You know that feeling of curling up on the couch with your loved ones, a nice hot cup of cocoa between your hands, a warm blanket wrapped around you, a feel-good movie on the TV and a light snowfall outside? That, my friends, is called hygge (pronounced "hue-gah" or "hoo-guh") and it's a Danish idea which means to be happy and feel cozy, also known as the Art of Happiness.
While Central Florida may be lacking in the snowfall area (though there's plenty of snoap), Universal Orlando Resort offers tons of ways to capture that feeling of hygge bliss without ever leaving property — especially during the holiday season!
Now turn on a holiday lo-fi playlist and put on your favorite comfy sweater because we're breaking down the top 10 ways to have a very hygge holiday on your next Universal Orlando vacation.
10 Ways to Have a Very Hygge Holiday at Universal Orlando Resort
1. Fill up on breakfast at one of the Universal hotels
Let's start with Christmas morning, shall we? If you're staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort or Loews Sapphire Falls (or even if you're not), we highly recommend booking a reservation right this second for their Christmas breakfast buffet! While most of the restaurants haven't released their menus yet, we can tell you that The Kitchen will be serving its iconic Acoustic Brunch complete with starters and salads, such as Domestic & Imported Cheese Charcuterie and Grandma Kaye's Cucumber Salad, breakfast classics such as Scrambled Eggs and Cheese Grits, made to order entrees like Chocolate Chip Pancakes and — my favorite personal favorite — Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast, chef's selections, such as Roasted Turkey Breast and Steamed Broccolini and delectable desserts, such as Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée and Cookies & Candies For Santa's Helpers. Once you're nice and stuffed, take a leisurely water taxi ride over to the parks and begin your day. Knowing you're set for the busiest morning of the year will take a lot of stress off the rest of your day.
2. Participate in the Holiday Tree Hunt
One experience we absolutely loved taking part in every year is the Holiday Tree Hunt! All across the theme parks and CityWalk, there are 15 festive trees just waiting to be found.
From the terror-striking tentacle-wrapped tinsel tree at MIB Gear to the horrific horse-drawn hearse carrying the tree at Five & Dime to the candy-coated coniferous creation at San Francisco Candy Factory, each tree is uniquely decorated and a sight to behold. However, our frog fam favorite this year might have to be the one at the Comic Book Shop where Marvel superheroes (and villains) smash out of various ornaments! While it may seem fairly standard upon first glance, it just gets more impressive the longer you look at it.
Be sure to redeem your Tree Hunt map (which doesn't need to be fully completed) for $12 at any participating store for a special prize.
3. Indulge in holiday cookies and milk
I truly believe there's no better food to cozy up by the fireplace with than warm cookies right out of the oven. Well, Universal has surprised and delighted us with its cookie inventory this year. Visit the Tribute Store for some cookie dough creations like double decker snowmen and peppermint balls. Enter Croissant Moon Bakery and enjoy vegan butter snowflake cookies and ornament sugar cookies — with a helping of milk, of course! Head on over to Hop on Pop and try some Grinch cookies. Lastly, don't froget to end your night at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen where Jacques has whipped up a delicious Santa's Cookies & Milkshake made with vanilla and cookie butter ice cream with chips ahoy mini cookies, holiday sprinkles, buttercream icing and a chocolate Christmas tree!
4. Catch the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular
Nothing makes our hearts grow three sizes like the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular in Seuss Landing. The hoppy citizens of Whoville and the Maven of Mischief himself are back to tell this beloved tale about the true meaning of Christmas. With music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller, a terrifically talented cast and the cutest little mutt you ever did see, this show is a must-do to kickstart the holiday season!
5. Visit London and Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World
There's truly no better place to experience holiday magic than in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Head on over to Diagon Alley, grab a cup of Hot Butterbeer at The Hopping Pot and take a seat at the stage area to catch the singing sorceresses of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. While you're there, walk down the spellbinding streets and take in all the beautiful decorations adorning every storefront. Then once you're ready to travel back to the muggle world, catch the sparkling lights at London waterfront.
6. Listen (and sing-along) to Christmas music
It's not the holidays without Christmas music! There are many different places throughout the entire resort that you'll be able to enjoy the sounds of the season — at the entrance to Islands of Adventure in the Port of Entry, on the streets of San Francisco in Universal Studios and even several times a day in Hogsmeade as Hogwarts' very own Frog Choir takes the stage, just to name a few.
But that's not all! On Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11, the best-selling holiday artist of all time, Mannheim Steamroller is returning to fill the air with Christmas cheer from the Music Plaza Stage in Universal Studios. Additionally, from Dec. 19 through Dec. 25, holiday carolers will be strolling through the lobby of Portofino Bay and other areas of the hotel to celebrate the season with song.
7. Explore the Holiday Tribute Store
We've done it. We've found the best scent at Universal Orlando Resort. No, it's not at Honeydukes or Toothsome Chocolate Emporium or even E.T. Adventure (which is sporting some new scents these days so I highly recommend a re-ride if you haven't been on it recently). It's in this year's Holiday Tribute Store in Universal Studios.
Cut through Whoville and enter Earl's North of the Border. This room is overflowing with the divine scent of freshly roasted nuts. This frog didn't want to leave. I was still a little full from my Grinch-inspired goodies over at Islands of Adventure but the cones of cashews, almonds and pecans were still calling my name.
We definitely recommend coming in here with an empty stomach ... and leaving with a Mistletoe Pines candle from Magic Candle Company to bring the scents of the season home with you!
(I also have to give a special shoutout to the New York Holiday room which is beautifully nostalgic with its brownstone-lined walls and references to Coca-Cola Santa and the Wizarding World room which transports you to the snow-covered streets of Hogsmeade — complete with its very own Owlery. Be sure to also check out the adorable window displays in each room!)
8. Catch Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's
Santa Claus is coming to town — err, Universal Studios! Find jolly old Saint Nick atop his sleigh at the tail-end of Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's. Watch as dancers, floats and larger-than-life balloons featuring your favorite characters from the "Despicable Me," "Shrek" and "Madagascar" films make their way through the streets of Hollywood, Production Central and New York to the beloved scores of their respective franchises and some classic Christmas tunes.
Grab a spot (about an hour early) near the Tribute Store to watch Kris Kringle light the gigantic Christmas Tree at Gramercy Park. If you can't make it to New York City on Thanksgiving, this parade is the next best thing!
9. Stop by the Green and Red Coconut Club
The Red Coconut Club got its first seasonal makeover this past Halloween. Now that the monsters have returned to their crypts and coffins, Earl the Squirrel has taken over the CityWalk watering hole and transformed it into the Green & Red Coconut Club! Enjoy specialty cocktails like the Cinnamon Swizzle Paloma Paloma and the Candy Cane Piña Colada or holiday mocktails like the Tropical Fizz, as well as a carefully curated selection of canned beers and festive wines. The classic blow molds adorning the walls and the retro board games lining the shelves bring Leap and I back to the Yules of our youth. Don't froget to check out the attic for the Inaugural Pickle Hunt! Enjoy this special holiday offering on select evenings Thursdays through Sundays until New Year's Day.
10. Celebrate the spirit of the holidays (not just Christmas!)
From the decorations to the food and all of the traditions in between, hygge sometimes can't help but be associated with Christmas. But hygge isn't a holiday — it's a feeling of belonging and comfort and love, and Universal understands that. That's why, in addition to Christmas festivities, every hotel on property hosts a complimentary Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony every night of the holiday. Gather 'round the festive lights — whether they be flame or LED — and celebrate the spirit of any holiday with the people you love the most.
How to Hygge Year-Round at Universal Orlando Resort
Hygge is most synonymous with winter but that doesn't mean you can't find some hygge happiness when the weather gets warmer! Here are a few tips on how to enjoy that cozy, loving spirit year-round:
- While the weather may not be ideal, Universal has helped in our quest to find hygge year-round by offering Hot Butterbeer 365 days a year. We recommend enjoying this delicacy where it's air-conditioned at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley or Three Broomsticks or Hog's Head in Hogsmeade.
- If you're not ready to let go of the holiday season, Islands of Adventure has got you covered. Enter the Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe where you'll find trimmings for your tree and stuffers for your stocking all year round.
- We can't explain it, but at least once in your lifetime, enjoy a sunset in The Lost Continent — specifically, behind Mythos. Something about it is truly magical.
- Experience the magic of Musica della Notte at Portofino Bay. Each evening at sunset (weather permitting), singers grace the balcony above the Harbor Piazza for a choral celebration inspired by the romance and charm of Italy. Leap and I love slow-dancing by the water and getting lost in the music.
- If you're a spa-lover like me, you'll definitely want to book a service at the Mandara Spa at Portofino Bay. Rooted in the Balinese tradition for the healing arts, this 13,000-square-foot sanctuary offers each guest luxuriously-healing experiences such as signature massages, award-winning facials and indulgent body treatments.
- At its core, hygge is about enjoying your time with the people you love. As long as you're doing that, you can find hygge anywhere at any time on a Universal Orlando vacation.
What are your favorite ways to celebrate the spirit of hygge at Universal Orlando Resort? Let us know in the comments below!