At Universal Studios… For a Workout?!?

What a difference 45 minutes makes. That’s all I needed to go from looking like this…


…to becoming a sweaty, exhausted mess:


2018 UPDATE! While the stairs are still there, some things have changed at Universal. So when you’re done reading this post, CLICK HERE for the 2018 update!

That’s because I had come to Universal Studios Hollywood with one goal: to get in a GREAT workout. It may seem like a bizarre goal for a theme park, but there’s something at Universal Studios that will kick your ass. It’s called the Starway.


Most of Universal Studios Hollywood is situated on top of a hill, overlooking the San Fernando Valley, where I live. There’s a portion of the park, however, at the bottom of that hill, and the Upper and Lower Lots are connected by the Starway, a 1/4 mile stretch of escalators and walkways. Guess what’s alongside those escalators? Stairs! And that’s where I was going to have my workout.

The Starway is huge – so big that I couldn’t photograph it all at once. It’s divided into four big sections, and the most I could get in one picture was three of them:


Those domed glass ceilings cover the escalators. The stairs are off to the side. To get from the Lower Lot to the Upper Lot, you’ll first have to climb these…


…then these…


…and then these…


…and finally these:


In total, there are 345 steps. That’s an 18-story building! A fellow local stair racer, Stan, is known for his stair maps of skyscrapers, so I followed his format and created a stair map of the Starway – it breaks down the 345 steps into flights so you know exactly how the stairs are configured. Click here to see my Starway Stair Map.

For my workout, I climbed all 345 steps three times, on a nine-minute interval, which broke down like this:

  • 3-4 minutes to reach the top (going as fast as I could)
  • 3-4 minutes to ride the escalators back down (I walked down the escalators when I could, but sometimes crowds made that hard)
  • 1-2 minutes at the bottom before heading up again.

The long escalators gave me ample time to catch my breath…


…and take cool silhouette selfies.


I was pretty beat after doing that interval 3 times, but I headed up a fourth time, at a much more casual pace, so I could take notes for the stair map and snap these photos. Then, with my workout complete, I headed back down the escalators and cooled off with some dinosaurs!


“Jurassic Park” is conveniently situated at the bottom of the Starway, and it’s a fun water ride featuring an 85-foot drop. You get wet on the ride… therefore, it was the perfect post-workout experience. Plus, lines were super short – I waited a minute or two!


Then I rode “Transformers: The Ride” and “Revenge of the Mummy” before heading up the stairs for the fifth time.


‘The Simpsons Ride” is conveniently located at the top of the Starway, so I headed there next.


After that, I took the Studio Tour, mainly because it includes “King Kong 360.” It was very cool, although I was bummed that Jaws Lake was currently drained, so my favorite animatronic shark didn’t attack. But we did go right by the “Home & Family” set, so I was within 20 feet of where I was interviewed a few months ago! Watch that Hallmark Channel interview here.

After the tour, I headed back down and rode “Jurassic Park” and “Transformers: The Ride” again, before heading back up the Starway (for the sixth time).

Workout Total: 6 times up the Starway multiplied by 345 steps = 2,070 total steps!

There were even more steps that day, too. I took the subway to save $16 on parking, so I climbed about 6 stories to get back to street level, twice. Plus, exiting the Studio Tour requires climbing up about 3 stories, and crossing a pedestrian bridge to get to the park entrance was a couple more stories. Total number of steps = unknown.  All this, plus a few miles of walking (including a half mile up and down a very steep hill between the subway station and the park entrance) means I definitely got my heart pumping and burned lots of calories. And, since I bought myself an Annual Pass as a birthday present, I get to come back and do it again whenever I want (minus black-out days, ugh)!

2018 UPDATE! While the stairs are still there, some things have changed at Universal. So when you’re done reading this post, CLICK HERE for the 2018 update!

One final thought: Longtime readers know that theme parks have been a recurring topic on this blog. I once got booted from a ride because I was too fat, and even though I love rides and roller coasters, it was so humiliating that I stayed away from them for a decade. That changed once I started losing weight. As a reward for losing my first 100 pounds, I treated myself to a trip to Magic Mountain (that trip was the basis for my first-ever blog post).

Since then, I’ve lost and kept off 160 pounds, and blogged about my visits to Cedar Point, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, California Adventure, Magic Mountain (again!), and Great America.  More often than not, those posts include mention of how great it felt to do something that my weight used to prohibit me from doing, but honestly, that thought never crossed my mind at Universal Studios. Instead, I thought about how I had earned the chance to go on some great rides – not by losing weight, but by completing an intense, challenging workout on a staircase that tens of thousands of people literally walk by every single day. I didn’t go up a single escalator at Universal Studios Hollywood, and I pledge to never go up an escalator there again!


23 Responses to At Universal Studios… For a Workout?!?

  1. Julie Thompson says:

    David, Thank you for your posts. You are unbelievable, outstanding and a great mentor. This is motivating me to re-focus on my life too. Thanks! Julie

  2. Dana says:

    Simply incredible David! Every time I start to struggle with working out one of your blog posts arrive and it gives me a much needed boost. This blog post really spoke to me because my hubby and girls are Disney nuts and I have to say I will not even attempt certain rides because I am always afraid the belt won’t fit or the bar will not go down properly. I do know one thing standing on the sidelines is not a lot of fun and I am determined to change that status.

    • David says:

      I know the feeling all too well, Dana, and I can tell you exactly how awesome it’s gonna feel when you’re able to slide that bar into place without thinking twice! Keep up the good work, and you’ll get there. And thanks, as always, for reading and commenting!

  3. Dan Markham says:

    Awesome post! I had no idea these stairs existed. I’m determined to run them someday. Great post! Keep them coming!!

  4. Alexis Garcia says:

    Let’s do these together sometime after I move back to CA this summer and come for a visit! Stairs when possible is a great idea! Sometimes if the elevator takes too long in our building we take the stairs up to the 8th floor.

  5. Aaron says:

    My wife and I ran up all these stairs yesterday. This was our first visit here, but we got an annual pass. This looks like it will be a great workout for us! Loved this post!

  6. When I was there, my son and I ran up them. I never counted, never took photos… such a regret! I am so glad you posted these. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  7. chona says:

    Just what I always wanted to know, thanks for the detailed info! It sure is a great workout, wheewww

  8. ilovehorseyrides says:

    Last summer, me and my younger cousin went up them. We walked/ran up them in about 3-5 minutes. Very tiring but it was awesome!!! 🙂 Next time we return, we’ll do it again!!! 🙂

  9. April Smith says:

    Thank you for posting this. I googled the stairs after I climbed them today. 13 months ago I had to rent a scooter at Sea World, because I could not walk the park. 11 months ago I had gastric bypass to regain my health. 6 months into my new journey I was diagnosed with MS. I refuse to give up. I’m down almost 100 lbs. I may have MS, but it does not have me. I conquered those stairs today, and I won!!! 🙂 thanks for your post. Was a great read and has inspired me to tackle more stairs.

    • David says:

      Thank you for sharing, and CONGRATS on your success and your refusal to give up. Truly inspiring! Welcome to Keep It Up, David, hope you had a good time at Universal, and KEEP IT UP, APRIL!

  10. Philipp says:

    Nice article! I ran up the stairs last night and was looking for a benchmark. Did it in two minutes, just once though – it was horrible!

  11. TMeows says:

    So you have pledged to never go up a escalator at universal and I have pledged to never set foot on any of the 345 steps

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