What’s New at Universal Studios Hollywood Summer 2018

What’s new at Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018? Plenty, including new spells in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Butterbeer ice cream, Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest, the last ride for Jurassic Park, and a velociraptor named Blue. However, since I had not personally stepped inside the park since Christmas of 1980, Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018 was practically ALL new to me. Even though I’ve covered Universal Studios Hollywood since Aventures by Daddy launched, and I’m a big fan of Universal Orlando Resort, it’s always been my California friends who got to go to Universal Studios Hollywood.  Not this time! Continue reading for more of my Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018 visit – my first in almost 40 years.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

The Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018 park was unrecognizable from my early childhood visit in December 1980, but I loved the art deco vibe of the entrance plaza that evoked a Golden Hollywood age.  I only had a few hours after the #AntManAndTheWaspEvent press trip, so I grabbed a Front-of-the-Line Express Pass and made up a plan of attack.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

First stop, Hogsmeade. Wizarding World Hollywood opened in spring 2016, and I was eager to see how the west coast version stacked up to Universal Orlando’s magical land.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is nearly identical to the Hogsmeade portion found at Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park with its two main attractions: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (located inside Hogwarts Castle) and Flight of the Hippogriff (Universal Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster).  In addition, you’ll also find Ollivander’s Wand Shop, the Frog Choir, and Triwizard Spirit Rally.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

“Flick… and swish… and flick… and swish…” New for Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018 are two more interactive wand spells (Incendio fire-making spell and Alohomora unlocking spell) found throughout the village of Hogsmeade as well as the return of The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.  You can also find an expanded lunchtime menu at Three Broomsticks as well as, for the first time, Butterbeer ice cream! Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Next Stop Studio Tour

Now here was something I remembered from my childhood, and an experience one can’t find at Universal Orlando Resort – the world famous studio tour through an actual Hollywood backlot.  When I was a kid I remember getting a thrill at seeing the ACTUAL 18-wheel truck from B.J. and the Bear, gleaming Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, and watching with amazement as our studio tram passed through the parting of the Red Sea.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Unfortunately, all those sights have disappeared from Universal’s Studio Tour replaced by Jimmy Fallon, a drive through King-Kong 360-3D, and an incredibly realistic airplane crash site from War of the Worlds. But wait, up ahead, this is familiar… look out!!!

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Ah yes, I remember vividly driving through the vacation village of Amity Island in 1980, and being petrified about when and where the shark from JAWS would attack the tram.  Nearly 40 years later, that shark still hasn’t been contained. Nor has Norman Bates, stalking the Bates Hotel from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho. Mother!!!

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

The backlot Studio Tour ended with a grand finale through… an old garage??? Well, this was no simple garage, this is the hideout for the Toretto Family from Fast & Furious.  Inside that garage/warehouse is FAST & FURIOUS – SUPERCHARGED.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Fast and Furious – Supercharged is a special effects laden end to the tour that makes it seem like your tram is whizzing through a high-speed chase with cars, helicopters, and tanks all around you.  The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood takes about an hour, and is a not-to-be-missed signature attraction (even without the Cylons and Semi-trailers).

Goodbye Jurassic Park, Hello Blue

As Jurassic Park the movie celebrates its 25th anniversary, “Jurassic Park—The Ride” is going away on September 3.  So I went over to bid adieu before the ride goes extinct and evolves into a Jurassic WORLD themed attraction.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

However, just because “Jurassic Park—The Ride” is fading away, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything new to see in this area.  Blue, Owen’s beloved Velociraptor from Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, is eating meeting guests at Raptor Encounter. This is your chance to come eye-to-eye with the 12 foot tall clever girl, and she is definitely intimidating. I was certainly glad they had that handler to keep Blue in line.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest

It was almost time to head to LAX to fly home, but I wanted to check out the newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018 – DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.”  The DreamWorks Theatre itself is stunning, and inspired by the Mission revival architecture once again harkening back to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

Inside I waited in cool air conditioning and checked out the trophies and awards amassed by the studio over the years.  Once inside the theatre, “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” uses 4K projectors, 360 degree surround sound, water and wind effects, as well as projection mapping throughout the theatre to totally immerse guests in the action on screen. “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” was a fun, high-tech adventure with the humor and spirit of the movie, and a great way to end my afternoon at Universal Studios Hollywood.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at Universal Studios Hollywood and seeing all the changes that have transformed the theme park since 1980.  I promise, it won’t be another 40 years until I visit again.

Universal Studios Hollywood summer 2018

DISCLOSURE: Universal Studios Hollywood hosted Adventures by Daddy with complimentary admission and a front-of-the-line express pass to the park, however the opinions are that of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagramtwitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.