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A ~Froggy~ Festive Guide to Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort

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What better way to bring together minions, wizards, toys and more than during Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort? Even the Grinch can't resist the cheer. After all, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year (right?!)! During the holiday season, from Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, Grinchmas and Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter spread holiday cheer throughout Seuss Landing, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Much of the main entertainment returns year after year, but we always notice new details in the decor to keep things fresh. The Universal Orlando Christmas events are included with regular Universal Orlando admission.

Universal Orlando Christmas - Whoville Citizens

Overview of the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

With terrific temperatures, decadent decor, scrumptious snacks and endless entertainment, the holiday season is truly the most wonderful time of the year at Universal Orlando Resort. From the theme parks to the hotels, you'll find jolly festivities everywhere you go. That means you don't even need a park ticket to partake in the resort-wide celebrations!

Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal Orlando Christmas - Hogwarts Express

You know that feeling you get when you watch a "Harry Potter" movie 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 Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida both feature festive Christmas decorations — including garland and lights — along the buildings and streets of the Wizarding World.

Be sure to take a closer look at the decorations outside of each storefront! For instance, Madam Malkin's in Diagon Alley sports pink ribbon bows that match the color of Hermione's Yule Ball dress in the display window. The London waterfront is also decked out in traditional Christmas lights and garland as if you've magically been transported to the city itself. We highly recommend visiting during the day so you can notice all of the small details and returning at night to see everything lit up!

Universal Orlando Christmas - Frog Choir

Our fellow froggies, the Frog Choir, perform special concerts in Hogsmeade with Christmas songs straight from the spell books, as well as muggle holiday tunes such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Inside Diagon Alley, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees get in the holiday spirit with a special show. Listen for four original songs, including the super-catchy "My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas." These shows tend to not draw crowds until they've already started. Every view is good, but even if you only arrive five minutes early, you can still sit down on the ground right next to the stage.

Universal Orlando Holidays - The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle

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 Castle" is eight minutes long and 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 Hogwarts students dancing at the Yule Ball, Arthur Weasley's flying Ford Anglia plowing into snowmen and more! Even if you aren't a fan of the usual Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle show, we recommend catching the Christmas show. It's gorgeous and captures the unique holiday fun you see in the "Harry Potter" films. We're so hoppy it's returning once again this year!

Grinchmas at Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal Orlando Christmas - Grinch

It wouldn't be Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort without Grinchmas! Seuss Landing is the most spectacularly decorated of them all, with so many baubles and tinsel wrapped around just about everything.

The viral verdant sourpuss himself has arrived at Universal Islands of Adventure for some holiday fun, as well! The green guy brings his signature snark during a special meet and greet in his lair at Honk Honkers. This year, the meet and greet is using a standby queue. Because of The Grinch's superstardom, we've seen wait times go up to 180 minutes. However, on opening day, we got in line at 3:45 p.m. when the wait time was reading 100 minutes. Luckily, we only ended up waiting an hour!

Meanwhile, Who-ville citizens are usually out and about, walking through the land or strolling through The Street of the Lifted Lorax. On opening day, we saw the majority of them gathered by the entrance of Seuss Landing near Port of Entry. All of them will hoppily pose for photos with you!

Universal Orlando Christmas - Who-liday Spectacular

One of our favorite holiday offerings, though, is the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular! In this whoot of a show, talented performers bring the Seuss favorite to life through song and dance. If you'd like to attend, plan to be in line at least 30 minutes ahead of showtime, even if there aren't huge crowds. You do need to walk a fair distance to the theater where it takes place (a space that was previously occupied by Blue Man Group). While definitely a tadpole-centric show, it's still a blast for any fans of the Grinch, who spits out hilarious one-liners. (And OMG ... Max is played by an adorable, live dog. What a good boy!)

We're also so frogcited to once again enjoy The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast this year! This grand feast takes place at Confisco Grille where the Grinch and his Who-ville friends will visit your table and spread some Who-liday cheer ... and sneers. Enjoy a tasty sit-down breakfast with themed food and breakfast favorites, including a nonalcoholic beverage and specialty treats. Reservations are required. We recommend getting an earlier reservation time, if possible! Expect to spend at least an hour and up to 90 minutes on this experience. The restaurant reopens to guests at 11 a.m. as a regular full service spot for lunch.

Epic Holiday Offerings & Entertainment at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's

Universal Orlando Holidays - Santa in the Holiday Parade

The highlight of Christmas at Universal Orlando (for us, at least!) is Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's. You can catch some of your favorite Universal characters making holiday mischief, including the minions, Shrek and more. And of course, jolly ol' Santa typically makes an appearance at the parade's finale to light up the Christmas tree.

Universal Orlando Christmas - Shrek and Fiona in Universal's Holiday Parade

If you want a prime spot for Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's 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 usually across the street from the tree next to Revenge of the Mummy. From this spot, you can watch as Santa lights the tree. Since the parade begins near Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show and starts its journey down the streets of Hollywood, you'll first see the parade about 15 minutes after the official start time. The parade kicks off daily at 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Annual passholders can enjoy a reserved viewing area in front of Mel's Drive-In Restaurant, which opens up about an hour before the parade, and space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have little ones under 10, there's a Lil Stars viewing area in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop in Hollywood.

Mannheim Steamroller Concerts

Universal Orlando Christmas - Mannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller continues to bring the festive sounds of modern Christmas to Universal Studios Florida. These concerts this year are take placing at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 - 3 and 9 - 10 at the Music Plaza Stage.

Arrive early if you want a sit-down spot in front of the stage. However, 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. (Note that Seasonal Passholders are blocked out of Universal Studios Florida on concert dates.)

Holiday Tribute Store

The Holiday Tribute Store decked its halls once again last year! We journeyed through four festively themed rooms where we found popcorn buckets, backpacks, ornaments, spirit jerseys and more lining the shelves — not to mention some deliciously sweet treats.

Ready to send your letter to Santa? Hop by the Universal Tribute Store and Post where the mailroom is always open! First, enter the Wizarding World and tour the magical Owlery (be sure to look up!). Then, stop by the Whoville Post Office where Christmas is the busiest and most festive time of year. The Grinch has been quite busy in the kitchen baking up Roast Beast Peanut Butter, Lump of Coal Chocolates and even Onion Cheesecake Tarts! Lastly, celebrate the season with our favorite squirrel, Earl, at his Holiday Package Delivery Service headquarters and at his cozy home — perfectly decorated and ready for Santa.

Earl the Squirrel Meet and Greet

Universal Orlando Holidays - Earl the Squirrel

Earl the Squirrel comes out of his hiding spot in the big Christmas tree to meet guests near the directly across from Cafe La Bamba! You can confirm his meeting times in the Universal app, though typically he'll be out about once an hour from 9:15 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. 

Holiday Tree Hunt

Universal Orlando Christmas - Jurassic Park Tree

For a fun festive activity, purchase a Holiday Tree Hunt brochure and pencil for $13 to participate in the scavenger hunt for decorated trees across Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk. Search for the numbers hidden in each tree and use the provided decoder to solve Earl's word puzzle and win a special prize! Our favorite trees this year are in the VelociCoaster Store, All Hallows Eve Boutique, Comic Book Store and Brown Derby.

Festive Food and Drinks During the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Christmas - Hot Butterbeer

Drinking Butterbeer is a must-do whenever you visit the Universal parks (did you know there are six different versions?). While you can now get hot Butterbeer year-round, there's no better time to enjoy a delicious cup than when the temperature starts dropping. 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 and the Hopping Pot.

Universal Orlando Christmas - Grinch Cookie

All around Universal Orlando Resort, there are specially-themed holiday food and beverages! We loved getting our hands on yummy offerings such as Earl's Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Acorn Bomb (available at Hot Treats in Battery Park), the Turkey Dinner Sandwich (available at Yule Enjoy in Battery Park) and the Letters to Santa Holiday Shake (available at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen). We were also so frogcited to dig into some verdant Grinch-themed treats in Seuss Landing — such as the frog-favorite Grinch cookies — and sip some specialty nog cocktails!

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 of the 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. The hotels even offer specially ticketed buffets. Some of the hotel holiday celebrations include live music, hula dancers, balloon artists and even bowling.

Universal Orlando Christmas - Cabana Bay Beach Resort Christmas Tree

If you want to experience the Universal Christmas events during the busiest times, we highly recommend purchasing Universal Express Passes no matter where you stay. You can save money when you purchase this add-on to theme park admission for regular Universal Express (which gives you access one time per participating ride) or Universal Express Unlimited. If you stay on-site at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel or Loews Royal Pacific Resort, you'll 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 purchasing Universal Express the week of Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and on weekends. We cannot underestimate this benefit!

Universal Orlando Christmas - Loews Royal Pacific Resort

If you can't shell out for the Universal Express hotels, jump over to Universal's Cabana Bay Beach ResortUniversal's Endless Summer - Surfside Inn and Suites or Universal's Endless Summer - Dockside Inn and Suites. While they don't offer Unlimited Express, these hotels (and all of Universal's hotels) offer one-hour early admission to a select park. If you stay on-site, you can get a hop on experiencing Christmas in the Wizarding World's holiday magic with Early Park Admission! What's even more magical is to book your Universal Orlando hotel room at a discount, so hop to it!

New Year's Eve at Universal Orlando Resort

If you're looking for something to do when the clock strikes midnight, Universal Orlando offers several different ways to ring in the new year. Ring in the New Year with festivities at CityWalk and throughout the theme parks — which will both be open through midnight on Dec. 31.

Additionally, all of the hotels will host a special New Year's Eve or New Year's Day meal. Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort even hosts a New Year's Eve Spectacular that includes face painting, a balloon artist and a live DJ. This event is complimentary for Cabana Bay Beach guests only. Portofino Bay and the Hard Rock Hotel will also host their own parties.

Our Top Tips for the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Christmas - Dapper Winter CityWalk

With so much hoppening at Universal Studios Florida and Universal 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's easy to hop back and forth. 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're planning to see all of the holiday festivities in both parks on one day, get a viewing spot for the Holiday Parade in Universal Studios right in front of Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show. That's where the parade starts, so by the time the last float passes you, you'll have just enough time to speed-hop over and catch the castle show in Islands of Adventure before the park closes without being blocked off by the parade route! We recommend walking through CityWalk in front of Hard Rock Cafe Orlando and The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen instead of waiting for the Hogwarts Express.

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Feeling like there's too much to see and too little time? Have no fear! We've put together our lists of Holiday Must-Dos so you can be sure to get your fill of merriment while in the theme parks.

Universal Orlando Christmas - Must-Do Infographic

Rather not stress about building your own schedule? Then consider taking Universal's Holiday Tour! Unwrap the holiday magic with this special 2-Park 1-Day tour that includes an exclusive meet and greet with the Grinch and Max, reserved seating for The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, light bites, desserts and more, a private meet and greet with Santa, priority access to one attraction and an after-hours showing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. Tours will include multiple parties in the same tour group and pricing and availability vary depending on the date and product selection. Theme park admission isn't included but reservations are required.

If you need some palm trees and sun with your Christmas vacation, you'll need to find it poolside this season. Universal Volcano Bay water theme park is usually open in the winter. Don't let the time of year trick you. It's still plenty warm in sunny Florida (especially for you snowbirds) and the hotel pools are heated. (Check out all of our discount Universal Orlando ticket options, and don't froget, we offer discounts on the Universal Orlando hotels too!)

Ready for Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort 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 during the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort and other destinations. And be sure to add Universal Express Passes to your tickets to skip the lines!

Related: Complete Guide to Universal Orlando Events

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Dec 5, 2022 at 8:12 p.m. Raoul K Says...

Ah how wonderfull it would be to visit during the holidays. Great to read all these ins-and-outs about the parks during the holiday season. Thanks for sharing you guys! Keep up the good work. We love undercover tourist!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 8:05 p.m. Karl S Says...

Your information is always so helpful. Thanks!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:59 p.m. Kiska Says...

Our family would love to visit Universal Orlando during the holiday season! Thanks for sharing all the Universal holiday need-to-knows!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:59 p.m. Rachel7 Says...

I’ve never been during the holidays! Hoping I can go one year! Great info!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:55 p.m. Simon Says...

there's more to do than I tought!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:46 p.m. Debi Masi Says...

Hot butterbeer is a must & in the cooler weather. I cant imagine it in the heat. Also, both times Ive been, was in December & staying at Deluxe resort with the express pass, was an excellent timesaver.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. Romy Meijer Says...

What a treat to read about all of this with pictures and all. We would absolutely love it to experience Universal during the holiday season one day! Unfortunately we haven't been able to make it to Orlando during holiday season because of our jobs but we will definitely try in the future. Holiday greetings from the Netherlands! Xoxo

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. Amanda S. Says...

Do NOT sleep on Grinchmas!!! It is sooo good!!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:43 p.m. Nechelle Says...

Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I love all the things to do during Christmas time at universal Orlando!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:42 p.m. Emily McKinney Says...

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:18 p.m. Christy Says...

I would love to do Universal at Christmas. We’ve only ever done Disney at Christmas

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:12 p.m. Tracy Says...

I would love to visit during the holidays but every thing I read seems to point to stay away from the holidays crowds.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:11 p.m. Katie S. Says...

A perfect guide to have!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:10 p.m. Brittnry Says...

We are a big Disney family but universal does the holidays so well! This blog post really makes me want to visit universal this year for the holidays!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:09 p.m. Deepa Rajwani Says...

Wish I was closer to Orlando!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:07 p.m. Sam D. Says...

I hope to visit Universal during Christmas someday!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 7:03 p.m. Chris king Says...

Wow looks so much fun in the winter

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:58 p.m. Kelly Xue Says...

Which restaurant is the cheapest to dine in in Disney World?

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Dec 6, 2022 at 3:06 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kelly!

If dining on a budget, we recommend quick-service restaurants and snack carts. We also have a post about some of the most budget-friendly meal options at Disney World, as well as general budgeting tips for dining.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:53 p.m. Jennifer Bradshaw Says...

This list is wonderful! My favorite was a couple of years ago they gave minion ornaments for completing the tree hunt. We spent the whole day just taking in all the decorations. Highly recommend.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:52 p.m. Olivia L Says...

I love the parade ay Christmas time:)

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:44 p.m. Amanda Says...

Universal has really stepped up their holiday game! It’s so festive and we have a blast just checking out the decor and food; the shows, parade, and characters are icing on the cake.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:42 p.m. Danielle Zumpetta Says...

Going around Christmas or Halloween has always been a dream of mine! So absolutely magical!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:40 p.m. Val Says...

Looks like so much fun! Would be hard to predict if my family would like the Harry Potter or Grinch experience better!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:39 p.m. Cary Morris Says...

I love the holidays and we’ve done Disney at Christmas, but the Harry Potter area in both US and IOA are amazing without holiday cheer. I bet they are spectacular during the holidays. On my to do list!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:35 p.m. StacyB Says...

Would love to see Grinchmas.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:35 p.m. LorraP Says...

Are there any kid-friendly activities at any hotels that involve holiday cookie decorating or gingerbread house decorating?

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:31 p.m. Kimberli Taylor Says...

We love undercover tourist!!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. Sarah Deavila Says...

Which hotel would you say is the most festive? I stayed at Aventura a few weeks ago and I felt like it wasn’t really decorated.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 4:15 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Sarah!

One of our favorites is Cabana Bay Beach! Usually, there are several Christmas trees spread out in the lobby.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:26 p.m. VictoriaL Says...

:)

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:25 p.m. Amber B Says...

As always, super informative ! Thanks for the holiday must do checklist!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:25 p.m. Rachel Szu Says...

Hopefully we can make it to a Disney Christmas in Orlando one day soon!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:25 p.m. Robbie P Says...

The Grinch is my absolute FAVORITE and from your videos you’ve posted, it looks like the universal Grinch really plays the part well! Can’t wait to meet him!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:16 p.m. Sean Says...

This is my comment to try to win a contest. Just bein' honest ????

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:11 p.m. Joshua Says...

Looks amazing! I wanna go so bad!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:09 p.m. Suzie Says...

Definitely need to make time next year to go during the holiday season. It looks like so much fun and so many festivities going on. This blog sure helped me see all that.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:08 p.m. Kahli Says...

Harry Potter, my favorite! Can't wait to get back with the kids.

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:05 p.m. Lisa Suzanne K Says...

I've never been so I will have to get back to you. However, a visit during the holidays would definitely be magical!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:01 p.m. Sarah H Says...

I have always wanted to go to Universal over the holidays but was too nervous about the crowds and being overwhelmed with all they offer at the parks. This is such an easy breakdown of the fun activities and definitely makes me more likely to try a Universal trip over the holidays soon!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 6:01 p.m. Bai Says...

Hoping to bring my kids down next year!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:59 p.m. Melissa Says...

Looks lovely, but Christmas isn’t our holiday and this much holiday-focused decor is pretty “in your face”. We’ll wait until the new year!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:52 p.m. Jennifer A Says...

My kids would love seeing the grinch!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:52 p.m. Brittany H. Says...

Oh how I would love to take my kids to see the Harry Potter Christmas projections and the fun of Grinchmas!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:49 p.m. Carissa Summers Says...

The holidays are such a magical time to visit the park! That being said, the holidays can also get fairly crowded which makes it hard to do everything! So, it’s very nice to have a guide that tells you exactly what all of the Must-Dos are! I’m definitely going to keep this in mind if I visit during the holidays! Thanks so much!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:47 p.m. Valerie Arnold Says...

We have never been to Orlando as we live in AZ! I bet it is very magical at Christmas and the holidays in general!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:46 p.m. Diane Diaz Says...

I’ve been looking into whether or not I should try out universal Orlando this holiday. Most recommend me undercovertourist!!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:42 p.m. Carmen Says...

Can't wait to get back!!!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:42 p.m. Lexi Says...

All of the holiday information I need in one place! It's great how you put all of the events and even the special season foods all in one place!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:40 p.m. Emily KW Says...

I've been to WDW and Universal Studios Orlando during the Halloween season and can't wait to experience it next year during the holidays. Hopefully bringing our little one there for her birthday. Most anticipated treat would have to be all of the Grinch themed items at Universal!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:32 p.m. G Says...

This is great!

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Dec 5, 2022 at 5:32 p.m. Bridget MacKinnon Dybdahl Says...

Love your holiday newsletter always so fun !!

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