Theme parks, in general, tend to be overpriced, underwhelming affairs—but Universal Studios, 20 minutes from downtown in the San Fernando Valley, is tons of fun. Movie buffs should take the tram ride, which meanders through 400 acres of studio property and explores famous back lots. Those who prefer more visceral thrills can hit the amusement park attractions—including a high-tech Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster, a Backdraft inferno simulation, and Jurassic Park—The Ride. The “VIP Experience” ($199) provides a six-hour moviemaking immersion tour, plus star treatment throughout the park. CityWalk, adjacent to the theme park, is a lively place to wander, eat, drink, and listen to music.
Tip: Universal City can get very hot in the summer, so a “Front of the Line Pass,” which eliminates waiting and provides reserved seating at shows, may be worth the steep $119.