I’ll be spending a lot of time indoors with my kids this spring, and I do not think I can handle Disney+ for hours on end. So after the board games have been played, the art projects complete, what else can we do? Head online for ideas, I say.
Museums are a great resource, too. These are created by professionals in their fields, so whether it’s science, history, or art, you know you’ll find some quality activities. Here are a few with fantastic ideas:
If you read enough travel blog posts about Kauai, browse the visitor’s brochure, and buy a guide book (I highly recommend Fodors Kauai), you’ll start feeling like you have a good idea all the things you can do on the Hawaiian island. At least I did. And then my mom surprised me with a Kauai sunset tour I’d never heard about.
And here’s why I think everyone should know about it.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Kauai golf course tour at sunset
My family vacation to Kauai, Hawaii, was a reunion of sorts, with all of my siblings and their kids. Our crew was large, and in fact, included the additional family of my Norwegian sister as well as my Swiss brother (if you’ve ever hosted an exchange student, you know what I mean).
So, we were a large group, ranging in age from 5 to 69. Very few Kauai tours could accommodate a group of 20+, it turns out.
One of the few tours we could all do together was at Princeville Makai Golf Course. For the tour, you get a golf cart to drive around the course. It’s two people to a cart.
Before setting out, we stopped at the “first hole,” AKA the bar & grill to get a beverage and snacks for the ride. No outside food or drinks were permitted.
Our guide, Tom, was entertaining, as he had clever stories to share at each stop, which included holes with gorgeous ocean views.
He had a knack for remembering everyone’s name. No easy feat when our group alone had about 20 people!
What you’ll see on the tour
Our tour took us around around the 18-hole golf course, past spacious homes and lush landscapes. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Rumor has it that it’s one of the most five scenic golf courses in the world.
The highlights, of course, were the views. We have five stops, including one where we could see (from a distance) the infamous Queen’s Bath, which also happened to be located near a nene nesting ground.
Don’t expect any hikes or even a long walk from your cart. This tour is good for people with limited mobility. If you want a workout, this is not the tour for you.
Is this tour for families?
Sure, if you’re willing to pay for more than one cart (assuming there are at least three of you).
Would I recommend it? Kids ages 6 and older are allowed on the tour, but I would say not all 6-year-olds have the patience for it.
The younger kids in our group (my kids included), were antsy after the first stop. They couldn’t drive the carts, which annoyed them. And then the guide just talked and talked at each stop. My kids had energy to burn and didn’t want to stand still to listen.
So, the kids played tag at each stop, giggling and shrieking and distracting us from the guide’s talk. No one got angry. No one shushed the kids (except for us irritated moms).
All in all, the kids were welcomed. It was us parents who were less enthused with having our own kids there. 🙂
Final thoughts on the tour
OK, I admit I was more than eager to drive a golf cart for a hour and a half. I don’t golf, so this was my only chance. Combine the thrill of a low-speed golf cart and gorgeous views, and I had myself a lovely evening.
OK, I admit I was more than eager to drive a golf cart for an hour and a half. I don’t golf, so this was my only chance. Combine the thrill of a low-speed golf cart and gorgeous views, and I had myself a lovely evening.
My kids? They had quite the scenic and expensive game of tag.
If you want to go on this sunset golf cart tour
Princeville Makai Golf Club
Where: 4080 Lei O Papa Road, Princeville, Hawaii
When: Daily, starting two hours before sunset. Reservations are required. Call (808) 826-1912, ext. 200 or 201.
Cost: $79 per cart
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It’s possible to fit in your bucket list ride experiences and foodie treats in a single day at Universal Studios Hollywood, but to do so, you need to be strategic at the theme park. Read on for tips on the not-to-miss things to do at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to Universal Studios Hollywood in order to write about our experiences. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
The one ride you must go on at Universal
By far, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was a ride of a lifetime. The ride had incredible effects, smooth but fast “flying” and memorable experiences being immersed in the world of Harry Potter was well worth admission.
My son’s favorite thing to do (repeatedly, and returning to try some more times) were the spells at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While the interactive parts are free, you can only do them with a special wand purchased at Ollivanders.
That special wand will cost more than the other wands. And, if you want to have the wand of a specific character, it will cost a bit more. For our two kids’ wands, we paid nearly $100.
Worth it? Yes, in our case. My kids made objects float, doors rattle and fire appear out of chimneys. Those working around Hogsmeade were on hand to coach them in wand waving technique.
It made the experience of Hogsmeade so much more immersive and exciting for my kids.
Hidden gems at Universal Studios Hollywood
You’ll find a lot of hidden gems throughout Universal Studios Hollywood, and a lot of them will be encountered in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Venture into shops to find “The Book of Monsters” (just try to stop your kids from waking it).
Over in the “Simpsons” area, you might hear or even see the nuclear power plant go into meltdown mode or hear the sirens caused by a prison break by a particularly villainous man.
Best character encounters
OK, OK this one can be argued. For me, the best character encounter was at the Raptor Encounter, where we saw an incredibly realistic young raptor interact with guests. She tried to eat the turkey leg one woman was holding.
And just a few steps away, a triceratops lumbered around. We were told how to pet her correctly (back of hand, gently stroking downward). The keepers really made her seem like a lifelike, fragile giant creature.
Second runner-up was Decepticon, the giant villain from Transformers. He interacted with each guest in line to get pictures with him, poking fun at one family’s affinity for denim, for instance.
He talked to my daughter about her T-shirt that read “Still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.” He asked her to cast a spell, which she was a little too shy to do, so he told her she needed to keep learning. It was all pretty entertaining.
Universal Studios Hollywood had A LOT of character encounters with very short lines for most. It was more up to you to get creative with the characters for the photos.
I had the most fun with “Simpsons” characters. My kids and I devised an evil plot with Sideshow Bob and I had a good laugh with Krusty.
Most amazing show at Universal
I’ll try not to use too much hyperbole in describing this, but the Christmas show projected on Hogwarts at The Wizard World of Harry Potter was the best light show I’ve ever seen.
My husband and I spent quite some time trying to imagine how big the projectors had to be to get create the illusion of dancing ghosts, twinkling Christmas tree lights, and fireworks on the castle walls.
Truly a spectacular sight, so don’t miss it.
If you ask my daughter, though, the best show was the Animal Actors Show. I mean, the trained dogs were adorable, but can’t compete with wizardry.
We’ll agree to disagree on this one.
Best 3-D experience
This category had some tough competition. Universal Studios Hollywood is known for extravagant special effects and when it comes to rides, several had incredible 3-D experiences.
Most impressive to me was found on the one-hour Studio Tour, especially when the tram stopped at “Skull Island.” It’s hard to grasp what technical skill went into creating this intense experience that surrounded all sides of the tram.
Food experiences you’ll want to try
Being a family of “Simpsons” fans, we couldn’t resist getting a giant pink donut from Lard Boy Donuts.
It was surprisingly good and a substantial treat even when split among four greedy sugar fiends.
Drinks at Universal Studios Hollywood
If you’re a Harry Potter fan and you’ve never had butterbeer, head straight to The Wizatding World of Harry Potter and order a round.
I’m actually not a big fan of the drink, so I skipped it on our visit. I am, however, a fan of Tiki drinks, so I splurged on a $20 fruity concoction at Isla-Nu Bar. It came in a souvenir cup and was topped with a fresh orchid.
Wettest experience at Universal
If we’re talking rides, you’ll likely get the wettest riding Jurassic Park: The Ride. No matter where you sit, you can’t escape that fact.
And my son seemed to be a magnet for splashes no matter which ride we were on. World Famous Studio Tour? He got wet. DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda? He got wet.
Still, none of those compare to the wettest experience at the park. That honor goes to Super Silly Fun Land, in the “Despicable Me” themed area. And more specifically, it’s the Wet Zone I’m talking about, which has 80 water play features.
We visited on a cooler January afternoon, so no kids were playing in the water, but I can just imagine how soaked they’d all be on a summer afternoon. There was a huge bucket of water getting dumped out occasionally, as well as several jet streams of water.
Tip: If you’re going with young children, bring a change of clothes!
It sounded like a good idea: Surprise the kids with an extended layover in Los Angeles and take them to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood! Two days and two parks? It can be done….if you plan well. Here are my tips for going to both parks when you’re in LA, and not only surviving it but enjoying it.
I didn’t know what I was doing when I started planning the trip. I didn’t know about CheapOair’s new Things To Do series, for one thing. If I had, I would’ve had a better grasp on things to do in LA, which had tips that would’ve made this trip more affordable.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by CheapOair. I partnered with Universal Studios Hollywood to write a series of posts. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Getting around LA
Coming from the Midwest, LA is huge and the traffic is overwhelming. It seemed to me that we picked two parks that couldn’t be further from each other. Would it have been easier to choose other things to do over those two days?
Probably. Who knows?
But, that’s water under the bridge. Learn from me – make sure your planning is thorough.
Tip 1: You’ll need a car in LA. There’s no way around it, especially with only two days to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Plan your routes and departure times before your vacation starts because you’re going to have to get up earlier than you thought. The theme parks are only 35 miles apart…but those are 35 California miles.
Where to stay when going to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood
The age old question. Where do you stay in LA? As I mentioned, the two theme parks are not near each other.
Tip 2: Where you stay may boil down to where you have loyalty points. If you aren’t loyal to a particular chain, here are some things to consider:
-Which park will you spend more time? Disneyland had more rides we knew our kids would want to do, so we knew our day would be longer at that park, factoring in waiting in lines.
-Are your kids young enough to need a nap during one of the afternoons? We knew ours would be exhausted midday due to an overnight flight, so we wanted the option to leave for a nap.
-What is your budget? Sky’s the limit with your budget? Then, choose a hotel that gets you early admission into Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood.
We stayed at the Best Western Park Place Inn & Mini Suites, a Good Neighbor hotel across the street from Disneyland. I thoroughly researched options.
Best Western had many perks:
-You can’t get much closer to Disneyland than this hotel. We walked to the park from the hotel and we were able to leave the park midday for a nap.
-It’s much less expensive than Disney property hotels, as well as many of the other hotels near the theme park.
-The price included parking and complimentary hot breakfast. We were able to park our rental car at the hotel before the afternoon check-in time, too, saving us from having to pay Disneyland’s daily parking rate.
-I could buy Disneyland park tickets at the front desk.
-There was a pool. Granted, we had no time for swimming and it was a little too cool for outdoor swimming. But still. There was a pool.
-It was a comfortable, clean room for the four of us.
The downside? It’s far from Universal Studios Hollywood.
For both parks, I made sure to download each respective app. Each app had different features, though both had a helpful interactive map.
Tip 3: Playing said games on the Disneyland app suck the battery life out of your phone.
I spent most of my pre-trip planning on Disneyland plans. I used Touring Plans to help me. It wasn’t as essential as planning a Disney World trip, but it helped a lot. The plan gave me an outline of which rides to go on in the order that would minimize walking and wait times.
I started planning 60 days out and made reservations for meals at the park. That’s the earliest you can do it.
For Universal Studios Hollywood, far less planning went into things. There are fewer rides and (in my opinion) a lot more photo opps, so we were going to wing it.
Plus, we had a not-so-secret weapon: The Universal Express Pass. It is well worth the added expense since you could use it once per ride and show and skip the lines!
Tip 4: If you’re only spending one day at either park, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single-day, discounted ticket online. Multi-day passes at a discount are widely available, as are multi-day passes with a hotel discount.
Disneyland in a day
The popular suggestion is to get to the park before rope drop (the minute they officially open) and that you should visit the park opposite the one that has early morning magic hours. We did neither of that and survived. On a weekend.
We arrived at Disneyland about one hour after the park opened. Luckily, there was no stress with parking since we just had to walk across one street from our hotel.
Expect a bit of a line for the security check. It went quick. Because we bought our tickets at the hotel, we were able to walk right up to the ticket takers after passing through security.
We bought the Disney MaxPass for each of us so that we can reserve FastPass tickets for each of us on my phone. The bonus? The Disney MaxPass includes digital copies of all photos taken by Disney photographers inside the park!
Tip 5: There is a free way to get FastPass tickets, it is just a lot more running around less of a guarantee you’ll snag them for the times and rides you want. We tried this option for about an hour before getting frustrated.
The must-ride new ride at Disneyland, Smugglers Run, does not allow a FastPass (at least, not when we were there). Your best bet is to either make that your first ride of the day, or track the wait time on the app and run to the ride once the wait is below 60 minutes.
Tip: You’re assigned a role for the ride. You want to be one of the pilots, if at all possible.
Dining (quickly) at Disneyland
Disneyland allows you to order at some quick-service restaurants through their app. I tested this out with Bengal Barbecue and in the time it took for me to order a snack and walk to the counter window, my food was ready. We ate our jungle skewers while waiting in line for the Indiana Jones ride.
Tip6: See which restaurants allow Mobile Food & Beverage Ordering here.
We successfully fit everything we wanted to do in one day at Disneyland, including having a sit-down meal (in Disney parlance, that means Table Service Restaurant).
We had lunch reservations at Blue Bayou Restaurant. This much-coveted dining experience is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Like, you literally watch boats float by.
My kids love all-things-pirates, so it was a no-brainer. However, if you are on a budget and/or time crunch, you are better off skipping this restaurant.
Tip 7: Even when you have reservations at Disneyland, expect a bit of a wait. For both our reservations, we had to get into a line to get in. Of course, this line was much faster than the no-reservations line.
We also had reservations for Oga’s Cantina inside the Uber-popular Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It was right around dinner time, so I’d assumed we’d eat there.
The limited menu is more finger foods and appetizers, and pricey ones at that (pricey ones that kids refuse to eat). It’s an extremely unique place to grab a drink, though.
Tip8: My kids were surprisingly grossed out by the blue milk and cookie drink they had there. If you suspect your kid may be the same, save yourself $11 and just order them a water.
Universal Studios Hollywood in a day
It’s always recommended to arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood right when the park opens, but as is our MO, we arrived about an hour after opening. We had our admission tickets printed out already, so we by-passed the purchase line. That’s a great idea to save a few minutes!
Now, we were very fortunate to have the Universal Express Pass, which allowed us to skip the long line for each ride once. Whether or not you have that pass, I recommend going to the most popular area in the theme park first: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
And then go straight to the ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. This popular line is well worth the wait, but why not minimize the wait and go there first thing? (Our wait was about 5 minutes – the time it took to walk the winding route from the entrance to the ride) The amazing ride takes you on a whirlwind journey through Hogwarts™ and outside the school grounds.
Tip9: Be sure to slow down when rushing to the front of the line with your Universal Express Pass. There are some incredible things to see while you wait in line for rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™.
You can rent a locker by the ride for free for a couple hours, which is a fantastic perk. After the Forbidden Journey, walk over to the only outdoor rollercoaster in the park, Flight of the Hippogriff™.
Your family is going to want to explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and that included buying interactive wands and testing them throughout the area.
So, if you suspect your Potterhead kids will be the same, delay getting those wands until later in the day when the lines for the rides are their longest. There can be a slight wait to get into Ollivanders™ and then there’s additional time choosing the wand. (A Universal Express Pass does not get you to the front of the line at Ollivanders)
For the rest of the day, we explored the Upper Lot first before venturing down to the Lower Lot. We rode all of our must-ride rides. We even used the Universal Express Pass to gett straight onto The World-Famous Studio Tour.
Tip10: Younger kids aren’t nearly as impressed with seeing the movie and TV sets as adults are. If an hour on a tram will test your youngster’s patience, it might be worth waiting for a future visit to go on the tour.
We saved a few things until the end of the day, like the cute Animal Actors Show and DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda. Really, we kept our day relaxed and only loosely planned since we didn’t have to worry about lines. We left the day open to random character encounters and surprises.
The finale for us was returning to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and watching the light show on the castle. It was spectacular and jaw-dropping, and I’m really trying to hold back on using too much hyperbole.
We were there at the end of the holiday festivities, so Hogwarts took on an enchanting Christmas appearance with a Christmas tree and lights.
Returning to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one last time at night gave the kids another chance to use their wands. There is a map that comes with each wand you purchase, so it is easy to find all of the places you can cast a spell.
Dining (quickly) at Universal Studios Hollywood
Like Disneyland, we brought our own water bottles into Universal Studios Hollywood, so we saved on drinks so that we could splurge on treats.
Tip 11: To beat spending too much time in line for food, we ate at off-hours.
So, we had a mid-morning snack — mmm, donut — in Springfield, home of “The Simpsons.” There was no line for a big donut at 10 a.m. Go figure.
Then, we had a late lunch splitting some chicken fingers at Cletus’ Chicken Shack and a Krusty Burger at…where else? Krusty Burger.
While my husband waited in line for the Simpsons-inspired food, the kids and I went looking for characters to take pictures with.
As a trade later on, while I waited in line for an early dinner entree at Jurassic Cafe in the Lower Lot, my husband and the kids went to play in the DinoPlay area.
Tip12: Get all of my money-saving tips for food at Universal Studios Hollywood in this post.
Final thoughts on two LA parks in two days
I have a few takeaways after our exciting and darn exhausting 48 hours at Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Resist the urge to plan on staying from open to close at one or both of the theme parks. When planning our days out, I knew that we could try to tough it out and get the most out of our park ticket, but it was not worth the exhaustion.
Stop and smell the theme park flowers. It’s so easy to get caught up in rushing around to get to the shortest line that you easily miss hidden gems and unexpected surprises. Disneyland especially has a lot of nooks with hidden Disney treats.
I’d have watched “The CheapOair Travel Guy,” Beau Rials, to get some ideas on how to save a little money while we were in LA. His Things To Do video series just started, and while I don’t think we could have crammed one more attraction, I would have loved his tips on food. Want to keep up to date on tips like that? Follow CheapOair’s You Tube channel for the next video! I’m told CheapOair will give their social media followers the first chance to participate in an exciting opportunity soon.
There are many ways to experience the beauty of Kauai, the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii. One low-key option for taking in the scenery is bike riding. Two wheels allow you to enjoy views at your own pace, and when it comes to traveling with kids, setting the pace is important.
Where to rent bikes on Kauai
We rented our adult and kid-sized bikes in Kapaa. There is no shortage of places to rent, and you don’t have to reserve them ahead of time. We biked during the busy holiday season and had no problem walking up to rent bikes for a group of eight.
You’ll find bikes will be a little less expensive if you rent them in town versus on the outskirts of town near the trail. Bike rentals should come with a helmet, though, they say it’s optional for adults.
(Get the helmet)
We opted for seven-speed bikes with hand brakes. We didn’t get heavy duty mountain bikes or sleek road bikes, so I can’t vouch for the ease of renting those.
Be sure to thoroughly look over each bike before starting your ride. We discovered one of our kids’ bikes didn’t shift gears properly.
Beginner bike trail on Kauai
If you haven’t been to Kauai, it’s important to know that this island is traversed by few roads, which are almost always filled with cars.
I’m talking legit traffic jams (but at least the views nice, right?).
So, when I talk about bike riding on this island, I’m not talking about commuting by bikes. I saw some brave souls do this, even a few with kids in tow, but for my kiddos, we stuck to a paved trail.
If you’re a beginner when it comes to biking, it’s just as important to find an easy trail when exploring an unfamiliar place.
We were very happy with the terrain found along the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Trail, more commonly known as the Kapaa Bike Path. This stunning 7.3-mile trail is incredibly kid-friendly, with wide paths and postcard vistas.
Where to start on the Kapaa Bike Trail
As it turns out, the Kapaa Trail will eventually be even longer.
I’ll first tell you about the section we biked. Leaving from the eastern edge of Kapaa, we biked north on the trail. The views were gorgeous! We biked past beaches (way too rough to consider dipping our feet into the water).
We also biked past a former banana plantation where we took in the awe-inspiring view of the rough surf.
It’s the stop known as “Pineapple Dump.”
It’s a very short route, but we were biking with kids as young as 7 and it was starting to warm up a bit too much. (The route is not shaded)
You will pass by beaches on this trail, including Fuji Beach and Kealia Beach. We were riding in the heart of winter, so the waves were a bit too high for us. The north end of the trail, you’ll encounter Donkey Beach.
Had we gone the opposite direction, we would have written past a busier area, past the bustling town of Kaapa. The good thing about that southern route is that there are places to stop along the way that might involve, say, getting shave ice to cool off.
This trail will eventually connect to a trail that passes by Lydgate Park.
I wish we had time to visit that part of the trail – there is a great playground there for kids. It’s also known for the keiki beach.
Tips for biking this Kauai trail
These tips are good for those biking with and without kids.
There are a few restrooms along the trail with running water and water fountains. They are found at:
Lihi Park & Wai’Kaea Boat Harbor
Speaking of water, bring a lot of it. We only brought two refillable water bottles for the four of us and that was a terrible idea. Water fountains on the route can be found at Kealia Kai, Kealia Beach, and Lihi Park.
The trail is not shaded, and there aren’t many covered rest stops, so put on sunscreen.
Kauai is buggy, so if you plan on stopping to check out the views, put on bug spray. Or, you may be like me, and get bit whether you’re moving or not, so just put on bug spray to be safe.
You’ll notice signs at some parts along the trail indicating where falling rocks may be encountered. Just keep biking and you’ll be fine. Don’t stop to test out the durability of the fragile cliffs.
The trail is not hilly nor do you cross many busy streets (though you do ride past beach parking lot entrances). Still, it’s good to practice safe biking, so wear a helmet.
More good trail practices to note:
Bike on the right-hand side of the trail.
Announce your presence when you’re coming up behind a walker or runner.
Pass pedestrian and slower bikers by passing them on the left-hand side. I always say “Biker on your left.”
Treats after your Kauai bike ride
Kapaa is a vibrant little town for food options, especially along Kuhio Highway. Right by the trail, near where we rented bikes, we encountered a collection of food trucks. If you’re hungry, you can get your lunch there.
Or if you just want a cold treat, there was a shave ice truck. If you aren’t familiar with this Hawaii treat, it’s pretty popular (and definitely not called shaved ice…or a snow cone).
We got our shave ice at the Shave Ice Tege Tege food truck.
Restaurant-wise, I have a few suggestions, and like I said, they’re going to be located on Kuhio Highway.
If you’re biking early in the morning, snag breakfast/brunch at Nom Kauai, 4-1101 Kuhio Highway a4. It was, hands-down, our favorite meal on Kauai. But, they’re only open until 2:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.
The exterior of Nom is pretty unassuming and located in a small strip mall near a grocery store. Inside, though, is a fun and hip little restaurant. It is kid-friendly, though it’s definitely more appealing to the kid-free crowd.
On the day of our bike ride, we got started late and, thus, had a late lunch (too late for Nom). We went to Olympic Cafe located at 1354 Kuhio Highway. This open-air restaurant is good for big groups, and it’s pretty kid-friendly.
More Kauai Adventures
Stay tuned for future blog posts about Kauai, Hawaii! In the next few weeks, I share details about hidden gems you’ll love to discover for yourself if you visit the island.
I plan trips around food and restaurants, even when going to a place like Universal Studios Hollywood in California where rides steal the show. Between roller coasters and character sightings, I wanted to make sure my family had some unique dining experiences. Here’s how we enjoyed the food at Universal Studios Hollywood!
Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to Universal Studios Hollywood in order to write about our experiences. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Where is Universal Studios Hollywood?
Universal Studios Hollywood is in Burbank, Calif. It’s a little more than 400 acres and split up between the Upper Lot and Lower Lot. You’ll find most of the eateries are located on the Upper Lot.
I’m including Universal CityWalk™ restaurants in this guide, even though you do not need a park ticket to go to them. CityWalk™ is located just outside the theme park.
Restaurant Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood & CityWalk
I discovered that whatever you are craving, you’ll find it inside and outside Universal Studios Hollywood. My plan was to visit restaurants that you could only visit at Universal, but as you’ll see below, there are a lot more restaurant chains in the area that you could visit if you’re looking for familiar and predictable.
Let’s start first with the restaurants inside the theme park.
Food at Wizarding World Of Harry Potter
This was one of my favorite ares in Universal Studios Hollywood, as I suspect is the case for most visitors. Even if you aren’t a die-hard Potterhead, you can appreciate the detail of the area.
And if you are a big fan? You’re going to love dining here. The following are the eateries you’ll find in this fantastic little space.
• Hog’s Head
• Magic Neep™ Cart (this is simply a snack cart)
• Three Broomsticks™
Raising young Harry Potter fans, you’d think we’d get some butterbeer™ inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I knew from past experience, my kids would take a sip and then realize they still don’t like butterbeer.
So we didn’t get any butterbeer™. Maybe when we’re a little older, we’ll try again.
Tip: Word is, the butterbeer™ ice cream is a must-try.
My son fought hard to get us to have lunch at Three Broomsticks™, too. But, on a warm winter day, shepherd’s pie or fish and chips just didn’t appeal to the rest of us. We’ll save that for another visit.
Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not (but especially if you are), head to Honeydukes to find the best selection of candies and treats.
Of course, there are Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and chocolate frogs inside the store. But you’ll also find a dizzying assortment of unique treats, as well as more standard fare like saltwater taffy and suckers.
Everyone in my family is a big “The Simpsons™” fan, so of course, we spent a lot of time in Springfield™ at Universal Studios Hollywood. Because we only had one day planned for the park, we decided to split food so we could try more things.
Want to dine in the world of the Simpsons characters? Here are all the eateries and bars in the part of the theme park:
• Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck
• Duff Brewery Beer Garden
• Krusty Burger
• Lard Lad Donuts
• Moe’s Tavern
• Suds McDuff’s Hot Dog House
Springfield is located in the Upper Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.
Despicable Me restaurants
The area at Universal Studios Hollywood dedicated to “Despicable Me” is located in the Upper Lot.
• Despicable Delights
• Gru’s Lab Café
We didn’t spend a lot of time in this part of the park, other than to ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. I think, had it been warmer, we would’ve visited the water area at Super Silly Fun Land, and then, we’d probably would’ve bought a snack.
Lower Lot restaurants
You won’t find a lot of dining options in the Lower Lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.
• Jurassic Café
• Panda Express
• Studio Café
• Nu-Isla Bar (tropical drinks for the 21+ crowd)
The food at Jurassic Café was the most unique (in my opinion) in the park. Dishes were inspired by Costa Rican cuisine. Caveat: If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you may be a little disappointed. Gallo Pinto is not one of the items on the menu, even if it says “rice and beans” as a side.
Tip: Tropical Twist cone at Studio Café is an instagrammable treat.
Upper Lot restaurants
I think you’re really going to enjoy the setting of some of these restaurants. If there’s one thing Universal Studios Hollywood does well, it’s transporting you to another time and place.
French Street Bistro, for instance, is found on this charming stretch that’s, well, reminiscent of France. Photo opps, by the way, are plentiful (with and without characters).
Here are the eateries you’ll find in the Upper Lot, outside of the other themed areas I mentioned earlier:
• Cocina Mexicana
• French Street Bistro
• Mel’s Diner
• Mulligan’s Irish Pub
• Palace Theatre Café
• Plaza Grill
Universal CityWalk restaurants
Brace yourselves. Universal CityWalk™ is an entertainment, shopping and dining complex. It is full of eye-catching neon signs, smells, and familiar brands. It’s pretty hard to walk through it without feeling hungry.
Here are all the restaurants (as of this post going live) that are open on the CityWalk™:
• Antojitos (Mexican)
• Ben & Jerry’s
• Blaze Pizza
• Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
• Buca di Beppo – Italian
• Dongpo Kitchen – Sichuanese cuisine
• Jamba Juice
• Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
• Johnny Rockets
• Karl Strauss Brewing Co.
• KFC Express/Pizza Hutt
• Menchies (frozen yogurt)
• Mini Monster (tea and boba)
• Panda Express
• Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs
• Poke Bar
• Samba Brazilian Steakhouse & Lounge
• Sparky’s Mini Donuts
• Taco Bell
• The Crepe Café
• Tony Roma’s
• VIVO Italian Kitchen
• VooDoo Doughnut
• Wasabi at CityWalk – Sushi
• Wetzel’s Pretzels
To get to and from our car to Universal Studios Hollywood, we had to walk along the CityWalk. On the way back, we did not manage to avoid the siren call of good food.
So we stopped at Ben and Jerry’s and bought some ice cream. You know how I am with ice cream.
Budgeting for food at Universal Studios Hollywood
Part of the fun of going to a theme park like Universal Studios Hollywood is enjoying the treats you can only find there. But, if you’re on a budget, you can’t really enjoy ALL the treats, right?
For a family of four, assuming you aren’t bringing in a lot of your own food (more on that in a second), expect to spend about $75 on food (on the low end). Below are averages I’d estimate we spent on different items. We ended up splitting items so that we could try more things.
• Snacks – $5 per person per snack
• Pop/bottled water – $5 per person or FREE if you bring a water bottle
• Alcohol – $14-$20
• Kid’s meal – $10
• Adult entrée – $15-$25
We ate breakfast before entering the park and dinner after we left the park, so most of our food expenditures were for lunch and snacks.
The biggest purchase? A mixed drink at Isla-Nu Bar. It came with a souvenir tiki glass, at least.
What would be recommended splurges? That depends on what you’re a bigger fan of. We spent a lot of time browsing the food throughout the Simpsons part of the park, though, we also lingered for quite a while at Honeydukes.
Can you bring food into Universal Studios Hollywood?
However, there are restrictions. The following are allowed to come into the theme park:
• Bottled water (maximum 2 liters)
• Small snacks
• Any food required for special dietary needs
• Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements
• Baby food/baby formula
• Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep
How I saved money on food at Universal Studios Hollywood
I didn’t bring snacks into the park with us on our visit (mainly because I wanted to eat all.the.food there).
Since there was a lot we wanted to try, we decided we’d do a lot of splitting of foods. First place we headed to for a snack? Springfield™. Like I said, we love the “Simpsons” show.
For a snack, the four of us split a pink donut from Lard Lad Donuts. It was really good and plenty for the four of us. It’s definitely too much for one person. At about $8, I thought it was absolutely worth it for this sugary treat.
For lunch, we ordered two chicken finger meals at Cletus’ Chicken Shack. This was a great meal to split since each came with six chicken fingers and a large portion of fries.
A few other items we split, just to try included:
• A Krusty Burger served at…where else? Krusty Burger. This was a good burger, and a good portion for one person. I wouldn’t recommend this one for sharing.
• A pork entrée at Jurassic Café. The pork was tasty, and the plantains on the side were good, but the rice and beans were a disappointment. My kids wouldn’t touch it. The café is touted as a Costa Rican café, so I was hoping for some gallo pinto as a side. These were definitely not gallo pinto rice and beans. The entree was $15.
The best way to save money at Universal Studios Hollywood is to bring a refillable water bottle with you. Then, use those saved money from beverages to eat all the good food.
What about dietary restrictions and eating at Universal Studios Hollywood?
Turns out, Universal Studios Hollywood is on it. They have a dietary food guide that’s super helpful.
While I’m no longer a strict vegetarian, I remember the stress of trying to find substantial food. There’s a lot of it at this theme park. Here’s some of the food options I found at Universal Studios Hollywood for vegetarians (note that menus can change):
Universal Studios Hollywood Vegetarian/vegan options
Hollywood & Dine
• California Cheese Pizza
• Cheeseless Pizza (by request only – VEGAN)
• Sautéed Vegetables and Rice (by request only – VEGAN)
• Roasted Portobello Mushroom Burger served with French fries and coleslaw (VEGAN)
• Veggie Burger with Hummus, served with French fries and coleslaw (skip the coleslaw to have a VEGAN meal)
Gru’s Lab Café
• Grilled Cheese Sandwich served with French fries and coleslaw
• Cinnabon Roll
French Street Bistro, Studio Café and Palace Theatre Café
• Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich
• Thai Udon Noodle Salad (VEGAN)
• Fresh Fruit Plate (breakfast only; VEGAN)
• Sautéed Jumbo Asparagus Platter (request VEGAN)
• Continental Breakfast served with croissant and scone
• Potato Leek Soup and Salad Plate
• Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce
• Penne Pasta with Alfredo Sauce (contains dairy)
• Cheese Pizza (contains cheese)
• Meat Hater’s Pizza (contains cheese)
• Mother Nature Burger served with French fries and coleslaw
Cletus’ Chicken Shack
• Waffle Sandwich with Veggie Burger, served with French fries and coleslaw
Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck
• Bumblebee Man’s Mucho Mucho Nachos served plain with cheese and vegetables
• Cheese Pizza (contains cheese)
• Caesar Salad (contains cheese and anchovies)
• Veggie Burger with Hummus, served with French fries and coleslaw
• Fresh Fruit Cup
Read more about Universal Studios Hollywood
Planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood? There are more posts to come, including the not-to-miss experiences I recommend at the park.