If you decide on this trip that you don’t want to go to Universal Studios, I would recommend the following alternatives: Hiking to the Hollywood sign or checking out the Hollywood sign (Hollywood Sign). Then continue on to the Griffith Observatory. You can also end up at the City Walk at Night to check it out as well. The CityWalk not the Theme Park (It’s free admission and there’s a shuttle at the bottom of Lankershim – If you don’t take the shuttle, parking is around $10 after 3pm. rebated $5 if you watch a movie).
If you decide you want to go to Universal Studios then here are some tips for you. The park map and the schedule is your best friend. I would recommend starting as early as possible, but if you skip a few rides/shows, or pay more for the Front of the Line/VIP experience it’s no big deal. Personally, as a local, it’s not worth paying for the Front of the Line pass if you know where to go, but could be beneficial if you don’t have the time or want to check out everything in the park.
Also, if you would like to put this in your itinerary; during the weekdays, around 11 am to 3 pm there’s usually Extra taping in front of the Globe (check out the schedule here –http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/extra-at-universal-studios-hollywood/) Maybe it’s a chance to see and/or meet your favorite celebrity.
One thing I recommend going first is start with the Tram Ride as it’s the newest attraction with Fast and Furious and King Kong. After that, go downstairs to Transformer as that’s the next new attraction. Try to finish everything at the bottom level first before heading to the top since that escalator ride will take 20 minutes round trip. All the rides on the bottom level have single riders (Probably have lunch here). After that, go to Despicable Me as that is also a new attraction. From here it’s pretty much a free for all. Look at the schedules for WaterWorld and Special Effects and keep an eye out for the wait times for the Simpsons the ride. I didn’t mention the Animal Show and Shrek because it’s kind of outdated but Shrek 4D is usually not a long wait and 15 minutes long; Even WaterWorld and the Mummy ride are outdated but if you want to see/ride it you can. The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to open on April 7. Right now they have a soft opening or technical rehearsals (meaning it can be open or not when you are there. See here for my experience).
By this time, you’re done with the park. Walk on over to CityWalk. Have dinner here. Then make your way to the Griffith Park Observatory. Check out the Observatory and look at the views. The Observatory isn’t open on Mondays so make sure you know in advance and plan accordingly and it closes at 10 pm. You can also watch a show at the Planetarium. The last show is at 8:45.