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 Jake's American Bar and Amatista Cookhouse haven't released their menus yet, we can tell you that The Kitchen will be serving up "smoked salmon with all the goodies," Florida citrus poached shrimp cocktail, classics such as scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes, made-to-order favorites (peanut butter & banana french toast, anyone?), all of the desserts you could ever imagine and so much more. 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 this year was the Holiday Tree Hunt! All across the theme parks and CityWalk, there are 15 festive trees just waiting to be found.
From the glitzy gold-and-blue tree at the Universal Studios Store in CityWalk to the perfectly pink Betty Boop-inspired tree at Toon Extra to the candy-coated coniferous creation at San Francisco Candy Factory, each tree is uniquely decorated and a sight to behold. However, our Halloween-loving hearts have to give the gold star to the spooktacular spider web and jack-o-lantern-adorned tree at the All Hallows Eve Boutique. Two holidays are always better than one!
Be sure to redeem your Tree Hunt map (which doesn't need to be fully completed) for $10 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 acorn and squirrel-shaped frosted gingerbread cookies. Head down to Battery Park for cookies and milk like you've never had it before. Make your way over to Portofino Bay Hotel for complimentary holiday cookies in the lobby from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 20 through Dec. 24. Or, if you're more of a doughnut person, Voodoo's seasonal doughnuts are the Holiday Gift (a raised yeast doughnut dipped in gingerbread icing) and the Wreath (a red velvet cake doughnut topped with peppermint cream cheese and white chocolate pearls). Both sound equally delicious!
4. Catch the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular
Nothing makes our hearts grow three sizes like the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular in Seuss Landing. This beloved holiday tale about the true meaning of Christmas has been gracing the stages of Universal Orlando for the past decade, but last year, one thing did stop Christmas from coming. (Let's just say it wasn't the Grinch!) This year, however, the happy citizens of Whoville and the Maven of Mischief himself are back in a brand-new theater (the soundstage formerly occupied by the Blue Man Group). 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
Did I mistakenly say Central Florida is lacking in the snowfall area? Oops! I didn't take into account the magic of the Wizarding World. That's right! 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. They might just cast a wintery spell on the weather! Then once you're ready to travel back to the muggle world, catch the sparkling lights in London.
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. 4, 5, 11 and 12, the best-selling holiday artist, Mannheim Steamroller is returning to fill the air with Christmas cheer from the Music Plaza Stage in Universal Studios. Additionally, from Dec. 20 through Dec. 24, 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. It's in this year's Holiday Tribute Store in Universal Studios.
Cut through Santa's Workshop and enter Earl the Squirrel's Christmas Curios Museum & Emporium. 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 Balsam & Pine candle from Magic Candle Company to bring the scents of the season home with you!
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 Mistletoe Pines Village
Universal Orlando has a brand new addition this year that we're absolutely obsessed with: Mistletoe Pines Village. This holiday hub right in the heart of CityWalk has merchandise featuring Earl the Squirrel and the Grinch, a custom artwork booth where you can get a caricature of yourself or a holiday photo ornament, adorable photo-ops and some delicious, festive food and drinks. We opted for the Candy Cane Fudge and Nutty Nog but there are so many drool-worthy options including the Cookie Butter Santa Puff, the Gingerbread Ornament or the Coquito Mousse Snowball. You can also spike your nog with rum, bourbon, whiskey or just enjoy a tadpole-friendly version. Whatever you choose, overlooking the waterway while enjoying some scrumptious holiday sweets is truly one of the most relaxing ways to end your park day (and a great way to rest your tired webbed feet)!
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. (Hard Rock Hotel and Cabana Bay Beach Resort are also hosting complimentary Christmas tree lighting ceremonies on Nov. 26.) 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.
- Just recently, we discovered the magic of Musica della Notte at Portofino Bay while waiting for our reservation at Mama Della's Ristorante. 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!