The Holidays at Universal Orlando 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 all being included with regular park admission (unlike the extra-cost hard-ticket nighttime parties at the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The Christmas celebrations are in full swing at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, and The Unofficial Guides team brings you the latest of the festivities running now through December 31.
Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
Muggles and witches alike celebrate Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where decorations are elegant and inspired by the stores.
Be on the lookout for fireworks in the garlands at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a wreath decorated with balls of yarn at Spindlewarps, and feathers woven into the wreath at the Owl Post.
The Yuletide program of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees (Universal Studios Florida) is a must. Celestina performs songs from her Christmas Album Nothing Like a Holiday Spell, and nothing beats the super hit “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas.”
At Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure), enjoy the Frog Choir, which has been practicing seasonal tunes, including one that tells the story of what happens when you cast a spell on Father Christmas.
The Magic of Christmas projection mapping is displayed on Hogwarts Castle, which is shown every 20 minutes after sunset until closing.
Yuletide touches at Universal Studios Florida include 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.
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s is no doubt the star of Christmas festivities at Universal Studios Orlando. Held nightly, the parade brings elements of Macy’s famous New York City spectacle down to Orlando.
Universal Studios Florida has been bringing elements of Macy’s famous parade down to Orlando for a post-Thanksgiving encore every year for more than two decades.
The parade includes floats, giant balloons, marching bands, over 100 dancers, stilt walkers, and, of course, Santa Claus in his sleigh. Macy’s balloons are still a big part of the fun: while the largest balloons you’ve seen sailing through Manhattan on TV can’t make it down the narrower streets of USF, several of the smaller ones are paraded along the route.
Universal’s Holiday Parade begins each evening around 5 p.m. (subject to change; check the show schedule in the smartphone app) near the Horror Make-Up Show, continues down Hollywood Boulevard toward the park entrance, travels past Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Music Plaza 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 the most 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 also available for guests with disabilities (in front of Macy’s in New York), for annual passholders (near Mel’s Drive-In), and for young Little Stars and their families (near Hollywood’s Brown Derby).
If you’ve always fantasized about guiding a giant inflatable animal down Fifth Avenue, you can volunteer to participate in the parade as a balloon handler for free. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, at least 48 inches tall and 125 pounds, English-speaking, and able to walk the mile-long route for up to an hour. Sign-up is held daily two hours before the parade starts near Animal Actors. A limited number of spots are available for guests each day, and you’ll have to sign a waiver to participate.
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 in December. These shows can be popular, so arrive at least 45 minutes early if you want a close-up view.
Don’t miss the Holiday Tribute Store!
Over at Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure doesn’t host nearly as many special events throughout the year as Universal Studios Florida, but the one it has is first-rate and included with standard admission.
You’ll find Christmas decor throughout Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry, 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 undersized heart finally grew.
The Grinch is usually 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 a Seuss Landing; he takes time to interact before each photograph, usually to hilarious effect, which results in a very slow-moving line. You’ll find the Grinch ready to spread his merry mischief at Honk Honkers, located at the rear of Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure.
You don’t need to pay extra to interact with the Grinch or the friendly citizens of Whoville, who may be found roaming Seuss Landing throughout the day.
In addition to greeting guests, the Grinch stars in his own Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, a 30-minute musical performed six to eight times each day inside the former Blue Man Group theater between IOA and USF. Access to the venue is via a pathway behind Circus McGurkus. The large theater provides ample comfortable seating with good sightlines, but arrive early if you want to ensure a seat up front.
The show, which blends the original book and cartoon with elements from the 2000 live-action 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), an expansive set, and even an appearance by a live canine as the Grinch’s faithful pet, Max.
Showtimes are listed in the Universal app and typically begin between 10:45 a.m. and noon and continue until around 6 p.m. Line up near the One Fish, Two Fish ride a minimum of 30–45 minutes before showtime, as performances fill to capacity early on busy days. You will be directed to a seat once inside, but the venue is shallow enough that even the back row has an acceptable view.
Special Events at Universal Orlando
With Universal’s Holiday Tour, you can see the season come to life with Grinch greetings, reserved show seating, tasty food, an after-hours showing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, and much more. The tour starts at $99 (plus tax) and takes place on select dates from November 19th through December 30th.
If you cannot get enough of the mischievous Grinch, you can join him for a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast at Confisco Grille on select days from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. during December. The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast is a lot of fun. The Grinch stops at every table to pose for photos. Just watch your food, as the Grinch is known for stealing not only presents but also, believe it or not, bacon.
The breakfast costs $58.99 (plus tax) for adults and $32.99 (plus tax) for kids ages 9 and under. Breakfast with the Grinch is available on select dates, November 17th through December 27th. It is very popular, and you must reserve it long in advance. Reservations can be made by calling 407-224-3663.
As with all special ticketed events, separate theme park admission is required. For reservations to either one of the events, click here.
You can, however, try Green Eggs and Ham and Who Hash at the Green Eggs and Ham food stand in Seuss Landing. This food stand is open daily during park hours, but times may vary.
Both parks have lots of seasonal treats, such as cookies, cupcakes, roasted turkey, and seasonal cocktails; hot butterbeer is the hit at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The stores at Universal Studios have a vast selection of holiday decorations, including Harry Potter-themed Christmas tree ornaments.
In addition to the Tribute Store, there are plenty of gifts to choose from in the stores at both parks.
If you enjoy scavenger hunts, you can purchase the Holiday Tree Hunt brochure ($13 plus tax) and enjoy a fun search locating themed trees across Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Universal CityWalk, and receive a special Holiday ornament.
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Threads, X, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.