- Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter, the Grinch, or just like to revel in the festive spirit of the season, Universal Orlando Resort is a fun place to celebrate the winter holidays.
- Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s, The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle are beloved holiday traditions at the theme parks.
- Here’s everything you need to now about the 2023 holiday celebrations at Universal Orlando.
Every year, both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure get into the holiday spirit with special celebrations and fan-favorite annual traditions. These holiday celebrations are included with regular park admission, so there’s no expensive separately ticketed events to factor in when planning your at Universal Orlando Resort vacation. Here are the can’t-miss highlights for any holiday visit to Universal Orlando, plus all of the details you’ll need to make the most of a visit this winter.
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When Do the Holidays at Universal Orlando Start in 2023?
This year, the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort officially kick off on November 17, 2023, and go through December 31, 2023. The month-and-a-half-long celebration brings a host of activities, shows, and unique character meet-and-greets to the two Universal Orlando Resort theme parks. Each of the Universal Orlando hotels also gets fun decorations for the season.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade get all decked out for the holiday season with sparkling lights and strands of garlands. And of course, Hogwarts Castle is always in full holiday mode this time of year as well. Walking through the streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade is one of my favorite things to do during the festive season because the smell of warm butterbeer fills the air, and as night falls the lighted garland brings a warm ambiance to the park. Be sure to grab a gingerbread or peppermint-flavored treat to go along with your hot butterbeer.
As you walk through the two Harry Potter lands, you’ll be able to listen to the carols from the Frog Choir made up of Hogwarts students and their froggy friends. You might also spot Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees singing a few holiday tunes. When night descends upon the Wizarding World, gather your family at the base of Hogwarts Castle for The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. It’s a breathtaking show of holiday moments from the Harry Potter films projected onto Hogwarts Castle that plays intermittently throughout the night until the park closes. I like to watch the later showings because they’re often less crowded.
Catch a Glimpse of The Grinch at Seuss Landing
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, you can meet the Grinch at Seuss Landing. Check the Universal Orlando Resort app for exact times and meeting locations, but this is one thing I never miss when I go to Universal Orlando for the holidays. The mean green one may have a heart two sizes too small, but he loves meeting guests and making their hearts grow with joy and laughter.
Over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is a musical retelling of Dr. Seuss’ classic story featuring music by Mannheim Steamroller. All the Who’s down in Who-ville gather each day to celebrate Christmas in their own special way. Grinchy-Claus tries to use his dog Max to keep Christmas down, but the Who’s grab their pantookas to prove to the Grinch that Christmas, perhaps, means just a little bit more.
My family loves this show and the Grinch himself truly makes the performance, even if he is upstaged a bit by the live dog playing Max. After watching Grinchmas, take your time wandering through Islands of Adventure’s Seuss Landing. This land is always a bright display of primary colors, but adding the additional holiday ornamentation transforms it into a yuletide marvel.
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s Balloons at Universal Studios Florida
During Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, more than 30 fanciful balloons fly high above the streets right past their own Macy’s department store façade on Universal’s New York City-themed backlot, including a few of the iconic balloons that grace Manhattan along the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. The parade runs nightly during the holiday season, usually at 5:30 p.m., though times may be subject to change.
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Kids delight with the music, dancers, and floats laden with characters such as the Minions from Despicable Me, Penguins from Madagascar, and Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey from Shrek. Of course, the star of any holiday parade is Santa Claus, and he flies over rooftops in his sleigh to wrap-up this Universal Orlando holiday parade.
I like watching the parade in front of Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride because you get a great view of the Christmas Tree as the floats and balloons glide by. To ensure you get a good spot for the parade, arrive about 30 minutes before it’s set to start.
Holiday Tribute Store
Located in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida, the Tribute Store features immersive rooms that are themed around the Post Office. Each room is stocked with merchandise and seasonal treats to swipe up faster than the Grinch stealing presents from the Who’s. Returning this year is an entire room dedicated to Earl the Squirrel, who is one of the official mascots of Universal’s holiday celebrations.
I love trying the treats that are available inside the Tribute Store. There’s often a big glass case of them and it can be hard to decide which one to get, so I also think of one that would travel well back to the hotel or back home if it had to be in my backpack all day.
Catch a Mannheim Steamroller Concert
Some of my favorite sounds of the season come from listening to Mannheim Steamroller. This year, you can catch live performances from the band at Universal Studios Florida on December 2, 3, 9, and 10, 2023.
Universal Holiday Tour
Universal’s Holiday Tour is a VIP guided tour of both theme parks that includes meet-and-greets with the Grinch and his dog Max, a chance to see Santa, reserved seating for Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, an after-hours viewing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, light bites and drinks, and priority access to one pre-selected attraction.
The Grinch and Friends Character Breakfast
If you like to kick off your morning with a character breakfast, consider The Grinch and Friends Character Breakfast. Tickets for the breakfast are $59 per adult over 10 years old, and $33 for kids ages three to nine. The meal takes place at Confisco Grill where the Grinch and some friends from Whoville will make an appearance.
The sit-down meal has themed food and classic breakfast options and reservations are required. I would do this breakfast if you want a guaranteed meeting with the Grinch; otherwise, I would opt to wait in line during regular park hours to see him.
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