In today’s post, Seth Kubersky, author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, talks to us about Grinchmas, Christmas in The Wizarding World, and Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s.
Universal Orlando holidays might not have quite the nostalgic lure of Mickey’s merrymaking, but its options are every bit as expertly produced and have the benefit of being included with regular park admission (unlike the extra-cost hard-ticket nighttime parties at the Magic Kingdom).
Universal Studios Florida’s holiday festivities feature seasonal decorations on the front archway and throughout the park, holiday songs broadcasting from speakers in the streets, and a giant tree that is ceremoniously lit every evening at sunset.
Several park attractions, such as The Blues Brothers Show, get into the spirit with special versions tied to the season.
The show, featuring songs such as “Blue Christmas” and “Run Rudolph Run,” sung around a festive tree festooned with beer cans and cigarette packs, is even better than the regular show.
New in 2017: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Gets a Christmas Layover
Universal celebrates the holidays Harry Potter–style with Christmas in The Wizarding World. Diagon Alley’s streets and shops are adorned with holiday decor, and seasonal snacks are served inside the Leaky Cauldron.
Even Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees get into the holiday spirit with songs such as “Nothing Like a Holiday Spell” and “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas.”
As part of the Christmas in The Wizarding World event, the castle at Hogsmeade comes to life with colorful spells and magical creatures. The show repeats every 20 minutes from 6 p.m. until park closing. Be aware that Hogsmeade’s streets become very crowded, especially before the first three shows.
But the star of the holidays at Universal Studios is undoubtedly Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s. Universal Studios Florida has been bringing elements of Macy’s famous New York parade down to Orlando for more than a decade.
For 2017, Universal renamed and revamped the procession, adding elaborate new floats featuring characters from Shrek, Madagascar, and Despicable Me. But Macy’s balloons are still a big part of the fun.
Universal’s Holiday Parade begins each evening at 5:30 p.m. (November 18th through 28th, November 30th through December 5th, and December 8th though 17th; on all other days, the parade starts at 8 p.m. Check the show schedule in your park map.
Starting at the Horror Make-Up Show, the parade continues down Hollywood Boulevard toward the park entrance, travels past Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D toward New York, and then turns near Revenge of the Mummy and again past Transformers, exiting through the gate it originally entered.
You can get a good view of the parade from anywhere along the route, but ideal viewing spots are near Mel’s Drive-In at the beginning of the route and near the large tree in New York toward the end. Reserved viewing areas are marked on the park map for guests with disabilities (in front of Macy’s in New York), for annual pass holders (near Mel’s Drive-In), and for young Little Stars and their families (near Hollywood’s Brown Derby).
After the parade on select nights, Universal Studios Florida’s Music Plaza Stage hosts live concerts by Mannheim Steamroller. The electrified orchestra usually performs its amped-up holiday classics on the first two Saturdays and Sundays of the season. These shows can be popular, so arrive at least 45 minutes early if you want a close-up view.
Seuss Landing is Grinchmas Central
You’ll find Christmas decor throughout Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry, and Hogsmeade now celebrates Christmas in The Wizarding World with festive ornamentation, holiday treats, and a spectacular light show on Hogwarts Castle.
But the epicenter of the holiday at Islands of Adventure is obviously Seuss Landing. The star, naturally, is the Grinch, the iconic icky-green grump who famously stole Christmas from the Whos, only to return it when his undersize heart finally grew.
The Grinch is normally represented in the park by a masked representation of the cartoon character, but during Grinchmas, a speaking actor wearing professional prosthetic makeup impersonates Jim Carrey’s live-action film incarnation.
The Grinch meets and greets guests during the day inside the All the Books You Can Read store; he takes time to interact before each photograph, usually to hilarious effect, which results in a very slow-moving line. If meeting the Grinch is a priority, make this your first stop in the morning.
In addition to greeting guests, the Grinch stars in his own Grinchmas Who-Liday Spectacular, a 30-minute musical performed six to eight times each day inside a soundstage located behind Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous.
The show, which blends the original book and cartoon with elements from the Carrey flick and musical accompaniment arranged by Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller, is a must-see for Grinch fans. It features a first-rate cast (some of whom have appeared on Broadway), expansive set, and even an appearance by a live canine as the Grinch’s faithful pet, Max.
Showtimes are listed in the park map. Performances fill to capacity early on busy days, so arrive a minimum of 30–45 minutes before showtime.
After the show, the stars of Grinchmas Who-Liday Spectacular walk around Seuss Landing inviting guests to decorate the land.
A Grinch character breakfast is held in Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous on select mornings during December. It costs $35 for adults, $21 for kids ages 9 and under. Theme park admission is required.