Many people think my favorite time of year is Halloween considering I love all things horror and spooky. While this is true, the holidays come out on top for me. Maybe it’s because I love winter fashion with the coats and boots, the excuse to eat all of the sugar and gingerbread cookies I want, or because my birthday is right before Christmas (double the presents, what what). At the heart of it though, it’s because this is the time of year my whole family will be together.
One of our family traditions is packing up the crew and heading to Universal Orlando Resort to celebrate. You may ask, what happens at Universal Orlando during the holidays? Gorgeous weather and roller coasters top the list for us, but Universal also has incredibly fun holiday festivities. This year things look a bit different than past years (as expected), BUT you can still get in the spirit with the 10 reasons I’ve listed below.
When Christmas time comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the land embraces the holiday season with spellbinding decorations, holiday entertainment, and the can’t-miss hot Butterbeer.
- Twinkling lights and enchanting strands of garland and wreaths adorn the eaves and shop windows throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Make sure to take a close look as each shop’s decorations are uniquely themed (even Knockturn Alley gets festive with a wreath).
- You can’t celebrate properly without tuning in to hear Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees perform their holiday hits like “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas” (my personal favorite) in Diagon Alley. Over in Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Frog Choir is taking the stage with their classic carols like “Christmas at Hogwarts”.
- Take home a piece of the wizarding world with marvelous merchandise like Hogwarts house ornaments, stockings, and sweaters.
Hot Butterbeer: This drink has the same creamy flavor reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch you know and love. It’s perfect for warming you up when the weather gets chilly.
See the New Universal Holiday Experience Featuring Macy’s Balloons
Although Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s won’t be making its way through the streets of Universal Studios Florida, you can see the balloons and floats up close like never before in this new walkthrough experience. See the larger-than-life Macy’s balloons and floats depicting holiday moments inspired by favorite films like Illumination’s Despicable Me, and DreamWorks’ Shrek and Madagascar. And say goodbye to waiting in long lines at the mall — Santa Claus is coming to Universal Studios. Dress in your holiday best and come get a photo with Santa during this holiday experience.
Universal’s Holiday Tour: Get front of the line access and walking tour to the balloon experience with this add-on experience. You also get a private meet and greet with the Grinch while enjoying a hot cocoa bar, an exclusive viewing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, and a tour of the Tribute Store. Get more details and booking information.
Meet Your Favorite Characters
After meeting the holly, jolly man in the red suit, head over to Universal Islands of Adventure to meet the mean, green one himself, the Grinch. You can find him and the Whos spreading holiday cheer — or grumpiness in the Grinch’s case — throughout Seuss Landing.
You can also join other holiday characters for some dancing, singing, and photos in the streets of Universal Studios. Join in on the merry and mayhem with characters like the Minions and other beloved characters from Illumination’s Despicable Me, and DreamWorks favorites like the family of Shrek and King Julien and crew from Madagascar.
Don’t worry, Universal’s other famous characters aren’t taking off for the holidays. You can still meet the towering Transformers robots in Universal Studios and encounter Jurassic World’s Blue at Raptor Encounter in Islands of Adventure.
Enjoy Holiday Decor and Festivities at Universal’s Hotels
Make your holiday vacay at Universal Orlando complete with a stay at one of the resort hotels (don’t worry, you can reassure the kiddos that Santa can still find you). Besides being a short walk, Water Taxi, or shuttle ride to the theme parks, the hotels get in on the holiday festivities, too.
- Do the hotels decorate? You betcha. Each hotel has a uniquely themed tree in the lobby and hundreds of lights, garland, and wreaths throughout. Just walking in to check in at the front desk will immediately put you in good spirits with the warm ambiance and holiday tunes filling your ears.
- Exclusive to the hotels are the holiday feasts they host in their restaurants. Whether you’re visiting for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, there are specialty breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals that you can indulge in.
- Nothing screams winter snuggles like cuddling up in front of a fire. The hotels have fire pits they light nightly, which is the perfect way to wind down after a day in the parks.
- OK, so pools aren’t exactly a “holiday” activity, however, in Florida they might as well be. The fact you can lounge by the hotel pool in the middle of winter with an umbrella drink is the best gift you could give in my opinion (to my husband, take note if you’re reading this).
Come Do Your Holiday Shopping With Us
Another great perk about coming to celebrate at Universal? You can do your shopping at the same time, too. We’ve got a ton of unique themed gift shops throughout our entire resort destination. You can find popular finds, including some of my favorites like a classic Jurassic Park T-shirt, an interactive wand to cast spells in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and basically any piece of merch with the Grinch’s face on it.
And if you really want to amp the shopping up 10 levels on the festive scale, then you have to check out these new experiences:
- For the first time ever, the Holiday Tribute Store is opening its door in Universal Studios with four rooms decked from wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, and shelf-to-shelf with holiday goodness. Enjoy traditional goodies in the Bavarian Holiday Festival room; whimsical finds you can only find in the Grinch-inspired room; magical gifts and decor in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter inspired room; and holiday snacks and treats from Earl the Squirrel’s Tree Farm.
- As you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift in the parks, why not make it a scavenger hunt as well? Purchase a brochure for the Holiday Tree Hunt and discover 16 themed trees throughout Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal CityWalk. Collect all 16 stamps and you’ll get an exclusive holiday ornament prize.
Indulge in Holiday Feasts and Treats
My favorite part about the holidays, as my waistband can attest to, is the food. With elaborate feasts, endless amounts of sugary treats, and the excuse to have as much hot cocoa as I want, I live for the holiday food and drinks.
- New this year is the Holiday Treat Trail. Grab a trail brochure, gather your treat stamps, and enjoy favorites like the holiday ornament doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut. Once you finish, you get a special completion treat on us!
- Stop by the Holiday Tribute Store to try holiday treats and snacks you can only get from Earl the Squirrel’s Tree Farm.
- Universal CityWalk is the place to get whimsical holiday goodies like eggnog cocktails, Peppermint Beignet Sundae from Pat O’ Brien’s, the savory Caribbean dish of Brown Stew Chicken from Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, and more.
- As I mentioned above, if you’re looking for a full holiday feast, look no further than Universal Orlando’s hotels.
Gingerbread Milkshake: It’s the very definition of Christmas in a cup. This milkshake from The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen has gingerbread, vanilla soft serve, caramel, cinnamon, chocolate ganache, and topped with a gingerbread-man cookie.
Take Advantage of Florida “Winter” Weather
Instead of having to worry about wearing extra layers of clothing, all you have to worry about is an extra layer of sunscreen. Florida “winter” is the perfect time of the year to get outside and enjoy cooler temperatures while soaking in that gorgeous sunshine. Nothing beats being able to lay out by the hotel pool in the dead of winter. Plus, less clothes packed also means more room for shopping goodies! If you’re really craving a brisk winter wind with a bite, I suppose you can ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit first thing in the morning…
Need Packing Help? Check here for recommendations on what to pack for the parks and hotels yearn round, as well as a handy checklist to keep you organized.
Instead of Sleigh Rides, Do Thrill Rides!
There’s one thing I can guarantee your holiday vacation will have that others won’t: roller coasters! Don your Hogwarts house scarf and fly through the Forbidden Forest on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Put Santa’s sleigh to shame by racing through the air at 67 miles per hour on The Incredible Hulk Coaster in Universal Islands of Adventure. And you have to try singing Jingle Bells on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit over in Universal Studios — it really takes Christmas caroling to the next level.
Capture the Best Photo for Your Holiday Card
The holiday season is all about creating lasting memories with your family and friends. I mean, it’s the one time of the year where families still send an actual card with photos wishing everyone “seasons greetings”. Universal has the perfect backdrops for all your holiday photo needs. Ditch the traditional fireplace and snap a pic in front of a fire breathing dragon instead. Make it whimsical with the colorful twists and turns of Seuss Landing, complete with festive decorations. And you can’t beat a matching family PJs pic in front of the Universal Globe.
Oh, Christmas Tree! Holiday card photos are typically in front of the tree, but how often do you see a photo with an 80 ft. tree? The tree in Universal Studios is the perfect spot for a family pic. Add a fun twist by getting a photo of your reflection in one of the giant ornaments.
Ditch the Holiday Stress
This year, more than ever, we all need to escape the reality of the day to day and find what joy we can this holiday season. Which means we also deserve to ditch the stress we typically feel around this time with the shopping, the decorating, the cleaning up for visitors, the cooking, the calories, school winter break, working, and all 50 of the different family activities you have to navigate… Let Universal Orlando take that stress off your shoulders and be your home away from home for the holidays.
You’ll be pampered at our hotels with comfy beds you don’t have to make every day. No need to drive when you’re here with Water Taxis and shuttles that get your around. There is an endless number of fun toys, trinkets, and apparel you could ever want for your Christmas list all in one place. There are dozens of restaurants with all varieties of cuisine for you to enjoy a meal at and not have to wash dishes after. Also, calories don’t count on vacation so… Universal has the decorations, the tree, the eggnog, and the songs. All you have to do is let loose and have fun, safely.
Now pack your bags, the kids, presents, whatever you need for your holiday vacay, and join us for some festive fun. Don’t forget to spread the holiday cheer on Twitter and Instagram with #UniversalHolidays when you get here.