Things to do in LA? Is Universal worth it?

I’m going to have a few hours to kill in Los Angeles, and it turns out my hotel is pretty close to Universal Studios in Hollywood. Is it worth the $53 for admission?

I’ve been to the one in Orlando, as well as the Islands of Adventure park, about five years ago. I thought the Spider-Man ride was phenomenal (but that’s not in Hollywood), the dragon-themed roller coaster was neat, and the Earthquake ride was decent, but the park as a whole didn’t impress me and I’ve never had any desire to go back. Is the Hollywood version better, and/or have they introduced any must-sees in the past few years?

If not, any recommendations for stuff to do (solo) in LA? I usually drive straight through on the way to Disneyland, so I don’t really know the city at all.

I’ve never been to US. I don’t consider it to be a detriment to my life as a pseudo-Angeleno. I also figure if you weren’t that impressed overall with the Orlando park that you’re not going to be happy you shelled out 50 smackers for our version. You could do CityWalk (where I have been) but it’s just a prettifed shopping center with restaurants and clubs (well there is the ampitheatre). Go to the Getty, or the Huntington, or go to Santa Clarita and go to Magic Mountain if you’re after rollercoasters.

Well I like Universal Studios Hollywood a lot.

That being said, if you weren’t thrilled about Orlando, you probably will be disappointed with the Hollywood version. It focuses less on rides and more on “attractions”. Used to be (might very well still be, don’t know) that an annual pass was the same price as a day pass, so in high school my girlfriend and I would go for a few hours and hang out after school (sometimes not exactly after school, but we were young and didn’t value the fine education we were receiving in the LAUSD :rolleyes: . ) And it is good for that, 3-4 hours hanging out, riding the Jurassic Park ride a couple of times, maybe catching a show.

My advice is to do something else (and don’t go to City Walk, its just a shopping mall). You say you have a few hours to kill, how much time do you have? Also, where is your Hotel? I would be happy to recommend some better things to do with your time, but how much time you have and where you are located will dictate a lot of what you can do while you are here.

For example, the Huntington Gardens are great, but are relatively far away from Universal studios, and you need about 4-5 hours to really do them justice. Magic Mountain has IMHO the best rollercoasters in the world (X redefined fear for me), but is also far away and will have lines that are hours long, so if you have less than a day to spend it wouldn’t be great.

Right now the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has the King Tut exhibit, and if you can get tickets I would say that is a definite must see.

The Getty is well liked and has amazing architecture and gardens. Starting July 9th they will have an exhibit of Rembrandt’s Late Religious works. I think that J Paul Getty had rather poor taste in art and am not a fan of the standing collection, but others disagree, and the Getty does have a phenomenal amount of classical sculpture and bronzes.

It all kinda depends on what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how much time you have. Give me a little more info and I can come up with something amazing to do. Summer in Los Angeles, there is always something going on.

Rather disappointed with US - the best part was the first thing we did, which was Shrek. The simulated bumpy space ride was okay. The tour was rather disappointing (I had hoped we’d see a set, or a film being made!), and the whole place is much smaller than I had imagined.

For a wild time, try Raging Waters over Pomona way (about 20 miles east of LA). Brilliant. Still have the bruises to prove it.

Stay west is my advice. Santa Monica, the pier, 3rd Street promenade. Venice boardwalk, Main Street in Venice. Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive. Westwood, the UCLA campus.
If you like live music, there are 100s of places to go. Check out who’s playing at the Viper Room, the Knitting Factory, the Mint, Molly Malone’s. Malibu is fun to see, but a little out of the way. Surfrider beach, the Malibu pier.

There’s also the La Brea Museum and the Petersen Automotive Museum, if you’re into either of those kinds of things.

I went to Universal. It was meh. I prefer rollercoasters, though the T2:3D show was pretty cool, but I don’t know if it’s still in there. The Jurassic Park ride is your basic log ride, though far more wet on the descent. (I suggest going to see the Backdraft thing afterward, as that is all that attraction is really good for.) Motion simulators have never really done much for me (all the time I’ve spent on rollercoasters means I get yanked out of the simulation as soon as there is no change in g-forces when there should be), though the Back to the Future ride wasn’t bad. For what it’s worth, the rest of my family wanted to go to Universal, while I wanted to go to Knot’s Berry Farm.

Thanks for the recommendations. Turns out I don’t have as much time as I’d thought I have, so no touristy stuff for me today. But keep the recommendations coming, if y’all feel like it. I’m likely going to be making frequent trips down here, and although I’d heard of the usual Hollywood Sign, Mulholland Dr, etc., I’d never heard of half the stuff mentioned in here so far.

Universal Studios is a decent way to kill hyalf a day, IMO, but $50+ is too much. $25-$30, tops, IMO.

I like the tram tour, myself – after going through it a few times, I’ve gotten good at identifying when parts of the Universal backlot are used in major movies, and I mock them for it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Universal used to have tram tours go through live shoots, but stopped after they proved too disruptive. The trams route around the real stuff nowadays.

If you ever get a full day, and you’re into the zoo thing at all, definately head down to San Diego (2 hours south) and check out their zoo and/or the wild animal park. Easily two of the best zoo-type attractions in the world.

Universal Studios is a total waste of money, IMHO. The tram tour is the only thing that was kinda cool, but there’s no way it’s worth $50.

I also second shelbo’s suggestions.

The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum are walking distance from the LA County Museum of Art. If you have kids, don’t miss the Children’s Art Museum very nearby.

Mostly because there has been little love given to the East side of Los Angeles I decided I had to post again.

Sure the West Side has some stuff (the beach being my favorite)but most of the real culture is on the East (and yes, Los Angeles has culture, those that say we don’t have been staying west). For the purposes of this particular argument I am deffining anything East of La Cienega as East. This is not technically correct, but since “West Los Angeles” is La Cienega to the Ocean I am defining East as anything NOT “west”.

To start off with, we have an amazing Natural History Museum on the east side, as well as the beautiful park it is built on. While you are there, check out the rose gardens and maybe the science center and aerospace museum. I haven’t been, but I am told that the Pavillion of Wings (butterflies) is well worth the price of admission. It is open until labor day.

Pasadena is great, all around, you could spend a good amount of time in old town. A bit touristy but fun.

The Huntington Library has already been mentioned. Descanso Gardens , is also well worth a visit.

As for a music scene, personally I don’t think any of the venues west of La Cienega play anything worthwhile most of the time, but YMMV depending on your taste in music. My favorite venue bar none is Spaceland in Silverlake. Many a major (by my indie rocker standards) band has played there, and it is about the size of your local bar. The Echo and Mr. T’s are also very cool, though a bit bigger (size not prominence) and don’t get the same level of artists.

If you like Mexican food, culture, or just like having a good time, you must go to Alvera Street. I cannot stress this enough. Alvera Street is AMAZINGLY COOL.

We have a Chinatown, but I am not a fan. I lived right next door to Korea Town for a while though, and K Town has some good food. Also you might want to check out Los Feliz while you are in the neighborhood and maybe stop by the Dresden (as seen in the major motion picture Swingers) and grab a late night bite at Fred 62’s (best 24 hour diner in the world.)

And if you ARE in Los Feliz, check out Griffith Park. The park itself is neat, and the Zoo and Museum of the American West are not bad either. Unfortunately the Observatory is closed until 2006, but you can still see the planetarium show at the satelite, which seems kinda cute.

Hollywood was kind of my home base as a teenager (went to high school there), and the knitting factory is a cool venue also, probably my second favorite venue in the city. There is the typical tourist stuff, Mann’s (Gramans) Chinese theater, the Hollywood Wax Museum, etc. They have recently tried to give Hollywood a makeover, and it didn’t really work right. So it isn’t as cool a place as it used to be, much more commercial and obviously a tourist trap, which is a shame. I wouldn’t recommend spending lots of time there because of this, but if you get a chance to, you should check out the American Cinematheque located at the Egyptian Theater. The Egyptian is beautiful, and they show great movies.

Lastly on this tour of all things not West Side centric, we come to a stop that is borderline, but does fall east of La Cienega so is technically NOT a west side place. The Silent Movie Theater is one of the only two working silent theaters in the world, and the only one in the Northern Hemisphere (at least that’s what they claim). They aren’t open much, and it looks like they won’t be screening again till August, but if you are out here on a Monday night, it is well worth the trip. Live musical accompaniment, and great silent films. It is something everyone should get to experience at least once in their lifetime.

Of course I didn’t get to mention The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or The Petersen Auto Museum (both almost being westsiders), or the fact that Wicked is playing at The Pantages theater in Hollywood. (Also a beautiful building). Or any of the stuff at the music center downtown. Or the walking tours of the historic downtown theater district. Or dozens of other cool things to do. Don’t even get me started on the Valley. :smiley:

So um, head over to the east side. You don’t’ want to hang out with those darn Westsiders anyhow. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks again for all the info; I’m saving it. I’ve never been all that interested in the west side anyway, because I don’t like beaches. (So I guess you could say I’m a playa hater.)

Okay yeah, I didn’t have anything to say other than more thanks and a lame pun, but I felt obligated to post because of all the detailed posts NAF1138 & others have been making.

I did Univeral Orlando a couple of years ago and was highly impressed. The Terminator special effects movie/live-action combo was way cool.

I did Univeral LA back in 1987 and was completely blown away by it. If they still have the Swords and Sorcery show with Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonya, that is an absolute must-see.

Pshaw, and here I thought you’d be talking about east of Downtown L.A… :wink:

The campus of USC is right across the street, too. Worth an hour to stroll around, IMO, or at least get a picture at the Tommy Trojan statue.

How big is the aerospace museum, anyway? I was under the impression it was just a half-dozen airplanes on display, but would care to be illuminated otherwise.

Chinatown’s gotten a bit better in the last few years, thanks to their business improvement projects, but it’s still a postage-stamp “attraction,” IMO. Koreatown is definitely bigger and neater, though the main streets are a real pain to drive through. Might as well just go a few miles east to Alhambra/Monterey Park and swim in wall-to-wall Chinese if that’s your preference.

Well, hell, if you’re gonna skirt Fairfax, you should also mention Farmer’s Market & The Grove (outdoor shopping and food-buying) and Canter’s Delicatessen (best Jewish deli in town), all of which are just a good stone’s throw away from the theater. Alternately, go east on Melrose for a few miles and wander through the Melrose shopping district (second-most bizarre street scene, losing out only to Venice Beach :wink: ) and Pink’s Hot Dog stand (run-down trashy-looking hot dog stand with really great food and lots of celebrity diners).

Santa Monica’s okay, but those bums at UCLA are the worst. :wink:

I don’t think anyone mentioned Griffith Park and Observatory. Also,Barnsdall Art Park. It has a house built by Frank Lloyd Wright to tour. Its between Hollywood and Sunset blvds just before the cross not far from Griffith Park.

The Observatory is closed for renovations until next May.

You know, I really tried to come up with stuff, but couldn’t think of anything that I could describe to a tourist. When I head out to east LA it is usually with friends and I am usually not the one driving. There are cool places (and yes they are safe) in East LA and in Downtown, but I just don’t know the area well enough. But thats whats great about LA, after 22 years you still have areas you can discover. :smiley:

Yeah, the aerospace museum in and of itself isn’t really a destination, but combined with the other stuff in the area its quite nice. You can deffinatly make a day out of Exposition Park. And I guess you could visit SC too. Not entierly sure why you would want to go there when the better college is on the other side of town, but hey whatever floats your boat. :wink:

True. I have a personal fondness for Korea Town, but no doubt about it, it can be a hassle to navigate. My absolute favorite thing about Koriatown is actually the barcade, but since I am not sure that they have a licence to be opperating I won’t give out anymore info regarding location. Suffice it to say that classic arcade games for 25 cents+cheep beer+loud music=good times.

Yeah, the fairfax district can be great. Personally I LOATH the Grove and would never recomend anyone visit, but it is unfortunatly right next to the farmers market, which I LOVE. Best cajun food I have had outside of New Orleans was at the Gumbo pot. Canters is great, but it is especially recomended for late night (ie after 1am, closer to 3am is preferable) dining. Late at night it becomes a great place to people watch. I think it is a bit expensive, but its a nice treat every now and again.

I am now going to say something that will likely incure the wrath of many a Los Angeleno on the Boards. I hate Pinks. The lines are long, the service is bad, and their hot dogs are only average. The only real reason to go there is its legendary status. Is it better than Der Winerschitzel? Yes. Better than Skoobys in Hollywood, or the Weiner factory in Sherman Oaks, not even close. But, if it’s 2 am and you just HAVE to have a hot dog, its nice to know that Pinks is there.
And while we are on the subject, I think I have to mention Tommy’s. The analogy I was told was: “you know how when you go to New York there are a thousand places called Ray’s Pizza all claiming to have invented pizza (is this actually true? I haven’t gotten out to New York yet) well in Los Angeles you have hundreds of Hamburger Stands all named Tommy’s, or Tomys, or Tom’s etc.” Well the ORIGINAL Tommy’s (now a mediocre chain) is still alive and kicking, serving great hamburgers they way they were ment to be eated. with chili! The old shack is located at Beverly and Rampart, and is worth the visit. Nothing says Los Angeles to me like Tommy’s. (Fatburger is great too, but that’s another post)

Yeah, damn Bruins!! Lousy kids always messing up my lawn!

Since the subject came up. UCLA can actually be a nice destination spot. We have a lovely sculpture garden (where you can see many wonderful theater students like me sitting around smoking and rehearsing, just about any day of the week), several museums (including the Hammer which is fairly amazing). The archetecture is wonderful (at least on the north campus, south campus is decidedly ugly, but whatcha gonna do?) and our libraries are fantastic.

And yeah, if you want to hang out on the West Side, there are some cool things. But traffic uniformly sucks from about 8 am till 9pm, so plan on being stuck in that a lot. And if you are going to cruise Melrose, you must stop in at Sweet Lady Janes . They are an amazing cake shop on Melrose just east of La Cienega, acoss the street from the giant metal giraffe (you will know it when you see it.) Best cake in the city. Oh and across town at Franklin and Vermont is the HOUSE of PIES, crappy food, great pie.

I should stop before I spend an hour writing another post. What can I say, I love my city. :smiley:

if you can find someone to get you in, the magic castle is super cool also

[shamless Bruin plug] I second the UCLA sculpture garden. It is wunnerful. I used to do my JC homework there while waiting for my husband to finish class. And if you’re a bibliophile, you can go to the Young Research Library. I had a joygasm when I first went there. They keep the rare stuff in the basement, definitely cool to look around in there. And they usually have a small exhibit in the lobby. [/SBP]