I try my hardest to visit Universal Studios Hollywood whenever my family and I make it out to Los Angeles. It’s easier said than done considering we usually stay at a Disneyland hotel and Universal is over an hour away (and the two companies don’t exactly like you seeking out the other). With that being said, I love Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood equally, the latter edging out purely because of the backlot tour. You have no idea how disappointed I was to visit Universal Studios Florida for the first and only time to discover they didn’t have a backlot…false advertising if I have anything to say about it!
What is it about the Universal Backlot that puts it on par with Disneyland in my opinion? To start, I really recommend checking out my post on the tour throughout the years with the videos attached to see why. Other than that, click “more” to hear my thoughts!
I’ve been to Universal Studios several times and through it all none of the attractions get my attention more than the backlot tour (I do love Terminator 3D as well for nostalgia purposes). The sheer amount of information that you get in the over hour tour is expansive and all the guides are hilarious and knowledgeable. I almost wish they’d remove the pre-recorded videos (now with host Jimmy Fallon) from the tram and let the guides do all the talking. The backlot tour is an attraction where the guide can make or break the experience. I’ve never had a less than spectacular guide and in my recent trip the tour guide had to compliment on my film expertise (apparently I was the only one whose ever laughed at his Boogie Nights reference because I’m awesome!).
I love the backlot tour mainly because you become a member of the Hollywood élite for the time your on the tram. You drive by soundstages and sets that have appeared in legendary productions both past and present. I mean do you know of any other place where you cans see where Lon Chaney played the Phantom of the Opera? Considering how much I adore film history I love seeing and taking a step back in time to when these legends roamed these very streets. Of course the panoramic view you get before descending into the backlot is amazing if only because you notice how close these studios all are to each other (on a good day you can see the Warner Brothers water tower). If your lucky you’ll see an actual production being filmed! I’ve been fortunate to see Desperate Housewives film, The Truman Show, numerous commercials, and had the cast of Leave It to Beaver (the movie obviously) wave to our tram when they filmed there. Sadly, I haven’t been party to off-chance a celebrity stops the tram, which has happened I’ve heard. For one shining moment your on a studio backlot and belong. At any moment a star could walk by and you wouldn’t be escorted off the set, I don’t know any other studio that makes you feel as welcome as Universal (mainly because I haven’t been to any others).
The various on-board attractions are also fun (and considering that I can’t do several of the attractions in the park proper due to my wheelchair, I love being able to do everything safely on the tour). It’s sad that the King Kong attraction is no longer there, the King Kong animatronic I mean, as that was just fantastic but the new King Kong 3D segment is fun and well-done. Other things like driving by the War of the Worlds set is wonderful, especially when they decorate it with corpses around Halloween. I can’t ignore the Psycho House/Bates Motel which is another remarkable piece of film history that still evokes images of fear just driving past it.
If you’re stopping in Los Angeles I can’t recommend enough visiting Universal Studios. An amazing piece of studio history and a fun attraction in itself. I’ve included several videos and photos of my last trip to the studios in this article. Hope you love em!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.