For the record, I’m a Universal Orlando Resort kind of gal. One of my first dates with my now husband was at Universal Orlando. And I’ve been dozens of times in the past decade. I’ve been present for all of the major expansions and changes. I feel like I know the park like the back of my hand. I am so infatuated with the park that it was a big motivating factor for starting this website. But in all those years, I’d never seen its U.S. sister location in Hollywood, CA. That is until we recently had a layover in Los Angeles/Universal City and decided to scope it out.
And I have to say, while the parks are near-identical to one another in many ways, there are also a lot of differences that took me by surprise. So, in this article, I will share those surprises with you, my dear readers.
Ready for a little Universal Studios Orlando vs Hollywood action? Let’s dive in.
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1. Islands of Adventure doesn’t exist in Hollywood
Let’s start with the most obvious. Universal Hollywood only has one park (Universal Studios) whereas Universal Orlando has two (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). In full transparency, this was one of only a handful of major differences that I was aware of before my visit. So it wasn’t exactly surprising. But it was strange to see it in real life.
And there were plenty of nods to Universal’s Islands of Adventure inside the single California park. For instance, Universal Studios LA has Jurassic World/Park and Hogsmeade. There was also a replica of Hogwarts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. In Orlando, those two sections are both on the Islands of Adventure side.
2. Hollywood’s Jurassic World upgrade
Jurassic Park in Hollywood, albeit ironically smaller than Jurassic Park Orlando, got a major upgrade in 2019. At Universal Hollywood, this park section is now known as “Jurassic World”. This upgrade also included an overhaul to the classic riverboat ride, now known as “Jurassic World – The Ride”. The upgraded ride features dinosaurs and familiar faces from the latest World franchise.
It is rumored that Jurassic Park in Universal Orlando may soon receive a similar upgrade. But so far no announcement has been made.
3. There is no Velocicoaster in Hollywood
Speaking of Jurassic Park, there is no Velocicoaster at Universal Studios Hollywood. In fact, there aren’t a lot of roller coasters in Hollywood in general. That’s right, there’s no Incredible Hulk coaster. There’s no Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (you’d think Hollywood would at least have a coaster with the word “Hollywood” in the title). Californians don’t know what they are missing!
4. Universal Hollywood has a Super Mario Land
This difference is only temporary. Universal Orlando is currently building their own (and much larger) Super Mario Land slated for 2025. The addition will be part of Universal’s Epic Universe. But for now, if you want a sneak peek of what’s to come – you might want to visit Universal Hollywood. I have to say, Mario Kart was, for lack of a better word, epic.
5. Revenge of the Mummy Ride is surprisingly different
Both Universal Hollywood and Universal Orlando have a Revenge of the Mummy ride. And I had always assumed they were replicas of one another. But reader, I was wrong.
Initially, I was disappointed as the ride failed to reverse after the “riches” room. I nudged my husband and said, “I guess this one doesn’t go backward”. However, I soon learned that it does go backward. And it goes backward for quite a long time compared to its Orlando counterpart. Specifically, you get to ride nearly the entire portion of the dark ride coaster track backward in Hollywood. It was thrilling, to say the least.
It’s a feature I wish we had in Orlando. But then again there’s also no false finish on the Hollywood version like you see in Orlando. It also lacks the classic “Where’s My Coffee” Brendan Fraser scene. Both of which I missed while in Hollywood.
6. There is only one Wizarding World at Hollywood: Hogsmeade
There is only one Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California. This difference may be lost on non-potter geeks as even I often get Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley confused myself. To be clear, Hogsmeade is the snowy scene with the Hogwarts castle. Diagon Alley is the section with the fire-breathing dragon and Escape from Gringotts.
At Universal Orlando, Hogsmeade is on the Islands of Adventure side and Diagon Alley is on the Universal Studios side. So one might expect that Universal Hollywood would have a Diagon Alley but instead, it has Hogsmeade. This is most notably strange during Halloween Horror Nights.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, Death Eater Scare Zones are located inside Hogsmeade, whereas in Orlando, you can only get the Death Eater experience in Diagon Alley.
7. There is no Hagrid’s Motorbike or Hogwarts Express at Hollywood
Speaking of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade in Hollywood doesn’t have Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike coaster. Nor is there a Hogwarts Express ride. To be clear, there is a prop train for photo ops. But there is no actual train like you’ll find in Orlando.
In fact, there are only two rides in this section of the park in Hollywood at the time of this writing (Hogwarts Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff). Although, it looked like there was definitely space for a possible Hagrid’s Motorbike in Hollywood. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this addition to the park sometime in the future.
8. Universal Hollywood’s Studio Tram Tour
Universal Hollywood does however have one really cool attraction that Universal Orlando lacks: the world-famous Universal Studios Tour, hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Note: This attraction is not to be mistaken for Orlando’s Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. The Universal Studios Tram Tour is an hour-long tram ride through real working movie sets.
Sadly, those working movie sets were pretty empty during our tour due to the writer’s strike. Regardless, we geeked out.
9. Fast & Furious & Reign of Kong Easter eggs at Hollywood
This one really took me by surprise, while on the Studio Tram Tour, you get to ride through jumbo-sized versions of both Fast & Furious – Supercharged and Skull Island Reign of Kong. These rides are separate attractions altogether in Orlando. But in Hollywood, they are part of the studio tour.
I was impressed with how they could replicate King Kong on such a large scale with a real tram. Neither of these attractions is very strong on its own in Orlando, at least in my opinion. I appreciated them much more as a package. Point to Universal Hollywood for this one.
10. Universal Studios Hollywood loves escalators
And finally, the most unanticipated difference between the two parks: The escalators. You see, Universal Studios Hollywood was built on the side of a mountain. Half the park is located on an upper lot and the other half is on the lower lot. To get from one section to the other guests have to ride a multitude of escalators up and down.
I found this little journey up and down the mountain to be quite scenic, but also time-consuming. Map out your park day ahead of time and plan your vacation day accordingly.
Have you been to both parks? What were some of the differences that took you by surprise? Let us know in the comments below.