As an 80s baby, Nintendo and Super Mario were part of my childhood. It’s amazing that decades later, my two boys love the Super Mario characters just as much as my husband and I did, at their age. So when we found out that Super Nintendo World was open at Universal Studios Hollywood, we started planning right away.
Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood opened on February 17, 2023. We decided to wait a few days after the opening, to avoid the crowds, as much as we could. The park is only a part of Universal Studios Hollywood and is the first of its kind in the United States (the original park is in Japan and opened in 2021).
Equipped with only one ride, a virtual reality attraction called Mariokart: Bowser’s Challenge, this area, of the larger Universal Studios Park, is a sight to see. With an amazing and colorful set, kids who dream of being in a video game will be in heaven.
Note: The park is loud and can be a sensory overload for children. Bring headphones and plan appropriately for lots of breaks and time spent at the smaller play areas. The website states that rides and games are suitable for all ages, but we think that children 3 and older would have the most fun.
Now that we’ve experienced the park firsthand, here are our top ten tips on how to survive the park and have the time of your life!
If this is an option for you, try to go during the week. We took advantage of our children’s midwinter break in February since it’s not a break many other states participate in. We showed up at the park on the Tuesday after the grand opening. In comparing notes with those who went on opening day and during the weekend, we faced fewer hiccups. By now, things are probably a little smoother too.
Where to stay? Near the park
We didn’t see many perks of staying right on the Universal property other than the convenience of being close to the park entrance. Instead, we opted to stay in Burbank, which wasn’t too far away.
We stayed at the SpringHills Suite Los Angeles Burbank/Downtown. The hotel is a Marriott-run establishment and ended up being a great location; only a 15-minute drive to Universal Studios. The short drive proved to be very important, especially if you’re trying to get to the park early for a reservation to enter. The hotel was also close to other greater Los Angeles attractions that we wanted to visit after our day in Super Nintendo World.
Reservations are not guaranteed: download the Universal Studios Hollywood app before you go
Entry into Super Nintendo World is not guaranteed with the purchase of your ticket to Universal Studios. Depending on the number of guests at the park and the season, families will need to purchase tickets at the gate or a special pass online. We found that the Universal Express ticket will get you an automatic entry into Super Nintendo World, but an Early Access ticket didn’t guarantee you a spot in the World. Instead, with the Early Access pass, you get entry into the park an hour before the official opening time. Ideally, that would give families an advantage, allowing entrance into Super Nintendo World without needing a separate reservation. We opted to save our money and take our chances by arriving early to the park.
Start with an early morning arrival: At least 30-mins before opening
Depending on the day, the park opens at different times. Check your opening time, and make sure you arrive early. On this trip, the park officials let us in about a half-hour earlier than expected, even without an Early Access Pass!
Once the app recognizes that you are on the Universal Studios property, make your reservations for Super Nintendo World. By getting there early, we were able to secure the first available reservation to enter Super Nintendo World.
At noon, we saw people being turned away from Super Nintendo World as reservations were full until close.
Power-up before entering the World
If you want to have an immersive experience inside Super Nintendo World, you will need the Power-Up band ($40/each). The power-up bands come in different character images and determine your team. It allows kids to play games around the Nintendo World park and rack up points. View your points on the downloadable app or check the screens near the Toadstool Cafe to see how many points you have. The more points you have the better your chances are of beating Bowser. Take the band home with you as a souvenir and use them on your Amiibo to help you get additional perks when you’re playing video games at home.
Play the games without the band too, just ask one of the attendants to help start the challenge. However, your points will not be tracked (and that seems to be part of the fun!).
As we entered the main entry gates to Universal, we got our bands at the nearest gift shop. This saved us a little time. Otherwise, visitors would buy them inside Super Nintendo World itself. The gift shop in Super Nintendo World was also very crowded so we didn’t stick around for long to purchase memorabilia.
Bonus tip: Buy all your Super Mario shirts at a major retailer or online. We bought our Mario shirts days ahead at Target, which saved us time and money.
First in line: Ride the popular attraction
Once you enter the World, it will be tempting to look around and play immersive games right away. However, because of its popularity and the fact that it is the only ride there, the line to the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge gets long. Head off to experience this first. We saved at least two hours of wait time by starting our day with the ride.
Note: While the Universal Express ticket guarantees entry into the world, it doesn’t allow you to fast-track the Mario Kart ride (unless you purchase the VIP Experience ticket, which costs more).
Toadstool Café: Dine out or ride on
If it’s in your plan to dine at the Toadstool Café then make reservations as soon as you can. The cafe is a cute, themed space that gives a nod to many of the Nintendo games through its decor and food. Visitors arrived at the café as soon as it opened. When the restaurant reaches maximum capacity, paper reservation slips are taken for guests to come back later in the day. We opted to experience the Mario Kart ride first. By the time we finished, at around 11:00 a.m. the earliest reservation time we could get was 2:45 p.m. – not exactly a great time to have lunch or dinner.
Kids (and adults) get hungry! Don’t forget to bring snacks or explore the other food options at the park. Although our reservation was at 2:45 p.m. (at the Toadstool Cafe) we didn’t get seated and start eating until past 4 p.m. We were starving and couldn’t wait that long so we left Super Nintendo World and found food elsewhere. However, we headed back to the cafe since our reservation ticket to Toadstool Café allowed for entry back into the restaurant before close.
Photo ops: A good distraction while waiting
To save time, my husband and I split responsibilities involving the kids. While one of us stood in line, the other ventured out to capture picture-perfect photos with Super Mario World characters. As long as our children were occupied and happy, we were both fine not being in the photos together.
If you have kids who could benefit from a stroller, bring or rent one! While strollers are not allowed inside the ride at Super Nintendo World (or the other rides throughout Universal), the walk from the main entrance of the park to Super Nintendo World was long with several flights down the escalator. You can park your stroller before entering the rides and pick them up on the way out.
Was Super Nintendo World worth all of this planning? Given that my 4-year-old wants to wear his Mario sweatshirt every day since we came back from our trip, and my 7-year-old already wants to go back, I think we’d call it a success!
Know before you go
- Try to go mid-week for fewer crowds
- Bring a stroller, snacks, and headphones
- Ticket prices vary and it is possible to go to Super Nintendo World for $20/per ticket. See the website for more details.
- Parking passes may be purchased at the lot. Pay $30 before 5 p.m.