Ok. So, I will fully admit that I have been delaying writing this post for a few weeks. I finally decided the best way to handle the subject of Universal Studios was to tell you why I have delayed writing it and how I will improve upon it. Alright let’s get started.
First let’s start with why I have delayed writing this post. The main reason is I don’t have a lot of experience with Universal Studios. This past December Jon and I got our annual passes for Universal Studios because a dear friend was having their birthday party at the park and it was cheaper to get the annual passes then to get a 1-day ticket. Since then things have been a bit hectic with work and we have been unable to visit the park since it is an hour and a half drive away from us or a 2-hour train ride. We were able to experience most of the park but not all of it the one day that we were there. As such I am unsure how things differ from trip to trip and am unable to speak on experiences that I did not have an opportunity to go to.
I was hoping to get more trips under my belt before writing this blog post and finally decided the best thing to do is give you more of a trip report than necessarily a guide for this park. As I visit the park more often and experience more of how they respond to those with disabilities I will be able to form more of a guide-like post. With that all said let’s get into my trip to Universal Studios Hollywood!
As I mentioned before we got our annual passes because a dear friend was celebrating their birthday and as a big fan of Harry Potter decided that Universal Studios was the best place to celebrate. Prior to their birthday we looked at multiple different options for tickets and decided that for us it would be best to purchase the cheapest of annual passes. Since the park is so far away from us it is actually very easy to avoid block-out days. When we arrived at the park we quickly discovered many differences between it and Disneyland. The security checks are very different from Disneyland as they have a more airline TSA experience where Disneyland hand searches bags. When we entered the park with our printed out passes we were handed a paper ticket for our annual pass. We asked if we needed to go to the ticket booth to get our plastic passes and were informed they were only paper and that we would re-enter the park each time with the paper pass. This is a huge difference between Disneyland and Universal since the Disneyland passes are a plastic card designed for multiple uses.
Once we were in the park we searched for our friends to come up with a game plan. Since the main thing everyone had wanted to do was Wizarding World of Harry Potter we decided to start there. As we walked up to the land entrance I became more and more nervous and excited. I had heard positive things about the main ride in the land, but I had also heard that the ride was not “fluffy friendly” (meaning, those who are larger may not be able to fit on the ride). Thankfully the ride has test seats outside of the attraction that were tucked away in a spot that was easily accessible but not completely out in the open in front of everyone. I tried the seat and surprisingly fit. All of the fluffy people in the group tested the seats with the exception of my husband since he had seen that me and our friends all fit.
When we approached the castle, I asked the cast member where I should go so that I could safely ride the ride. At that point I was asked if I could load on a moving platform. I asked how fast the platform moved and if it could be slowed down. He informed me that the platform could not be slowed down and it was faster than the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland’s platform. I told him that I could not load on that platform and he guided me to the alternative entrance which ended up being the paid VIP experience entrance. I am so glad that I opted for the alternative entrance too because they pulled a ride vehicle off the track, allowed me to load at my pace and then we were loaded back on. Unfortunately, Jon ended up not fitting on the ride, but we feel like I had pushed the bar down for him instead of the employee then he would have fit. Next time we go to the park we plan on testing that theory.
When we finished riding the ride the amazing employees offered us a way to go down to the main castle area and view the walking tour section. When we got to the end the employee offered for my friends to ride again. They loved it and I wish I could have gone with them, but when I saw the moving platform it fully cemented in for me that it was not a possibility for me. After riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, we went looking for Jon who was sitting outside of the castle. Then we headed over to the Flight of the Hippogriff ride. This rides ADA entrance ended up being through the exit. After the last experience Jon opted to not try this ride and honestly, I kind of wish I had not ridden it either. It felt more like a kid’s carnival coaster than a serious ride in a theme park. It left me a little disappointed, but the sorrow was quickly filled with butterbeer and walking around the amazing atmosphere of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Seriously if you have the time, explore this portion of the park because the theming is amazing including the wand store experience.
Now that we had fully explored Wizarding World we decided to head over the Water World Show. Honestly, I didn’t even know that experience was still there. I assumed it had been torn down with the construction of Wizarding World, but I am glad it was still there. It was an amazing show as always, full of lots of stunts and pyrotechnics. Speaking of pyrotechnics, the handicap section was in the very front row of the show and you could really feel the heat a couple of times during the show. Thankfully though it was just outside of the splash zone, so I didn’t have to worry about my chair getting wet.
After the show we headed to the lower lot. Which meant we had to split up from my friends because the non-handicapped way was a whole lot of stairs. We told them we would meet them at the bottom and Jon and I took the tram down to the lower lot. To get to this tram it involved an elevator down 1 level and then wrapping around the corner to find the actual tram. Once in the tram we went through a section of the backlot tours route until we got to the lower lot. Our friends were there waiting for us. When we got to the lower lot they handled accessibility in a slightly different way then the rest of the park. In this section you went to kiosks for each ride, received a return time equivalent to the wait time of the ride, and then returned later to board via the VIP experience. At Transformers they had me put my wheelchair in a closet in between the entrance and exit of the ride. At the Mummy they had me put my wheelchair to the side of where we loaded and then unloaded in the opposite direction of everyone else. Jurassic Park had me go through the main entrance area, then through a door to the exit, park my chair and then walk back over to the entrance of the ride.
For me it was not a huge deal as I do have walking capabilities, however for someone that is more handicapped I would say these rides would not be doable for a couple of different reasons. First is the walk back and forth between load/unload and your wheelchair and secondly, because the rides in the lower lot require you to have control of 1 arm and 1 leg to ride. This is due to a safety protocol by the roller coaster manufacturers that require you have the ability to grip and control your body through the use of at least 1 leg and 1 arm. I am guessing this rule is the main reason why they made the wheelchair parking spots such a distance from the load/unload areas.
Once we finished up with the lower lot, Jon and I headed back up the tram and elevator where my friends were waiting for us. Then we headed over to Despicable Me, Walking Dead Experience, and finally Krustyland to experience the Simpsons Ride which we had to get a wait time for like the lower lot rides. All these rides took us through the VIP entrances of the rides. Once we were done with the Simpsons ride it was time for friends to leave as they had another event that evening. I told Jon though that we weren’t leaving yet.
At this point he was pretty tired since we had been running from ride to ride and still had an hour and half drive home, but I knew there was one ride he had to go on to make his trip to Universal Studios complete. The Hollywood Backlot Tour Tram Ride. Since this was his first time to universal he had never been on it and I knew it would be his favorite ride. We took the elevator down from the upper lot to the tram ride section and followed the signs to the very end of everything for the ADA entrance. When we got down, there was a section for us to wait as well as a ramp for me to park my chair. When the tram approached we took the ramp up and parked my chair. Then our tram pulled forward to get more people. Then we set off on the iconic Universal ride. Jon had such a good time. I had been on this ride before, however the last time I had been on it was in 2008 when the park had experienced a really bad fire leaving large portions of the backlot needing to be rebuilt. Because of such many segments of this ride were all new for me. If you have never been to Universal do yourself a favor and make sure to take a trip on this ride.
Well that wraps up our trip to Universal Studios Hollywood. The big lesson we learned while exploring this park was to always ask where to go because every ride seemed to have a different entrance for my wheelchair. And while this was our first trip to the park with a wheelchair and for Jon his first trip ever it certainly won’t be our last. We plan on visiting it a few more times over the course of the next year. And next time may even try taking public transportation to get there just to avoid the long hour and half drive thanks to the infamous LA traffic. So, what has been your experiences at Universal Studios? Were they different then mine? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss a single post!
My name is Amanda and I have a disability. I have fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I love to go on adventures but my illness' makes that a challenge. I didn't want to spend my life living in bed so I got an electric wheelchair (thanks to my parents) and I am hitting the road. Going to some of my favorite places, exploring new places, and sharing with you how I get around with a disability.
I wanted to give a special thank you to my amazing husband Jon. In addition to being my travel buddy he is also my editor. It's thanks to him that these posts aren't nearly as rambling as they could be.