Backlot Tour: Universal Studios Hollywood

I wrote the other day about my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, something I had long been looking forward to. But it was also a treat to visit the rest of Universal Studios Hollywood and, namely, go on the backlot tour included in the price of admission to the park. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve worked in the industry — backlots have so much history and Hollywood magic that I never get tired of visiting them. I’ve taken this specific backlot tour probably three previous times (the first time was on a family vacation in 1996) but I was happy to do it again.

The entrance of Universal is photogenic so I had fun shooting images here, too:






View of the backside of Hogwarts as I walk towards the backlot tour:


There is a whole Simpsons area that is new since my last visit a few years ago:


Shows that were shooting on the backlot at the time of my visit: The Mindy Project, The Voice, Angie Tribeca, Superstore, Hallmark Home and Family, The Good Place, Colony, and World of Dance.


Studio tour — wait time is only 10 minutes. Let’s do this!


We all shuffle onto connected trams — there is one driver and one host in the very front, speaking to everyone via video monitors. Pre-taped segments of Jimmy Fallon introducing parts of the backlot are shown throughout the tour.


Building facades on the backlot:


Hairspray Live! shot here this past December, and there are still traces of it in evidence:


Oh, this is important — the backlot tour is really a hybrid tour / theme park ride. Like TPTB at Universal couldn’t make up their minds to do one or the other, so they did both. It’s kinda weird? Like one minute the host is spouting facts about all the old Westerns shot in that particular area of the lot, and the next minute he’s explaining that King Kong is on the loose and the tram turns into a simulated ride. They also have one ride featuring a Fast and the Furious themed drag race, and one about an earthquake (I can’t remember if that’s centered around a movie or just, “Hey, this is southern California and we sometimes get earthquakes… oh no, here’s one now!”). It’s all fine, but I’m here for the backlot trivia, and could have done without the ride distractions. The more minor thrills — like the flood in Mexico or shark on the Jaws set — were fine and even enhanced the experience. It’s the bigger ‘rides’ that felt like a non-sequitur on the tour.


This is one of the ones I liked — we’re in what looks like a Mexican village and suddenly a flood barrels down on us:


I’m guessing this next location is part of NBC’s The Good Place since they were shooting in this part of the backlot (Little Europe) according to the slate of shows photographed near the top of this post.



This is that mock earthquake ride — it takes place in an underground subway set and, moments after I snapped this photo, water floods the area:


The set of Jaws!


First we get to experience a fire…


… and then a mechanical shark attack!



The Bates Motel with Dr. Seuss’s Whoville in the distance:


Oh look, it’s Norman Bates…


… carrying a body to his trunk…


Planecrash set from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds film:



When I got off the backlot tram tour, a rainbow was beginning to emerge over Toluca Lake:


A minute later it became more overcast (notice that area is now in shadows compared to the above image) and the rainbow colors were much more visible:


View overlooking the Universal Studios backlot from above — a whole little fake town:


Colors lit up the sky as I took one last stroll through Harry Potter World before leaving the park.




A great day! And I skipped most of the park, too, as I’ve visited in previous years to experience other attractions like the Jurassic Park roller coaster ride, etc. It was nice to limit my day to Harry Potter and the backlot tour as that’s all I really cared about this trip. I’m so glad I finally got to see it!

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