Universal Studios Hollywood is a working studio made with entertainment in mind so there are plenty of action-packed shows and attractions. This includes a number of rides, including some of the best you’ll find on the West Coast.

Most are family-friendly, with a few fun dips and twists accompanied by engaging images from some of your favorite movies. You’ll see King Kong in action, spot dinosaurs from Jurassic World, and even climb aboard a broomstick for a flight through Hogwarts while enjoying these best Universal Studios Hollywood rides.

Don’t forget that you can buy Universal Studios Hollywood discount tickets! I’ve listed some great options below.

The World-Famous Studio Tour

The set of "Jaws" as seen during the Universal Studios Hollywood World-Famous Studio Tour.
The set from “Jaws” that you drive by on the Studio Tour

The World-Famous Studio Tour is updated regularly and a must-do for anyone who wants the authentic Universal Studios Hollywood experience. Climb aboard the tram tour of the lot — you never know who you’ll see on site as some shows that are currently on-air film here.

You’ll spot the house from Psycho, some props and a shark attack right out of Jaws and a tour through some working sound stages. Expect to spend about an hour on this in-depth journey and to come away with a glimpse behind the scenes of your favorite films. 

This is a large capacity ride so it can be enjoyed later in the day than some of the others on the list; visit during the daytime for the best views and to catch some sound stages at work and in action. You’ll take the escalators down to the Lower Lot to find it. And, while it’s not a thrill ride, expect some special effects and the tram to jolt and rock.

Flight of the Hippogriff

This Harry Potter-themed ride is one of the newest Universal Studios California rides and, of course, located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Take your time wandering through the queue to discover some fun extras, from some barks from Fang, Hagrid’s cowardly but oversized dog, to some hidden details from the third Harry Potter book.

This is an ideal family ride, albeit a short one, with a few quick thrills for big kids, but no loops or scary maneuvers for smaller ones. The gentle coaster is a good introduction to the more thrilling rides on our list (and a must-do for those seeking a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Hollywood).

Tip: The Three Broomsticks restaurant here is pretty good though you’ll be able to buy Butterbeer and pumpkin juice from one of the outdoor carts. And, you’ll certainly want to pop into the Hogsmeade shops like Honeydukes for chocolate frogs.

DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda

This is more of an adventure than a ride, but the whole theater moves as one, instead of you moving along in an individual carriage. Seats are synced to the action, which stars Master Po and some powerful kung fu action. Sounds, action, and visuals combine to create a thrilling and engaging program with plenty of funny moments and surprises.

This is a multi-sensory experience with dynamic effects in a dark setting, ideal for all ages. You’ll leave feeling like you just stepped off a high-speed ride, and wondering — how did they do that?

The Simpsons Ride

A family poses with costumed Simpsons character.
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood via aRes Travel

One of Universal Hollywood’s most enduring rides features that gang from Springfield on a rollicking wild ride through Krusty the Clown’s amusement park called Krustyland. You’ll discover that the villainous Sideshow Bob has interfered with the circus, and take a wild ride as you attempt to track him down.

If you’re ready to lighten things up, let go of reality and have a laugh, then this is a great place to start. The Simpsons Ride is a simulator that offers plenty of thrills and laughs for your entire group, and if you’re a Simpsons fan, it’s one of the Universal Studios Hollywood rides you can’t miss.

Tip: There are quire a few places to eat here. Pick up a donut the size of your head at Lard Lad Donuts, sip suds at the outdoor Duff Brewery, or grab a bite at Moe’s Tavern.

Revenge of the Mummy

Riders in the front row scream with joy as they hurl through Revenge of the Mummy, a Universal Studios Hollywood ride.
This is my favorite Universal Studios Hollywood ride / Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood via aRes Travel

One of the fastest Universal Studios Hollywood rides in the park, you’ll speed through the Egyptian world of Imhotep, with plenty of surprises along the way. (This is my favorite ride in the park and we usually ride it multiple times.)

Revenge of the Mummy has an intriguing, not often seen combination of a dark ride with a story and true roller coaster. Explore dark tombs and mysterious settings, then plunge through the rapid-paced coaster portion of the ride. There is so much to see on this thrill ride you won’t take it all in on your first time — you may want to ride again to see what you missed the first time around.

Experience speeds of up to 45 mph and plenty of archeological thrills when you climb aboard and tour the pyramid.

King Kong 360

A couple wearing 3D glasses gets a close-up look at King King while sitting in the Studio Tour tram.
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood via aRes Travel

What could be better than an immersive journey through the world of King Kong? How about an appearance by an outraged T-Rex? King Kong 360 is actually a part of The World-Famous Studio Tour.

This ride is noteworthy for its theme and immersive design, but also for the style; your tram car locks into place and becomes a simulator for the most thrilling part of the experience. It’s also the largest 3-D experience in the world.

Enjoy high-speed thrills and chills and an adventure like no other when you climb aboard that nondescript looking tram and venture out in search of the elusive King Kong. 

Jurassic World: The Ride

The latest version of Jurassic Park: The Ride has evolved and been renamed to Jurassic World: The Ride. New effects and characters (including recorded appearances by actors from the movie like Chris Pratt) have been added.

You’ll get all of the watery fun of the classic ride, with new twists, spins, and things to see at every turn. A new crop of (animatronic) dinosaurs has arrived, and they are not all friendly; you’ll see them all as you float along this water ride.

It’s the Jurassic Park Ride Universal Studios Hollywood needed and will delight anyone who loves dinosaurs or adventure. With this new ride, the odds of you getting wet are higher. Keep an eye out for the Raptor Encounter show just outside of the ride. There is also a small DinoPlay area for kids who are too small or don’t care to ride.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

People wait in line outside of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
Prayitno [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This whimsical and fun simulator features the lovable Minions and is guaranteed to make you smile. You’ll follow them on an adventure, avoiding being “minionized” yourself with assistance from the girls on this sweetly chaotic adventure.

Ideal for all ages, the storyline expands on the movies (you’ve been invited to a special Minion training program but Gru secretly has other plans for you). Mayhem swiftly ensues as you try to avoid your fate, and this high energy, motion simulator ride offers plenty of laughs and fun for all.

You can also stop into Super Silly Fun Land play zone that is adjacent to the ride. It offers some carnival games and 80 water play stations.

Transformers: The Ride 3D

A boy on a man's shoulders points his finver at Optimus Prime in front of the Transformers Ride entrance at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood via aRes Travel

One of the best flight simulator rides you’ll find in the area, Transformers: The Ride 3D is a fully immersive experience. You’ll fly right alongside Optimis Prime in an epic battle – one that allows you to soar through the air and discover the power of the transformers. You don’t have to be a kid or a Transformers fan to appreciate this ride, which has one of the most advanced systems in the theme park industry.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Enter Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey here.

If you could only pick one ride to try in Universal Studios Hollywood, this should be the one. The experience begins in Hogwarts Castle, and you’ll pass some important sites and landmarks, from the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom to the Gryffindor common room. When you arrive at the Room of Requirement, you’ll be on your way.

You’ll follow Harry himself around the castle, avoiding the whomping willow, spotting dragons and running from giant spiders. This is an amazing adventure featuring immersive technology and you’ll flip, spin, dive, and turn, but not totally invert. Avoid the dementors and complete your journey in a single night — if you can. This experience is perfect for anyone who loves Harry Potter but even someone who has not read the series will enjoy this technical marvel.

Skip Long Lines for Universal Studios Hollywood Rides

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If you’d like to minimize the wait times for Universal Studios Hollywood rides, consider an Express Pass. An Express Pass upgrade to your general admission ticket allows you to enter an expedited line specifically for Express Pass holders. Needless to say, this line is shorter. You can buy it for one-time ride access or unlimited ride access. If you buy one-time access and decide to upgrade to unlimited ride access, this can be done at the park (always check terms and conditions to be sure).

To tour the park like an insider, book the VIP Experience. Your guide will take you behind-the-scenes to historic Backlots and sets that are normally closed to the public. You’ll enter the park through a VIP entrance, enjoy VIP dining and the VIP lounge, receive Universal Express Unlimited passes, and more.

It used to be that buying Universal Studios directly would allow guests to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter early. This is no longer the case, however, we recommend getting to the park before it opens so that you can enter with the crowds who may already be queued for entry. Have your first ride decided and head straight there to begin your day in Southern California sunshine.

Note that if you are attending Halloween Horror Nights, the incredibly-popular fall night time event, you will need a separate ticket. Do buy this in advance because they often sell out.

Universal Studios Hollywood rides offer something for every member of the family and provide you with a variety of choices whether you want the side-splitting fun of Minion Mayhem or the realistic, awe-inspiring glimpses of the prehistoric past on Jurassic Park — in addition to the park’s awesome shows (like WaterWorld or Universal’s Animal Actors) and other attractions.

The working movie studio and theme park is definitely one of the best things to do in Los Angeles with kids (or without). You can stay in one of the hotels near Universal Studios, shop and eat at Universal CityWalk, and also hit nearby parks such as Six Flags Magic Mountain or Disneyland.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. We just visited Universal Studios Hollywood to see it decked out for the holidays. I loved seeing Harry Potter World decorated for Christmas and covered in snow. The rides were fantastic, but I definitely vote for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as the best ride.

  2. Hi, thanks for all the information on Universal Studios. Are there any budget friendly or highly recommended places to eat in the park? Also, you’ve told us the best rides, but are there any we should ride sooner rather than later in the day? I know at Disney World, I always went to the furthest rides first. Last, We will be there March 29th. Does it make sense to get a Fast pass for that day for the 1st time ride?