Things to Do In Southern California: Universal Studios Hollywood

This is part of a new series called: “Things to Do In Southern California” to document some of the geeking out you can do with trips in Southern California. If you’re visiting or live here, here’s a review from QuadZ of some of our favorite places.


Universal Studios is one of those theme parks that gets better with age. Hollywood itself is often disappointing to tourists. As a local, I know the disappointment — I see it a lot on friends who come into town. Hollywood itself is not a bustling movie town where you can run into celebrities and see stuff getting made into movies. A way to remedy that disappointment? Go to Universal.

Universal is nestled in Universal City, right next to Hollywood. It’s also the only theme park within Los Angeles (the others are all pretty far car rides away). It also has a great view of nearly all of the Burbank studios (Disney, Warner Brothers, etc.). Up in the hills (nearby are Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Griffith Park Observatory all nearly), Universal Studios Hollywood is really a unique spot.

I think the thing I like the best about Universal Studios Hollywood is it feels like a whole family park. With some of the other parks it feels like rides are either made for little kids OR adults. With Universal Studios most of the rides are great for the entire family to ride together.


Minion Mayhem Ride (Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood)
Minion Mayhem Ride (Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood)

One of the newest attractions at Universal Studios is the Minion Mayhem ride. Based on the Despicable Me movies, this ride was really well thought out and planned. The premise for the ride is that you’re going to be turned into minions, Gru’s little yellow adorable helpers. The entire wait in line is made much more bearable by the funny “propaganda” posters like this one. Ryne did say though that if he didn’t come out the other end as a little yellow guy, he’d be upset.


Inside, the ride looks like Gru’s living room with pieces from the movies. Gru, some minions, and the girls give you instructions on being a minion. It’s pretty hilarious! The ride itself is a 3D simulator, but it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually moving forward. The story of the ride is adorable and felt very true to the movies. The ride was smooth, fun, and I really wanted to do it again! Sadly it was a popular ride and everyone seemed to have the same idea.

I also loved the facade for the ride, it looks exactly like Gru’s neighborhood! The front of Gru’s car is clearly seen and, when you’re inside, you can see that the car is inside as well!

grucarNext to the Minon Mayhem ride is Super Silly Fun Land, based on the aquatic theme park you see in the first Despicable Me film (where Agnes gets her IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE unicorn). Since we went in July this was a VERY popular feature for the park. If you have little ones, I highly recommend bringing a swim suit along with you and a towel or two.


Of course, my favorite part of the park is the Universal Studios tour! You board one of these wonderful trams and are carted around the back stages and studio space for Universal. This includes possibly hot sets (i.e. someone’s filming there, not the temperature). So it’s possible you can see folks working making TV and/or films (especially in the middle of the week). Even if you don’t though, there’s a lot to see — including the famous Universal Back Lots, which you can see in many different TV shows and movies. Within the back lot are enough different facades to make you feel like you could be anywhere in the world.

For the nerds among you here’s the stuff you need to see:

  • The Delorean from Back to the Future (this is currently in the museum by Transformers Ride.
  • One of the frakking toasters (Cylon) from  the original Battlestar Galacticia (also in the museum).
  • Two sets of costumes from Warehouse 13 (also in the museum).
  • Baker Street (right by the Minion Mayhem ride)!
  • Jurassic Park Ride (dinosaurs everywhere)!

Also, coming soon is a Harry Potter attraction, which we saw them working on. Reportedly the outside will look like Hogwart’s.

All in all, we had a really fun day! Universal Studios is a must stop for folks who enjoy films and a much better destination than the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Find out more and buy your tickets at Universal Studios Hollywood’s website


QuadrupleZ did receive complementary passes for Universal Studios. Regardless of this, all our opinions, statements and comments are our own. Photos are property of unless otherwise noted.

Things to Do in Southern California: Traxx Resturant

10446670_10153249810740616_507066276722125531_nUnion Station in Los Angeles recently celebrated it’s 75th birthday. Quite an accomplishment for a station that almost didn’t get made. If left up to the separate railway companies at the time, it wouldn’t have been. Thankfully, it was made after ten years of struggle and legal proceedings. For it’s birthday, the Metro (who own the station) gave it a face lift. The gorgeous art deco building was updated and refurbished. It’s definitely a treat for the thousands of people who pass through it every day.

I spend a lot of time in Union Station because I commute via Metrolink, but I hadn’t been at the famous Traxx restaurant until recently. This white table restaurant is tucked into the fabulous main lobby of Union Station right by the front entrance to Alameda Street. While there are several fast food options within Union Station, Traxx gives a glimpse into the era when train travel was a classier affair. If you have time for a more leisurely meal I highly recommend stopping in. The decor and ambiance are first class. You are seated within the main area so people watching is a huge plus here. The restaurant area is small and I was sure it would be too noisy with most of the tables being outside the restaurant, but it was surprisingly peaceful.

My favorite part of my experience was the staff though. My server Tom was top-notch and on top of making sure my service was splendid. Even the bus boys were polite and sweet. Sometimes in a white cloth restaurant you feel like you’re bothering the waitstaff, but not so with Traxx. From the minute I walked up to the host until I left I felt like I was, indeed, a star. It’s easy to feel that there’s something glamorous and magical about Union Station with a service like the one you get a Traxx.

For my lunch I tried the hanger steak. It was tender, moist, and fantastically presented. I was full, but the desert menu also looked amazing. Everything tasted fresh and the wait time for my food was not long at all.

Great little piece of LA and a great piece of history. If you’re in the area or traveling through Union Station, be sure to check it out.


“AVP: Alien vs. Predator” Maze Hits Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights!

Image Credit: Universal Studios (used with permission)
Image Credit: Universal Studios (used with permission)

If you’re looking for an amazing reason to attend Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando or Florida this is it. Universal Studios has teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products to create an Alien vs. Predator Maze that puts you right in the middle of one of the most epic smack-downs in history. To mark the 35th anniversary celebration of Alien, and the 10th anniversary of AVP: Alien vs. Predator, “Halloween Horror Nights” guests and fans of these celebrated films will have a chance to live the horror of these diabolical beasts as they come face to face with the terror of Aliens and Predators.

Here’s a sneak peek of what the experience will be like:

“We’re thrilled to be working with Universal Studios to create mazes in Orlando and Hollywood that will bring fans face-to-face with the horrifying and iconic characters of AVP.” said Greg Lombardo, vice president of global live and location based entertainment at Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. “The technology being leveraged will surely be a new benchmark and provide a uniquely terrifying and visceral encounter that puts guests right in the middle of an epic extraterrestrial battle for survival.”

The two mazes (on in Hollywood and one in Orlando) sound slightly different from each other. According to the press release the maze in Orlando is set in one of Weyland-Yutani’s secret facilities and the maze in Hollywood seems to be set after the spaceships crash land on earth.

“‘AVP: Alien vs. Predator’ is by far the most technically complicated and ambitious maze we’ve ever created for ‘Halloween Horror Nights,’” said John Murdy, Creative Director for Universal Studios Hollywood and Executive Producer of “Halloween Horror Nights. To help with the complicated and ambitious they’ve recruited Academy Award®-winning make-up artists, Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis from Amalgamated Dynamic Inc. (ADI) (both of whom worked on the original creatures of the AVP franchise).

If you’re nearby or want to plan a get away, be sure to check it out!

Tickets and vacation packages for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando are on sale now at\Orlando

Updates on “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood are available online

Moonman at San Diego Comic-Con Can Only Mean One Thing…

While you were a San Diego ComicCon you may have noticed this guy:

Image credit: MTV (used with permission)
Hanging out with some Game of Thrones cosplayers [Image credit: MTV (used with permission)]
Getting beat up by Thor and Loki [Image credit: MTV (used with permission)]
Directing the crazy amounts of traffic. [Image credit: MTV (used with permission)]
Image credit: MTV (used with permission)
Getting into battles… [Image credit: MTV (used with permission)]
Moonman was at SDCC to promote the MTV VMAs where the winners get (you guessed it) a Moonman statute!

MTV’s VMA show will be broadcast live from the Forum in Inglewood, CA on Sunday, August 24 at 9pm ET/PT and feature performances from Usher, Ariana Grande,  5 Seconds of Summer and LOTS, LOTS more!


Check Out Between the Lions’ Roadshow!

Leona & Theo Reading © WGBH/Sirius Thinking

If you’re along the East Coast or Southern USA and have preschool age kids you’re gonna want to check out Between the Lions Live!. I share a special love for this show not only because it always makes me do a double take (Between the Lines Studios being our podcast group’s name), but also because it encourages kids to read!

Between the Lions’ Roadshow performances are designed to bring the television series to life, encouraging children to read, sing along with the Lions, and recognize words in the world around them. Engaging and animated books such as Is Your Mama a Llama? and Click, Clack, Moo will encourage audience participation, and Aaron Nigel Smith, founder of FUNdamentals of Music and Movement, will be back to join the Roadshow, adding his original award-winning music to the mix.

Tour Dates and Venues
Catch Theo and Leona’s live performances in Atlanta, GA on Friday, April 30 (venue TBA). Next, they spend five days at the Georgia State Fair in Macon, GA from May 1-5. Finally, the lions travel to Columbia, SC on May 6 and Charlotte, NC from May 7-8 (venues TBA).

Tune in to Between the Lions
Between the Lions airs nationally on PBS KIDS (check your local listings). If you live in one of the areas located on the fourth annual Roadshow tour, you can catch the series on:

-Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) weekdays at 1:00 p.m.
-South Carolina ETV (SCETV) weekdays at 1:30 p.m.
-UNC-TV (North Carolina) Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 12:00 noon

For more information on the series and to view updates to the schedule of tour dates and venues, please visit:

Native American Sustainability Conference (Sept 25 – 27, 2009)

Exploring an innovative, field-tested approach to building healthy, sustainable American Indian communities will be the focus of an international conference to be held from September 25 to 27 at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

Sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation the conference’s featured speakers include Joe A. Garcia, President of the National Congress of American Indians; Robert Cook, President of the National Indian Education Association; Lucille Echohawk, strategic advisor for the Casey Family Programs; and Kevin Skenandore, Acting Director of the Bureau of Indian Education.

The five-point plan includes (1) improving educational outcomes through stress-reducing, consciousness-based meditation; (2) improving health and reducing diabetes, heart disease, and substance abuse through prevention-oriented, natural medicine; (3) promoting energy and economic self-sufficiency through wind and solar technologies; (4) growing healthy, nutritious food through organic greenhouses; and (5) safeguarding the land, language, and culture of American Indian populations.

Learn more about the conference and register to attend at

You Ready for Some Supergirl Slam?

Supergirl Jam is an all-girl, bring your best, showdown in surf, skate, snow and inline. The competition happens in my home state AND celebrates the awesomeness of being a girl – so you know I have to support it. Some of the competitions have already taken place all over Southern California, and the Supergirl Pro-Am Jam brought professional and amateur girls together in one contest to compete for a great prize purse ($3,000 for the winner) and, as a huge bonus, the top-placing amateur got an automatic entry into the Supergirl Jam event that takes place on September 6th in Venice Beach.

Warner Brothers Online is sponsoring the Skateboard Street, Snowboard Rail Jam and Inline Best Trick contests. And starting at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time, all the competitive action will be streamed LIVE here on, the official online destination for the 2009 Supergirl Jam events and competitions. Coverage of the Supergirl Pro-Am Jam and the Supergirl Pro Junior surfing contest which took place on August 15-16 will also be included in the webcast. Check out the competition or follow @thewbdotcom.

Cute Baby – Awwhhhhh


Sea Life Park welcomed the newest addition to its ohana (Hawaiian for family) as Hi’iaka, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

The baby has been named Waiohakaupo, Hawaiian for joyous life and breath of the waters of Kaupo (name of beach fronting Sea Life Park).

Weighing approximately 40 to 45 pounds and measuring 45 inches in length, Waiohakaupo has been spending her time at mom’s side nursing on a regular schedule around-the-clock under the close care and supervision of the Park staff.

“Both mother and calf are doing well,” said Jesus Bravo, general manager of Sea Life Park. “They are happy and everything suits them – their living conditions, the quantity and quality of food, and the love and attention of our staff.”

Sea Life Park celebrated the birth of Waiohakaupo with a special Hawaiian blessing ceremony on Thursday, July 30th. “We’ve kept the good news under wraps for a few weeks to allow mother and child the privacy they need to stay healthy and strong,” said Bravo.

Starting today, the Park will be offering special guided visits for guests to see the new baby dolphin

The pregnancy was part of a planned breeding program instituted by Sea Life Park and once it was confirmed that Hi’iaka had become pregnant, immediate care and monitoring was given on a daily basis throughout her one-year pregnancy.

“So far, the bond between Hi’iaka and her calf continues to strengthen,” said Jeff Pawloski, curator. “Like any new mother, she’s proud of her new baby and we are also proud and honored to have her be a part of our animal family.”

According to Pawloski, Waiohakaupo was born at 8:26 a.m. after a very short labor. “Hi’iaka is an experienced mom and the birth went very smoothly.”

The success of the program is a result of a nurturing environment that includes veterinary supervision, nutrition and a large seawater pool for the mother and baby.

Sea Life Park Hawaii offers a variety of marine-life shows, exhibits and educational programs for all ages and is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Among its most popular features are the swim-with-dolphin programs. The Park is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Sea Life Park Hawaii is owned and operated by Parques Reunidos Group. For more information, visit the Park’s Web site at