We recently visited Universal Studios Hollywood to check out all the new attractions since our last visit, and also had the opportunity to experience 'The Entertainment Capital of LA' by day and by night.
The headline addition for 2016 is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter including the land’s signature ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which for the first time in the US has 3D HD screens. Hogwarts has never looked so good, and as one of world's most advanced rides it never fails to impress. Flight of the Hippogriff also debuts as the first outdoor roller coaster at Universal Studios Hollywood, complete with Hagrid's Hut.
We love this version of the magical world, despite being minus the other roller coaster found at its Orlando counterpart the wonderful setting in the Hollywood Hills, an extra alleyway lined with shops, and improvements to the main ride, all more than make up for it.
All the eating and shopping locations in Hogsmeade are here too, including the Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head, Ollivander's Wand Shop, Owl Post, Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, Dervish and Banges, Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Honeydukes, Zonko's plus Gladrags Wizardwear.
Also new for this year is The Walking Dead, a year-round walkthrough attraction bringing the incredibly popular television show to life. We were really impressed by the huge and detailed sets, great use of animatronics, and live scare actors throughout.
This is definitely not recommended for the fainthearted, but fans of the show will love the attention to detail and being able to step inside and experience the zombie apocalypse.
Our last visit was a couple of year's ago, so also new to us was the wonderful re-creation of Springfield. There are tons of actual eateries including Krusty Burger, Moe's Tavern, Cletus' Chicken Shack, Luigi's Pizza, Lard Lad Donuts, Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck, Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream Parlor and even a Duff Brewery Beer Garden. We enjoyed a certified Krusty Burger and a Duff Beer for lunch!
There are also backdrops for Springfield Elementary School, Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Springfield Police Station, Springfield General Hospital, Springfield Penitentiary, Springfield Department of Motor Vehicles, The Android's Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop, Herman's Military Antiques, King Toot's Music Store, Dr. Nicks, Stu's Disco and the Aztec Theater.
The area is of course also home to The Simpsons Ride, an exciting motion simulator ride in Krustyland that is packed with hilarious jokes, an absolute must for all fans of the series, plus the Kwik-E-Mart has all kinds of merchandise available. Overall, it's a much better version of Springfield than you'll find at Orlando.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the world famous Studio Tour which offers a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes of this working film and television studio, and can last from 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on what's happening.
Some of our favorite parts of the narrated tour are seeing the real life studios and sets, the actual Bates Motel and Psycho House, the incredible crash scene from War of the Worlds and classic sequences based on Jaws and Earthquake.
3D glasses bring to life the King Kong 360 experience and since our last visit there is now a spectacular new finale with Fast & Furious - Supercharged which features the world’s most expansive 360-degree screens.
Down on the Lower Lot, there are three brilliant attractions. Revenge of the Mummy The Ride is the shorter counterpart to the Orlando version and does feature less theming and special effects, but it still offers big thrills with forward and backward launch sections. Transformers The Ride is one of the best dark rides in the world, combining huge 3D screens, impressive sets, motion simulation and a ton of brilliant special effects. Jurassic Park The Ride is the original, wettest and best of these water rides with excellent theming, special effects and a terrifying 84ft drop.
Back on the Upper Lot, for more family-friendly fun, it's worth checking out the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4D attractions. Both feature humorous pre-show sections before the main experiences.
The spectacular live show WaterWorld continues to be a big highlight of Universal Studios Hollywood, offering 20 minutes of dramatic stunts and special effects, it's a total blast from start to finish. Other enjoyable live performances at the theme park include the fascinating Special Effects Show and adorable Universal's Animal Actors.
As darkness falls, the theme park lights up and looks fantastic, especially the eerie Psycho House with Norman Bates standing on the porch.