If L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world, could it in turn have its own entertainment capital? Strange as it may sound, there is an actual city inside of L.A. called Universal City, which has its own zip code, as well as police and fire stations (by the way, that’s the only government-funded fire station in the country that’s located on private property).
The Universal Studios is so much more than just a movie studio, or an amusement park. It’s a unique combination of both.
As you enter the park and see a huge world-famous Universal logo slowly circling around, you start feeling all that excitement and intrigue that belongs here.
Before you go to any of the attractions, we highly recommend experiencing the Studio Tour, where you get on board to see the real filming adventure, starting with the tour itself and experiencing a couple of attractions at the same time.
One of the new stops that the Studio Tour highlights is Fast & Furious—Supercharged, presenting Universal’s most successful franchise. Featuring the film’s original cast members, it brings guests into the high-stakes underground world of fast cars and daring escapades. Situated within a newly constructed 65,000 square-foot building on the legendary backlot, the high speed, 3D-HD ride goes at accelerated speeds of up to 120 miles per hour! The attraction features a part of the plot of the upcoming film series.
The next stop you just can’t miss here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Potter fans and tourists alike would admire the studio’s grand vision of this massive wonderland.
As you enter the gates, you get to the Hogsmeade Village (even featuring original shops from the Potter books and movies), which leads you to a huge castle where the major attraction is located. On your way there don’t forget to experience the Flight of the Hippogriff – a junior roller coaster allowing you to look at the whole park from above, ‘flying’ at top speed.
The major attraction belongs inside the castle where you get a chance to experience almost all exciting parts of the movie – from the Hippogriff flight above Hogwarts to a dragon fight to a Quidditch match. And, before you experience the actual attraction, a lot of things on your way there really add up to the whole magical experience – all the atmosphere and the vibe inside the castle was re-created exactly as the movie creators visualized it. Here you will see talking portraits, a talking hat (the one that decided which faculty a student belonged to), a newspaper with moving pictures, and an actual hologram of the three lead characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione). And as soon as you get to the attraction, you are not simply watching it on the screen in 3D glasses, you’re actually experiencing it as your chair is moving with you, at a speed equal to what you see on screen, making the whole adventure amusingly real.
Our third favorite attraction is Jurassic Park—The Ride, if you’re not afraid of getting wet. Really wet.
As you get in, you jump into one of the boats that brings you down to the canal inside of Jurassic Park. As you travel, you see all kinds of dinosaurs around you, which look super realistic. Then you feel something’s wrong, as the ‘forest’ gets deeper and there’s less and less light around. Eventually, you get into a dark narrow channel with sirens and SOS signals. And while you’re floating down it and the dinosaurs ‘watch’ you from both sides, a huge plush of water drops on you from above, leaving completely overwhelmed by the immersive real-world experience.
The grand finale of your day at Universal should definitely be Water World—A Live Sea Spectacular. This 30-min. performance will bring you to the end-of-the-world futuristic scene set, where people live in fortresses above the water, and are obsessed with finding ‘Dry Land.’ Of course, everyone is looking for it, but none, except for one young lady, finds it. As soon as she does, she starts getting chased by the Smokers, an aggressive-minded group of people looking to colonize the Dry Land as soon as it’s found and make themselves rich. The performance features the most complex combination of high-tech special effects, pyrotechnics, flame and human-stunt work ever attempted anywhere in the world. From the giant fireballs rising 50 feet in the air to a seaplane that swoops in directly above the audience, skidding across the water and coming to an explosive crash landing just inches away from startled spectators, it’s a must see.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a brilliant real-world adventure that you simply cannot miss.
After a whole day exploring and experiencing, it’s good to stop by and grab a bite. There are a lot of dining spots in Universal City, as well as in Central L.A. We stopped by one of the most luxurious ones – Noe Restaurant, located at Omni Hotel in downtown L.A.
Positioning itself as a romantic dining experience in the city, it’s perfect for both a date and a friends gathering. The menu is very carefully selected, overseen by Chef Simon Warren, who brings over 17 years of professional culinary experience.
Our dinner started with a special appetizer from the chef – sashimi over an oyster shallow with cucumber and yuzu. The menu boasted a lot of delightful choices. For the entrée, I picked Cured Pork Bolognese, Artisan spaghetti with shaved midnight moon and fennel pollen. Sometimes, when you order simpler choices, you face the biggest challenge, since the more simple your choice, the easier to get it wrong. Fortunately, the spaghetti overcame its expectations – it was tender and light, even boasting a feeling of a handmade one, which you can’t experience often nowadays, when you can get almost any kind at a grocery store. The pork was well-prepared, tender, and roasted in a tomato sauce. I had literally no complaints about my order, except for the preparation time.
My companion picked Cast Iron Seared Free Range Chicken for his entrée. It’s both easy and hard to go wrong with the chicken, and sometimes it doesn’t even get the tenderness that’s required to experience the taste. That was not the case with this particular chicken. Prepared to perfect tenderness, and accompanied by rainbow chard, wild red rice, and leek béchamel, it resulted in a truly exquisite taste. There might have been slightly too much of chicken jus, but that’s a mere matter of subjective taste.
For the dessert we relied exclusively on the server’s recommendation and went with Butterscotch Pudding, which definitely didn’t leave us disappointed. With brown sugar brittle and salted crème fraiche, it had everything your sweet-craving heart could desire. And for you fans of ice cream, it featured that delicious combination of warm sugar brittle and cold fraîche that would leave you begging for more.
The whole vibe of the place screams luxury, perfectly matching the Omni Hotel & Resort ambiance. The only thing that could have been done better was probably re-organizing the front desk, moving it closer to the entrance. If this is your first time here (which was our case), you enter a bar first, with no hostess, and have to wait until noticed by one of the servers, which could be slightly confusing. Would it keep me from coming back? Certainly not. But it would certainly make the whole experience more enhanced and complete.
If you’re in L.A., we would definitely recommend stopping by Noe Restaurant – especially with an outdoor open terrace, it makes a truly wonderful dining experience.
Photos by Dennis Bindarau,