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Old 07-22-2012, 07:08 PM   #1
Dlandmom2
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Hollywood Here I Come! July 2012

I wasn't quite sure if I should post this mini TR under DL Southern California Attractions or here in General TRs, so moderators please feel to move this if necessary.

Background:

I knew that Laurie (lauriep) was going to be doing the ABD Backstage Magic Tour in July, so I was planning on meeting up with her at Disneyland on one of her free evenings. Well, about a month or so ago, Laurie PM'd me and asked if I'd want to bring the kids up to Hollywood and meet up with her at the Disney Soda Fountain. Who in their right mind would turn down that invitation?!

Fast forward to maybe two weeks ago. I thought that since I was driving all the way to Hollywood (about 1 1/2 hours with little to no traffic...umm, so never, lol!), I might as well take the kids to Universal Studios Hollywood since we had a 5-day pass that we could use over the course of 12 months. We went once a few months ago (the kids' first trip there ever) so this would be the 2nd use of our pass. Laurie was thinking that we could meet up early Sunday morning for breakfast at the Disney Soda Fountain...until we found out they're not open for breakfast. Then we decided to just meet late morning to walk around the Hollywood and Highland area and then grab a bite at the soda fountain. So, I told Laurie I'd take the kids to Universal, spend the night at one of the nearby hotels, and then meet up with her late Sunday morning.

Well, good thing I'm a planner, because I checked to make sure our 5 day pass was valid on the Saturday we were planning to go to Universal. Nope, it isn't! Now what was I going to do? I thought I would just forget about Universal, but I had already mentioned the idea to my daughter Sophia, who was excited about the idea. Anything with a hotel stay is a vacation, even if it's an hour and a half from home!

So, I checked to see if Friday was blacked out, and nope, we were ok for Friday! So, I asked Laurie if we could re-work our plans so that I could take the kids to Universal on Friday and then meet with her Saturday after she arrived at her hotel. Laurie kindly agreed to the revised plan.

Now I needed to decide where to stay. This year, I am a Hilton Honors Gold member. Toward the end of last year when I realized I was close to getting Gold status on my Hilton credit card, I just put every possible purchase I could on the card (which I pay off every month, so no interest charges), and I just barely made Gold status! I don't travel enough these days to make Gold status through hotel stays, but luckily my Hilton credit card allows Gold status through purchases...I'm sure they're not complaining!

I have been saving (or maybe I should say hoarding!) my Hilton points to get a few nights of "free" hotel stay for my next trip to WDW, but I thought this was a good enough reason to spend some of my points. I decided to get us a night at the Universal Hilton, which is walking distance to Universal Studios and City Walk. I showed Sophia the hotel website, and she was excited!

Fast forward to about a week ago. I'm a planner. I'm happiest when I'm planning something. Sometimes I plan just for the sake of planning, lol! I was thinking about Laurie being in town a day early for her ABD. I asked her when she was arriving, and she said her flight was scheduled to arrive just before 11am on Saturday, and her ABD didn't start until Sunday night. Well, that got my wheels spinning...again! I didn't want to impede on her time that she may have wanted to spend on her own exploring the town or just resting up for the ABD, but I thought I'd offer to show her around town a bit so she didn't have to be alone for all that time. Then I thought to myself...what can I show her around Hollywood?

DING DING DING! The bells in my head went off! I know some people at Paramount Studios. I wonder if I could swing a little tour of the studio lot for Laurie. I made a few phone calls and sent a few emails. My contact at Paramount was going to get us on one of the VIP tours of Paramount, but they are offered only on weekdays. That wouldn't work for us. I double checked with Laurie that she didn't have any free time on a weekday, and she confirmed it. I asked my friend if there was any way he could please let us be on the studio lot on a Saturday, and maybe have one of the security guards just drive us around to see the buildings...maybe get us inside one of the soundstages to see a working set. I hate asking people to bend the rules, but this was a special occasion. Well, my awesome friend came through and said no problem, there was nothing going on that Saturday that would preclude us from being on the lot. Awesome!!!

I decided that this was going to be a surprise for Laurie. I had to at least tell her I was planning a surprise because I had to make sure she didn't have any plans for when we were going to be at Paramount and luckily she had no plans at all and was game for a surprise! If you haven't already read Laurie's TR, you need to read it here.

Sorry for being so long-winded with the intro (I know, no surprise for those of who have read my TRs, lol!). I'll try to be back later to continue!
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:15 PM   #2
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Look forward to hearing about the rest of your weekend. The Paramount portion was great!
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Old 07-23-2012, 12:59 AM   #3
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Great introduction to your trip! I can't wait to hear about Universal, as Mark has said he'd be interested in maybe going there in December... so much for having everything planned! Just as well I haven't bought our Disneyland tickets yet...
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:40 AM   #4
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Glad you decided to write this up, Jeannie! I'm looking forward to being filled more on what you did at Universal. I'm very happy that you're a planner. Worked out VERY well for me!
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:25 AM   #5
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I'm going to have to do a bunch of little updates for this TR. Between my exhaustion from the mini vacation (the ol' body ain't what it used to be!) and things getting busy in real life, I'm having trouble sitting down for more than a few minutes at a time! The computer is almost always on, but I can't seem to sit still. Maybe I need to glue myself to the chair...literally!

The plan was to be out the door around 9am on Friday. This would mean I'd have to be up by 8am and the kids up by 8:30am. Yes, it's not very early at all, but we are all on full summer mode, so I've let the kids stay up later and wake up later...which also means I've fallen into their sleep pattern as well, lol!

I actually woke up around 8am without the alarm. I got some work done on the computer (of course checking PassPorter in between ) and then started getting breakfast together. I didn't realize it was already 9! I figured it would be ok to take it easy since we had more days left on our Universal pass for later in the year, and there was probably still morning commuter traffic on the road (I don't even know why they call it commuter traffic...it's just plain traffic that's there all day, lol!).

We FINALLY got out the door around 10. The drive wasn't too bad until we got to downtown LA. We went at a snail's pace for about 15 minutes until we got to the other side of downtown. By then we were close to Hollywood. A few more minutes later on the freeway, and we exited at Universal City (not a real city but a name for the Universal Studios area, at least I don't think it's a real city). We drove up to the Universal Hilton and went down to self park since I knew we wouldn't need the car again until we left the next day.

We took the parking elevator up to the lobby level and exited near the ballrooms. There were pretty chandeliers everywhere, and Sophia was in awe and SO excited that we got to stay in a fancy hotel! We made the long walk over to the registration desk (I guess I parked near the wrong elevators, lol!). Check in was easy, and I was given 6 coupons for free appetizers and drinks (at least I thought that's what they were all for...teaser alert!). It was just before noon, and check in time was 3, but our room was ready! Yay! We headed up to room 1965 and were greeted with:









...and this view...



The entrance plaza is in the middle of the picture. Straight up the middle is City Walk, Universal's equivalent to Downtown Disney. The left side of the picture is the "top lot" of Universal Studios.

This is the "lower lot" area. The big shiny silver building on the left is the Gibson Amphitheater.



I didn't bring any of my nicer cameras on this trip, so every pic is taken with my phone. I tried to zoom in on this next picture so you can see Warner Studios in the distance. It's the group of white buildings in the middle of the picture...the soundstages all have pointy roofs (yes, that's an architectural term! ).



I'll be back with more later!
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:58 AM   #6
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Oh wow - what a beautiful resort!
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Old 07-23-2012, 04:49 PM   #7
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Oh wow - what a beautiful resort!
Of course I completely forgot to take pictures of the lobby area!
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Old 07-23-2012, 05:23 PM   #8
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We took a few minutes to settle in and then decided to go down and use our three free appetizer and drink coupons. We went down to the hotel restaurant, Cafe Sierra, and showed the host our coupons. He seated us, and our waiter came over to tell us what we could order.

I hadn't really looked at the coupons other than the top of the first one that said free appetizer and drink for Gold Honors members. The waiter returned a minute later and told us that we were in the wrong restaurant, that our coupons were only good over at the lounge. He was apologetic and very kind, and I was of course a bit embarrassed to have gone to the wrong spot...although the host should've known when we first walked up. Oh well, no big deal.

We walked over to the lounge where there was no one seated or behind the bar area. We sat down and waited. After a few minutes, I got up and walked back to Cafe Sierra and asked one of the servers there if I was in the right spot. She said yes and that probably the server had stepped away to go get something. So, I went back to the lounge...to wait...and wait. We were all looking forward to a quick appetizer and drink before walking to Universal, but it wasn't meant to be. We just got up and left. I wanted to go tell someone because I was a bit peeved about the whole thing, but of course there was no one to be found over at the restaurant. Ugh!

We put it out of our minds and decided to head over to Universal. The hotel does have a shuttle that it shares with the Sheraton down the hill a bit, but it seems almost silly to wait since it's just a quick 5 minute walk away! Part of the walk is up a little hill, but nothing major.

Five minutes later, we were walking into the entrance.




The weather was hot...mid to upper 90s and probably about 50-60% humidity, which for Southern California is REALLY humid! Thank goodness Universal had planned ahead and offered "Cool Zones" all throughout the park.


It was SO refreshing to walk through those!

One of our first stops was to go to Guest Services to request a Guest Assistance Pass, Universal's version of Disney's GAC. With Evan's autism, having to wait in slow-moving and crowded lines is not good. He calms himself down with jumping and arm-flapping, two things that don't work well in crowded lines.

With the GAP in hand, we decided our first ride was going to be The Simpsons Ride.


The first part of the queue is outdoors, but most of it is covered with tarps and awnings, and there were large fans blowing throughout the area. The last part of the queue is indoors. Here's a look at the inside (It was tough to get good pictures with the glare of the indoor lighting):




This ride is a mix of Soarin's full screen effect and the movement of Star Tours. It's a really fun ride and one of Evan's favorites.


The smart thing to do next would've been to have some lunch, but Sophia wanted to go on the studio tram tour first. Luckily, I always carry snacks for Evan whenever we go out since snacks are a great way to distract him when he gets agitated or uncomfortable about something. So we all munched on some Cheerios and Goldfish crackers as we walked over to the tram tour.

Coming up next...cool things you may have seen on tv or the big screen!
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Disneyland 60th Anniversary Celebration TR here!
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My Countdown Counting down to: Hopefully My 3rd WDW Trip with the Kids!
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:37 PM   #9
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SO cool! I'm glad you're doing a TR for this! I remember being on a ride at Universal (California) when I was probably 5, and it was a Star Wars ride. All I remember, and vaguely at that, is that we were on some kind of a tram or something and going through a warehouse of some sort, where a light saber fight was going on, and I think some laser guns were shooting "at us".

I remember being scared and excited all at the same time, but mostly scared, I think. I wish I could remember that in more depth.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:24 PM   #10
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How annoying about the lounge!
That IS humid for LA! The one thing I miss about So Cal is the lack of humidity!
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:36 PM   #11
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Your room was fantastic! So large and luxurious, and what a view! But what a mess trying to use the vouchers.... what the??

The Simpsons ride looks like a lot of fun. I'm glad that hot, humid spell seems to be over as of today. The weather for your day at Universal and the following day at Paramount was hard to deal with! I love the photo of Evan and Sophia. She's just so sweet and patient with him! And the one of you and Evan too. You two are really bonded. It seemed to me that when he was in his own world your voice could call him back instantly.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:50 PM   #12
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Sorry about the poor customer service--but it sounds like your day at Universal got off to a great start!
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:43 PM   #13
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Great location and a good start ( mostly ) to the day!
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:57 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Principessa_di_Fata View Post
SO cool! I'm glad you're doing a TR for this! I remember being on a ride at Universal (California) when I was probably 5, and it was a Star Wars ride. All I remember, and vaguely at that, is that we were on some kind of a tram or something and going through a warehouse of some sort, where a light saber fight was going on, and I think some laser guns were shooting "at us".

I remember being scared and excited all at the same time, but mostly scared, I think. I wish I could remember that in more depth.
That must have been the studio tram tour. I vaguely remember something about Star Wars and light sabers. Universal does a great job with the tram tour. Do they offer anything like that in Florida?

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Originally Posted by cubfancolleen View Post
How annoying about the lounge!
That IS humid for LA! The one thing I miss about So Cal is the lack of humidity!
I'm used to the "dry" heat even though I don't like it! The few times when we get "monsoonal" conditions (really, that's what they call it on the local weather report!), I am just miserable.

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Originally Posted by lauriep View Post
Your room was fantastic! So large and luxurious, and what a view! But what a mess trying to use the vouchers.... what the??

The Simpsons ride looks like a lot of fun. I'm glad that hot, humid spell seems to be over as of today. The weather for your day at Universal and the following day at Paramount was hard to deal with! I love the photo of Evan and Sophia. She's just so sweet and patient with him! And the one of you and Evan too. You two are really bonded. It seemed to me that when he was in his own world your voice could call him back instantly.
It was a really nice room. I'd say it was probably about the size of my room at Beach Club, maybe a touch larger. The beds were nice, but nothing spectacular. Hilton calls them Serenity beds. My ongoing beef with Hilton is that their two bed rooms have double beds instead of queens. I'm sure having Evan rolling into me all night tainted my opinion of the beds!

Thank goodness the humidity is almost back to normal. We really need Sharon's weather mojo here!

Thanks for your comments about the kids. They really are great, and I'm so pleased that they did pretty well behavior-wise on our Paramount day!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ilovedisney247 View Post
Sorry about the poor customer service--but it sounds like your day at Universal got off to a great start!
It was a bit annoying, and if we had passed ANY employee as we were walking out toward Universal, I would've said something. In the big scheme of things it wasn't a huge deal, but if you're going to offer vouchers to your Gold and Platinum members, you should make sure the areas are staffed...or at least have good cross coverage. I hope it was just a fluke that those 10-15 minutes that we sat there just happened to be when the employees were in the back, but 10-15 minutes of no coverage in a 4 star hotel? Not so great.
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2013 WDW trip here!
2011 trip to Hawaii here!
My Countdown Counting down to: Hopefully My 3rd WDW Trip with the Kids!
My Previous TripsWDW Nov 2013 OKW and POR; Jan 2009 Offsite at HGVC then Beach Club; not listing DLR...I don't think I can count that high!
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:58 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by shazza View Post
Great location and a good start ( mostly ) to the day!
We didn't let the snafu at the hotel bother us for more than a few minutes. We were able to use the vouchers that evening, so you'll hear all about that later in the report.
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Huge Disney Fan...Always Have Been...Always Will Be!

Disneyland 60th Anniversary Celebration TR here!
2013 WDW trip here!
2011 trip to Hawaii here!
My Countdown Counting down to: Hopefully My 3rd WDW Trip with the Kids!
My Previous TripsWDW Nov 2013 OKW and POR; Jan 2009 Offsite at HGVC then Beach Club; not listing DLR...I don't think I can count that high!
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