Taste of Universal: Is it Worth it?

Universal Studios Hollywood is open for the Taste of Universal event now through April 11, 2020.  You may be wondering, “Is it Worth it?”  Read on for our take on the event and our opinion about the experience.

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Why did we decide to check it out?

I will be honest right here in saying that I am a complete germaphobe.  I am very risk averse to being around large groups of people, especially during a pandemic.  However, Los Angeles County restrictions have steadily decreased and I felt a bit more comfortable to venture out.

I decided to check out Taste of Universal for a few reasons.

  1. Crowd control!  There are a limited number of tickets being sold.
  2. Weekday tickets were an option.  This meant I could head out at opening on Friday and leave if it started to get crowded as the day went on.  Weekdays are less expensive too!
  3. Curiosity. I have not been to Universal Studios in a long time and my family is obsessed with Harry Potter and the Simpsons.
  4. Reasonable ticket prices.  Some other food festivals in SoCal were not quite as friendly on the wallet.  I appreciated that the price of Taste of Universal allowed me to take my entire family for a special occasion outing.  I didn’t even have to stay up all night to get tickets!  (LOL)
  5. The food looked and sounded fun!  We’re talking food items I heard about in the Simpsons since I was a kid.  Of course there’s Harry Potter themed items too.

Did you feel safe walking around?

I admit I was hesitant at first to head out to an event around other people.  My hope was that going out on a Friday would result in less people.  I was also hoping that since you pay admission, it might limit the crowd.

The day of the event, I found out that it was SOLD OUT!  I was a little panicked.  But let me tell you, it was completely FINE!  This is coming from the lady that has avoided peak market hours, shopping, etc. (LOL!)

I commend Universal Studios on making everyone feel (and be safe) for doing the following:

  1. Crowd control: There were signs throughout the park stating, “Keep right/left.”  This ensured that traffic flowed a certain way.  No zigzagging or people taking up the entire walkway.  This was a huge relief for me.  Everyone followed the direction well.  There are also 6 foot space markers in lines, and staff to ensure that park goers were following this rule.
  2. What about sold out days?  We stayed the ENTIRE 7 hours without realizing it!  Our goal was to leave when it started to get busy/crowded.  This never happened.  We were comfortable the entire time there.
  3. Mask rule STRICTLY enforced.  No taking your mask off unless you are sitting in a designated eating area.  This means, you are not even walking around that designated area without the mask on.  There is definitely no walking around while eating.  Another thing?  I saw a small group start to take pictures without a mask.  A nearby staff member immediately walked up and kindly reminded them that they cannot remove their mask unless in a designated eating area.
  4. Frequent cleaning.  I looked around and saw park staff constantly walking around and wiping down common touch areas.  There were also hand sanitizer stations throughout the park.

What is there to do besides eat?

Seriously, what wasn’t there to do?  The hubby and I have not been to Universal Studios in decades, so EVERYTHING was new to us.  Despite the fact that there were no rides open, there were SO MANY photo opps!

Unfortunately, rides were not open.  However, there were characters throughout the park and the interactive Harry Potter windows throughout.  We purchased a magic wand for our oldest as a late birthday present.  However, even if you do not wish to purchase one of these special wands, you can stand by and watch as all of the other adorable wizards take their turns and make the window displays come to life.

Here’s what we found:

  • Picture opps characters like Homer Simpson, Transformers, Hello Kitty, Minions, and the Harry Potter train.
  • Harry Potter interactive windows.
  • Talk with Donkey from Shrek.
  • Walk throughout all of the stores.  Harry Potter stores are extra fun because of the magic to be found inside each one.

Take note: All pics must be taken via selfie or by someone in your party.  Due to Covid, staff members are not taking the pictures for you.  Also, you are not allowed to touch the characters.  They stand behind a line and you stand in front/near them.  I promise, the pics still come out great!

What were your favorite food options?

There were SO MANY food options.  You could even grab some food items with your card from concession stands throughout the park.

Our favorite food options that we got with our food cards?

  1. Lard Lad pink donut from The Simpsons.  I emphasize the pink donut because we all agree it had the best flavor 😉  You can buy this donut at Krusty Burger, Lard Lad, and a few other locations in the park.  No need to stand in line for it.  FYI, we cut one donut in 4 and each felt like we’d eaten a slice of cake!  These babies are HUGE.
  2. Clam Chowder from Mel’s Diner.  It was delicious!
  3. Turkey Leg at Mel’s Diner.  I was the only one in the group that did not try this.  They were all saying it was SO GOOD!
  4. Butter Beer.  You’ll find this at Harry Potter World in a couple of spots.  There is no alcohol.  It tastes like a root beer float, in my opinion.
  5. Krusty Burger and Side Show Bob Chili Dog.  I will be honest in saying these make the list because I just love the Simpsons.  I do not claim that these were the best burger or chili dog we’ve ever tasted.  Simpson fans get it 😉

Check us out on Instagram @asocalwayoflife for more pictures of our food and experiences at Taste of Universal!

Was the food enough?

Are you worried that the 5 food options per adult, and 3 food options per kid, are not enough?  Put your mind at ease!  It turns out that we had too much!  We went to the park with strategically empty stomachs (seriously!) and were so stuffed by the end that there was no way we could use all of the punches!

We wound up using the left over punches on some Lard Lad donuts to share with family that had not attended Taste of Universal.  These donuts come in their own box and therefore can be taken home and eaten later.

Any tips for maximizing my time?

Our goals were to enjoy every single thing that was open to us at the park.  We were all about that Harry Potter life, and enjoying some good food.

Based on our personal preferences, here’s what we suggest:

  • Hit up the Harry Potter store first (if that’s  your thing).  We waited about 1 minute to be let in.  As the day goes on, the line might take longer due to local county capacity limits on stores.
  • Avoid lines for the Lard Lad donut.  If you find a line at Krusty Burger, you can grab the donut at Lard Lad or Quick E Mart.  There are multiple locations where you can grab this huge donut without waiting in line.
  • Talk to Donkey on your way into the park.  Most people walking into the park are likely focused on getting food ASAP.  Trust me…the food is going nowhere!  Take advantage of the popular spots when you can.  We walked past Donkey (from Shrek) talking to another attendee.  We waited about a minute or so and he started talking to us once that person left.  Donkey is behind a theater style curtain and comes out periodically.  If he’s there, just walk right up.  We noticed there was a line of people waiting to talk to him toward the end of the day.
  • Don’t miss the lower lot.  The day we went, a new photo opp was added with Transformers.  We had the chance to take a picture with Bumble Bee and it was a fun break.  Optimus Prime was coming out later and we missed that opportunity.  You’ll also find Jurassic Cafe and store in the lower lot.

Is this event worth the cost?

Without a doubt, 100% YES!  We got to enjoy plenty of good food and enjoy a great day out with the family.  Even better, we were in an environment that felt safe during this pandemic era.

I cannot speak to people that have been to Universal several times over the years, but for my family, it was a whole new experience for us.  We are huge Harry Potter and Simpsons fans, so that alone made this experience top notch.

My favorite part?  We enjoyed every possible opportunity available to us.  My family didn’t have to wait in huge lines just to take a picture or try out the interactive windows at Harry Potter World.  We walked through every single store and perused every inch of the park.

I sincerely doubt that we would have been able to do and see as much as we did during regular operations pre-pandemic.  We truly felt like it was a VIP experience without the VIP price tag.

Better yet?  Next time we go to Universal Studios Hollywood, we’ll go STRAIGHT to all of the rides!

Quick Facts about Taste of Universal

  • Where to buy tickets: Get your tickets to Taste of Universal HERE.
  • Taste of Universal Ticket pricing:
    • Thursdays: $44 plus tax per adult, $25 plus tax for children age 3 to 9.
    • Friday: $49 plus tax per adult, $25 plus tax for children age 3 to 9.
    • Saturday and Sunday: $54 plus tax per adult,  $25 plus tax for children age 3 to 9.
  • Included with tickets: Your choice of 5 menu items for adults, and 3 items for kids.  Your choices include appetizers, entrees, beverages, and desserts.
  • Dates available: Thursday through Sunday, now through April 11, 2020.
  • Event Time: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Parking: $10 for parking at Universal City Walk as of the day this post went live.

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