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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

studio VIPs for a day

the next morning, the hub got up early to drive MIL back to the house because she wasn't joining us for the activity we had planned for the day.  while he was gone, i headed over to the breakfast buffet in the lobby and grabbed some yogurt and granola to snack on.

and that's when i realized that when i sent him home with our bags and the bean's presents and stuff, i'd also sent my purse along - which contained my car key.  the car that i was going to use to drive us over to where we were going for the day.  son of a...

so that's how the rest of us ended up piling into an uber to get to universal studios:

where we'd booked the VIP experience, which the old lady and i were SUPER excited about.  you know how much we love that VIP life.

at least the hub got to take advantage of the valet parking, which was part of the VIP package.  that made it easy for him to meet up with us as we killed time at the citywalk.  i'd called him in a frenzy as soon as the car key snafu hit my brain, and unfortunately at that point he was almost all the way back.  he had to turn right around to head all the way back home to get the damn key and then hightail it back to universal city to make it on time for our tour, which was scheduled to begin at 10:45.   sheesh.  i felt terrible, but he took it all in stride as he always does.  i swear, i lucked out with the most patient and understanding husband on the face of the planet. he made it right on time, and we headed on into the park through that VIP entrance.  after a quick scan of our e-tickets, we were welcomed inside and invited to go upstairs for a light breakfast.

once upstairs, our hostess pointed out the phone charging station - and the girls pounced.

there was lots of fun memorabilia to look at everywhere.

the breakfast buffet was really nice - a little more elaborate than the one we'd just had at the magic castle hotel.

and there was outside seating too, which overlooked the entry to the park.  it was a cool view, and i'd never even known that this existed up here.

right at 10:45, our tour guide daniel introduced himself to us and then had us head on downstairs to start our day.  we had one other family with us, and we made our way through the park to the backlot for the first part of our guided tour.

this was our fancy trolley for the hour-long tour.  it had comfy seats, was much smaller than the regular backlot tour vehicles, and had a cooler in the front stocked with ice cold water that we were invited to grab as often as needed.

the tour itself was pretty much the same as what you'd experience with the regular tour.  the difference was that there were several areas where we would stop and were allowed to get out and walk around.  that was pretty cool.  i wished we could stop here, but it was only for studio employees.

the "flash flood," which is always fun to watch:

our first stop was the set of "the good place," the nbc show that starred kristen bell and ted danson. the old lady loved this show, so she got a kick out of being able to walk around the set.

next up - amity island, with a killer shark sighting.

we were allowed to get out and explore here, too.  this set actually doubled as "cabot cove," home of "murder, she wrote" with angela lansbury.  and we ended up as part of the attraction when another tour bus full of visitors came along and peered at us curiously as the killer shark did his thing across the way.

the universal studios "picture cars" lot.

that day, we cruised right on past bates motel without a norman bates sighting.  maybe covid got him.

the last part of the tour that we were allowed to walk through was that of the "war of the worlds" set.  and since this was during universal's annual halloween horror nights, there were lots of scary props and fake dead bodies everywhere.

with the backlot tour over, we got out of our comfy trolley and headed back into the park to experience some of the rides.  our VIP experience also included having daniel walk us right up to the front of the lines, which was pretty sweet since a lot of those wait times were pretty long.

as we headed into the transformers ride, we got our one and only glimpse of the upcoming super nintendo world.  it's under construction and probably not scheduled to open for quite some time, but if it's anything like the harry potter-themed section of the park, it'll be worth the wait.

we've been on the transformers ride before, but we were still bummed when it broke down halfway through.  we had to be escorted off and exited through the back of the ride.

i was pretty amused to see this giant connect four set at the door.  maybe the ride doesn't break down that often and the employees have to find ways to entertain themselves.

our next ride was one that the bean had been anxiously anticipating.  she'd never been on the jurassic park ride before, although the rest of us were excited for it since it'd been completely overhauled since the last time we'd been there.  they really did a nice job of updating it, and we managed to avoid getting drenched (mostly thanks to the free ponchos we'd been given back at the VIP check-in desk).

we made our way to "france," where we discovered something else we'd never noticed before...hidden in plain sight.  right next to the "moulin rouge" was the jardin de paris, which houses the restaurant for the VIP experience guests to have lunch.  

it was a buffet like breakfast had been, but even more elaborate.  there was something for everyone there, plus a full spread of mini desserts, a cooler full of all the soft drinks you could want and a really fun coffee machine that made espresso drinks at the touch of a button.

after lunch it was time to catch the "waterworld" show.  it was fun and entertaining and super cheesetastic, the way it should be.

the "despicable me" ride came next, and it was really nice to bypass the long line and walk right into the staging area.

harry potter land (which i'm pretty sure isn't the actual name of that area but whatevs) was the last part of the tour that included our guide.  he walked us right through the lines for the rides there, but we didn't miss out on seeing the spectacularly detailed queue area.

and you can't go to harry potter land without having a butterbeer, as sweet as it is.

while the old lady and the guys headed over to moe's in the simpsons' "springfield" area, the girls and i took advantage of our express pass and got in line for the krustyland ride.

there was one last attraction we wanted to see while we were there - the newest ride, based on "the secret life of pets" movie.  the express line wait here was actually pretty long, but still faster than the standby line.  and the queueing area was also really well done and fun to look at as we made our way towards the boarding area.

the premise for this ride is that you're one of the pets who goes through the city and then tries to get adopted by a family at the end.

this is what i apparently look like in adoptable pet form.

and this is my new family!

of course, it empties out into a gift shop.

by then, it was 6pm and time for us to clear out of the park to make room for all of the people who were ticketholders for that night's horror nights festivities.  we'd done pretty much everything, so no one was bummed about having to leave.  plus it had been a long, hot day and i think everyone was pretty tired anyway.  on our way to meet up with the others we passed this familiar sight:

and this is where they were.

so the price of the VIP experience included valet parking, breakfast, 7 hours with the tour guide, the fancy trolley backlot tour, express front-of-the-line passes, a full lunch, and nice little touches like free ponchos for the water rides, plenty of bottled waters, and little packs of sanitizer wipes.  when i added up the costs of those things it actually turned out to be a pretty fair deal, and made for a really pleasant day in the crowded park.  if you're looking for a fun experience at universal studios, the VIP experience is definitely worth considering.  

plus, it's a fraction of the cost of the VIP "plaid" treatment at disneyland, so there's that.  for a plaid you're looking at a minimum of several thousand dollars for the day.  yikes.  that remains a bucket list item for me, but i'd be surprised if i ever get to cross that one off.  and honestly, that's okay with me.

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