California, Where We've Been

Universal Studios Hollywood & Disneyland

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Universal Studios Hollywood & Disneyland

Universal Studios Hollywood

When you think of Universal Studios, you think of movies, theaters, celebrities, the Universal theme song, and everything Hollywood. The theme park was a direct reflection of that, minus the celebrity sightings.

The main reason we wanted to go was to do the behind-the-scenes studio tour. One part of the 60-minute tram ride led us through a typical New York style city. There were several blocks of stores and houses lining the streets where many movies have been filmed.  Little Europe was another movie set town that was designed to resemble a typical small town in Europe. In one of the windows, scrawled in the dust, it read, “Brad Pitt was here.” That’s about as close to seeing a celebrity as we got.

We passed by some of the sound stages that were in use to film current movies. We got to peek into some of them as we drove by and saw the stages and backdrops that were built on the inside. If the light was on though, we had to stay silent so we didn’t interrupt their filming. 

They took us through a couple sound stages, made to look like to real thing, but being part of a theme park ride, they simulated an earthquake in one of them and a Fast and Furious adventure in another. We then passed by the wreckage of a Boeing 747 that was brought in for the filming of War of the Worlds. Due to its size, they had to ship it in four parts and subsequently stage it to look like it had just crashed with smoldering cinders and smoke all around. 

In addition to the tour, we also enjoyed the rides at Universal Studios, the favorite being the new Harry Potter ride. It was outstanding! It’s on par with Disney’s new Star Wars ride which I’ll talk about below. You sit in the seat, get strapped in and take a wild adventure trying to help Harry Potter. You fly over Hogwarts, through the Quiddich match and eventually make it back. The visual effects were really top notch and it felt like you were really there. The kids went through the line about 5 times by themselves. They couldn’t get enough of it.

The rest of the rides were decent. Nothing too spectacular. Some were fun, others were just ok. They were all very similar to each other, just with a different theme. 

There were several shows that we also went to go see. They offered a Special Effects show where they gave us a sampling of how special effects for movies are actually done. A family from the audience was invited on stage to make the sound effects for a clip in a show. Let’s just say they didn’t do so well. It just goes to show just how difficult it is trying to get all those sounds just right. Another part of the act, they lit a special effects stunt person on fire (he was fine, really) to show how they do it in the movies.

Another show was about Animal Actors and how they train them to act. Yet another was called Waterworld. Ben liked this one the best of them all, but I won’t spoil it for you if you plan to go.


Ben and I have been to Disneyland many times, but it was our kids first time. Since they’re a bit older, we were able to escape most of the little kid rides in Fantasyland and do the faster rides like Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. Since we were there last though, they have updated a number of rides, some for better and others for the worst.

Disneyland without the Lightning Lane pass is just a day spent standing in line. If you’re going to go, figure on spending the extra $20 per ticket for the Genie Plus to be able to cut the line. It can only be used once a ride, but there are so many rides to do that it took us until about 9:30pm to get to the last one.

Disneyland has a new land called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Their new ride Rise of the Resistance was well worth the 60 minute wait. (It’s also the only ride that the Lightning Lane pass is not accepted). They take you into a transport to help Rey and her mission. Your transport is captured and you are taken aboard as a prisoner with the guards directing you to the interrogation room. Kilo Ren appears and threatens you and your crew. While waiting for processing, a side door opens and you are broken out of the cell. You get into a pod and you dodge the storm troopers as they try to blast you and your crew mates to stop you from leaving. I won’t tell you the ending if you haven’t been, but I would high recommend it, even if it takes 60 minutes of waiting in line to get to experience it.

Oh Indiana! The Indiana Jones ride was up and down so much, it felt like the Disneyland app was at times a ride. Apparently they’ve been having problems with the ride breaking. At around 20 years old, the ride has so many problems that they’ve had to close two out of the three routes the ride takes through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. We saw an opening, where it was actually up and running, so we jumped in line. We were so excited to get on the ride, came to the front of the line and hopped in the car. Once buckled, we were finally on our way through the treacherous temple when the ride lurched to a complete stop. We were staring down skeletons and whizzing arrows for the better part of 20 minutes. The lights came on and we were told they were working on it. Eventually the ride began again, only to turn a corner and stop again. This time we were left staring at Indy hanging from the ceiling on a rope with a boulder coming at us for another 25 minutes. Talk about upper body strength!

The workers eventually made it around to us with a ladder, and we walked the rest of the ride to the exit. We had an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the ride. That part was worth it at least!

Hey, how do you take a picture on a ride without it being blurry? Get on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.

The kids didn’t know much about Walt Disney before we came to Disneyland, so we made sure we spent time on Main Street U.S.A. There they learned about the cartoons that gave Disney his start and why he made Disneyland. Later on at home we watched Saving Mr. Banks, about how Disney was able to secure the rights from PL Travers to make the movie Mary Poppins.  That movie did a great job introducing the world to the heartbreaking tale of PL Travers, but also into the life of Walt Disney.

See, anything can be educational, even Disneyland! 

Seabreeze RV at Seal Beach

We stayed at the Naval Weapons Station Seabreeze RV Park at Seal Beach while visiting the Los Angeles area. It is a military campground with about a mile from the beach, an hour from Universal Studios, and 20 minutes from Disneyland. The campsites were concrete with 50/30 amps, water, and sewer. Getting on base with my VHIC card proved challenging since we arrived on a weekend when the Visitor’s Center was closed, but was sorted in the end.

There is an RV wash in the campground, which we took advantage of and got our rig looking good as new again. It really needed it after months of sitting in storage, boondocking in Nevada, and camping all over  northern California.

Starlink was slow being so close to L.A. Verizon and AT&T were both 5 bars with our cell antenna.