Universal Citywalk

Universal Citywalk is a 23 acre entertainment and retail area adjacent to Universal Studios. It is a popular destination for entertainment, dining, shopping and getting out and about. Always lively, festive and colorful, and easy to get to, to me, Citywalk is a no-brainer destination when you have out of town guests or just want to get out and about from Ventura County.

Other than walking around and gazing at the people and interesting sites, there are plenty of things to do at Citywalk, including movie theaters, IMAX theater, a comedy club, the Gibson Amphitheatre, Jillian's (which has food, billiards and a large arcade), iFly Hollywood indoor skydiving and much more.

My kids absolutely love the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co so we usually eat there when we go. But there's a lot of other choices, like Buca di Beppo, Karl Strauss Brewery, Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Saddle Ranch Chop House among others.

We also usually stop by Sparky's for a little sugar fix after our meal. They have chocolate covered Twinkies, s'mores, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels, bacon, jalapeno, you name it. Their candied apples look mouth watering too.

I've barely scratched the surface in this post, so visit www.citywalkhollywood.com to learn more. Click here for directions.

Oh, there's another thing. As of January 2015, general parking is $17 before 3pm ($10 after). While I kind of expect that when I visit an amusement park, it is harder for me to part with that kind of cash if I'm going mainly to have a meal and walk around for an hour.  So let me impart some wisdom on you:

If you are planning on going to the movies, the box office will give you a rebate of $11 if you park before 3pm and $5 if you park after 3pm. That reduces your parking cost quite a bit.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood includes a full-day, movie-based theme park and Studio Tour, the CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex, the Universal CityWalk Cinemas and the Gibson Amphitheatre concert and special event venue.

The theme park features such groundbreaking attractions as "Revenge of the Mummy The Ride," "Shrek 4-D™," "Jurassic Park® The Ride" and the world-renowned Studio Tour, which takes guests behind-the-scenes of such landmark TV and movie locations and sets as Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds."

There is an upper and lower lot at Universal Studios. The upper lot is where to catch the Studio Tour, Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4D, Curious George water park, Special Effects Stage, WaterWorld, Animal Actors, Terminator 2: 3D, House of Horrors and more. The lower lot is a long series of escalators down to the Jurassic Park water ride and Revenge of the Mummy ride.

Universal Studios is great. However, I will say that my 5 and 8 year olds seemed to get antsy here quickly, even with characters like Shrek, Spongebob, Curious George, The Simpsons and Scooby Doo in abundance. The rides are not particularly geared towards young kids. And while the Studio Tour is awesome, but even with the fun sights and narration (and of course Jaws, King Kong, earthquake and othe spectacular effects), at 45 minutes, the ride for some little ones may be a bit long. Just wanted to get that out there...not that you'll necessarily have the same experience as me!

Universal CityWalk features 65 entertainment-themed restaurants, nightclubs, shops and dynamic entertainment options. CityWalk alone is plenty of entertainment for the better part of a day. There are 19 theaters, including an 8-story IMAX®. There's indoor skydiving with iFLY Hollywood, Jillian's Hi Life Lanes (bowling and games), Jon Lovitz Comedy Club and more.

One thing we did was to purchase a 2 day pass, which allowed us to stay half a day at the park and then hang out on Citywalk. One other word of caution. We visited on December 31, 2010. Big M-I-S-T-A-K-E! It was horrendously crowded and the lines were crazy and packed with out of towners here for the Rose Bowl. So I'd advice against that if you are a local. But our return trip in April was perfectly fine. Lines were not bad at all :> Visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com for more information.

The Simpsons' Krustyland Virtual Coaster RideThe Flintstones BBQ CafeCurious George Kids' Water Park AreaOne of many long escalators from lower to upper lotGetting a bit wet at the end of the Jurassic Park ride

The Simpsons Family as popular as ever!