the lofty worldwide reputation L.A. has as the entertainment capital of the world.
Now, the adventure continues…
Good Eats and Good Buys
In addition to the exhilarating rides and attractions, Universal Studios runs the gamut with food and shopping options sure to please.
Not surprisingly—this is L.A. after all—the park has a 40,000 square foot kitchen and an award-winning executive chef that oversees an entire culinary team that strives to, as they explain it, ensure “your dining experience will be as impressive as any of the Park’s special effects!”
In addition to the usual theme park fare—dogs, burgers, fries and shakes, barbecue, Italian, wraps, sandwiches, ice cream and other sweet treats and the like vegetarians and/or those on dietary restrictions will plenty to satisfy, as most park food locations offer healthy options such as salads, fruit, baked goods and more, and cook with trans-fat-free oil. There is also an All You Can Eat Pass offering unlimited trips (only one entree platter per trip) at about five different restaurants.
As it is a movie-themed amusement park, you’ll find plenty of stores to satisfy your movie and specialty collectibles, clothing, toy, film and camera supplies and other needs. The Universal Studio Store, Cartooniversal, Silver Screen, T-2 Gear & Supplies, Hollywood Photographs, Nickelodeon Stuff, Jurassic Outfitters and caricature and face-painting artists, are among them.
The Universal Studios Tour
The Universal Studios Tour is what really brings a visit here all together. Billed as Hollywood’s most famous backlot in the world’s largest working movie studio, it is an expansive four acre, 13-city block, behind the scenes look at some of today’s most popular TVs shows and movies. And in true Hollywood form, it was built with touches of the design and creative expertise of famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
The tour takes place on a lengthy multi-car tram that meanders from set to set with a live MC peppering tour guests with all sorts of entertainment history and trivia. At certain spots along the route, the HD monitors in each car take over with film clips, actor or director interviews and feature spots from others, including comedian Jimmy Fallon, talking about the sets, specific movies and other topics.
The 45-minute or so journey is really very fascinating, as it aptly parallels the experience that we as a society seek when we turn on the TV or go to the movies—an escape from everyday life.
My two favorite parts of the tour are the plane wreck scene used for the filming of War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise, and the new King Kong 360/3-D.
The plane wreckage is unique in that, according to our tram tour guide, it was a real commercial plane that had been decommissioned and “wrecked” specifically for the set. On both sides of the tram you’ll find complete devastation, artfully designed to emulate a residential neighborhood plane crash scenario. The body of the plane is scattered in countless gigantic chunks between homes, lying in precarious positions with tattered seats, luggage strewn about and burnt and bloody bodies everywhere.
Vehicles are reduced to piles of smoldering scrap metal as if they had been bombed. Homes are sliced in half by flying wreckage – appliances, furniture, clothing and lives ripped open for all to see. And it all seemed so real. It is truly the magic of illusion in moving making.
Next, hold onto your hats for King Kong 360/3-D! (To start from Part 1 click here.)