The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Celebrating the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

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There’s nothing like the holidays at Universal Orlando. I’ve been going to Orlando on family vacations, girl getaways, trips with SVVs and long weekends with friends. I’ve been for Mardi Gras, for Halloween Horror Nights, for the opening of a brand-new water park, for summer vacation and in the dead of the winter. And I’d even been for Christmas before, but nothing tops Universal’s new holiday experience.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

This year’s Holidays at Universal Resort launched on Nov. 18 and runs through Jan. 6, meaning you have plenty of time to factor it into your end-of-year plans!

As part of my Blog Squad duties (tough job, I tell you!), I spent this past weekend at the holidays opening with SVV and a number of my favorite traveling bloggers. In the spirit of research, I rode all the rides, tasted all the hot butterbeer and racked up tips for how you can get your holiday cheer on at Orlando’s best theme parks.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Just like you wouldn’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, you can’t visit Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure without apparating to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s not just my favorite part of the parks, it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. (I’m pretty sure my patronus is not actually an animal, but a butterbeer.)

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays

But aside from all its normal offerings—rides, pumpkin juice, mandrakes and more—Wizarding World in both parks absolutely comes alive for the holidays, with garland, decor and magic aplenty, and also a couple of specialty shows.

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

In Diagon Alley, Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees take their usual performance and add a festive twist with original numbers from her award-winning Nothin’ Like A Holiday Spell album (you may have heard of it) such as “Accio Christmas” (which I guarantee you’ll go home singing) and “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas” (I could only be so lucky to find one under the tree!).

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley
Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

Meanwhile, over in Hogsmeade Village, the famed Frog Choir has their own Christmas routine that they perform several times a day with a handful of their own holiday hits.

Pro tip: Arrive for one of their final performances and then nab your spot in front of the Castle for the nighttime The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle lights and fireworks display that starts at dusk and goes every 20 minutes. You’d be wise to arrive well before 5pm as crowds start forming early, and park employees rope off the area both from the entrance near Jurassic Park and the access point in front of Ollivander’s.
The Holidays at Diagon Alley

We didn’t actually make it up to the castle due to the crowds so we made our base near the entrance to the Hogwarts Express instead and climbed a couple steps to see as much as we could see.

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

And, my favorite part, of course, is the food: There’s a twist on the regular butterbeer options! On top of regular, frozen and ice cream versions, you can now order hot butterbeer for the holidays, and it’s positively delightful!

Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s

By far, the coolest part of the new holiday experience is the addition of a Macy’s-esque parade, complete with floats depicting many of your favorite Universal characters. There’s Gingerbread Man! There’s Donkey! There are MINIONS!

Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

And many of their cast members ride the floats below the towering balloons. The parade starts daily at 5:30pm, but I recommend getting there at 4pm to get your spot. Rachelle and I claimed real estate right in front of the Mummy, and several other Blog Squadders got some awesome shots from the end of Hollywood Boulevard.

Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley
Universal Holiday Performance at Diagon Alley

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Seuss Landing & Grinchmas

I love taking a stroll through Seuss Landing any time of year, but especially when it puts on its Christmas best. Seven years ago, my mom, sister and I drove down to Orlando from Tennessee to do the holidays at UOR with Angie and Rachel, so I’d already checked seeing The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular at Universal’s Islands of Adventure off my list.

Seuss Landing at Universal Orlando for the Holidays

But for every Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small, who has never seen the live retelling of the famed book before, it’s a spectacle worth witnessing! There are also Whos roaming about Seuss Landing and even an opportunity to mingle with the Grinch and his two sizes-too-small heart while you’re there.

Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays
Universal Studios at the Holidays

If you’re a huge fan of the green meanie, you can join him for The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast  in Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous (price: $35 for adults, $21 for children).

Seuss Landing at Universal during the Holidays

Mannheim Steamroller Concert

If you happen to be visiting Universal Nov. 25 or 26 or Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 or 17, you’re in luck! You can watch Mannheim Steamroller take the stage on the Music Plaza Stage for a set that’s bound to put you in the holiday spirit.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Visiting Universal during the Holidays

No matter what time of the year you go, you want to avoid peak times, like weekends (duh), but also Thanksgiving and Christmas. Try to time it perfectly so you visit 1) on a weekday and 2) right before most schools get out for the holidays, and you’ll sail through the lines. The downside is that if you want to see Mannheim Streamroller, their concerts are only on Saturday and Sunday nights.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

You want to stay at the parks to minimize your time spent in transit and maximize your time in the parks. If you stay at any of the on-site properties, you’ll get early admission (i.e. an hour of park time all to yourself before the park plebeians flood the gates!), and several of them also include an Express Pass in your stay. Personally, I’d choose the Hard Rock Hotel as it has the easiest access to the parks; you can walk to the entrance instead of relying on the water taxi.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

What It Costs

Park admission for Universal Orlando Resort is $110 for one day in one park or $165 for park-to-park. If you buy multiple days, the cost per day goes down (e.g. a two-park ticket for four days runs $72 a day). Outside of the Grinch character breakfast, all other holiday attractions are included in the price of the ticket. And now through Nov. 27, you can get 25 percent off for Black Friday. Florida residents always get special deals with a valid ID.

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

For more Universal Orlando Resort travel tips, see related posts:

The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

This blog post is part of my Blog Squad partnership with Universal Orlando Resort. All opinions are my own.

 

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The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort
The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort
The Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort
COMMENTS
  • November 22, 2017
    Diana

    These photos are AMAZING!

    • November 30, 2017

      Y’all need to go for Thanksgiving one year!!!

  • November 23, 2017

    Aww! I just adore amusement parks. And I’m quite the nerd. I used to go to Disneyland Paris all the time, and that was way before our son was even born! I took him to Disneyland Paris when he was 5, and even though his eyes were huge, I was more excited than he was!

    We’ve also been to Amusement Parks in the US and they’re awesome, but far more expensive than they are in Europe! We recently went to Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, and can you believe that I went to the real Diagon Alley, which is actually in York – the real York – in Yorkshire!

    I’d love to go to Orlando one of these days, and then it would be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for me!

    • December 6, 2017

      We used to go to Disney World 1-2 a year my entire upbringing! I took my nieces there two years ago, though, and it just doesn’t hold the same magic for me anymore. But Universal does! It’s very much “the big kids'” theme park 😉

      Have you done the HP studio tour in London yet?

  • November 23, 2017

    OMG this is so much fun!! I would love to visit Universal during the holidays! Thanks for the Black Friday tip too!

    • December 10, 2017

      No problem, Julie! Hope you get to make it happen =)

  • November 23, 2017

    Wonderful advice! Absolutely spectacular information and beautiful photos. I never would have thought about trying to get tickets and such on sale during Black Friday and definitely the timing of the trip. Planning it before schools get out for break and skipping all those potential lines is a phenomenal idea! I didn’t quite realize how much changes came around there during the holidays, and can’t wait to go see it someday!

    • December 10, 2017

      I actually had NO idea UOR even did Black Friday sale until I was poking around their site for info!

  • November 23, 2017

    This post is so awesome, it made me want to jump out of bed and rip off my hip brace (did I mention that I just got out of surgery?) and get to Universal Orlando.
    I’ve been to the LA version but the Harry Potter part of Orlando Universal seems so much bigger. Plus I could also drink butterbeer for the rest of my life.

    • December 10, 2017

      Oh no, Katherine! Hope you’re recovering well post-surgery.

      Yes, Wizarding World at Orlando is MUCH bigger and definitely a sight to see, Christmas or not!

  • November 23, 2017

    You’re photos look so full of life and so fun! I’ve never been to Orlando Universal, but Harry Potter land being part of it definitely makes it tempting to go. I went to LA Universal Studios, but it was during the time that the Harry Potter part was under construction! 🙁 *tear* Hopefully I’ll be able to go to the Orlando version someday! I enjoyed reading your post! 😊

    • December 10, 2017

      Oh, bummer! Well, the Orlando WWoHP park is bigger and better, so maybe it’s for the best that you’ll (hopefully) have your first Universal experience there 😉

  • November 24, 2017

    My DREAM is to spend Christmas at Disney and Universal. I’m super jealous you got to go. This is definitely inspiration I need.

    • December 10, 2017

      Do it, Elaisha! I’ve never been on Christmas day, but I bet it’s an experience worth having!

  • November 24, 2017

    My family used to go to Orlando around Christmas time, but it got so crazy crowded over the years! Maybe Thanksgiving would be a better time to go.

    • December 10, 2017

      Pro tip: I’ve now been the weekend before Christmas prior to the schools all being out AND the Sunday/Monday before Thanksgiving, and both were relatively low in crowds. So I think the key is to get in right before the masses arrive.

  • November 24, 2017

    I’m not really big on theme parks, but my inner Harry Potter fan would totally love to visit the Wizarding World.

    • December 10, 2017

      Oh girl, you must. Anyone who is in love with the movies or the books will just be in awe of the level of detail they weave through both parks.

  • November 24, 2017

    Your photos are gonna make me cry! I’ve been wanting to visit Universal Studios for Harry Potter since forever. But for this Christmas I made a last minute decision to book a trip to Shanghai Disneyland instead 🙁 Now, I really wish I hadn’t! Such amazing photos!

    • December 10, 2017

      I’m sure Shanghai Disney was a blast, as well! Maybe next year, Universal Orlando can be your Christmas gift to yourself =)

  • November 24, 2017

    Incredible post! I love Christmas but have never thought of going to Orlando, in fact I am still yet to go to Orlando. I’ve been wanting to go for years and as I am such a Harry Potter fan your video how made me rethink my Nashville and New England trips next year.

    • December 10, 2017

      Oh, well you DEFINITELY need to come to Nashville (I may be biased there…). But the good news is you can always see Harry Potter Christmas next winter if you don’t make it there this =)

  • December 2, 2017

    The WWHP looks delightful all decked out for Christmas but you had me at hot butterbeer!

    • December 10, 2017

      There’s only one possible way they could have made the hot butterbeer even tastier—add a dash of bourbon! 😉

  • December 2, 2017

    I really want to head to Orlando, we are in the middle of planning a trip there, but I might push it back until next year, so I can experience a white Christmas in New York, and Universal over the festive season

    • December 10, 2017

      That sounds like a fun way to do the holidays! And yes, Universal isn’t going anywhere—put it on your radar for 2018 😉

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