It can be a bit of a challenge to explain, quickly and in brief, why El Niño comes along when it does, or why the 405 will be backed upon some Friday nights but strangely empty on others, or how come the jacaranda trees go purple in April some years but wait for May in other years.
But it isn't hard at all to spell out why oodles of SoCalers visit our region's famous theme parks as often as people in other cities might visit their local mall or coffeehouse. Those amazing, tempting, ride-your-favorite-ride-almost-whenever annual passes are about as local as the aforementioned jacaranda trees, and the 405, too.
Okay, SoCalers visit the theme parks for other reasons, too, their favorite coaster or treat or character or tour. But the truth of the matter is this: Hearing that a big destination is introducing a few new annual passes can be akin, for truehearted fans, to waking up on a birthday to discover that the Minions and some dinosaurs and a Transformer or two are standing inside your house, waiting to surprise you.
What to do, where to go and what to see
We just tipped our hand there, didn't we? Shucks, here it is: Universal Studios Hollywood announced on Monday, Nov. 16 that a trio of new annual passes will be available "effective immediately."
Best clear your calendars, Studio Tram Tour superfans. We know who you are, the Bates Motel mavens and lovers of all things Grinch.
On the docket? There's the anyone-can-buy-it Gold Pass, the California Resident Plus Pass, and the California Resident Pass. Each comes with a number of get-in dates, with the Gold Pass topping the lot, with 312 dates annually (meaning that there are only 53 days a year you'll have to stay home and wonder what the Minions of the "Despicable Me" ride are up to in your absence).
The California Resident Plus Pass boasts 244 welcome days for passholders and the California Resident Pass stands at 182 days, and, as in the past, these are "select" dates for all the passes, so you'll need to consult the park's calendar before planning your visits. The prices, which have been raised from the last pass release, in order? Gold is $299, the California Plus is $199, and the California Resident Pass is $139.
Members are also on the list for preview event invites, discounts on merch and eats, and chances to win cool Universal-y stuff.
And since passes stretch over a 12-month period, anyone who signs on now'll be an annual pass member when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts in the spring of 2016.
Wait, what? You honestly didn't know a certain well-known wizard is boarding his broom for LA?
Ha, of course you did. We tease. We know the towers of Hogwarts, which can so easily be spotted from the 101 Freeway and several points around the Valley, are spinning Potter people into a fantasy-flavored frenzy.
The news of the fresh annual passes, by the by, comes on the sweet heels of the theme park's yearly Day of Giving, a huge give-back to-do that helped underserved kids around LA get the school supplies and clothes they need via Operation School Bell. A number of organizations were on the 2015 pitch-in list, in fact, for the theme park's philanthropic foundation, Discover a Star.
To discover the ways the theme park supports various parts of our community, click here. To wander in through the historic theme park's proverbial front gate and learn more about passes, history, rides, and such, click here.
To visit the huge Harry Potter world now, months ahead of opening? That, dear people, will require a Time Turner, if you've got one.
Universal Studios is owned by NBCUniversal, the same parent company as NBC4.