Tips for Universal Studios Hollywood

If you are a local there are many ways to get a good deal.  Costco, AAA, if you are in the military and always check Universal online.  Never just go to the park; it’s the most expensive that way!  It pays to do a little research ahead of time.

Also, think about parking.  It’s normally $20.  There are different ways to work that out as well.  If you want to take in a movie on CityWalk, you can get a rebate and pay only $5 if you keep your parking receipt.  Or park at North Hollywood Metro Red Line for $3.00 and a round trip for $3.50 is still less than $20.  OR get the Universal Gold Pass or above for free parking.  (You can get the Gold Pass at Costco as well.)

But do watch your black out dates!  Some passes have more than others, so know yourself.   Black out dates are when you cannot come, usually weekend days during the summer.  A nice perk is sometimes Universal will send an email for an extra day here and there during the year.  Also, if you want to go on a blackout date, they will let you in for a fee (my niece got in for $30 and then once she got in, she went to Guest Services and they refunded the money.  No guarantees, but take a chance if you really want to go!)

Another thing about the passes is the discounts, so check to see what discount (or not) you are getting.  For the Gold Pass at the moment it’s 15% and completely worth it.  Note:  The discounts are not good for alcohol!

Also, when you get there and you decide what was I thinking, I need a better pass, they will let you upgrade by paying the balance.  (Do that inside the park!)

Some thoughts for food.  They do allow water (sealed) and food (not a picnic in a cooler, but snacks and such.)  However, some good ideas for food if you want to purchase there is Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Great Feast is good for a big family.  It was $60 last time I was there, but for at least a family of four, it has a ton of food and basically divided up to be $15 each.

Other thing is I always bring a smallish Tupperware and a plastic bag to wrap it in to put in my string Gryffindor backpack.  (You can get the cheap kind at the dollar store 2 for a $1, so you don’t have to worry about losing a good piece of Tupperware.)  I always have leftovers at Three Broomsticks, it keeps well, and is a treat to have later when you know you are going to be hungry when you get home.

A dessert treat is the funnel cake as you are coming in the park near the Waterworld show.  Absolutely humongous!  You can get with strawberries and whipped cream with it and add ice cream for another $1.50.  It will feed at least two people, more like three or four.

In the winter, you can get Hot Butterbeer, sold only at the Hog’s Head bar.  Completely lovely on a chilly February day.  Another good meal is the Fried Chicken at Cletus’ Chicken Shack in Springfield.  Not as fantastic as the old Doc Brown’s Chicken from back in the day, but pretty darn close!

Something terrific they are doing right now is a light show after the sun goes down on the Hogwarts castle.  You have to start grouping (not a line) in the middle of Hogsmeade in front of the castle.  I waited 20 minutes, but it’s completely worth it!  It’s gorgeous!  They aren’t particularly advertising it right now, but ask and they will tell you when and where.

Just a few tips for Universal with more to come!  Click here to see prices for tickets and here for passes!  But check other places!  Also, some tips on CityWalk soon.


Small town baseball

A great day trip for those in LA or San Diego is minor league baseball.  We have a class A team just right outside of LA!  The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are a minor team of the LA Dodgers.  It’s about an hour from LA and two hours from SD.

A minor league game is always less expensive than the big leagues.  It’s a small park, close to the field and good baseball fun for singles, bringing friends, and for the whole family.

The Dodgers sometimes send the major league ballplayers to the Quakes for rehab assignments.  Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig for example.  If you are a Dodger fan, you are definitely in a friendly crowd.

Parking is easy, quick and only $5.  I gave the man a $20 and nearly went off without my change (not used to getting change back at Dodger Stadium.)  They had a player at the front gate signing autographs and taking pictures.  The team store was a nice size and had good merchandise, with something for everyone.

The park has one level with reasonably priced tickets.  Ours were up a few stairs on a second platform for $10.  The beer is nicely priced and they sell everyone’s favorite Dodger Dogs.  The Mascot is name Tremor and he’s pretty cute, doing dances and taking pictures with people.  On Saturday nights, they have a free fireworks display.

We figured out our total for the day and for one person it’s $35, not counting gas.  Ticket, parking, food, and one premium beer.  You could do it for less by drinking soda or bringing water, if needed.  I love Dodger Stadium, but it can be expensive and this was a terrific way to see great baseball on a budget!

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at 8408 Rochester Ave.


Daytripping with the Metro to Little Tokyo and the Arts District

There are many Metro stops that have great places nearby.  Taking the Metro can free you up to eat and drink without worrying about driving and parking.

One station is the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station on the Gold Line.  I park at the Universal/Studio City Station on the Red Line, then take it to Union Station to the Gold Line.

FYI – You can get a day pass for $7 if you want to jump on and off, but a round trip is only $3.50.  A new TAP card is $1 but you can put more money on it for other trips, so hang onto it.  Yes, Universal now charges $3 for parking, but it’s worth the convenience.  The trip takes about 45 minutes.  Metro LA info

Once you get to the Little Tokyo station, right across the street is the Japanese American National Museum. You can get a discount on admission with your TAP card!  It is a wonderful museum.  Very thoughtful and timely.  I recommend it for all, including families with older teenagers.  Located at 100 N Central Ave.  Japanese Museum National Museum

Down the street from the Museum as you cross into the Arts District is a terrific restaurant.  Wurstkuche is a sausage and beer place (though that description doesn’t do it justice.)  It is classic sausages, as well as exotic, crazy flavors and meats.  They have different kinds of fabulous beer.  The set-up is long tables, some smaller ones, a great atmosphere for meeting friends.  Located at 800 E. 3rd st @ Traction.  Wurstkuche

One of my favorite places is The Pie Hole.  Mmm, pie.  This location is just across the street from Wurstkuche.  The Mexican chocolate pie is my favorite, but I always like trying single pieces of their interesting flavors.  Located at 714 Traction Ave.  The Pie Hole

Then just up the street is Angel City Brewery.  A fascinating old warehouse, turned brewery.  Terrific brews and a friendly place.  Take the tour if you can, as they mention the history and have old pictures of the place back in the day from the Los Angeles Public Library.  I’ve never met a beer I didn’t like at Angel City.  They have food trucks and pretzels, but I bring back my pie to eat while sipping a great beer.  They have angel wings you can take a picture behind you for fun.  Located at 216 Alameda St.  Angel City Brewery

After your busy day of eating and drinking, it’s time to take the Metro back the way you came.  Be warned you may feel a bit sleepy on your way back, so don’t miss your stops!  I love day trips like this.  Finding new and fun places or revisiting my favorites.

Don’t forget the town of Ventura

Ventura is a nice little place that most people pass through on their way to Santa Barbara.  Don’t pass it up!  They have cheaper gas than both SB and LA, an interesting downtown and lots of fantastic hometown breweries.

One of my favorites is Surf Brewery.  They have lots of fruit flavored beers, including their Strawberry that comes out in season this month.  MadeWest is a great brewery with tasty IPAs and terrific wifi.  There are a few man buns going on here, but it’s all good.  Topa Topa is a nice place to stop when coming back from the beach.  They are very family oriented if you need that sort of thing.

Locations:  Surf – 4561 Market St A; MadeWest – 1744 Donlon St; Topa Topa – 104 E Thompson Blvd.  They all have great food trucks but don’t mind if you bring snacks, dinner or an impromtu picnic.

An awesome gem in Downtown Ventura is Ventura Coast Brewing Company located at 76 S Oak St.  It has a wide range of brews, with the new Kazbier and Neighborhood being my favorites.  There is everything from light, hoppy, stout, anything for every taste.  There is a nice patio which is dog friendly, a comfortable bar area and lots of large tables for groups if needed.  VCBC have events from time to time that are fun and friendly.

I recommend coming up to Ventura to get a friendly taste of a town where less is expected of you than the bigger, splashier cities.  (In a good way and price-wise, as well!)

Websites – Surf Brewery –   MadeWest –  Topa Topa –   VCBC

Day Trips and More

I love day trips around SoCal, whether it’s finding a fun neighborhood to trek about, checking out a cozy bar, discovering a new festival or going to a baseball game and Universal Studios.  I like to find ways to do these things on the cheap and give tips to my friends (or drag them with me!)  I thought I would share it with whoever is interested, along with advice for single women traveling about.  Everyone can enjoy the places I find, of course!

I’ll start by mentioned a great little place on Olvera Street.  Mr. Churro has terrific stuffed churros with my favorite being the queso or cheesecake.  It’s a nice little stop on the way back from taking the Dodger Express to the game (I’ll post about that gem, soon!)  They have much more than only Churros, but to me that’s the best part!

More info on Mr. Churro – Address; E-12 Olvera St C, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Hours are 9am to 8pm most days.IMG_20170416_182143814