Last Monday, my hubby, s-son and I bundled into my car at 5:00 in the morning and headed off to Universal Studios in Hollywood. It was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing, only decided on a couple of days before. I was feeling guilty for not having taken s-son anywhere this summer, so I sprang for an annual pass for the three of us and combed the internet for a good place to stay.
Now I don't know why I got annual passes, especially since Universal Studios is a visit-once-in-your-lifetime kind of place, a comparatively small amusement park where you can see all the attractions in a day. I guess I wanted s-son to get a vacation out of it, plus I didn't want hubby to have to drive eight hours in one day. Imagine my remorse when, after having bought the pricey annual passes, I discovered that the hotel I booked for the night offered a second day at Universal for free! Argh!
Why Universal? I've sworn off Disney after one visit (with hours of it spent on lines to attractions). I knew I couldn't convince my family to go to Rodeo Drive, Sunset Drive or even NBC studios in Burbank to watch a taping of a show. So it was Universal for two days for our troop. Which was just fine with me.
I've always liked Universal Studios. My first visit there was with ex-boyfriend #2
, and I had the best time! I was in love so everywhere we went was magical for me. Hmmm, on second thought, we also went to Disney on that trip and didn't care for it, so it must really be the place. The second time I was with three of my GWOSA friends and my friend Ulyie, and we also had fun. What added to the joy was we haven't seen the others in years and we all surprised each other such that two of the girls had no idea they would be seeing the rest of us. The third time was when I took my good friend Jenny and two visitors from the Philippines, and, all together now
, we had a great time. I even won a gigantic Tweety Bird from the quarter toss game in the arcade. The fourth time was when I took my husband there for his birthday because, much to my shock, I found out that he has never been! Yes, we had so much fun. Which leads me to this, my fifth time, with my small family, and as I expected, we had a great time.
Understandably, Universal has updated some of their attractions throughout the years, but I've only noticed the most changes in this last visit. They've replaced the E.T. ride (which was one of my favorites, sniff) with the Mummy ride, which was just a regular roller coaster that took you forward and backward at breakneck speed. The thing that made it exciting was it was pitch black, so you'll never know what to expect. But the absence of dips was very disappointing. They've added new sights and trivia to the Studio Tour, like Whoville from the Grinch, or the stairs Jim Carrey rushed the dog from in Bruce Almighty. However, the trivia, albeit updated to appeal to the newer audience, sounded too familiar it smelled fishy... Jim Carrey rushing to the tram in full Psycho regalia, stabbing passengers with a rubber knife? Wasn't that role filled by Steve Martin a few years back? Or was I getting my comedians mixed up? In any case, I internally sulk at my bad luck of not seeing any actual movie stars whenever I'm in the studio lot.
A Van Helsing haunted house has been added, which was a major disappointment (if you're planning a visit there soon, do yourself a favor and skip this). They've abandoned Back to the Future and the Alfred Hitchcock movies in the Special Effects attraction in favor of the Nutty Professor, Van Helsing and The Mummy, which was just fine. The hosts were funnier this time around too. A new attraction, Shrek 4D, has been added and has become an instant favorite with everyone. Thank heavens the ever-reliable Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 3D, Back to the Future and Waterworld attractions were still around.
My s-son's favorite though was the Nickelodeon Blast Zone and the Wild Thornberry Temple Adventure, which basically consisted of shooting rubber balls at other kids (and some poor, unsuspecting adults). I'm still amazed how kids can spend hours shooting water guns and not get tired of getting wet. I joked to my husband we should've just poured buckets on s-son all day and saved the money. The only attraction we intentionally skipped was Spiderman Rocks, the Musical. Tell me you will see something called that
While s-son gleefully played at Nickelodeon, hubby and I watched the Blues Brothers show, which I surprisingly have never seen before. We also played arcade games at the Flintstones area, where I won a medium Donkey and he won a huge Siberian Husky, after my persistent begging. You see, I LOVE winning stuffed toys at arcade games. I don't know why but I never outgrew this passion of collecting these creatures, which can get really expensive sometimes. I know it's stupid to keep throwing money when you're not winning, but the gambler in me kicks in thinking, I'll get it this time
. If there ever was an Arcade Game Stuffed Animals Anonymous, I should be a member. "Hi, my name is Vangie, and I'm addicted to arcade game stuffed animals." I should feel bad beating seven little kids for Donkey in the water squirt game, but I don't.
Another habit I haven't outgrown, to my husband's consternation, is constantly looking for a good photo op. I had my picture taken with Shrek (on two occasions!), Donkey, Spiderman and the Fast and the Furious car while 9-year-old s-son wouldn't get caught dead with them. I think it's the combination of the Filipino and the vanity in me.
So, after two full and fun-filled days at Universal, we hauled our tired bodies to the car and headed home. We made a pit stop at the Gilroy outlets, where we nicely capped a happy short vacation with a shopping spree at Banana Republic (for me) and Billabong (for hubby and s-son).
Thank you, Universal Studios, for the many wonderful memories and great photo opportunities!
What's your Universal Studios?