Events

Behind-the-Scenes: Holiday Decorations at Universal Orlando Resort

December 22, 2022
Universal Studios Florida Arches Holidays 2022

🎶 Deck Universal with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la! 🎶

When you walk through Universal Orlando Resort during the holidays, you feel completely encapsulated in a winter wonderland. Festive music fills every turn, “snoap” falls from the sky, and the holiday joy can be felt by everyone — even the Grinches of the season.

One of the most beloved aspects of the holidays are the decorations. Behind every twinkling light, bright ornament, and string of garland is a crew of Universal Team Members dedicated to bringing us holiday cheer each and every year! This season, I got to learn more about the folks who bring our dream of a winter paradise into reality.

The Inspiration

Jackie Perry standing with Holiday Decorations in 2022

Let’s face it: sometimes it’s difficult for Florida to “feel” like the holidays because of the heat.

Universal Entertainment’s Art Manager, Jacquie Perry, knows this but her and her team work to ensure that the decor at Universal “reminds guests of their childhood holiday experiences and the type of holidays that we all tell stories about every year, over and over again.”

According to Perry, inspiration can come from “anywhere and everywhere.” Throughout the year, she visits decor houses and attends conventions to see the latest trends, but at the end of the day, what she’s really aiming for with Universal decor is to stand out.

“I pride our decorations on being unique and like nothing you will see anywhere else,” Perry says. “You never know what can inspire.”

Behind-the-Sleigh

Once the inspiration stage is over, there is of course still a lot of work to be done!

“It takes a team of 14 very dedicated elves working 40 hours a week for nine months to prepare all the holiday decorations for installation,” Perry says.

The team begins putting them up in mid-October in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and as soon as Halloween Horror Nights is finished at Universal Studios Florida.

Everything they put up around the parks gets touched up, refreshed, or outright changed to be even more show-stopping. The holidays feature all things bright and shiny, and this team of experts makes sure the decorations stay that way.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Honeydukes Holidays Decoration 2022

When I walk through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during the holidays, I feel a sense of whimsy that comes from the creative minds that brought the decorations to life. For the holiday decor in these areas, the team aims for pieces that are worn, weathered and themed specifically to each building. Everything that goes up in both The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade are special and custom-made. My favorite piece of decor can be found at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade — the candy-colored kaleidoscope of hues makes for the perfect holiday aesthetic.

And, of course, a fan-favorite during Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the wreaths! “Wreaths are actually one of the hardest holiday elements to make look good,” Perry says. “So, we are pleased to hear that these are so well-liked.”

Fun Fact: There are over 60 wreaths between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

Seuss Landing

Seuss Landing Holidays 2022 Seuss Landing

Merry Grinchmas! In Seuss Landing, the goal of the decorations is to be bright, nonsensical and asymmetrical like the rest of the land! The “Who-liday” colors are not your traditional Christmas color palette but a mix of pink, purple, teals and lime.

I personally have always loved the two-of-a-kind globe light trees in front of the entrance to the land. In the daytime, they look like trees covered in snowballs, but as nighttime arrives, you can see a Grinch-themed light show projected on the trees from across the lagoon.

“So much of what is in Seuss Landing is special,” Perry says. “But this year my favorite new things are the three bows on the big top at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-Pendous. Custom-made, lime and purple bows with a filigree-like special design not found anywhere else but here. I know this because I designed them!”

Universal Studios Florida

Tribute Department Store Holidays 2022

As soon as you walk into Universal Studios Florida during the holidays, you are greeted by a stunning, massive wreath. This is another one of Perry’s favorite holiday decorations in all of Universal.

“I love our giant wreath at the entrance in the main arch,” she says. “So glitzy, bright, and sparkly — I think you might be able to see it from space! It is one of the largest wreaths in America and broken down into four pieces, or curves, that are 16’ each. It takes a team of four or five people to put it together for installation.”

As for the New York section of the theme park, it’s all about the classic Christmas decor. Color and ornamentation are themed to match each individual building.

Fun Fact: The first room in the Holidays Tribute Department Store this holiday season is themed after a NY holiday!

The standout piece in the New York area is the 80-foot Christmas tree, acting as a focal point of true holiday magic in the area. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it. It was the largest tree I had ever seen (and still have ever seen)! To me, this is the decoration that gets me most in the festive, jolly mood!

Christmas in NY USF

The impressive tree takes two nights to fully set up! The first night is dedicated to the installation of the base and the lighting equipment within the tree. The second night they build the trusses of the tree (aka the framework of the tree), the top piece of the tree, and the giant 8-foot star topper.

For more on Universal’s holidays in New York, read this!

Over in the Hollywood area of Studios, the decorations are classic and elegant with bright lights spanning down the street. If you think about the glamor and style of the 1950s, this street encapsulates that exact vibe.

Another special touch Perry and her creative team put in place this year can be found throughout Universal Studios.

“We have what I call the ‘12 Icons of Christmas Past,’” she says. “These are ornaments that represent shows, rides, or experiences that are no longer here in the theme park. They are hidden — some better than others — in decor pieces near the icons’ former location. It really helps to know the history of our parks to know where to look. I’m excited to see how many guests will find!”

What are you waiting for? Grab your hot cocoa, put on your best holiday outfit and meet us at Universal Orlando Resort to take in the “awesomest” holiday decor! Let us know your favorite holiday decorations at Universal Orlando Resort below.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Kristin Bourgeois December 22, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    This blog is amazing!

  • Reply Sarah December 23, 2022 at 7:59 am

    Please do a a post about the 12 Icons of Christmas Past!!! I’d love to see where they were and if people found them and just didn’t “know” that’s what they were!

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