EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog was originally published in December 2022 and then underwent updates and editing in October 2023 to remain current and relevant.
I do not know about you, but as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, my family goes into full on holiday mode. We HAVE to do all the things — bake cookies, drive around and see lights, decorate every square inch of our house and, most importantly, go to all the major holiday events in town. And in Southern California, one of the best ways to be immersed in the holiday spirit is to enjoy the holiday festivities at Universal Studios Hollywood.
This year, you’ll find holiday fun at Universal from Friday, November 24, 2023 to Monday, January 1, 2024. Already want in? Grab your tickets here. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the most wonderful time of the year at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Things To Do
Take In the Sights
With all there is to experience at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk, the first thing you will notice is that the entire place is decked out for the holidays. The lights, the decorations and the holiday spirit simply take over this time of year. Make sure to have your camera ready to snap away.
While taking in the holiday sights, meander to the heart of Universal Studios Hollywood for Grinchmas, located in Universal Plaza. Multiple times every night, a tree-lighting ceremony featuring the Grinch himself, along with the Who-ville Whos, ends with snow around the topsy-turvy 65 foot-tall Grinchmas tree decorated with hundreds of ornaments and thousands of LED lights.
This year, Grinchmas is adding a new show: a festive performance from the Who-Bee Doo-Wops! At each show, this quartet sings a handful of holiday classics from “This Christmas” to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The Who-Bee Doo-Wops only perform during the day, and only during select days (November 24-26; December 2-3; December 8-10; and December 14-January 1).
Throughout the day, the Grinch and his faithful dog Max are available for your personal holiday photo op. Plus. and everyone’s favorite Who, Cindy-Lou Who leads daily story time featuring a reading of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (She’ll have story times in both English and Spanish.) You can also send a note to the Grinch listing three good deeds you’ve done and send it via the Who-ville Post Office!
- Make sure to grab your spot early for the tree lighting. It is always one of the most popular events of the day throughout the holiday season.
- Keep an eye out for props from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” throughout the Grinchmas area.
- Do not miss the Grinch, Max, and Cindy-Lou photo ops — especially if your kiddos are in tow. My daughter’s Grinch photo from when she was a toddler adorns my holiday mantle every single year. Plan to get to the line early as this is a popular spot!
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
It would not be the holiday season at Universal Studios Hollywood without enjoying the sights and sounds of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter against the background of snow-capped roofs, which take on an extra special holiday spirit this time of year.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter takes place throughout the land, where you can enjoy the sounds of the holidays with a special a cappella performance from the Hogwarts Frog Choir, or shop for the special wizards in your life and pick up personalized ornaments and notebooks, as well as plenty of other Wizarding World of Harry Potter merchandise you can only get at Universal.
The festivities continue into the evening as our favorite castle comes to life in a dazzling way with “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle.” This truly impressive spectacle showcases stunning imagery and animation projected on the castle and features music and sounds from the “Harry Potter” film series.
- Make sure to stake out your spot in front of Hogwarts castle early. (The Triwizard stage is a great place to view the show!) Your best bet is to check times when arriving at the theme park and plan around the show. There are multiple viewings of the lights show, so you should be set!
- If you plan on holiday shopping for your favorite Wizarding World fan, double-check that you know their Hogwarts house! I promise, if you get it right, your gift could make their holiday season.
- Don’t forget to check out Ollivanders, including an exclusive wand only available at Universal Studios Hollywood.
- Every holiday season, Universal Studios Hollywood is the best place to get some awesome pictures in your holiday sweaters. When arriving, make your way down the Grinch-afied red carpet featuring bright Seussian decorations where you can capture the perfect holiday image for Instagram.
- Keep your eye out for special holiday decorations throughout the park — you may even spot characters like Illumination’s Minions dressed up in their holiday finest!
- This is a great time to work on some holiday shopping while having fun. Anything you purchase in the park can be picked up at the Universal Studio Store in the front of the park before you head home, making the day a whole lot easier.
- The characters are also in the spirit of the season! Keep an eye out for some of your favorites all dressed up for the holidays.
EVE at Universal Studios Hollywood
And don’t forget the last celebration of the year! New Year’s Eve plans can sometimes be a struggle for my crew, but EVE at Universal Studios Hollywood is a great way to kick-off the new year!
The all-ages celebration includes three party areas with live entertainment — one playing pop/rock/hip-hop, one playing EDM, and another playing Latin jams — throughout the park. If you’re more into thrill rides than dancing, the standard theme park rides and attractions will be open during EVE, too. And it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without pyrotechnics, right? The park-wide countdown to midnight culminates in a spectacular fireworks show to ring in 2024.
EVE happens on December 31 from 9pm to 2am. Admission is included in the purchase of a theme park ticket for that night, so there’s no extra ticket required to enjoy the party. It’s an event only Hollywood could pull off —there’s a reason they call it Hollywood’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration!
What To Eat
Throughout the holiday season, there are a few special food options to keep in mind while you are planning your day at the park.
- Save Snack Time for Grinchmas: A special array of holiday treats and hot chocolate are available in Grinchmas and are ideal for a sweet treat break. Get your hands on a 2 Sizes Too Small Cupcake, or a Whoville Spiral Croissant to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or you can even sip on a Grinch’s Heart Lemonade, a mocktail made with green apple lemonade, jellies and candy hearts.
- Dig into Autumnal Tastes: Starting November 1, Hollywood and Dine will serve a menu completely inspired by the flavors of autumn, from a Slow-Roasted Turkey Sandwich to a Smoked Brisket Sandwich to Butternut Squash Soup in a Bread Bowl.
- Drink up the Holiday Flavors: There’s a whole array of Yuletide beverages available during the holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood. Get your hands on a Spiked Hot Cocoa (hot chocolate, peppermint liqueur with a peppermint marshmallow), a Winter Mojito (rum, peppermint liqueur, coconut milk, lime juice and club soda, topped with mint and cranberries), a Hot Apple Toddy (bourbon, amaro, apple puree, orgeat and lemon juice), and much more.
- Feast at Three Broomsticks: The holiday feast at Three Broomsticks is not to be missed! This feast fit for the entire family will satisfy your hunger so you can focus on all the evening festivities in the park.
- Savor a Butterbeer: The holidays are the perfect time to sip Butterbeer (especially hot Butterbeer!) as you stroll through Hogsmeade.
There are so many more holiday food and beverage options than I mentioned here. You can find them all over the park! The holiday menus will be in full swing from November 24 to January 1.
Don’t forget to stroll through Universal CityWalk and take in the sites while perusing the vast array of stores. The 40-foot Christmas tree decorated with 200,000 LED lights is the ideal photo spot, and you may even catch King Kong with his Santa hat on if you look up.
Restaurants all over CityWalk offer up special drinks and dishes just for the holiday season. Antojitos, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, Margaritaville and Vivo all have special adult beverages with wintry flavors (think: apple, ginger, peppermint) throughout the holidays. If you have a holiday sweet tooth, make sure to stop at one of my favorites, Voodoo Doughnut, as they always offer up some pretty delicious (and Instagrammable) seasonal flavors. And definitely don’t skip the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium for their spectacularly over-the-top holiday treat, the Tis The Season Milkshake. Check out our guide to the holidays at Universal CityWalk for everything you need to know about the holiday dishes and drinks available this season!
Plus, you can knock tons of holiday shopping off your to-do list at CityWalk. Don’t miss out on the Universal Studio Store and the SUPER NINTENDO WORLD STORE on CityWalk — you’ll find exclusive holiday merch from your favorite fandoms. Talk about a perfect stocking stuffer.
As you can see, there is a lot of awesome to take in at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk during the holiday season. This year the festivities kick-off Friday, November 24, 2023 and run daily through Monday, January 1, 2024.
So, get in the holiday spirit and grab your tickets before you go dig out your favorite holiday sweater from the back of the closet.
What are you most excited to experience during the holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood? Let us know in the comments!