THE 2019 CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: DAY 14 (OUR DAY AT UNIVERSAL HOLLYWOOD!)

OK, so I am gonna just get this out of the way right now. Day 14 was probably the meh-est day of the entire trip. Believe me, we still had a lot of fun but I mean, some day has to be the worst of the trip, right? And this was the day.

Aren’t you excited to read the rest of the post now?

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Like I said, it’s not all bad. I mean, there are Chagnons. And donuts. So that’s…

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Let’s get on with it, eh?

Day 14 started rull early because we had to do the ol’ hotel switcheroo before even getting the day started. We all woke up, Matt and I went to get the cars, got them packed up, and were back into the whole road trip thing. As we were grabbing the cars, we also ran into Tony packing up his car and we all made plans to meet at the next destination.

And this next destination was about an hour away at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City.

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We got to the hotel, dropped our car off with the valet and our bags with Bell Services. The Nerneys and The Falzones were not that far behind. And while we didn’t have a ton of time to spend at the hotel this morning, there was one main attraction at the hotel we were most excited to see before heading out.

And that attraction?

THE CHAGNONS.

As you might remember from my last post, the Chagnons had run into some travel troubles, which kept them from arriving the day before to spend the day with us at Disneyland. So we were VERY excited to see George, Stephanie, Courtney, and Emily today. Absence making the heart grow fonder and all that junk.

We met up with them in the lobby and all…FIFTEEN….of us made our way to the front to catch the shuttle.

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This actually was the only ride all 15 of us rode together on this trip.

And where was our shuttle taking us?

To Universal Studios Hollywood!

But before we actually made our way into the park. I’m sure you’ve noticed something missing. It was already past 9AM and we hadn’t eaten ANYTHING yet. I was obviously famished.

And we had something special planned for breakfast this morning. Breakfast today was on Universal Citywalk at Voodoo Doughnut. Whoop whoop. Donuts.

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Look at all this insanity we experienced.

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I am going to do my best to list everything in that box of wonderful. From top left (in picture): 8 Mile, Bacon Maple Bar, The Loop, Chocolate Coconut Cake, Grape Ape, another 8 Mile, the Old Dirty Bastard, and another The Loop.

Now, I know you assume these were all for me. On account of the fatness. But they weren’t. I only had two of those lovelies. And I had a plan going in. My plan was to get one I KNEW I would enjoy and one that was a little more out there. So I went for the Old Dirty Bastard as my safe choice.

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Shimmy Shimmy Y’all

This guy was a raised yeast donut with chocolate frosting, Oreo pieces, and peanut butter. It was definitely a safe choice on account of it was AH. MAY. ZING. Not only was it named after my favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan but thing tasted good. Oreos. Peanut butter. Chocolate frosting. According to my doctor, these three ingredients actually account for 75% of my body. Did I say my doctor? I meant those mean kids that make fun of me when I drop off the boys at school.

Anyways, right. So like I said – I got my safe choice in the Old Dirty Bastard. For my more “out there” choice I went with the Grape Ape – a raised yeast donut with vanilla frosting, grape dust, and purple sprinkles.

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And I kinda dug it. The purple dust was like the inside of a Pixie Stick. And I really liked it. Well played, Voodoo Doughnut. Well played.

And while we were there, we also met up with Larissa’s cousins, who live on the West Coast and were meeting us at Universal. Moar friendz.

We left Voodoo, full of donutty goodness, and walked on through Citywalk. Where there were like big guitars.

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And big apes.

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Gee, I wonder if he made my donut earlier.

And within minutes, we were at the park entrance.

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Place was CROWDED, y’all. Seriously. Like you know how Walt Disney World gets like “tour group” crowded? I felt like it was tour groups everywhere I looked. This place puts the “universe” in “Universal.” On account of it felt like everyone in the universe was there.

But eh, whatever. I mean, who cares, right? I mean we have been to Disney parks when they’re crowded so I am sure we can handle it, right?

No, stupid. Because it’s Universal. And not Disney.

And honestly, we considered buying the Front of the Line pass thing they have there. Until we found out it cost more than our actual park tickets. Well done, Universal. You really know how to make Disney look good.

And welp. More bad news. Larissa, Tony, and Mia were going to head in with Larissa’s cousins and kind of do their own thing for the day. Which meant…gah, LESS FRIENDS.

When we got through the gate, the Chagnons wanted to head right to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Nerneys and the Goodreaus, meanwhile, made their way to Springfield.

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And as you can see, the crowd was legit. And I don’t know, man. Maybe Disney has spoiled me, but Universal Hollywood DID NOT handle crowds well. It was bedlam in there. It felt like everyone was going in a different direction.

Our direction, however, was straight. Into Krusty’s mouth.

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Yep, out first stop was The Simpsons Ride. Well, it was at least for me, Matt, Myles, Owen, Will, and Jack.

And while the posted wait time was 25 minutes, it jumped to 40 while we were waiting in line. Ugh, Universal.

I will say, though, there is one thing Universal gets right. Having TVs to watch while you wait DOES help. Especially when they are playing old Simpsons clips. I literally could watch this clip over and over again.

I do enjoy the Simpsons Ride, though. In fact, I enjoy a lot of what Universal has to offer. It’s just their in-park experience. It’s clown shoes.

Sitting in one place for 5 minutes had us parched. So there was really only one place to go….

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Yerp, it was Duff Beer time. And I mean, it made sense. It WAS after 11AM. To not drink beer would have been the strange thing.

Nickie and Laura were already there waiting for us. On account of their alcohol problem is more pronounced.

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Ha, kidding. We all have pretty pronounced alcohol problems. Thank goodness these were 16 bucks each. That really kept our drunkenness in check.

While we sat and enjoyed our Duffs, the boys went off looking for Squishees. I can’t remember if they found them. Because that beer was kind of big.

The next part of our plan had us meeting up with the Chagnons to take the Studio Tour.

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This was probably the attraction I was looking forward to since we WERE in Hollywood and while a lot of what they had in Hollywood we’ve already experienced in Orlando, this was a unique attraction to this Universal park.

We got in line, beers in hand, and waited for our tram to arrive.

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After a good deal of the tour runners making our crowd feel bad and awkward for not being enthusiastic enough via the loudspeaker, our tram DID arrive.

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And pro tip? You can bring your beer on the tram. So don’t be like those idiots chugging their beer in line before boarding. And by “those idiots,” I mean “me.” Don’t be like me.

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The tour started down the road, past a bunch of signs for Universal movies, all presented in chronological order of release.

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Which prompted a bunch of “Hey, I’ve seen that”s and “I love that movie”s. And what not. Youi know, typical annoying tourist stuff. We’re the best.

And then it was into the soundstages.

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I do love me some studio tours. I don’t know. There has always been something comforting to me about seeing movie/TV sets. I guess I like driving through towns with no people. I’ve always related better to buildings.

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OK, building. You can drop this whole façade.

Then, look…cars! And not one of them is associated with Larry the Cable Guy.

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The tour was going well, for sure. Until. AHHHH DINOSAURS!!

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And then it was sort of downhill from there, disaster…

…after disaster…

…after killer shark…

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Just in case you’re wondering – No, Jaws does NOT pop out of the water anymore.

…after mommy-obsessed murderer…

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…after alien invasion.

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But it wasn’t all disasters and invasions and murder. We did get to visit a couple more non-threatening sets.

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Even Whoville. Which I mean, I guess it’s non-threatening. So long as you don’t think how terrifying the Whos looked in the Jim Carey version. Shudder.

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There were also a couple 3D experiences based around King Kong and Fast and the Furious. But I didn’t take any pictures of that portion of the attraction on account of it was 3D. Deal with it.

The tour was great – definitely a high point of the day. Though I will say – I must have sat close to some sort of speaker because the tour guide felt EXTREMELY loud to me. And being that it was over a loudspeaker/intercom sort of thing, it was all tinny as well. It was sort of like having the side of your head duct taped to a McDonald’s drive-thru speaker for 45 minutes.

So. Fun, obviously.

As I mentioned, the Falzones were off with Larissa’s cousins so while we didn’t get to actually spend much time with them, we still got some pictures of Mia with characters none of my kids would let me meet.

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Including ones with these nightmare-inducing Hellspawn monsters. Mia is very brave, obviously.

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As for us, with all that excitement on the tour – flash floods, pyschopaths, frakkin dinosaurs – we had worked up quite an appetite. So it was back to Springfield to hit up Krusty Burger.

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As per the theme of the day, place was crowded y’all. And the people working the registers and counter seemed to have come from some sort of different planet where you wear being a terrible employee like some sort of badge of honor. After we placed our orders and trekked upstairs with our tray full of food to find a table way in the back, I had to fight my way back to the register to talk to them about being double-charged for our drinks.

You would think something with the Krusty seal of approval would deliver a more enjoyable experience.

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I ordered the Krusty Burger combo.

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The burger WAS tasty but I was disappointed in the fries. In Orlando, the burger comes with Kurly fries. Which are obviously superior to regular fries. I know it seems silly to complain about such a thing. But to me, it seems even sillier to replace Kurly fries with regular fries.

Why would they not offer Kurly fries at Universal Hollywood? Oh right, because it’s terrible.

After lunch, we met the Changnons over at Hogsmeade.

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Emily and Courtney really wanted to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but the wait was around 100 minutes.

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Wait did I say “but”? I meant to say “and” on account of we waited 100 minutes. There was some discussion back and forth about whether we should or should not wait 100 minutes to ride said ride. But we came to the conclusion that “what the hell else are we going to do?”

Maybe I am being unfair to Universal Hollywood. I mean, it’s a theme park that isn’t Disney so I guess waits are inevitable. Maybe we should have done Universal first so as not to have been spoiled by Disney? Or maybe Universal Hollywood is just teh suck.

It could be either of those things. But its also probably the latter.

Anyways, into the line we went. And by ‘we’ I meant me, Matt, George, Myles, Owen, Will, Jack, Emily, and Courtney. Nickie and Laura decided to head back to the hotel for some pool time. And the Falzones were still not being our friends today.

And we waited. But to be honest, we did have fun in line. We talked, played some Alphabet game, and once you get inside the castle at least it’s little more tolerable. Well, except for the whole locker scramble part where you have to leave the line to find an open locker to store your stuff. Which is a lot less fun than it sounds.

And I get that it doesn’t sound fun. It was just a lot worse.

The ride itself is great of course. It’s pretty much the same as the Orlando version so no complaints there. Except that it did break down in the middle. Like, I was literally pretty much upside-down under the Whomping Willow when BAM, ride stopped. I think I remained upside-down with Matt for like 3 minutes. And I know, that sounds like something I would enjoy. It wasn’t though.

And when the ride resumed, it started moving and the audio was working, but the screens took a while to boot up. Meaning Matt and I’s next scene was a blank screen accompanied by some now-confusing audio.

When we exited the ride, I talked to someone working in the shop and told her that we stopped mid-ride and missed a big chunk. And, she let all of us back in to ride again sans 100-minute wait. So that was pretty cool. Two rides on Forbidden Journey in a row felt like a win.

Expecto FreeRideUm!

After exiting the ride, the kids wanted some butterbeer. And the adults wanted some regular beer. And also some butterbeer. So off to the Hog’s Head we went.

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As I said, I wanted both butterbeer and like, regular beer. So I got a frozen butterbeer and a draught.

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The frozen butterbeer continues to be my favorite of all the butterbeer forms. And the draught continues to be a favorite form of beer. Though cans and bottles are also well-liked.

We enjoyed our beverages outside of the Three Broomsticks and while we were sitting there, a waitress brought a tray of food over, looking for the patrons that ordered it. For a split second, we were convinced she was just going to say “oh well, want it anyways?” since she couldn’t find the intended diners. But alas, this didn’t happen. And I am really not sure why we expected it to. Seems the even highly unlikely prospect of free food sometimes impairs my cognitive functions.

After drinks comes pool. It’s simple math.

So back to the hotel we went. This time, we just walked over and it was an insanely short walk. Like 5-10 minutes maybe? Seeing as we hadn’t officially gotten a room key, we had to hit the pool first to get the keys from the girls. But seeing as we didn’t have a room key we also could not get into the pool. And the girls were hidden in a little corner, unable to see or hear us. So I did what any parent would do.

I told my son to scale the wall. In my defense, it was Myles. And he’s basically like a spider monkey.

We obtained the keys, went up to change, and came back down for a quick dip.

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Wanting to always experience everything life has to offer, I tried both the pool and hot tub. I am happy to report both were enjoyable.

Reporting at its finest right there.

We probably spent maybe a half hour or so at the pool. I mean, the girls got there earlier so they spent a little more. But I’m writing this blog, so it was a half hour.

At around 5:30, it was time to get back up to the room to get ready for the night. Our room was pretty nice…

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…though there was some Pooh on the bed when I got there.

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The view was fantastic. Straight out the window we had a view of…um…the Hollywood Hills?

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And to the left, we had a clear shot of Hogwarts.

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We hung out in the room a little bit. Nickie and I had a drink. And then we got ready to head out at around 7:30ish. Back to this…

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…or more importantly, THIS.

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Sorry. Have I already mentioned the crowds?

At this point, it was just us and the Nerneys for the night. Because of their travel challenges, the Chagnons were actually heading to Disneyland the next day so they drove over there after we left them at the pool. But don’t worry – there is more Chagnon to come later in the trip!

After we entered the park, we made straight for Hogsmeade once again. Because we wanted to have dinner tonight at The Three Broomsticks!

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For dinner, we ordered two Great Feasts (garden salad, lemon herb roast chicken, spare ribs, corn on the cob, fresh vegetables, and roast potatoes.) Each feast feeds 4 people so at $69.99, it’s actually not THAT bad a value.

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“You don’t win friends with salad.” – Homer Simpson
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“If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” – Homer Simpson

My drink situation was interesting. While the Three Broomsticks has a relatively limited drink menu, it is connected to the Hog’s Head. So I decided to order my drink from there. I noticed that while the beer was 14 bucks, a mixed drink was closer to $12.00. Which was odd, but worked out since I wanted something a little lighter than beer for dinner. I opted for a vodka soda.

Also interesting? They do sell butterbeer with a shot for you to mix in. The Fireball version seems to be popular. However, these are $22.00 a piece. Which, I don’t know, feels INSANE.

Dinner, overall, was good though. We have had the Great Feast in Orlando as well and the food felt just as fresh and tasty here. And being that it was close to 8PM, outside of normal dinner hours for most, we didn’t have trouble finding a table inside.

The boys wanted one more ride before seeing the nighttime show so we checked the app and it looked like not too much of a wait at Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem so we walked over to jump on.

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Jack, Myles, and Owen did their best minion impressions while in line. Will approved.

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Actually, I am not 100% on what Owen is doing there. Maybe he was frightened?

While we were on the ride, Nickie and Laura went to catch the first showing of the nighttime show (more on that below) and then go back to the hotel.

When we got off Minion Mayhem, the boys wanted to leave but I was determined to see the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle show. So with a little nudging and threats of viole…um…stern looks. Yes, threats of stern looks. I convinced them to join me.

The Dark Arts at Hogwarts is mainly a projection show on Hogwarts. And while the story is a bit hard to follow, it did look extremely cool and the ending was a very big payoff. Check it out:

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But like I said, the ending was pretty amazing. At one point in the show, you hear Harry Potter yell “Expecto Patronum!” And this happens…

Those are drones. Yeah, it was pretty amazing. Especially when he turned his head. You can hear the reaction of the crowd in that video above. Definitely was a good way to end our day at Universal.

Well. Actually, it wasn’t QUITE over. When we got back to the hotel, we found this waiting for us.

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A gift from Laura that I think was intended for the next morning. But you know we started eating that thing on the spot. Due to a lack of shame.

And as we were gorging on pink donut, we heard some familiar voices out in the hall and went out to find the Falzones just getting in as well. We went out and traded stories with them about the day and, sadly, said goodbye. They were on a flight home early the next morning. We were definitely sad to see them go, but happy they could join us for so much of the trip. Love those people.

After we said our goodbyes, we all retired to our rooms. So yeah, Day 14 was a bit “eh.” Not terrible but not super great either. The crowds were insane and Universal just does not know how to handle them. I mean, we rode a total of 4 attractions over the course of the day. Compared to riding like 20 at Disneyland the day before. I don’t see us visiting Universal Hollywood any time again soon.

But we still managed to have fun and while the departure of the Falzones was definitely a signal the trip was nearing the end, we still had a few days left. So after getting settled in our rooms, we went to bed rather quickly in anticipation of our only actual “beach day” of the trip – Day 15. See you then!

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