My wife Natalie and I got invited to check out the VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood this past weekend. The VIP Experience is a six-hour guided tour and it’s a fun way to spend the day, getting a behind-the-scenes look at how some of your favorite movies and TV shows are made.
Here are 10 reasons to get the VIP experience at Universal Studios Hollywood.
1. Free valet parking. Parking is in the Frankenstein Parking Garage, which is just steps away from the studio’s front entrance. FYI: It’s normally $30 to valet. Directions to the park.
2. VIP Lounge. You check in at the VIP Lounge located near the Will Call windows and inside are bathrooms, snacks and refreshments, including bottles of water.
3. Survival pack. Each guest gets a VIP survival pack that’s filled with hand sanitizer, mints and lip balm.
4. Get an expert tour guide. Our group’s expert VIP guide was Will G who was very friendly and knowledgeable on the past, present and future of Universal’s back lot. FYI: I suspect most guides, like Will, are actors so they are great at telling stories.
5. Private trolley: When going on the famous Universal Studio Tour, instead of having to sit in one of those four-car trams, you get to cruise around in a special open-air trolley. Our group had 11 people so we shared a bus with another VIP Experience group that departed at the same time as us.
6. Visit a sound stage. Unlike the general studio tour, we got to get off the vehicle and walk around the lot and inside one of the studios. There are 35 sound stages at Universal but they have higher numbers than just 35 since they never use the same number of one if it gets closed down. We entered stage 44, which is one of the four stages used for the TV show Parenthood. 44 is the ground floor of the grandparents’ home and we learned the sets don’t have ceilings for lighting and sound purposes. Did you know? Every one minute of the show is roughly one page of script.
7. Tour the prop warehouse. One of the places we got to walk around was the enormous prop warehouse. This is where set designers go to pick out furniture and props for their sets. They do it on the honor system by placing a label on items they want; if anyone gets caught removing the label from an item because they want it, they get banned from the prop warehouse for life.
8. Free lunch. VIP Experience guests get to have a gourmet lunch prepared by Universal’s executive chef and served in a private dining room. It was buffet and they had tons of choices to make everyone happy — from kids to vegans.
9. You get to cut the lines. VIP access allows you to get front of line access to all rides and attractions so you get the best seat in the house and not have to wait in line for hours.
10. It’s good all day. At the end of the 6-hour tour, you are allowed to stick around the park and use your front of the line access.
The VIP Experience is the most exclusive way for someone who’s not related to Steven Spielberg, to go behind the scenes at the world’s largest movie studio and theme park. It’s the ultimate way to visit Universal Studios Hollywood but it’s not cheap … it costs $299 per person.
Normal admission costs $80 but discounts can be found on the internet, at Costco and by using cards like AAA. If all you are interested in is not waiting in line then you can get a Front of Line Pass for $129.
Every Studio Tour includes a stop at King Kong’s 360 3-D created by Peter Jackson, a drive by of Wisteria Lane from ABC’s hit series Desperate Housewives, the set of the original Jaws (it’s getting kind of tired), and the eerie plane crash from War of the Worlds (I found it very disturbing).
My favorite part of the Studio Tour was coming face-to-face with Norman Bates at the legendary Bates Motel from Psycho. Their actor was spot on just like our tour.
Good to know: Children must be at least 5 years old to attend and at least 17 years old to attend without an accompanying adult. There are 391 acres. Universal Studios originally opened in 1912 in New York and then moved to L.A. in 1915. They started offering tours in 1964. Over 8,000 features have been shot on the Universal lot. They use the same sets over and over but they change the lighting and angles so you don’t notice it.
Get the rest of 2013 for the price of 1-Day admission.