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As theme park master planners, we never really stop thinking about the holidays. It's one of the most popular times to visit, and we get questions about it all year. This year especially, we've been hopping with excitement over holidays at Universal Orlando Resort. We were lucky enough to attend a media preview and opening day of Christmas in The Wizarding World and Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's, Grinchmas and more holidays at Universal Orlando fun!
The new holiday fun runs daily Nov. 18, 2017, through Jan. 8, 2018. If you needed another reason to be merry, the Holidays at Universal Orlando events are included with regular admission. So let's hop into everything you can expect this festive season!
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Orlando has outdone itself with the level of detail inside Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As mentioned above, Hogsmeade in Universal's Islands of Adventures and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida both feature festive Christmas decorations — including garlands and lights — along the buildings and streets of the Wizarding World.
Outside each of the store fronts, it's as if the shopkeepers decorated the garlands themselves. At Glad Rags, for example, the garland is decorated with pink ribbons that look as if they came from Hermione's dress. There are feathers woven into the garland at Owl Post and what look to be sugary, pastel balls at Honeydukes. Take some time to stroll past them all!
As if the delight of hot, cocoa-ey butterbeer wasn't enough, you'll also be tempted by the holiday performances from none other than the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck! The Frog Choir in Hogsmeade is singing three unique Christmas tunes along with "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" throughout the day. Inside Diagon Alley, Celestina Warbeck is performing four new songs, including the super catchy "My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas." (By the way, you'll find hot butterbeer inside Leaky Cauldron, Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head Pub, the Hopping Pot and the Fountain of Fair Fortune. Mmmm.)
The true showstopper, though, is the eight-minute, projection-mapping show on Hogwarts Castle. "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts" plays intermittently from dusk until park close nightly. Muggles and wizards alike will be absolutely dazzled to see the castle come alive! There are breath-taking scenes with fairies creating the Christmas tree, the Weasley twins making mischief and more!
While the show plays several times an evening, in such a small space, it will be crowded, especially on weekends and the weeks of the holidays. If you can see the parade on a different night, it is recommended. Watch the first showing of "The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts."
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s & More Holidays at Universal Orlando Festivities in the Parks
Also during holidays at Universal Orlando, a brand-new parade will be stepping off at Universal Studios Florida. More than a dozen festive balloons and 15 floats will make their debut at Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's.
You'll see Dreamworks favorites from Madagascar, Shrek and Despicable Me. Yes, there will be minions making mischief ... and perhaps at least one making a snow angel. King Julian will be there, singing his own version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."
Of course, jolly ol' Santa is there too. He is 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, stick around to meet the characters who hang out with their floats, so you can make some more family memories.
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.
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.
Seuss Landing is the most spectacularly decorated of them all, with so many baubles and tinsel wrapped around just about everything. Don't miss the Lorax, and stroll through the trufulla trees.
The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is as heartfelt as ever. The talented performers bring this Seuss favorite to life through song and dance. Plan to be in line at least thirty minutes ahead of show time. The first show of the day is likely the least crowded.
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.
Manheim Steamroller at Universal Studios Florida
Once again, Manheim Steamroller will bring the festive sounds of modern Christmas to Universal Studios Florida. These concerts take place weekends on Nov. 18, 19, 25, 26 and Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17. While there is space at the amphitheater area, you'll want to arrive early if you want a sit-down spot. You can easily hear the music beyond the concert area, so if you're content with catching a few tunes, stroll by when you have time.
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. All five Universal Orlando hotels will be decked out for the holidays and offer holiday fun, including tree lightings and menorah lightings. Plus you can enjoy all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve buffets. Loews Sapphire Falls is hosting a Caribbean-inspired New Year's Eve celebration at Strong Water Tavern with a champagne toast and ball drop at midnight.
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. You can see the expected busiest days on our Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar. We consider you 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 and Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort . All five of the hotels will offer early park admission to Universal's Volcano Bay water theme park and The Wizarding World. 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. (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.