What better way to bring together minions, ogres, toys and more than holidays at Universal Orlando? Even the Grinch can't resist the cheer. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year (right?!)! You’d think it’d be tough to follow a popular event like Halloween Horror Nights, but the Holidays at Universal doesn’t disappoint. From Grinchmas to Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there’s a lot going on to spread holiday cheer. Best of all, the Holidays at Universal Orlando events are included with regular Universal Orlando admission. If you’re like us and you’re already planning a Christmas vacation at the parks, catch up on highlights from last year and what to expect during this upcoming festive season. Universal Orlando announced the festivities will take place from November 16, 2019 through January 5, 2020!
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
You know that feeling you get when you watch Harry Potter with your family while drinking hot cocoa on a snowy winter night? That's the feeling you'll get when you see Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Orlando goes all out with the level of detail. Hogsmeade in Universal's Islands of Adventures and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida both typically feature festive Christmas decorations — including garland and lights — along the buildings and streets of the Wizarding World.
Take a look at the decorations from 2018. Outside each of the store fronts, it was as though the shopkeepers decorated the garlands themselves. At Gladrags Wizardwear, for example, the garland was decorated with pink ribbons that looked as if they came from Hermione's dress. There were feathers woven into the garland at Owl Post and what looked like sugary, pastel balls at Honeydukes.
Our fellow froggies, the Frog Choir, will perform special concerts with Christmas songs straight from the spell books.Inside Diagon Alley, Celestina Warbeck gets in the holiday spirit with her four original songs, including the super catchy "My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas."
The true showstopper of Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the projection-mapping show on Hogwarts Castle. "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts" plays intermittently from dusk until park close each night. Muggles and wizards alike will be absolutely dazzled to see the castle come alive! There are breathtaking scenes with fairies creating the Christmas tree, the Weasley twins making mischief and more! Even if you aren't a fan of the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts, we recommend checking these shows out. They're gorgeous and really capture the unique holiday fun you see in the Harry Potter films and books.
The small viewing area can get crowded, especially on weekends and the weeks of the holidays. We recommend watching "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts" during non-peak times, if possible. No matter which night you're attending, try waiting until a bit later in the evening (about any hour after dusk) to catch the show to avoid those early crowds.
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s & More Holidays at Universal Orlando Festivities in the Parks
The highlight of the holidays at Universal Orlando (for us, at least!) is Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's. The parade has more than a dozen festive balloons and 15 floats for your enjoyment! You'll catch some of your favorite Universal characters making Christmas mischief, including Minions, Shrek and more! Stay tuned for 2019's showtimes!
Of course, jolly ol' Santa typically makes an appearance lighting up the beautiful tree in New York! The floats are as elaborate as ever, so bring a camera and snap as many pictures as you can! Seeing this float with your family is sure to bring the warm fuzzies. After the parade last year, you could stick around to meet the characters who hang out with their floats. We hope we'll be able to do the same again this year!
If you want a front-row spot for Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's right in front of the tree, get in place at least an hour early on busy nights. This is especially true on weekends. Our favorite spot is across the street from the tree next to the Mummy ride. From this spot, you can watch as Santa lights the tree. Your tadpoles will go crazy for this Christmas magic! Beware: TONS OF CONFETTI!
Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure
It wouldn't be the holidays at Universal Orlando without Grinchmas! The green sourpuss himself will be returning to Islands of Adventure for Christmas fun. Watch the green guy bring his signature snark to the Christmas Who-liday Spectacular at Seuss Landing.
Last year, Seuss Landing was the most spectacularly-decorated of them all, with so many baubles and tinsel wrapped around just about everything. Don't miss the Lorax while strolling through the truffula trees!
The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular will return to warm our hearts once more. The talented performers bring this Seuss favorite to life through song and dance. Plan to be in line at least 30 minutes ahead of showtime, as you do need to walk a fair distance to the sound stage in which it takes place, even if there aren't huge crowds. Hop tip: Catch the first show of the day as it's likely to be the least crowded.
The show added a few new touches last year that delighted returning fans and pleased new Who-liday fans! While definitely a tadpole-centric show, it is a blast for any fans of the Grinch. (And OMG ... Max is played by an adorable, live dog. What a good boy!)
Festive Food & Drinks at the Holidays at Universal Orlando
Drinking Butterbeer is a must-do whenever you visit the Universal parks. While year-round Butterbeer is served cold or frozen, you can get hot Butterbeer during the holiday season! Think more along the lines of hot chocolate (but butterscotch) rather than a carbonated cream soda, which is what the classic, cold Butterbeer tastes like. You can find it inside The Leaky Cauldron, Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head Pub, the Hopping Pot and the Fountain of Fair Fortune.
If you want some quality time with the Grinch, book the Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast on select days. You can read our Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast review for an idea of what to expect.
Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
Any time of year, we absolutely love staying on-site at Universal's fabulous resort hotels, but especially during the holidays. Expect all six Universal Orlando hotels to be decked out for the holidays and look out for tree and menorah lightings. Plus, enjoy all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve buffets.
If you want to experience the holidays at Universal Orlando during the busiest times, we highly recommend you stay on-site at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort so you can receive the Unlimited Express benefit for all of your party for your entire length of stay. Watch out for the expected busiest days using our Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar. We recommend considering a stay at one of the hotels offering Universal Express (or purchase it separately) the weeks of Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and on weekends. We cannot underestimate this benefit!
If you can't shell out for these hotels, hop to Loews Sapphire Falls, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal's newest hotel, Aventura! While they don't offer Unlimited Express, these hotels (all of Universal's hotels) offer one-hour early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal's Volcano Bay. If you stay on-site, you can get a hop on experiencing the Christmas in the Wizarding World holiday magic! What's even more magical is to book your Universal Orlando hotel room at a discount, so hop to it!
Which Ticket Should You Get During Holidays at Universal Orlando?
With so much hoppening at Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure during the holidays, you may be wondering, "Which ticket should I get?" We're very big fans of the Park-to-Park option. With the two parks so close together, it makes it easy to hop. The Park-to-Park option offers maximum flexibility to enjoy it all. And it's the only way to experience the Hogwarts Express. So if you want to experience Christmas in the Wizarding World at Hogsmeade and then hop right over to extend the merry in Diagon Alley, you'll need the Park-to-Park ticket.
If you need some palm trees and sun with your Christmas vacation, then add on Universal's Volcano Bay water theme park during your visit. Don't let the time of year trick you ... it's still plenty warm in sunny Florida (especially for you snowbirds) and the water is heated. (Check out all of our discount Universal Orlando ticket options, and don't forget we offer discounts on the Universal Orlando hotels too!)
Ready to visit Universal Orlando this holiday season? Pick the best dates to visit using our Orlando Crowd Calendar. Check out our Orlando planning timeline for a stress-free family vacation to the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort and other destinations.