LA: Universal Studios

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Minions and More

Day 8. Movies and red carpets.  That’s when you know you’re in Hollywood!  And going to Hollywood or LA won’t be complete without a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.  After all, movies and Universal Studios mean quite the same thing.01

 Yup!  It’s our 5th theme park on this holiday but we didn’t mind at all.  We were also expecting my high school friends, Heinrich and Marife, and their families to join us later in the day, so that was another thing to look forward to.

We bought our tickets online a month in advance.  It was a 2 Days for the Price of 1 ticket for USD87 each.  Every ticket had the holder’s name and so it was really non-transferrable.   We would have saved a lot had we intended to go for two days, but we only wanted a day at Universal Studios.  But it was okay, that was the cheapest available ticket that time anyway.

Universal Studios was in a festive mood just like the rest of LA.  Everywhere there was a feeling of Christmas.02

Finding this snowman at the entrance certainly set the mood for everyone who enters the gate.03

A couple of hundred more steps and we were greeted by mountains and open space.   That’s another thing we liked about LA, it’s a metropolitan city surrounded by mountains on most sides and the ocean on the other.  I’ll show you what I mean in my next few blogs. In the picture, the boys were standing on the walkway to our first attraction.03

The most popular attraction there was the Studio Tour.  They don’t have it in their other locations so this was really a must see for us.  There were a number of tours in different languages but we could only do the English-speaking tour (if there was a Tagalog tour, we’d probably try that LOL!).04

The attractions in the park were on two levels, the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot.  The entrance of Studio Tours was on the Upper Lot.

We hopped onto an open tram with 4 cars, and although Jimmy Fallon was on the TV monitor to welcome and join us, there was also a live guide which made the tour even more informative.40

We toured around a massive working studio where movies are still being made and shows like ‘The Voice’ are still being held.  The tour took us to sets of old but familiar movies and TV series.   Among them were …Jaws

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 And Desperate Housewives10

Also on display were cars used in movies like these ones…06


There were also flash flood and earthquake simulations that would make you think, ‘Oh so that’s how they do it’.

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But the highlights of the tour were King Kong 360-3D and Fast & Furious-Supercharged.  Both were 3D attractions with realistic special effects.   You could actually feel like you were in the movies –caught in a battle between King Kong and a T-Rex, and racing along Vin Diesel and The Rock in a super-fast car.05


We left the Studio Tour wowed by man’s brilliance, creativity and unhindered imagination to create wonderful movies and 3D attractions.  Peter Jackson, the genius behind LOTR, The Hobbit and King Kong, was also the man behind King Kong 360 3D.

After the Studio Tour, we walked to the Lower Lot where Transformers, Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy were.

Only Joaquin and Euben dared the Transformers 3D Ride.  They were the brave ones during this holiday.  Both of them said that it was a great ride.  I guess Benjamin and I will never know.


Jurassic Park only has Jurassic Park – The Ride which seems more for those undaunted by big drops, and the Raptor Encounter.  Well unfortunate for us, we could only do the Raptor Encounter which was more like a meet-and-greet session with a dinosaur rather than an actual show.   We did not go to Revenge of the Mummy anymore because the last time we rode it in Universal Studios Singapore we almost threw up because it was scary and too jerky for us. But we know a lot of people who would probably like the ride so try it if you dare.  Perhaps it might even be your favourite ride!13

We had lunch back at the Upper Lot.  There were some fast-food choices but they were quite limited I must say, maybe because some were closed that time or perhaps because some sections of the park were under renovation.

Fueled by hotdog buns, rootbeer and real beer, we explored the Upper Lot next.

The Simpsons22

Christmas-themed ‘street’…

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There was also Super Silly Fun Land, which was an amusement park inspired by the Minions movies.  But no one wanted to try the rides.  After doing Transformers, Joaquin thought the rides here were too kiddy for him.

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Speaking of Minions, right next door was the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.   Oh how we all loved this 3D ride that we wanted to do it again had there been no queue.   We were recruited to train as Minions, and our series of adventures took place in Gru’s home and then in his laboratory.  It was colourful, highly entertaining and breath-taking. Don’t miss this!

While waiting at Despicable Me

Outside the ride was the meet-and-greet session for the Minions.25

This is one of our favourite shots in the trip.


Do you know this motorcycle?  This was the actual one used in filming The Mummy Returns.27

And how lucky we were to see Scooby Doo!  All four of us could relate to this timeless cartoon. Euben and I grew up watching Scooby Doo and the kids still enjoy watching it weekly.28

We watched the Water World  show.  We wanted to compare it with the show in Universal Studios Singapore.  Well, they were exactly the same.  So, to my friends in Singapore, if you haven’t seen it, do catch it soon.  It’s a thrilling and engaging show based on the 1995 movie of Kevin Costner, Waterworld. However, Joaquin was scared of the explosions and gunfire.

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We also watched Shrek 4D.  It was also exactly the same as the attraction in Singapore which we liked so much.  And look who we saw after the show – Shrek and Fiona!31

Around 4pm, despite being winter, the sky was still bright blue and lent an amazing backdrop to Mr. Gringe’s crooked Christmas tree.  We sat around the tree for a while, soaking up the sun and savouring the Christmas spirit.

Cheers from Mr Grinch’s crooked Christmas tree at Universal Studios Hollywood

And this next one, our kids said, was another reason to visit LA again.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was well underway during our visit.  It was scheduled to open in spring 2016 and the last time I checked, it indeed opened on 7 April 2016.16

Seeing Hogwarts from a distance was enough to put a big smile on Benjamin’s face.17

And when we entered the Harry Potter shop, the two kids were so excited that they could not decide on what to get for souvenirs.18

Joaquin got himself a Harry Potter wand replica.  He understood that it was not a toy and, being made out of ceramic, it could break easily. But he decided on it anyway and up to now (one year on) it’s still in one piece and he only takes it out of our souvenir cabinet whenever he wants to cast a spell on his brother.19

Benjamin got Gryffindor items like a shirt and a water bottle.

And who can resist the Chocolate Frog? Not Benjamin. He bought a piece (the chocolate was big), ate it over the few days and saved the box as a souvenir.

With the frog was the picture of Rowena Ravenclaw

At around 7pm, after the kids reluctantly allowed us to pull them out from the Harry Potter shop, we finally said goodbye to Universal Studios… ..And headed to Universal CityWalk to meet our friends.34

Universal CityWalk is the perfect place to go after a day at the park.  It’s just outside the park so you don’t have to walk too far.   You’ll find a good range of restaurants here from fast food to casual dining.  It houses a number of apparel, accessories and souvenir shops.  And it also boasts 19 screen cinemas and the original IMAX theatre.  If you’re into clubbing, you can also find a few there.

Marife and Rafol treated us all to a nice American dinner at Saddle Ranch Chop House.  I had not seen Rafol since high school so it was really good to see him again with his and Marife’s kids.  Heinrich, Patrick and their super-cute daughter were there too.  We chatted so much that we forgot to take a group picture.  All we have was a picture of the enormous cotton candies which were given to our group free-of-charge (I think because we ordered a lot, thanks again Pots!)36

And a picture of the kids roasting marshmallows on the open fire.37

We strolled along CityWalk for a few more minutes and ended the night with a family picture among the brightly-lit Christmas trees.

Christmas trees at Universal CityWalk. Thanks Pots for this nice shot!


Our 3rd day in LA was spent watching a movie premier, visiting exhibits and a night at the circus.  Tune in!

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