Holidays Around the Parks: Universal Orlando Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to visit the theme parks – from a decorative standpoint that is. Last time I took you on a tour of Holidays Around the World at Epcot, but today we’ve taken a short trip up I-4 to check out the holiday cheer at Universal Orlando. Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios parks have their own major attractions, with Seuss Landing transformed into Whoville, and the Macy’s Holiday Parade moving through the streets of Universal Studios. Oh, and there will be plenty of Potter along the way.

Port of Entry kicks off our holiday fun with a bit of trimming around the entry corridor – surprisingly the decorations didn’t stretch past this area (note that the holiday store has garland lining its windows year round).

Heading over into Marvel Super Hero Island, we find minimal decorations but with a theme to match the heroes within – I love the touch of adding stars to Captain America’s wreath and trees to mimic his shield. Could these purple and silver ornaments represent Thanos, or is it just my imagination?!?

With the Iron Patriot standing guard by your tree, no Grinch will steal Christmas this year!

Now as we walk through Toon Lagoon towards Jurassic Park, I cannot remember this area being decorated in the past. I did, however, encounter one of the local residents in her winter outfit.

Betty Boop braving the frigid 50-degree weather.

I must say that I was quite disappointed with the decorations in Jurassic Park this year. In years past, the trees featured dinosaur garland and ornaments, which have been replaced with bland ball ornaments. Dinosaurs are awesome, and are a thousand times cooler than anything else you could put on a tree. So here’s hoping they make a triumphant return in the future. To quote Derek Burgan’s favorite film: “never lose your dinosaur.”

This is the perfect decoration for any man cave this holiday season.

We’ve been pining for Christmas decoration in Hogsmeade for years, and finally…finally, we’ve got them. When the sun goes down, Hogwarts becomes the backdrop for a brand new projection show that brings holiday scenes to life on the Castle facade. For the lack of decorations in some areas of the park, there is no shortage of coverage throughout Hogsmeade as the storefronts and windows are lined with garland and other decorations befitting of a Scottish winter wonderland.

Last, but certainly not least, in Islands of Adventure is the yearly Grinchmas celebration in Seuss Landing. The streets are transformed into Whoville, with special appearances from the Whos, your favorite Dr. Seuss characters, and even The Grinch himself! To cap off the celebration, The Grinch stars in a live-action retelling of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, in the style of the hit film starring Jim Carrey as The Grinch.

Fun Fact: Sam I Am’s favorite blog is The Saturday Six

Get into the Wholiday spirit with the latest in Grinchwear.

The fun doesn’t end there, as we make our way over to the Studios park where we are greeted by one of the Universal’s Holiday Parade floats.

The Blues Brothers are known to rock the streets of New York during the daytime, but what you may not know is that they have a legendary Christmas-themed show during the holidays. If you’ve never watched a Blues Brothers show, then you are truly missing out on one of the best elements of streetmosphere in any park. So be sure to add this Blues Brothers Christmas show to your must-do list this holiday season.

The Blues Brothers Stage

Each holiday season, Universal’s Holiday Parade takes to the streets of Universal Studios, bringing a replica version of the iconic Macy’s Parade to the theme park audience. The New York area of the Studios is dressed for the occasion, featuring one of the largest Christmas trees I’ve ever laid eyes on.

The Macy’s facade on New York Street

Minions fans will be happy to know that they are prominently featured on the merch as well as making an appearance in the parade.

To close out this holiday trip to Universal Orlando, we’ve saved the best for last. Diagon Alley not only has tons of garland and decorations at every sight line, but it has one thing we don’t see much of in this part of the world: snow! Ok, so its the same snow we see at every theme park in town, but being in Diagon makes it a little more magical. Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees even get into the holiday spirit with a special Christmas show. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed!

Pay attention to the minor details in these decorations. The Weasley’s shop has fireworks woven in the garland, while a decomposed wreath marks the entrance to Knockturn Alley.

Celestina is dressed for her holiday show!

Hogwarts house colors are represented in the ornaments on the Quidditch shop.

As we leave the Studios, we’ll walk through the Central Park area where icicles hang from the trees. A simple design, but it makes for neat photos in the evenings. That is all from Universal Orlando. Next time we will be back with a special look at the gingerbread houses from around Walt Disney World, as well as the other parks we’ve yet to cover.

Brandon Glover

Brandon is an adventure seeking photographer, known for his numerous collaborations with author Derek Burgan on the Saturday Six and other theme park related projects.