Here we go again! The Theme Park Duo is at another Theme Park making ALL THE MEMORIES with the tiny human that we created! This time we headed over to Universal Studios Hollywood! Why was this trip so special? Well, there are two major reasons: 1) This is our kiddos first trip since before the pandemic, so it’s basically her first trip ever since she was just about 1 ½ when the Pandemic started. 2) She is officially over 40 inches tall! Why is this significant, you ask? Well, the height requirement for a majority of the Universal attractions is 40 inches. So with a few big exceptions, she can now ride a majority of attractions at the park. Come along with us as we recall Eireann’s Fun-Filled-Super-Awesome Universal day!
Our day began around noon. We are normally rope-drop people, but that isn’t always in the cards with a three year old! And we were fortunate enough to have Express passes for this trip, so that took away some of the pressure to get there early. We cannot emphasize enough how much of a benefit it was that we had Express. We wanted this trip to be as smooth as possible, and Express definitely helped make that happen. Wait times were moderately high, and it was a VERY hot day. Express definitely saved us from a few toddler meltdowns and allowed us to experience everything that we wanted and as we wanted. There was zero pressure to run from one attraction to another during our visit which made it relaxed and fun. At the end of this article is a compilation video of our day, make sure to check it out!
Before we delve into the events of our day, we want to give a brief mention to one of our favorite things to utilize at Universal Studios Hollywood for parents: the Family Center! Located just outside of Waterworld, these family restrooms are a game changer. There are three large, handicap accessible, restrooms with changing tables and some toddler sized toilets, two nursing rooms, a vending machine full of useful items for parents, a sink and microwave! We made several stops there throughout the day. It was a great place to chill out in the air conditioning and use the restroom. Definitely use this area if you have little ones if you need some privacy and a break from the crowds.
After a brief photo shoot on the red carpet, we made our way through the Universal gates! Only to stop almost immediately because Eireann spotted Marylin Monroe taking photos and just HAD to meet her! The most adorable meet and greet ensued in which Eireann showed off her Owl from Hogsmeade (that she chose when she was 1 years old) to Marilyn. And we have to give kudos to the team member playing Marilyn. She really took the time to talk with Eireann and get down on her level. It’s the little things like that that make all the difference.
Our first ride of the day was Secret Life of Pets! It was Eireann and Nikkis first time on the ride, and they both had a blast! Eireann was pointing out and waving to all her favorite characters. All the physical animatronics really made a difference in our Daughter’s reaction to the attraction, too. It was almost like she was constantly reaching out to touch the characters as opposed to just watching them. The party scene at the end was her absolute favorite! As with (almost) every other ride we would go on during our visit, Eireann exclaimed loudly at the end: “I wanna go again!”
Next up was Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem! This ride is definitely more intense than her first, so we were nervously watching for her reaction. We both figured that this ride would set the tone for the rest of the day. AND SHE LOVED THIS ONE TOO! She even put her arms up and cheered throughout the ride. Once again, the party scene at the end was her favorite part. Which, it’s actually our favorite too because it’s just so sweet.
Once we exited the ride we went on the Silly Swirly Fun Ride (basically like Dumbo at Disneyland). This was another favorite, Eireann loved controlling the up and down motion herself!
After that, we thought Eireann would want to play in the water play area, but instead her attention immediately went to the row of carnival games. We decided to indulge her, and played a couple games. AND SHE WON! Eireann immediately won a huge minion ice cream cone on the game that resembles plinko. What was great about this game is she could do it herself (with me picking her up) which gave her a bigger sense of accomplishment when she did win. Then Nikki won her a stuffed unicorn (just like in the movie) from the water game. To say Eireann was overjoyed was an understatement!
We actually saw the Minions taking photos not too far away and Eireann showed interest in meeting them. But for some reason, when we got close she got scared. They are rather big and with their static faces, we understood the hesitation. We aren’t the type of parents to force her into the photo so Gabe decided to take a photo to show her they weren’t scary at all. Which made Eireann smile and she waved goodbye to them as we left.
After leaving Super Silly Fun Land we made our way to the lower lot via, possibly, Eireann’s favorite part of the whole day…THE ESCALATORS! Seriously, she was so excited to ride the Starway.
In the lower lot we met a baby Triceratops! Eireann wasn’t sure how she felt about that, but she was definitely intrigued! She felt safe in Gabe’s arms but she wasn’t brave enough to take a photo on her own. We don’t blame her, because this is a “real” dinosaur!
After a quick bite to eat, and parent swap on Jurassic World, we headed back up the escalators!
Next up was something that we weren’t sure Eireann would go for…Flight of the Hippogriff. It might seem like a kiddy coaster to us fully grown humans, but to a three year old it is MASSIVE! We have to give it to her though, she showed no hesitation whatsoever. We were going to let her decide instead of forcing her on it. We let her look at it and told her it was “kinda scary” and for big kids. She was all in! Going though the line she showed some hesitation but mainly to the darker tone of the line. As we approached the station she was cheering as she saw the coaster fly past us. She was even laughing on her way up the lift hill! Then the ride really started…she wasn’t exactly scared…but the array of emotions and expressions that crossed her tiny face were so entertaining! As the ride pulled into the station Eireann exclaimed “That was fun! But maybe too scary…” which to us meant “that was fun, but let’s not ride again”. And just like that Eireann has her first coaster credit!
After all that excitement, we decided to grab some Butterbeer ice cream and head over to the Waterworld show. We weren’t sure if this show would entertain Eireann or even hold her attention at all. we all know that kids this age have the attention span that basically doesn’t exist. Boy were we wrong! This was absolutely one of the biggest highlights of the whole day. Eireann was hooked as soon as the warm up routine started! We were sitting just above the splash zone, so we definitely got wet! Every time we got splashed, a giddy laugh erupted from Eireann. As the show started, she didn’t miss a beat because she was cheering and boo-ing along with the whole crowd!
As soon as the show started Eireann was mesmerized. I’m pretty sure the lead actress, Helen, is Eireann’s new hero. She was so invested! She was worried when she got hurt, and searching for her wherever she went on the set.
We knew that we had to go get a photo with her after the show! Gabe rushed over with her and what ensued was just about the cutest interaction ever! Once again, kudos to the actress who played Helen for taking the time to get down on Eireann’s level and talk with her and let her know she was safe and okay. It made her whole day that much more special. As parent’s it just made us smile form ear to ear.
Next up we took a load off and decided to grab some food. We ate a Turkey sandwich and a couple sides from the Palace Deli and Market and headed over to a table in the Universal Plaza. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality and selection of food available in the market! We got a turkey sandwich, macaroni and mashed potato sides, but there was so much more! We especially liked the look of some of their salad options. It’s a great option if you want to avoid restaurant lines and just grab some quality food on the go, especially healthier options. We scarfed down the macaroni and mashed potatoes so fast. Don’t sleep on those sides because they are so good.
*NO PICTURE FOR FOOD BECAUSE WE ATE THEM SO QUICKLY*
After we were re-energized we headed over to Kung Fu Panda for a, somewhat, calm break from the sun. Although the seats move a bit for this attraction, it isn’t over the top. Eireann watched this show with her jaw on the floor, she couldn’t get over the fact that the action moved past the screen and onto the walls.
Then we headed off to the Simpsons Ride! Coming into the day, we weren’t 100% sure if we wanted Eireann to go on this ride simply because The Simpson’s is a more mature show than we’d let her watch. And of course the humor tends to be a bit inappropriate too. But as fans of the show, that’s why we love Universal Studios. Because they aren’t scared to make those type of jokes for the parents and older crowd. But don’t worry it’s nothing majorly offensive or anything. But we decided that Eireann would like the ride after going on Minion Mayhem and we just kept her attention if we didn’t want her to see or hear something in the queue. On the ride, she was 100% more scared. After experiencing the ride through the eyes of a 3 year old, yeah it can be intense. But as soon as it ended, she proclaimed “Let’s go again!” almost exactly like Homer does at the end of the ride. Eireann was talking about giant Maggie from the Simpsons ride for DAYS after! Even today she asked to watch the video of the “baby who ate me” which is hysterical and it’s clear the ride made a lasting positive impression on her.
After a fun-filled day of rides and attractions, there was only one thing left to do before we called it a night. We had to see the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle! If you know us or have followed us for a while, you know we LOVE every show that Universal has put in Hogsmeade. We were so excited when the show came back and just knew that we wanted Eireann to experience it as well! We settled in a tad early to get a good seat, so we had enough time for Nikki to go on Forbidden Journey and for Gabe to do some shopping!
Thankfully, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house for this show. And unlike other parks nighttime spectaculars, there are multiple showings. So you don’t feel pressure to make the first showing. Just plan to deal with crowds because the flow of crowds can get challenging coming in and out of Hogsmeade.
Not to use a very appropriate pun…but the show was purely MAGICAL! Eireann was mesmerized by the whole show. The music, the projections, and the fireworks work in such perfect harmony! From a technical standpoint, the show is flawless. It captures the emotions of the films and brings the whole area to life. It is a MUST SEE show to end your night at the park. Eireann definitely would have stayed for the next show as well, but it was way past her bedtime and we were ready to say goodnight.
We headed out the gates with one small stop at the Super Nintendo Store and drove home. Tired, but so happy with how our day turned out. As we drove home, we had such a difficult time contextualizing our emotions from the day. As theme park nerds, of course our day was phenomenal because we introduced our child to one of our favorite parks. We both have so many memories built from the many years we’ve frequented Universal Studios Hollywood. And to think that this first visit was the first of many visits that’s going to start building those amazing memories for her got us emotional. Which as parents, putting the nerd identity aside, is all we can ask for. We wanted her to look back at our adventures together and smile thinking about how much fun she had with Mama and Papa. And our day together at Universal Studios Hollywood did just that for us. I think sometimes people perceive Universal Studios Hollywood as a park that is mostly for bigger kids. With big rides like Jurassic World or Revenge of the Mummy, it’s easy to think that. But I think that’s a pretty big misconception. There is so much to do at the park for the younger audience. And as adults, we never know what is going to capture the imagination of our kids.
We want to give a massive shout out to all the Universal Team Members who helped make this day possible. Working at at theme park isn’t an easy job and a lot of the time it’s a thankless job. But this day wouldn’t have been possible without their help. Our family made memories that will last a lifetime because of the amazing work everyone does at the park.
If you want to visit Universal Studios Hollywood, check out their website HERE!