Is it Worth it to Buy the Universal Studios Hollywood Unlimited Express Pass?

Author: Dan Brewer

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When we planned our family trip to Los Angeles to visit Universal Studios Hollywood, we noticed that the day we were visiting was projected to be the busiest day of the month. In fact, by the time we arrived at the theme park in the morning, all the tickets for the park had been sold out. Based on this concerning attendance projection, we decided we didn’t want to waste our day in lineups, so we upgraded our Universal Studios tickets in two different ways:

1) We purchased Super Nintendo World Early Access Tickets to get into this brand new area of Universal Studios Hollywood one hour before the park opened.

2) We purchased Universal Express Unlimited passes.

These upgrades didn’t come cheap. We kept track of our activity for you on a busy, sunny Saturday to help you determine if it’s worth it to buy the Super Nintendo World Early Admission and/or the Universal Express Unlimited Pass.

The posted wait time for the Transformers ride at Universal Studios Hollywood is 100 minutes.
We skipped this 100 minute wait for the Transformers ride with our Unlimited Express Pass.

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What are the Two Types of Universal Express Pass Options?

There are two types of express passes at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park:

1. Universal Express Pass

The Universal Express Pass entitles the holder to skip the lines at every participating attraction at the theme park. Note, that holders of the Universal Express Pass can only skip the line once per attraction. It also allows for one reservation-free entry into Super Nintendo World.

The kids from the Family Can Travel blog wear Mario caps while visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.
Our kids LOVED Super Nintendo World!

2. Universal Express Unlimited Pass

The Universal Express Unlimited Pass entitles holder to skip the lines for every participating ride at Universal Studios Hollywood as many times as they want. This option is attractive to people who wish to ride a particular ride over and over without the line-up (as we did with Jurassic World).

Another awesome feature of the Universal Express Unlimited Pass is unlimited reservation-free entry into Super Nintendo World.

Pokey, the cactus, glows in the morning sun at Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood.

What Rides are Included in the Universal Express Unlimited Pass?

It’s not just the rides that are included in the Universal Express Passes – there are shows and world-famous studio tour as well.

1. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: Join Gru, his daughters, and the mischievous Minions in this 3D motion-simulator ride that takes you on a heartwarming and humorous journey.

2. Harry Potter – Flight of the Hippogriff: A family-friendly roller coaster located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As riders soar through the sky, they enjoy the whimsical and picturesque landscape of the Harry Potter universe.

3. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: This ride, located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, takes you on a magical journey through Hogwarts Castle, featuring groundbreaking technology that combines a captivating story with immersive visuals.

The morning sun shines on Hogwarts Castle at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood, California.

See the top Harry Potter attractions in London.

4. Jurassic World – The Ride: This was our favorite ride at Universal Hollywood. Join the adventure as you journey through the iconic Jurassic Park gates and embark on a thrilling river raft expedition encountering life-sized dinosaurs, including the fearsome Indominus Rex.

5. Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride: Plunge into the darkness of an ancient Egyptian tomb as you face the wrath of Imhotep in this high-speed indoor roller coaster with unexpected twists and turns.

6. The Simpsons Ride: Take a hilarious, motion-simulated adventure through Krustyland with the Simpsons family, encountering various characters and experiencing unexpected twists and turns.

an 8-year old boy holds up Homer Simpson at the Universal theme park in Hollywood, CA.
Our 8 year old son holds up Homer Simpson prior to enjoying the ride.

7. Silly Swirly: A fun ride for the little ones in your family. See how high you can fly while trying not to get dizzy.

8. The Secret Life of Pets – Off the Leash: Visitors embark on a lively adventure through New York City streets in ride vehicles resembling cardboard boxes, guided by the beloved characters from the movie.

9. Transformers – The Ride 3D: Join the Autobots in the battle against the Decepticons in this exhilarating 3D dark ride, featuring state-of-the-art special effects and realistic motion simulation.

The Family Can Travel team were very excited to skip the 100 minute line for the Transformers 3D ride by using a Universal Studios Unlimited Express Pass.
Excited to ride Transformers 3D!

10. Dreamworks Theatre featuring Kung Fu Panda: An incredibly creative 4D film adventure featuring the Kung Fu Panda gang.

11. Universal Studios Studio Tour: Explore the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood on a tram tour, featuring iconic sets, special effects demonstrations, and encounters with famous movie characters.

12. WaterWorld: Witness an action-packed stunt show based on the film “Waterworld,” featuring death-defying feats, explosions, and aquatic performances.

The Waterworld show is an included attraction in the Universal Studios Unlimited Express Pass in Hollywood.

Participating attractions can change all the time, so please check the official list at the Universal Studios Hollywood website to make sure the rides you most want are still included. Or, maybe, Super Mario Kart will finally be added to the list?

Is it Worth it to Buy Super Nintendo World Early Access?

Based on advice from our hotel, we arrived at Universal Studios Hollywood at 6:05 AM. We were among the first ones at the park, but the line filled in behind us very quickly. As we were one of the first to arrive, we were also one of the very first to enter the Super Mario Kart ride, which we did exactly at 7:00 AM. After walking all the way through the completely empty, yet massive line-up queue in the incredible Super Mario Kart building, we were on the ride 6 minutes later.

A massive crowd of people who purchased Super Nintendo World Early Access tickets wait for the theme park to open.
We were at the front of this massive line waiting for the early opening of Super Nintendo World.

After our first ride on Super Mario Kart, we exited the building at 7:17. The lineup for the Mario Kart ride was only 20 minutes long at this point, so we immediately got back in line. This time, we actually got to enjoy the amazing building built to accommodate the massive lineups for this brand new Universal Studios ride, including some videos on how to actually play the game while on the ride.

We did much better on our second ride on Mario Kart: Bowser’s Revenge and this time our family actually beat Team Bowser!

The Family Can Travel team is excited to ride the Super Mario Kart ride for the first time at Universal Studios Hollywood.
We rode Super Mario Kart twice in the first hour!

We got to ride the Super Mario Kart ride twice before the park even opened. Given the lineup for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Revenge reached 2 hours long later in the day, we’d say it was definitely worth it to buy the Universal Studios early admission ticket for Super Nintendo World.

Is it Worth it to Buy a Universal Unlimited Express Pass?

Once the park opened to the public, we left Super Nintendo World and went to enjoy the rest of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. During our visit, I kept track of all of our rides, along with our own waiting times, compared to the general public waiting times.

We hope that seeing our experience with this ticket upgrade, it will help you determine if the Universal Unlimited Express pass is worth it for you. Keep in mind, that on this day the theme park was sold out before the gates even opened…

A piranha plant seen at Super Nintendo World prior to opening by using an early admission ticket.
A huge Super Mario piranha plant… awesome!

Our Day using the Universal Unlimited Express Pass

8:00 Starbucks – sadly our express pass didn’t help us skip the line in this super slow coffee shop.

Ride 1: Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride – arrived at 8:23 AM. Posted Wait time = 5 minutes. We walked straight on the ride with zero waiting.

Ride 2: The Simpsons Ride – arrived at 8:42. Posted wait time was 20 minutes. This ride has a very long pre-show to watch, so although we didn’t have to wait long to start the pre-show, we still spent roughly 13 minutes in line watching the preamble.

The entrance to Krustyland at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ride 3: Harry Potter – Flight of the Hippogriff –  arrived at 9:16. The posted wait time was 5 minutes. We walked straight on with no wait.

Ride 4: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – arrived at 9:22. The posted wait time was 15 minutes. Our wait was 5 minutes.

Ride 5: Ollivander’s Wand Shop – This attraction is not a participating ride in the Universal Unlimited Express program. We arrived at 9:38 and the posted wait time was 15 minutes. We entered the attraction exactly 15 minutes later.

the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles is super realistic.

Ride 6: Kung Fu Panda Theater – We arrived at 10:08. The posted wait time was 15 minutes. We walked straight in with zero waiting time.

Ride 7: The Minions – We arrived at 10:25. The posted wait time was 15 minutes. We walked straight in with no waiting time.

Lunch: We had made a reservation for an 11:00 lunch at the Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World. We arrived right on time, but were unimpressed with the massive lineup and the relatively unappetizing food on the menu (most of the menu items were focused on mushrooms – yuck!). We left after 5 minutes and went next door to the Jurassic Café. Lunch at the Jurassic Café took an hour, but at least the menu had food our kids would eat.

Ride 8: Universal Studios Studio Tour – After lunch we wanted our food to settle before attempting any of the Universal Studios thrill rides, so we joined the relatively tame Studio Tour. We arrived at 12:20 and the posted wait time was 5 minutes. We went straight on with no wait.

a still smoking plane crash scene was one of the highlights of the Universal Studios Studio Tour.

Ride 9: Transformers – The Ride 3D – Arrived at 1:34. The posted wait time was 100 minutes (yes – that’s 1 hour and 40 minutes!). We were on the ride in just 10 minutes.

Ride 10: Jurassic World – The Ride – Arrived at 1:53 with a posted wait time of 50 minutes. We were on a boat in just 4 minutes.

Ride 11: Jurassic World (again) – Arrived at 2:15 with a posted wait time of 55 minutes. Again, we were on a boat in just 4 minutes.

Ride 12: Jurassic World (one last time) – Arrived at 2:34 with a posted wait time of 55 minutes. We were on a boat in just 1 minute.

the Family Can Travel kids loved the Jurassic World ride at Universal Studios so much, we rode it three times in a row.
Jurassic World was our favorite ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ride 13: The Secret Life of Pets – This ride participates in the Virtual Lineup program, so there wasn’t a posted wait time. We arrived at 3:00 and waited about 20 minutes to get on. Unless you have very small kids, the Secret Life of Pets is not worth the wait.

Ride 14: Harry Potter Forbidden Journey (again) – We arrived at 3:30 with a posted wait time of 45 minutes. We were on the ride in just 3 minutes.

Ride 15: Water World show – We walked straight in with zero delay (although so did everyone else).

Universal Unlimited Express Pass Summary

By using the Universal Unlimited Express Pass on the busiest day of the month at the theme park, we were able to enjoy 15 rides. If you exclude the time we spent in mandatory line-ups (the Simpsons preamble and Ollivander’s Wand Shop), we only spent 43 minutes in lineups. Had we known the Secret Life of Pets was so lame, we’d have skipped it and only spent 23 minutes in line the entire day!

Our Universal Unlimited Express Pass Recommendation

So, was it worth it for us to buy the Universal Unlimited Express pass? For a family of 4, it was a significant outlay of cash. But with two impatient children in tow (aged 8 & 10) and only 1 day to visit Universal Studios, I’m happy with the value we got for our money. With virtually zero wait time in lines, we spent our entire day enjoying the excellent rides at Universal Studios, and very little time trying to entertain our kids in line.

If you have impatient kids, along with the disposable income, we feel that buying the Universal Unlimited Express Pass is worth it. Having the ability to virtually walk straight on to any ride you want is such an amazing feeling, and you’ll leave the park satisfied knowing that you got exactly the experience you wanted with hardly any wait.

A huge statue of Bowser in the Mario Kart Ride complex at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.

When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).