Universal Hollywood CityWalk – An Uncrowded Slice of Theme Park Life
With Southern California slower to reopen businesses than many other parts of the country, theme park goers have been left with few options on how to get their fix. In Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, “The Entertainment Capital of LA,” is still closed at the moment, but the adjacent shopping and dining district, Universal CityWalk has been open since June. And while many of its stores and restaurants are operational, not everything has reopened. Some locations you remembered during your last visit might not actually be there when you return, or may be in transition to something entirely new. But enough CityTALK… let’s grab that Voodoo Doughnut and take a walk, shall we . . .
For those who haven’t visited CityWalk in a while, the best route to take is up the hill off Lankershim Blvd. Parking is currently FREE for all visitors so if you’ve never been, it’s not a bad time to visit, even if it isn’t running at full operational capacity. When you get to the gates, tell the guard that you’re heading to CityWalk and they’ll wave you on through. At the Jurassic Parking structure, they’re only using every other parking spot to assist with social distancing. But rest assured, it’s still a much closer walk than it is at Downtown Disney… and shaded parking I might add!
No matter where you end up parking your car, all visitors are directed to one security entrance for CityWalk (and you’ll exit this way too) near the old Tony Roma’s restaurant location. All guests are required to wear face coverings while at CityWalk and a temperature check is performed when you enter.
I love these signs showing the wrong way to wear a face covering! Noses are a no-no.
Speaking of Tony Roma’s, those baby backs are not coming back. “Why,” you ask? Because it’s GONE! Coming soon to take its place is the NBC Sports Grill and Brew, bringing more of that Comcast NBCUniversal synergy together in one place. From the looks of the inside, things are more or less ready to go, but unfortunately for Los Angeles, indoor dining is still not an option. It’ll be interesting to see if they can add patio seating to the already crowded CityLofts plaza.
The neighboring restaurants of Johnny Rockets and Antojitos have expanded their patio seating and it looked decently busy when we walked by. Jamba Juice is open, but Sparky’s Mini Donuts and Chocolates is not, and neither is Karl Strauss Brewery upstairs.
Nectar Bath and Treats is available but the Los Angeles Sock Market has crashed. MiniMonster, a location for boba and teas was not open when we walked by but Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was. Now, unlike Downtown Disney, there haven’t been any rules set yet about walking and enjoying ice cream, but there really weren’t a lot of people to dodge either. It wasn’t hard to find a secluded place to sit. With that said, finding a shaded spot might be more difficult.
A newer store worth taking a look at is Universal Studios Hollywood Production Central, focusing its merchandise on some of the biggest Universal properties such as Back to the Future, Jaws, Universal Monsters, Fast and the Furious, and more. Keep in mind, this store is only open Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays, so if you see anything you like, make sure you visit on the weekend!
The retro glassware that was first seen at Universal Orlando is also available here in Hollywood… and you might think, hold up, King Kong Encounter… that’s the ride from Universal Orlando! And you’d be right! But, the logo AND THE YEAR are correct on these glasses for Universal Studios Hollywood. And at just $10 a glass, why not grab a set?
There’s also a lot of retro Universal Studios Hollywood logo merchandise which is refreshing to see since it’s specific to Los Angeles. Anytime you see merchandise for “Universal Studios”, you can almost bet that it’s shared coast to coast.
Back to the Future being one of the most beloved properties means there’s a lot of merchandise to be found here, even some autographed by Michael J. Fox!
While Transformers isn’t a Universal-owned property, the ride in the parks is a popular favorite. But look at this Ghostbusters Transformer! It’s a new product by Hasbro in a retro packaging, sold here for a whopping $75. If that’s too much, you can pre-order it for a lot less at HasbroPulse.com.
And these Universal Monsters items are a lot of fun.
On your way out, you’ll spy this Pressed Penny machine if you’re collecting that sort of thing. You can get all 8 of them for $5.
Heading towards the main entrance of the park are a few more shops that are open: Guess, Hot Topic, Francesca’s Boutique, Sephora, Dodger’s Clubhouse, Tilly’s, Fossil, and Billabong. The only food you’ll find this way is Vivo Italian Kitchen. Their hours may vary day to day so make sure you call ahead. The fried chicken of Ludo Bird that opened in 2016 has closed permanently.
Now isn’t this a sight for sore eyes? The grand entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood… and without the security gates wrapped around the plaza! Because of its history, this is still a popular spot for visitors to take pictures, but the Universal globe itself isn’t spinning while the park is closed.
See this patch of empty grass? That’s the remains of Saddle Ranch Chophouse.
Turning back towards CityWalk is the flagship Universal Studio Store.
You’ll find some of the same merchandise that is sold at Production Central, but it’s more specialized in current franchises that are represented in the park, such as Wizarding World, Hello Kitty, The Simpsons, Jurassic World, and the latest entry in the parks: The Secret Life of Pets. The brand new attraction was supposed to have opened earlier this year but that will have to wait. In the meantime, you can adopt a few pets, in the form of plushes!
Masks, masks, masks. We really like these Harry Potter designs. Which house are you?
And designs inspired by other park attractions.
Hello Kitty is in the park mood. Her JAWS costume is hysterical and adorable.
The Secret Life of Pets section encourages guests to adopt a pal, and find the right accessories for them.
Back in CityLoft plaza where we started, the fountain is roped off for play, but Abercrombie & Fitch is still open.
The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has opened up to patio seating and even added a little area across the way for more diners.
It’s Sugar is open for your candy fix but sadly for you coffee lovers, Starbucks Coffee was not. Wasabi Sushi, Panda Express, and DongPo Kitchen were all closed for the time being.
There’s some quicker food options this way, with Blaze Pizza still open. Up top on CityFood is Pink’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.
The location that was Subway is completely emptied out with no future residence slated. Smash Burger was another newcomer that has closed permanently and is now under construction to become The Habit Burger Grill.
Up near CityFood you can enjoy a nice view towards Hogwarts Castle.
The iconic Hard Rock Café has long been closed and is still to turn into The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, but the pandemic has probably slowed the progress on that location.
If you need shoes or hats or anything sports related, this end of CityWalk has got you covered with Sketchers, Shoe Palace, Lids, Locker Room by Lids, Havanas, and The Raider Image holding fort.
Buca di Beppo is the only fine dining location still open on this end but it doesn’t look like they’re getting a lot of foot traffic, especially with Vivo Italian Kitchen on the opposite end being the newer spot for people to try. No word on when or if Margaritaville will come back online.
Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Voodoo Doughnut are also still available for treats, and especially with free parking, it’s easier now than ever to come in and grab a dozen doughnuts for your loved ones.
And lastly, we have Things From Another World for those collectors out there. It’s a good spot for comics and toys, but they don’t open until 1p.m.
Stores and restaurants that aren’t open now will have this sign posted on their door that reads “Sorry we missed you. See you soon.”
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Let’s Hear From You
So that’s our tour of Universal CityWalk right now. It doesn’t get very crowded judging from our visit, so we definitely recommend it as another option if you need an outdoor place to walk around, grab a bite, and do a little shopping. As always though, hours are subject to change without notice. Have you gone to Universal CityWalk since they opened? Are you surprised to see any of the changes or closures? Are you looking forward to all the new offerings coming soon to CityWalk? Share your experience and thoughts with us below!