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What it's like at Universal Studios Hollywood after new COVID-19 protocols (spoiler: bring your vaccine card)

Oct. 11, 2021
8 min read
Universal Studios Hollywood entrance arch
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You need more than your admission ticket to get into Universal Studios Hollywood these days.

Per the Los Angeles County Public Health order that took effect on Oct. 7, all persons aged 12 and older must show proof of vaccination status (full 14 days after final dose was administered) or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of visit before being allowed entry to the park.

Eligible vaccines include the two-dose series Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or single-dose Johnson & Johnson.

Children who are under the age of 12 are exempted from this order.

Related: Los Angeles expands vaccination requirement for restaurants, bars and other indoor spaces

And regardless of vaccination status, masks are required to be worn at all times both indoors and outdoors while in the park.

I visited Universal Studios Hollywood this past weekend to see what it was like to visit the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” with this new health order that went into effect.

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Entrance and Check-In

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Even before stepping through the gates of Universal Studios, you are immediately confronted with signs everywhere on the new health order to show proof of vaccination.

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From the parking garage, the trek through Universal City Walk to the theme park gates, there are signs that also remind you that masks are required indoors and outdoors.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

If someone wasn’t wearing a mask, park staff gave a friendly verbal reminder to that person.

Once you go through bag check and metal detectors, you are stopped by security and staff to check your vaccine status or negative COVID-19 test results if you not vaccinated.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

This checkpoint was set up right before you get to the iconic spinning Universal Studios globe.

I brought my paper CDC vaccine card. Others were showing their proof of vaccination on their phone.

California residents can download their digital vaccination record that would generate a QR code. However, all the checks were visual; there was no scanning or additional verification beyond just showing your card or negative COVID-19 test.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

After that verification, you are directed to the front gates of the park. If you get there early, right before the park opens at 9 a.m., you can be there to help countdown with the crowd when park gates open for the day.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Once inside, signs are everywhere about the new health order.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Every few feet, there were hand sanitizer dispensers set up.

There were no signs about social distancing like when I visited Six Flags Magic Mountain when it reopened in April but park-goers kept their distance as best they could.

Related: First look: What it’s like at a reopened Six Flags Magic Mountain

Wait times, ordering food, character photos

If you get to the park early enough, you can make good time riding all the popular rides before wait times go to an hour or more.

Like other theme parks, Universal Studios Hollywood has an app that gives you a real-time wait time for its attractions. Knowing where the rides are clustered in the park can help you strategize what to do first.

I decided to hit up all the attractions in the lower lot, which was farthest away from the entrance and required a trek across the park and down several series of escalators.

Jurassic World The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride and Transformers: The Ride 3D are located in the lower lot.

The longest wait time for any of the rides I went on this past weekend was about 20 minutes.

Later in the day, I saw rides in the Harry Potter section of the park with wait times of 75 minutes and more.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

In the upper lot, you will find the following: the Simpsons Ride, Harry and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, Kung Fu Panda adventure, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Super Silly Fun Land and the world-famous Studio Tour.

Before noon, I was able to ride all the lower lot rides with no more than a 10-minute wait. If you are visiting as a single rider, you can bypass the line to the front.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Most of the rides were not filled to capacity, which was nice to have the extra room.

It was interesting after every ride, at least in the lower lot, once the ride was over, staffers and riders applauded. It was a nice mood setter for the day.

When it was time to get lunch, I was surprised that unlike Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain, where you can order ahead and pick up your food later via an app, there is no such option at Universal Studios.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

I’m not sure if an app would have sped things up. All the food restaurants had plastic barriers between the cashier and where you can pick up your food.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

In terms of taking photos with your favorite cartoon characters from The Simpsons, Shrek, Trolls and even Hello Kitty, you are able to get up close and personal.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Taking photos with actors playing iconic stars like Marilyn Monroe requires everyone masked up.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Reboots and makeovers

It’s been more than 15 years since I last visited Universal Studios. The last time I was here, Jurassic Park - The Ride just opened and Back to the Future - The Ride always had the longest wait.

Today, Jurassic Park - The Ride is now Jurassic World - The Ride and Back to the Future is now The Simpsons Ride.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

But I was happy to see that there are iconic rides still running, including the Earthquake experience and an updated version of King Kong with Jurassic Park as an immersive experience during the Studio Tour.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Old mainstays as the Mexican and Western town and Bates Motel sets still have that movie magic on Universal’s backlot.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

It was cool to see newer movie props from films like Jurassic Park 3 and War of the Worlds crash scene that close up.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

It’s that kind of access that makes the Universal studio Tour a must-do for any film buff.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Bottom Line

The impacts of COVID-19 will be with us for a while and it can be tough to keep up with all the latest mandates on when you need masks or whether to bring your vaccine card, etc.

But despite all that, you could tell there were smiles underneath all those masks as families walked around this signature LA theme park.

(Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

While visiting Universal Studios Hollywood has changed significantly during the pandemic, it was still a great way to spend the day to go behind the scenes of Hollywood magic -- masked up and all.

Featured image by (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees