February 24, 2024, 5:37 PM ·

I am staying close to (my) home for our recommendation this week. That’s because 2024 promises to be a great year to visit us in Hollywood.

Now, when I say that, please do not plan to head for the place marked “Hollywood” on Los Angeles maps. If you want to visit the home of the movie and TV industry, you will not find it there. Instead, head over the Hollywood Hills into the southeast corner of the San Fernando Valley. That’s where you will find the “Hollywood” you’re looking for… starting with Universal Studios Hollywood.This is the park’s 60th anniversary year, with the Universal Studios Tour opening in 1964. Anniversaries often provide nice excuses to visit historic parks, but – to be honest – you will find little at USH that was there 60 years ago. No major park in the world has transformed itself as much over the past two decades as Universal Studios Hollywood has. So you might find it a bit odd that my second reason for visiting in 2024 is that…There’s no new attraction this year. What? Okay, Universal is promising some new entertainment later this year to celebrate the anniversary, but there won’t be any new ride in the park in 2024. A major Fast & Furious roller coaster is under construction on the Upper Lot, but we do not expect to see that open until 2025. This will be a rare year without any major changes at the park, which should allow for a better visit, because…

Wait times for Mario no longer are crazy. Last year’s debut of Super Nintendo World caused visitors to slam the park throughout the year, with three-hour waits common for its new Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge augmented reality dark ride. Now, you can get on that ride most of the time for under an hour’s wait. Mario Kart has a great queue, but even great queues become significantly less great when it takes over two hours to crawl through them.For a theme park that started as a side piece to a movie studio, Universal Studios Hollywood excels at immersive themed lands. In addition to Super Nintendo World, there’s Illumination Avenue, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Springfield, while it lasts. With the 20-year anniversary of Universal’s The Simpsons Ride approaching in 2028, it’s widely believed that Universal will be looking to retheme this area, starting that summer. So come enjoy this area while you can.One attraction that won’t ever be going away at Universal is The Studio Tour. The original attraction at the park, the tram tour remains USH’s unique and signature attraction. It’s ever changing, too, with its route determined by production schedules on the back lot. The Earthquake experience is now being refurbished for an expected return this spring. And with that Fast & Furious coaster growing by the day, I don’t expect to see the Supercharged finale of the tour to last much longer. But with Hollywood production ramping up, there’s always something interesting to see on the tour. Plus, Hollywood still has its Jaws, too.Speaking of studio tours… here is my sixth reason for visiting – the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, right down the street from Universal. In my opinion, this is the best studio tour in California for showing you what movie and television production is really like. No, you won’t find the rides, shows, and tram tour encounters that you do at Universal, but you will get to walk around parts of the lot, see an enormous number of film-used costumes and props, and get some hands-on experience with production and post-production techniques. It also is not unheard of that you might see a certain Theme Park Insider editor walking around on the lot while taking this tour, too. (Okay, that’s happened about half a dozen times over the past two years.) Forget about me and couple a Warner Bros. visit with a Universal trip, though, and you can get a…Double dose of Potter. Universal might have the theme park rights to Harry Potter, but Warner Bros. was the studio that produced the films, so Potter definitely has a presence on the WB tour, too. See Harry’s home under the stairs and take part in a Potions class before loading up on Potter souvenirs. Hollywood (sort of) does have two Harry Potter attractions, like Orlando. It’s just that the second one is down the street at Warner Bros.
Under the stairs at Privet Drive. Now renting for $1,800 a month in LA. (Kidding – you can’t get it at any price.)Finally, while you are in the neighborhood, don’t miss the birthplace of Disneyland. Continue down Forest Lawn Drive from Universal and Warner Bros., and you will run into Griffith Park – Los Angeles’ largest public park. It was here, sitting on a bench next to the park’s Merry-Go-Round, that Walter Elias Disney came up with the idea for his theme park. The Merry-Go-Round is still there, open weekends throughout the year and weekdays during the summer and Christmas and Easter vacations. There’s plenty more to do in the park, including a walk up Mount Hollywood to see the famous sign (which is perched on Mount Lee), a visit to the Griffith Park Observatory (which boasts an impressive IMDB page as a popular filming location), the Greek Theatre, LA Zoo, and the Bronson Caves – home of the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.* * *
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