Universal Studios, Hollywood Embassy Suites

At the beginning of the last school year I told my niece and nephew that if they got straight “A’s” throughout the school year, I would take them anywhere they wanted to go. Well, they certainly got the better end of that deal. Even though the school year ended in June, they decided to take their trip this winter in order to escape the snow for a few days. Their destination of choice? Universal Studios Hollywood. I couldn’t have been happier. Being a professional travel writer for TravelVacation.com has given me the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles more than once, and I absolutely love the city. Being able to share it with my niece and nephew was going to be an added bonus.

Having stayed at the Embassy Suites Glendale before I knew that was going to be my choice of hotel. It’s located right next to the airport, so it’s very easy to get to. Plus, it’s only five miles to Universal Studios. As if that wasn’t enough they also have fresh cooked complimentary breakfasts, and a pool for the kids, and my girlfriend and I, to chill out in after a long day at Universal Studios. The kids haven’t done a lot of traveling before, so by the time we got from the mid-west to LA they were beat. We holed up in the hotel for the first evening swimming in the pool, and ordering up pizzas. We were going to have a pretty full couple of days, and there was no sense wearing ourselves out the first night.

When I purchased our park tickets a few months prior I went ahead and splurged for the two day pass for the four of us. I’ve been to Universal Studios before and I know there’s just too much to see in one day without trying to rush around. I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves, without feeling like they were going to miss anything. My girlfriend was kind of reluctant though. She had never been to Universal Studios, and was afraid two days was going to be too long to spend at the park. On our second day though she was glad we went that route.

Our first day in the park we had four things we decided we absolutely must accomplish. My niece, Ava, was adamant that if nothing else she had to go on The Simpson’s ride. Me, being a huge Simpson’s fan, was more than happy to oblige. Like all attractions at the park, this line was considerable. Luckily, as an added surprise for everyone, I also bought us line jumper passes, allowing us to bypass most of the line. The Simpson’s ride is really something to see. Basically it feels like a mixture between you being in a cartoon, or the cartoon characters coming to life and riding the ride with you. It was a really cool experience and shouldn’t be missed. Even if you’re not a fan of the cartoon, you will enjoy the ride.

Andrew’s must ride attraction was Jurassic Park. I’ve been on this ride before, and I couldn’t wait for us to get to the T-Rex part. Neither my girlfriend or the kids had any idea what was coming up, and the look on their faces as T-Rex roared at us was priceless. They were even more horrified during the 80 foot drop into the water below. To say we exited the ride a little damp would be a huge under-statement. This one was so well enjoyed that we actually got right back in line and rode it again. All of us laughing in apprehension of another T-Rex encounter.

After the second ride we were soaked to the bone, and strolled around for a while to dry off. We gorged ourselves on all kinds of food that we normally would never eat, and got our pictures taken with the roving packs of costumed characters. Finally ready for some more action we went to check out the Water World show. I remember this attraction as a kid when it was called Miami Vice. I remember loving it then, and it has only gotten better since. The stunts are movie caliber, and the action is quite intense. Also, since we had the line jumper passes we were able to chat with the actors and ask questions, of which Andrew had many.

We hit a couple more attractions after that, but the one that really sticks out is the Transformer ride. Like with The Simpson’s ride, this one feels like you’re right in the action, although in a terrifying way. I have no idea what technology they’re using, but everything on the ride, from the battles to robots was totally and completely realistic. I had to keep peaking over at the kids to make sure they were ok. They were loving it, Natasha, not so much. Once she was off she wanted to go back on though, so I guess it was a good sort of terrified. I can not stress this enough; you must go on this ride. I have been to amusement parks all over the country, this ride is hands down my favorite.

Feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed by the long day we decided to call it a day by mid-afternoon. We new we had a second day pass, and there was no sense forcing ourselves to have more fun that we could take. The kids were getting hungry again, and I knew exactly where I was going to take them; Pink’s. This is my tradition every time I get to LA. I don’t know why, and I even passed by the Pink’s inside the park and skipped it. There’s just something about getting to Pink’s, standing in line, and eating it there that just appeals to me. Natasha has been listening to me talk about Pink’s for weeks prior to our trip, and the kids have seen it mentioned on TV before, so everyone was pretty excited. When we got there we just decided to order up a bunch of food and split it all. The chili cheese dog was one of the favorites, but the standout was the “Jaws” burger that Andrew and I split. A quarter pound burger, with a quarter pound Polish sausage on top, and the bacon and all of the veggies. Terribly decadent, yet delicious. Definitely not something Andrew’s mom, a vegetarian, would have ordered for him.

We spent the remainder of the evening hanging out at the pool again in the hotel again, and resting our worn out feet. As I was chatting with the kids I was stunned to find out that neither one of them had ever been in the ocean before. How had I not known this?!?!? Since we still had a full couple of days ahead of us we all decided that Universal Studios would have to wait another day. Tomorrow we would hit the beach. We got up somewhat early, and I ask the concierge what would be the best time of day to go to the beach to avoid most of the traffic. He just chuckled. “There is no such thing,” he said, “you’re going to be in traffic, might as well just make the best of it.” He wasn’t kidding. It took us over an hour just to get to Huntington Beach. It was worth it though. I bought the kids a couple of boogie boards, and showed them how to ride the waves in. I have never seen two kids spend so much time in the water before. Hours they spent out there on their boogie boards having a blast, and trying to out ride each other. What a great way to spent the day. We got back to the hotel just in time for their complimentary reception. Nothing like a couple of free ice cold beers, and a couple of pops for the kids, to knock all the beach sand down. We all agreed then and there that it was going to be another pizza and pool night. No one had the energy to get dressed and go anywhere.

I was getting worried laying in bed the next morning that maybe we were doing too much, and I was hoping that second day pass wasn’t going to go to waste. It had already been a very full couple of days, and we still had 8-10 hours of walking ahead of us. I should have never been worried. The kids were up and asking what time we’d be going back to the park, and even Natasha was excited about going back and getting on the Transformer ride again, if we had time (which basically means I better make sure we have time). We started the day off again with our free breakfast at the hotel, and were on our way. We started the day at the King Kong exhibit. Like with the other attractions in the park, this one is so realistic it’s unbelievable. While on the ride you would swear that it’s a real King Kong and T-Rex fighting right next to you. Not only are the visuals realistic, but the sounds coming from the creatures are very scary sounding. I was simply awe struck at what these ride designers are making these days. I stepped off the ride honestly feeling like I had just gone on an adventure. From there, as if our adrenalin wasn’t already rushing, we decided the Revenge of the Mummy ride would be next. Another great ride. We were hurled through the pitch dark at speeds that scared Natasha and I to death. The kids just laughed the whole time, until something popped out scaring them to death. Another ride we decided we would do twice that day.

Well, I’m now back at my home base in Nicaragua, and the kids are back home shoveling snow and complaining that their winter break is too short. We had a long talk on our last evening together. They must have asked Natasha and I a thousand questions about what we do for a living, why we live in another country, and how it is we get to travel as much as we do. We explained to them that traveling for a living isn’t always theme parks and Pink’s hotdogs. It still beats sitting in an office though. The travel bug didn’t hit Natasha and I until we were adults. I have a feeling after this trip, and the talk we had at the end of it, that Ava and Andrew might have caught the bug a little earlier than the two of us.

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