Universal Studios Holiday Fun into 2020

Before and after Christmas enjoy the festivities at Universal Studios Hollywood. Then on Dec. 31, 2020 celebrate EVE at Hollywood’s biggest party of the year. On Tuesday, December 31, the theme park offers extended hours to 2:00 a.m. EVE is included in the price of theme park admission, or guest can enhance their celebration with the popular Ultimate EVE package.

IMG_1650.JPG

 

During the day, The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and many Whos from Who-ville gather around the dazzling “Grinchmas” tree. In the evening, there are multiple tree lighting ceremonies, accompanied with snowfall flurry.

IMG_1675

As night falls, Hogemeade Village sparkles with snow-capped roofs and storefronts decorated with holiday garland and decorations. The Hogwarts Castle is lit with color illuminating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during designated times. The awe-inspiring light projection show is choreographed to the musical arrangement from the Harry Potter movies.

IMG_1656

The holiday atmosphere runs daily through Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Continue celebrating on NYE at EVE at three locations: Universal Plaza, Simpsons Plaza located in Springfield™ and an area near “Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride.”

There will be a variety of live music acts from rock ‘n’ roll to electronic dance music to Latin pop and elevated DJs. Be sure to ride the all new “Jurassic World—The Ride” an extra thrilling experience. Stay for a traditional New Year’s Eve countdown captured at spirited giant photo opportunity locations while watching spectacular fireworks.

IMG_2627

To purchase tickets for EVE or the Ultimate EVE package, click here. Package highlights include theme park admission starting at 6 p.m., VIP Lounge access with gourmet buffet dining and cash bars with specialty cocktails, private DJ and dance floor, reserved VIP viewing area for the dazzling fireworks display, a complimentary midnight champagne toast, commemorative 2020 party favors, preferred parking and unlimited Universal Express access to all rides and attractions.

A selection of food and beverages, including desserts, champagne, beer, wine and cocktails, as well as 2020 memorabilia will be available for purchase.

IMG_5880

Annual Pass members can also benefit from a variety of special incentives devised especially for these valued ticket holders. To learn more and to purchase tickets, Annual Pass members can click hereVisit www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for more details and to save up to $60 on an Annual Pass when purchased online. Offer valid through March 2, 2020; restrictions apply.

 

Universal Studios Hollywood “Day of Giving”

Yesterday hundreds of Universal Studios Hollywood volunteers gathered together,  offering some warm Universal cheer to 300 homeless LAUSD students. The 14th annual “Day of Giving” on Nov. 8, 2018 offers children 5 to 11 years old a day they will never forget.

IMG_3669
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The inspirational “Day of Giving” yearly event is designed to connect Universal Studios employees with the giving people of  Operation School Bell (OSB) of the Anne Banning Auxiliary (ABA), a service of the Assistance League® of Los Angeles. This non-profit organization provides new school clothes, shoes, backpacks, books, and enhanced self-esteem to elementary-age school children (grades K-5) who are identified as homeless in LA Unified School District (LAUSD).

IMG_4623

The organization’s mission is to empower individuals and families to lead more productive and fulfilling lives by staying in school and succeeding academically. Disadvantaged children typically lack appropriate school attire or are forced to share clothes with family members, putting them at risk for irregular attendance, poor school performance, and low self-esteem. OSB’s goal is to improve regular school attendance so these students can succeed in school.

IMG_4592
LASUD Counselor Jaza Williams

Buses and vans brought 300 children and their chaperones to Universal Studios Hollywood for a day of fun. They were warmly greeted at the entrance of Universal Studios Hollywood employees volunteers.

LAUSD Homeless Education Counselors checked in each child with a wrist band and handed them a brand new plush Despicable Me Minion. LAUSD counselor Jaza Williams told me she was having an OPRAH moment handing each child a lovable yellow toy saying  “You Get a Minion, You Get a Minion….”

IMG_4602

Students smiled as Universal Studios Hollywood volunteers gave them a brand new backpack filled with new school supplies provided by Operation School Bell.

IMG_4606

Los Angeles Community Police Officers fitted children with brand new shoes. Wearing their new shoes, they walked up the steps into the Operation School Bell on Wheels trailer fully outfitted as a “traveling closet.” Volunteers personally fit the children with new school clothes.

IMG_4618

Melanie Merians, CEO of the Assistance League of Los Angeles shared that the cost for each school visit is $25,000 per day.  They stock the pop-up 48-foot big-rig “traveling closet” with new clothing that includes uniform polo shirts, jacket/hoodie and pants.

IMG_4620

On a typical “Wheels” site visit at a school, more than 250 children receive clothing and supplies. Annually they provide new clothing to more than 6,300 at-risk children in grades K-5 at LAUSD.

IMG_4631
Kathy B, Adrienne Seltzer and Officer James

Adrienne Seltzer takes Operation School Bell on Wheels to 16 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District during the school year. Children in need receive clothing and supplies on each visit. LAPD Community Officers accompany Seltzer on the visits. “It’s nice for kids to see police officers in another light,” said Seltzer. “They also are there to assure everyone stays safe.”

IMG_4644Back down the steps, the children were offered to pick a brand new book to keep by Universal Studios Hollywood volunteers.

IMG_4641After this experience, the students enter Universal Studios Hollywood in groups to enjoy a fun afternoon visiting “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”

IMG_4814

Talking to Heather Mann, Public Relations at Universal Studios, she told me the students and chaperones will visit “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” meet Minions, and ride the popular “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.” A catered lunch is provided and the students get to play at the “Super Silly Fun Land” play zone. They also get a behind-the-scenes look at how movies are made on the world-famous Studio Tour.

IMG_5031-2
This is one of five Universal Day of Giving events. Universal Studios Hollywood supports several several other non-profit organizations across Los Angeles including Project Angle Food, Tree People, MEND, Union Station Homeless Services and Shane’s Inspiration.

The holidays will be brighter for these children and others thanks to these caring volunteer heroes. If you would like to help the volunteers from Assistance League Los Angeles Operation School Bell raise funds to help fund these events for homeless students Donate here.

 

10 Summer Fun Experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood

The Entertainment Capital of L.A. Universal Studios Hollywood offers multiple themed immersive lands that transport guests to real-life interpretations of iconic movie and television shows. Here are 10 newer experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood:

  1. “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” features a lively Hogsmeade village and two thrill rides “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and “Flight of the Hippogriff”. In the evening starting at 8:50 p.m., crowds gather to witness “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” illuminate the summertime sky. There are three awe-inspiring shows each evening starting at 8:50 p.m., and the last show at 10 p.m.  The state-of-the-art light display showcases the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Beams of lights, special effects projection and fireworks are accompanied by a special musical arrangement created by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams. The music is based on his original scores composed for the film, and is conducted by arranger William Ross and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in London. Night falls on Hogsmeade village, “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” shines from June 24 – August 19 and September 1-3.  

  2. Be sure to visit the wand shop to see who gets selected for a custom wand and be sure to buy a unique Butterbeer beverage only available in this area.IMG_6887
  3. See Pinocchio in the box office ticket booth at the newly constructed DreamWorks Theatre. Inspired by Mission revival architecture reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s Art Deco period of the 1920s, walk up to the ticket seller booth, to see this life size character featured in the DreamWorks classic Shrek, asleep on the job. With one eye slightly open, he periodically talks to guests throughout the day. 

  4. Go inside the DreamWorks Theatre to experience “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.” This new immersive theatre attraction opens with a series of 36 movie posters that pay homage to DreamWorks Animation films. Within the lobby, a selection of over 20 award statuettes are showcased representing a sampling of Golden Globe, Emmy, People’s Choice, Critic’s Choice, National Board of Review and Annie awards DreamWorks Animation has amassed from 2008 to 2015. There is also a collection of original sculpted maquettes of the “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.”IMG_6909
  5.  Still in the lobby guests meet an array of DreamWorks characters who kick-off the attraction’s narrative. As guests enter the main theatre, they take a seat in the new ultra-plush, fully articulated seats that pivot and swivel in tandem with the 180-degree action. As the lights dim, the first-ever integration of interior projection mapping engulfs guests in an immersive adventure. Developed by the innovative team at Universal Creative, visually dynamic scenic designs are coupled with seven Christie 4K Boxer Cinema Projectors and 360 degree surround sound audio with the original score by composer Germaine Franco. Guests experience physical effects with their seat movement, as well as water and wind enhancing this adrenaline-spiked adventure from raging rapids, river pirates, awesome magic and Kung Fu.IMG_E8172
  6. Afterwards meet Po and Tigress within the park’s Universal Plaza.  A replica of Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop, as featured in Kung Fu Panda, is set up for guests to enjoy his authentic Asian fare and a selection of hot and cold Asian beverages. 

  7. Learn more about America’s favorite TV Simpson family at “Super Silly Fun Land.” Stroll through “Springfield,” hometown of America’s favorite TV family located adjacent to the award-winning “The Simpsons Ride.” Grab a bite at Krusty Burger, Duff and Lard Lad Donuts. 

  8. Go down to the lower lot for your last chance to experience “Jurassic Park—The Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood before it goes extinct on September 3, 2018. After Labor Day the theme park readies for the all-new Jurassic World ride in 2019. Before or after experiencing the theme park, visit the adjacent Universal CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex. See a colossal 3-ton Tyrannosaurus rex towering 13’ tall and 36’ wide dominating CityWalk adjacent to the Universal Cinema. This is a fun photo opportunity. Nearby is a life-sized Gyrosphere – an original movie prop from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This movie is screening at Universal Cinema Theatre, featuring deluxe recliner seating in screening room quality theaters. 

  9. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom fans can visit Voodoo Doughnut across the way to take a bite and enjoy the all-new Raptor claw-inspired doughnut, available through July 7.IMG_6827
  10. Get your photo taken with #WhatLiftsYou angel wings. Artist Kelsey Montague painted beautiful wings with Hollywood motion picture symbols and iconic Los Angeles architecture on each wing. To learn more go to www.universalstudioshollywood.com.

Universal Studios Celebrates the Chinese Lunar New Year – Year of the Dog

Now until Sunday, February 25 buy an admission ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood and enter the all-new Lunar New Year themed area. There are a multitude of Chinese New Year experiences with the help of DreamWorks’ favorite Kung Fu Panda characters and Universal Studios stars.

Here’s 8 fun, interactive experiences that the entire family will enjoy:

  1. Before entering the tall, impressive archway into the polygon-shaped Universal Plaza, a Mandarin-speaking, red eye Transformer MEGATRON greets guests. This imposing 12-foot-tall sentinent robot interacts with guests and poses for photos. MEGATRON is one of the stars in the thrilling “Transformers The Ride-3D.IMG_E8265
  2. Write your wish for the new year and attach your red card onto pink plum blossom Wishing Trees. It’s a good luck tradition.IMG_8179
  3. Enjoy hot and cold Asian delights and Mr. Ping’s Noodles. It’s a replica from DreamWorks popular movie franchaise Kung Fu Panda. Order the Secret Ingredient Stir Fry Noodles with either beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu. The also serve Po’s steamed pot stickers filled with pork and served with a spicy soy sauce. The Oogway egg rolls are filled with chicken and served with a sweet chili sauce. My favorite were the soft and warm Dragon Warrior Bao buns filled with pork and served with soy sauce.IMG_8281
  4. Learn how to be a Dragon Warrior at the Jade Palace Performance Stage. Watch a martial arts demonstration with Kung Fu Panda characters Master Po and friends. Children can volunteer to stand up on stage to show off their new skills with Master Po. IMG_8201
  5. For those who enjoy drawing, a seasoned animator artist teaches guests how to draw Po and the Furious Five. Participants receive a keepsake drawing page, pencil and personal instruction on practical techniques to draw one of their favorite Kung Fu characters. This informative session takes about 15-20 minutes.IMG_8250
  6. Walk under a canopy of bring Chinese red lanterns to search for your zodiac animal sign to learn each of the 12 symbolic attributes.IMG_8273
  7. Meet and have your photo taken with Illumination’s Minion dressed in traditional Chinese attire next to the entrance with two large gold Chinese guardian lions.IMG_8189
  8. Be sure to check out the Chinese New Year merchandise. There are shirts, mugs, red envelopes, red floral crowns and tote bags.IMG_8288To learn more and purchase tickets, go to http://Universalstudioshollywood.com

5 Experiences You Will Love at Universal CityWalk

With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air at Universal CityWalk. Celebrate the fun with a loved one or friend from Feb. 8 to Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Here are 6 Romantic Moments to experience at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.img462_250x209See a movie – Universal Cinema offers plush recliner loveseats to cuddle up with your sweetheart to see the newest movies on enormous screens. Click here to see movie times AMC Universal.

  1. Grab a pre-movie and post-movie drink at the Director’s Lounge Cocktail Bar. img30604_1200x406
  2. On Thursday, February 8 starting at 1 p.m., relive every passion-filled moment of Fifty Shades of Grey & Fifty Shades Darker with a movie marathon at Universal Cinema.p12656913_p_v5_ab
  3. Catch advance screenings of Fifty Shades Freed, the final chapter of the provocative film franchise start on Feb. 9, 2018.
  4. Be sure to check out the authentic costumes worn by the stars of the movie, Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) and Jamie Dornan (Christian Gray). They are exclusively on display through March 4, 2018.opti-img25788_1200x406
  5. Good Things Come in Pink Boxes. Treat your loved one to an exclusive Voodoo Doughnut. Now open at Universal CityWalk, the Portland, OR based Voodoo Doughnut brings you their sinfully delicious, unconventional line-up of fried creations. Signature favorites include Bacon Maple Bar, Grape Ape and Voodoo Doll doughnuts. There are four colorful, mouth-watering Valentine’s Day themed  Devilishly Delicious Heart Shaped Sweets available from Friday, Feb. 9 through Wednesday, Feb. 14.

For more information and to purchase movie tickets, visit CityWalk Hollywood. Regular updates can be found on Universal Studios Hollywood’s Twitter @UniStudio, Facebook-Universal Studios Hollywood and Instagram @UniStudios.

Universal CityWalk – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

Seeing Holiday Light Displays in So Cal

Have you noticed the holiday light displays are bigger and better than ever? Besides lights, there is music, food offerings, entertainment and visits from special people from the North Pole. Here’s a guide to 5 of my favorite Holiday themed destinations:

  1. Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood – IMG_4277As night falls, Hogemeade Village sparkles with snow capped roofs and storefronts decorated with holiday light garland and decorations. The Hogwarts Castle is lit with color illuminating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during designated times with an awe-inspiring light projection show that is choreographed to the musical arrangement from the from the Harry Potter movies –https://dineandtravel.me/2017/11/10/christmas-extravaganza-at-universal-studios-hollywood/.
  2. Enchanted Forest of Lights at Descanso Gardens –

    This is the second year that Descanso Gardens, a renowned 150 acre botanical oasis filled with California native plants and oak wonderlands, is open in the evening for locals and visitors to witness one of the most dazzling and unique holiday season light show. https://dineandtravel.me/2017/11/21/experience-enchanted-forest-of-light/.

  3. Disneyland and California Adventure – 

    Disneyland and California Adventure seem extra festive this year. For a second year the park is decked out for the spirit of the season with decorations offering a celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali. Here are 10 activities to see and experience in both theme parks before January 7 – 2017. https://dineandtravel.me/2017/11/17/10-disney-holiday-magic-experiences/

  4. The Americana at Brand –

    The holidays are joyous at Americana at Brand with special hours, a Santa House, holiday shopping, singers, drummers, entertainers on stilts and trolley rides. Celebrate the magic of the holiday season near a soaring Christmas Tree with thousands of lights and ornaments, set in a winter wonderland with snow falling on The Green every evening at 7 & 8 pm, through December 25. Read about the newest store selling holiday sweets and gifts for friends, coworkers, family and yourself –

    https://dineandtravel.me/2017/12/03/the-americana-at-brand-is-sweeter-with-sees-candies/.

  5. BOLD in Beverly Hills –  

    Robin Thicke performed at the annual Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting Celebration on Nov. 16. (photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for AGENC)

    “Every day feels like a holiday in Beverly Hills,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse. Bosse conceived BOLD (Beverly Hills Open Later Days) as a way to make the city “fresh and competitive.”  Holiday events in Beverly Hills include the Tinseltone Carolers singing at various locations throughout the city on Fridays. From 5 to 8 p.m., the Madrigal Singers perform on Rodeo Drive. On Saturday, Santa appears at the Paley Center for Media from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., It’s one of  many appearances he will make through Christmas Eve. Events in December include the daily menorah lightings starting on Dec. 12 at Montage Beverly Hills during Hanukkah. Bistro tables and chairs were installed on Rodeo Drive for BOLD during the summer and remain through the holiday season, offering a warm and inviting environment. The city offers special parking rates through Jan. 2. Two hours free parking, with a $5 maximum rate are offered at 9510 Brighton Way, 345 N. Beverly Drive, 241-242 N. Canon Drive, 438 N. Beverly Drive, 439 N. Canon Drive, 461 N. Bedford Drive and 216 S. Beverly Drive. There will also be one hour free parking at other lots with a $5 maximum rate. To learn more – lovebeverlyhills.com/boldholidays.

     

Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Yuletide atmosphere at the sneak peek of “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” put me is such a festive spirit. As the night sky grew black, Hogemeade Village sparkled with snow capped roofs and storefronts were decorated with holiday garland and decorations.

 


Walking down the cobblestone streets, I felt as if I traveled to the historic British land of Harry Potter world.

 

The Hogwarts Castle is lit with color illuminating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. During designated times there is an awe-inspiring light projection show that is choreographed to the musical arrangement from the from the Harry Potter movies.

 


Karen Irwin, President & COO, Universal Studios Hollywood told a group of Universal Studios employees and journalists that this interactive experience is an “exciting new holiday program further expanding the Harry Potter universe, by bringing some of the holiday spirit from the films to life for guests to experience for themselves.”

This spectacular show runs through January 7, 2018. Besides lights and Harry Potter scenes projected on the castle walls and turrets, guests were entertained by an a cappella Frog Choir. Hogwarts students hold giant throaty frogs on plush pillows with golden fringe singing holiday songs.

 


Holiday-themed fare inside Three Broomsticks includes the return of hot Butterbeer, and a sumptuous roast turkey with gravy platter that includes a medley of root vegetables, braised red cabbage, roasted potato medallions and pigs in a blanket. Hog’s Head pub, Magic Neep and the Butterbeer carts sell cold and frozen Butterbeer, plus Pumpkin Juice with a souvenir pumpkin top.

 


Not only can you immerse yourself in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but do some holiday shopping for your favorite Harry Potter fans. There are nine retail shops open featuring an array of fun fan items. Step into Honeydukes for sweet stocking stuffers or to enjoy a sweet treat. The cauldron cake was my favorite.

 

Inside Platform 9 3/4 Hogwarts Railways and Hogwarts Express train ornaments; stockings, themed scarves, hats and gloves. Ollivanders, Owl Post, Zonko’s, Joke Shop, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Dervish and Banges, Gladrages Wizardwear, Flich’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and the Hogsmead Station offer an array of all-new custom-made ornaments that are available to be customized; mascot ornaments representing each of the houses; Hogwarts crest clothing; collectible Hogwarts castle snow globes; Christmas stockings and stocking holders and unique Hogwarts-themed tree toppers and house pennant garland.

 


Before leaving, I put my purse in a free locker and rode the thrilling “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” offering a stunning film projection land comprised of 120 frames-per-second enhanced with 4K-HD, through an immersive Harry Potter world. The milder “Flight of the Hippogriff is an outdoor family roller coaster that is gentler to the stomach.

Doesn’t this sound fun? Here’s a link to get your ticket to Hollywood’s most festive light shows and dinner in Los Angeles – https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/things-to-do/events-and-seasonal-activities/christmas-in-the-wizarding-world-of-harry-potter/

Christmas Extravaganza at Universal Studios Hollywood

I was wow’d during a Yuletide theme sneak peek of “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” As night falls, Hogemeade Village sparkles with snow capped roofs and storefronts decorated with holiday light garland and decorations.

IMG_4237
Phtot by Jill Weinlein

Walking down the cobblestone streets, I felt as if I traveled to the historic British land of Harry Potter world.

IMG_4266
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The Hogwarts Castle is lit with color illuminating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during designated times with an awe-inspiring light projection show that is choreographed to the musical arrangement from the from the Harry Potter movies.

IMG_4259
Karen Irwin, President& COO, Universal Studios Hollywood

Karen Irwin, President& COO, Universal Studios Hollywood told a group of Universal Studios employees and journalists that this interactive experience is an “exciting new holiday program further expanding the Harry Potter universe by bringing some of the holiday spirit from the films to life for guests to experience for themselves.”

IMG_4280
Photo by Jill Weinlein

This spectacular show runs through January 7, 2018. Besides lights and Harry Potter scenes projected on the castle walls and turrets, guests are entertained by an a cappella Frog Choir. Hogwarts students hold giant throaty frogs on plush pillows with golden fringe. Together the students and frogs sing holiday songs.

IMG_4258
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Holiday-themed fare inside Three Broomsticks includes the return of hot Butterbeer, and a sumptuous roast turkey with gravy platter that includes a medley of root vegetables, braised red cabbage, roasted potato medallions and pigs in a blanket.

IMG_4305
Enter a caption

Hog’s Head pub, Magic Neep and the Butterbeer carts sell cold and frozen Butterbeer, plus Pumpkin Juice with a souvenir pumpkin top.

IMG_4306
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Not only can you immerse yourself in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but do some holiday shopping for your favorite Harry Potter fans. There are nine retail shops open featuring an array of fun fan items. Step into Honeydukes for sweet stocking stuffers or to enjoy a sweet treat. The cauldron cake was my favorite.

Inside Platform 9 3/4 Hogwarts Railways and Hogwarts Express train ornaments; stockings, themed scarves, hats and gloves. Ollivanders, Owl Post, Zonko’s, Joke Shop, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Dervish and Banges, Gladrages Wizardwear, Flich’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and the Hogsmead Station offer an array of all-new custom-made ornaments that are available to be customized; mascot ornaments representing each of the houses; Hogwarts crest clothing; collectible Hogwarts castle snow globes; Christmas stockings and stocking holders and unique Hogwarts-themed tree toppers and house pennant garland.


Before leaving, I put my purse in a free locker and rode the thrilling “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” to a stunning film projection land comprised of 120 frames-per-second enhanced with 4K-HD through an immersive Harry Potter world. The milder “Flight of the Hippogriff is an outdoor family roller coaster. IMG_4280

Day of Giving at Universal Studios

Today hundreds of Universal Studios Hollywood volunteers banded together for the 13th annual “Day of Giving” community outreach event.

IMG_3669
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The inspirational “Day of Giving” event is a tradition designed to connect Universal Studios employees with diverse community organizations, many of which are beneficiaries of the Discover A Star Foundation. This organization’s mission is to empower individuals and families to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.

IMG_3670
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Early this morning, 280 children arrived in buses and vans with 109 chaperones. They were warmly greeted at the entrance of Universal Studios Hollywood by employees and Operation School Bell volunteers. After checking in, each child received a brand new backpack with new school supplies.

IMG_3701
LAPD Community Service Corporals Eric Desmore and Kirk Madison

Next they sat next to Los Angeles Police Community Service Officers and were fitted with a pair of brand new shoes. “For some of these children, this is the first time they have ever received new shoes,” said Adrienne Seltzer from the Assistance League Los Angeles Operation School Bell.

IMG_3688

Wearing new shoes, the children walked up the steps into the pop-up 48-foot big-rig Operation School Bell on Wheels “traveling closet” filled with brand new clothing (2 uniform polo shirts and bottoms, one play outfit) and dressing rooms. Caring volunteers worked one-on-one with each child to ensure the clothing fit well.

IMG_3682

Back down the steps, the children receive a jacket/hoodie before meeting Austin Jallo to pick a brand new book to keep.

IMG_3684

After putting their book in their backpack, children met Karie Delarme and Julie Munoz to recieve a bright blue “My Stuff” bag. It was filled with a stuffed animal, Fidget Spinner, blanket, 5 pairs socks and underwear, a grooming kit and a craft kit.

IMG_3703
Adrienne Seltzer and James Nichols

Adrienne Seltzer takes Operation School Bell on Wheels to multiple schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District twice during the school year. More than 250 children in need receive clothing and suppies on each visit. LAPD Sergeant Luis Alvarado and his team accompany Seltzer on the visits. “It’s nice for kids to see police officers in another light,” said Seltzer. “They also are there to assure everyone stays safe.”

IMG_3708
Sergeant Luis Alvarado and Adrienne Seltzer

Volunteers from Assistance League Los Angeles and Operation School Bell raise approximately $400,000 per year with A Spring Affaire at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills and from in-kind community and corporate foundations.

IMG_4814

Talking to Danielle Prado Community Relations Manager at Universal Studios, she told me that after recieving all of these gifts, Universal Studio volunteers gathered small groups of kids with their chaperones for a day of Universal Studios fun. They visited “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” meet Minions, and ride “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.” A catered lunch was provided inside the Globe Theatre.  Guests played at the “Super Silly Fun Land” play zone, and took a world-famous Studio Tour to experience the “Fast & Furious – Supercharged” thrill ride.

IMG_5031-2
“This is one of five Universal Day of Giving events,” said Prado. “We support several other non-profit organizations across Los Angeles including AIDS Project L.A. (APLA), Downtown Women’s Center, Tree People, Union Station Homeless Services and Shane’s Inspiration.

The holidays will be brighter for these children receiving gifts from caring heroes.

 

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

One of my favorite episodes while watching the daytime Ellen show is when Ellen DeGeneres has her producer Andy and his intern walk through the Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Halloween Horror Nights.” It’s hilarious watching Andy scream, cower and hide behind his intern, as characters pop out, strobe lights flicker and sound effects heighten all of his senses.

IMG_0614
Recently I had the opportunity to walk through two of Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Halloween Horror Nights” mazes, inspired by two frightfully fun films. This year the iconic psychological thrillers – The Shining and Insidious: Beyond the Further will terrify guests and excite horror fanatics starting Sept. 14, 2017.

IMG_0630

I met John Murdy, the Creative Director at Universal Studios Hollywood and Executive Producer of “Halloween Horror Nights.” While talking we realized we were both tour guides over 30 years ago at different times.

Since he had such a creative mind, he moved up the Universal Studios ladder and is now building the nation’s most intense and immersive annual Halloween event. For more than 20 years, guests from around the world have visited Halloween Horror Nights.

IMG_0643

The all-new disturbing maze, “Insidious: Beyond the Further,” inspired by Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films, gives guests a peek into the upcoming supernatural thriller, Insidious: Chapter 4.

The creepy new maze will delve deep into brilliant parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier’s past, starting with a childhood in which her paranormal abilities emerged…until her mother’s untimely death by a demonic entity. Troubled by a lifetime of evil supernatural spirits trapped in the Further—a vacuous netherworld caught between the living and the dead—Dr. Rainier will take guests on an unsettling journey back in time through a portal into the Further…to defy the most depraved and intimidating beings that have tormented her since the 1950s.

IMG_0648

Opening in theatres nationwide on Friday, January 5, 2018, Insidious: Chapter 4 is a Blumhouse Production, Oren Peli Production distributed by Universal Pictures domestically and Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films internationally. Directed by series newcomer Adam Robitel, the supernatural thriller is written by co-creator Leigh Whannell and produced by Insidious series regulars Jason Blum, Oren Peli and co-creator James Wan. The film stars Lin Shaye as Dr. Rainier, who faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet: in her own family home.

IMG_0666Be sure to go into “The Shining,” maze that is inspired by one of the greatest horror film of all time. There is also “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” based on FX’s critically-acclaimed, Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning television series. Visit “ASH vs. Evil Dead,” based on Starz’s comedy horror television series, and “Saw,” based one of the highest grossing horror film franchises of all time.

IMG_0682

Also new is “The Horrors of Blumhouse,” based on Jason Blum’s blockbuster movies, The Purge, Sinister, and upcoming film, Happy Death Day.

Since guests enjoy being surprised and scared, “The Walking Dead,” at Universal Studios Hollywood has become a new permanent attraction. It’s inspired by AMC’s record-breaking television series.

The entertaining Jabbawockeez is an award-winning hip hop dance crew providing high-energy performance created exclusively for “Halloween Horror Nights.”

For more information about visit http://www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.
Updates on “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood are available online at HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Hollywood and on Facebook at: “Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood,” on Instagram at @HorrorNights and Twitter at @HorrorNights as Creative Director John Murdy reveals a running chronicle of exclusive information.

Hollywood Welcomes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

First there was a Hogwarts at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, then Osaka, Japan and now Hollywood, CA officially opens The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on April 7, 2016.

Inspired by the best-selling author J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters in her books and Warner Bros. films, it’s an ideal multi generation activity that everyone will enjoy.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Walking into Hogsmeade Village looks exactly like a 1000 year old Scottish Village. Alan Gilmore, the supervising art director for the Harry Potter movie series worked on the new themed land to bring the magical film set to life in Hollywood. The buildings look settled into their foundation. There is moss and soot on the castle walls, snow-capped rooftops, and crooked chimneys throughout. The movie’s soundtrack streams out from hidden speakers to enhance the experience.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Be sure to buy your Harry Potter fans an interactive wand for $47.95. The Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, Ollivanders™ is one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops, with a variety of shapes and sizes. Stand on a gold medallion, in front of 11 different interactive windows along Diagon Alley to perform “magic” with a flick of the wrist, while casting out, “Wingardium Leviosa.” Lanterns light up, water squirts from a frog’s mouth, and music plays from a treasure box.

Another fun activity is stepping into the train station for an interactive photo opportunity of riding a replica of the Hogwarts Express train. Scarves hang on hooks for guests to drape around their neck, before sitting in a train seat. The fabric colors on the seats, and the luggage racks above the train compartment are the same ones used in the movie. Pretend you are leaving from King’s Cross Station in London to his magical wizarding school.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Actual props from the movies are seen throughout the park. You will see many while waiting to ride the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” attraction located within Hogwarts Castle. Guests enjoy the experience of riding a broomstick, while wearing Quidditch-inspired goggles. While traveling by Floo powder, you will and soar high alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione, above Hogwarts. Not only will you partake in a Quidditch match, you will feel heat as you narrowly escape a dragon attack, and have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow. This hyper-realistic 3D and HD journey is not only thrilling, but a white knuckle whirl at times. Even if the line is long, there is such impeccable attention to detail in every area in the castle as you visit many of the iconic locations, such as Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor™ common room, and the Room of Requirement to entertain guests throughout the journey.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Just as much fun, but not as scary, is the enchanting family coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff.” It’s Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor coaster ride. Guests see an animatronics Hippogriff sitting on a nest, vocally greeting guests while turning its head. Swoop down and swirl around a pumpkin patch setting.

When hunger hits, this is one of the best dining experiences in Universal Studios. Chefs prepare authentic Scottish food that includes Beef Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash, fish and chips; beef, lamb and Guinness stew inside the Three Broomsticks dining hall. Adults over 21 years can enjoy a beverage or libation at Hog’s Head pub next to Three Broomsticks. They serve White Rat Whiskey, Ocky Rot and kegs of Butterbeer. Non alcoholic beverages include pumpkin juice.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Looking for a sweet souvenir? Honeydukes™ offers shelves stacked with colorful sweets, including Pink Coconut Ice creamy coconut confection, Jelly Slugs, Candy in a Can, Cocoballs, Clippy’s Clip Joint Clippings, Exploding BonBons, Peppermint Toads, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. The Chocolate Frogs contain a wizard trading card in each box.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Another fun spot to pursue is Dervish and Banges™ for magical Sneakoscopes, Spectrespecs, Omnioculars, and The Monster Book of Monsters. You can purchase school uniforms and Quidditch™ needs that include T-shirts, robes, sweatshirts.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein
(Photo by Jill Weinlein

Before leaving, walk into the Owl Post and get a special Hogsmeade Owl Post postmark stamped on an envelope or postcard. Be sure to look up and notice the animatronics owls. They hoot, and turn their life-like heads.

For those seeking overnight accommodations, The nearby Garland hotel is a hip, retro-cool 1970s style boutique resort within blocks of Universal Studios. Take a ride on their complimentary trolley to the amusement park. Named after the legendary Hollywood actress, Beverly Garland, the property was acquired by her son, James, who took over the property and expanded The Garland into a sophisticated hotel with a new restaurant, The Front Yard.

For more information about Universal Studios www.universalstudioshollywood.com

To learn about The Garland call (800) 238-3759. 4222 Vineland Avenue North Hollywood, California 91602 http://www.thegarland.com.

This article was published in the April 2016 issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.