Tag Archives: Universal Studios

Halloween Horror Nights

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HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS

One of my favorite times of the year is finally back among us: Halloween. I love walking around my neighborhood looking at houses fully decked out with Halloween decorations. This year on the actual Halloween day I am going to do something I have never done before: passing out candy.  I am sorry if I gave you the intention that I would be doing something spectacular, but it is a first for me since I am usually the one who is out and about on this day.

One event I never miss during this time is the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Hollywood.  This year marked my third year in a row that I went, and I love this event more every time I go.  One of my best friends laughed at me when I told him this since he remembers me all to well back in the day,  when I was too scared to even step foot into a haunted house.  Boy, times definitely have changed.

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The Horror Nights in Hollywood started twenty years ago and have become an established event. Each year, for about a month and a half, Universal Studios gives residence to various spooky characters from famous horror movies.  This attraction is definitely not for the faint-hearted, as the monsters walk freely around the park, trying to scare the masses of people.  The event also hosts several mazes, with each of them dedicated to specific horror films.

This year, the park hosts seven mazes in total with the following themes: Saw, The Shining, Ash vs. Evil Dead, American Horror Story, Insidious, The Horrors of Blumhouse, and Titans of Terror. In addition, visitors can ride on the Terror Tram, or take part in the Walking Dead attraction, which the park hosts year round.  Several rides are also open during the Halloween Horror Nights, including the Transformers ride, which is an amazing 4D experience you don’t want to miss.

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(Part of the outside of the Saw maze)

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(Outside of the Ash vs. Evil Dead maze)

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(Part of The Walking Dead Attraction)

I personally got very excited when I heard about the Saw maze. I really can’t watch such graphic movies anymore without having to puke and facing terrible nightmares the following night.  For some reason though, the mazes don’t freak me out as much. I am mostly amazed at how detail oriented and lifelike Universal builds them every single year.  You really do feel like you are at the scene of the particular movie.

The Saw maze was pretty good, but not my favorite one this year.  I have to admit that I had never heard of Ash vs. Evil Dead before, but the attraction was amazing! It was pretty scary, and I jumped and screamed several times when the horrific characters came out of nowhere.  Bless my sweet friends who bore with me while I was jumping all over the place out of fear. Especially my one friend hasn’t had it easy the past two years she attended the event with me.

Last year, I accidentally hit her in the nose with my elbow when I jumped backwards after being scared by an American Horror Story character.  We were already exhausted from having to wait more than two hours to get into this attraction, and then I had to top it off by actually hurting her.  I felt horrible, to say the least.  But you’d think I would have been better at getting it together this year.  Nah, I am embarrassed to say so, but unfortunately, you are wrong.

We had agreed that this year, I would be the one walking behind my girlfriends, so I wouldn’t be able to hit anyone of them with my elbow by accident.  Well, I was successful at not hitting my friends.  But unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to control my body.  When we bravely made our way through the Titans of Terror maze, one of the spooky characters came at me out of the dark. I started screaming and jumped forward, my arms circling in the air and getting a hold of my friend’s net sweater she was wearing and pulling it down.

She first thought that one of the characters had touched her, which is actually not allowed due to one of the park’s regulations.  She turned around and looked into my apologetic face, realizing that it was me yet again who hurt her.  Gosh, I really can’t control my body when I am freaked out.  From that point out, I was holding my hands whenever we walked through a maze and made sure to keep a distance.  I really can’t say if she would go a third time with me to the Horror Nights.

All in all, it was a night full of fun, my friend forgave me, and I am already looking forward to next year’s event.  If you would like to check it out yourself this year or at some point in the future, I have some tips that might be helpful:

  • Try to go early. The wait for mazes can go up to more than two hours during peak times.  Universal offers early entry at 5p.m.  My friends and I went at 5:30p.m. the first weekend the event was open in mid September, and the longest we had to wait one time was 55 minutes.  Other than that, we never waited longer than 30 minutes.
  • If you can, go ahead and purchase a front of the line pass. This gives you mostly instant access to the attractions without having to wait in the main lines.
  • Don’t bring any liquids when you go. Universal Studios Hollywood has a security checkpoint, and they will make you throw out any liquid items you posses. One year, I had to throw out my body mist spray because it wasn’t allowed.
  • Check the wait times for attractions online on the Halloween Horror Nights side. That way, you are always up to date and can see which mazes might have shorter waiting times than others.

I hope you all are going to have a spooky Halloween, no matter how you celebrate!

Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte, pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Last Days of Summer. Catch’em While You Can!

First day of September…and summer is over. Well, not officially. While the real change of season is still a few weeks away, I am sure you can sense a slight change in the air already, too.

Come Labor Day, and summer is clearly turning into just a warm memory. Schools are back in session, most of us are back at work and beaches are blissfully empty.

Pretty soon it’s Oktoberfest time rather than beach time. Yes, Oktoberfest season starts in California already as early as September 8th!

Before saying good-bye to summer 2017, treasure these last few nights of warmth and sunshine.

Should you spend time at Universal Studios this Labor Day weekend, don’t leave the theme park before you have seen the magical light show at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It is really mesmerizing!


Image & Video Credits: ©CaliforniaGermans


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Universal Studios – Revisiting SoCal’s Famous Theme Park

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A visit to Los Angeles is not complete without a visit to Universal Studios, Venice Beach, Sunset and Hollywood Blvd, the Chinese Theatre and of course Disneyland in Orange County. At least that’s how it used to be, a few years back.

Today we have a Disneyland theme park not only on the East and the West Coast of the USA, but also one in Europe (Paris). Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai can call one their own as well.  Visiting Disneyland therefor in the U.S might have lost some of its appeal compared to other theme parks and other famous sites unique to the USA.  While you can find a Universal Studios also in Japan and Singapore it has not yet made its way to the European continent.

Universal 2After many years living here in California but not having been back to Universal Studios for quite a while, our family decided to check it out again and I found that quite a bit has changed, or …have I changed? In my view Universal Studios has lost some of its magic vibe that had lured me in so many years ago. Then it seemed like the gateway to the secret world of movie making and movie stars. The actual machinery behind Hollywood’s magic.

Visiting Universal Studios this summer I sadly realized that it was  just another theme park competing with Disneyland in new ride attractions. And while the original “Hollywood Studio Tour“, a behind-the-scenes tour, still exists updated with modern attractions like the world’s largest 3D experience, as we were told, to me it has lost a bit of its intimate charm of the earlier days.

Instead of the small trolley train, that had room only for three people in each of its rows, was riding low and put you close to the action, today you’ll find big trolly buses that hold double the number of people and put you high above the action. On the other hand these robust and technically equipped trolley buses let you experience the latest attractions like the award-winning King Kong 360 3-D sensation created by Peter Jackson with an all around intensity that would not have been possible with the fragile little tour trains of the old days.

Universal 3Hollywood’s magic toolbox that makes unbelievable things happen in movies, has evolved and has become much more versatile thanks to modern computer simulation technology. While torrential rains and a flood took away your breath some 20 years ago, and the masses of water that burst down a hill right towards you sitting in your little tour car made you feel threatened to get swept away along with the flood; today you are part of a thrilling fight in 3-D between a scary T-rex and King Kong. In fact you are right in the middle of this spectacle getting splashed with dinosaur saliva and pushed around by KingKong, who is trying to step onto your tour bus.
The tour crowd was mesmerized and thoroughly enjoyed the experience from what I could tell by their screams and beaming faces.

Universal 4The previously mentioned torrential rains by the way still exist and still turn into a flood, but the experience is quite a different one these days so high above the action and boxed-in into your sturdy tour bus. The famous shark attack in the shark lagoon lacks some fright appeal as well. These wonderful, former attractions have lost some of its intensity and enjoyable thrill.  They now seem like a remnant of an aged Hollywood and stand in strong contrast to the modern attractions of the Hollywood Studio Tour that immerses you in a much more emotional experience.

Universal 5Part of the “Hollywood Studio Tour” is also driving by staged settings for certain TV shows and movies. As you are passing by the various small bungalows that once had been used as temporary housing for famous Hollywood icons like Doris Day, you get a glimpse into the fantastic world of Hollywood’s entertainment industry, a world that still has its home right here in the midst of Los Angeles but is impacting millions of people around the world.

I personally think that the Hollywood Studio Tour is the first ride one should engage in when visiting Universal Studios. It sets the mood for your overall experience and makes you remember what Universal Studios Park was originally all about – giving you a peek behind the scenes of famed Hollywood movie making.

Universal 6Today’s Universal Studios theme park offers an array of fun rides.  Some of them are not your usual roller coaster but rather its virtual counterpart, which can be just as wild as the real ride. The Despicable Me -Minion ride that my son and husband were looking forward to was fun but in their opinion way too short after the nearly one hour wait and therefore a bitUniversal 7 disappointing. Instead they enjoyed the Transformers-Ride much more.  And… we were terribly excited to see that Harry Potter’s Wizard World is coming to the park by spring next year! Behind some fences we could already make out the towers of Hogwarts and the crooked chimneys of Hogsmeade!

Aside of the ride attractions, which are quite different to the ones at Disneyland, and therefore not really comparable, my personal opinion is that Disneyland
Universal 8offers a more fulfilling experience than Universal Studios. In fact, just walking around Disneyland’s various theme sections is entertaining by itself.  Food options inside Universal Studios are also much more limited than at Disneyland, but there is always the Universal City Walk right outside the official theme park gates that comes to the rescue with quite a variety of restaurants that are sure to please any palate.

Overall, we will be back, and be it only to check out Hogwarts and Harry Potter’s Wizard World!

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Images: © Copyright 2015 NH Fuertes. All Rights Reserved.

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