Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas Time

categories: USA Travel

December at Universal

If you have the flexibility to visit Universal in early December it is a great time to go. We were in town because my wife had a work conference in the Orlando area. We visited the park on both a Sunday and a Monday. Even on a weekend, the crowds were not that bad, and on a weekday I just walked onto some of the rides without waiting.

But better yet, the parks (Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure) are decorated for Christmas. So even after school gets out and the crowds swell, your visit will be more festive.

Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas
I know it might be more politically correct to say it was decorated for the holidays, but I saw a number of Christmas trees and no evidence of decorations for Festivus, Hanukkah, or Yule. The park’s sound system was playing Christmas Carols, even if the religious carols were only playing instrumental versions. So I will stick with “Christmas” for most of this article.

The weather in December is cooler than the hot Florida summer. I for one, generally like the cooler weather, but you will need to dress in layers. At the beginning and end of the day, we needed a sweatshirt or jacket but in the heat of the day, it was pleasant shirtsleeve weather.

Bilge Rat Barges - Universal's Islands of Adventure
The only downside to the cooler weather is that the 3 water rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure are more appealing on a hot muggy summer day and the water park, Universal’s Volcano Bay, may close if the temperature gets too cold. Save the water rides for the middle of the day when the weather is warmer or bring or purchase a poncho. Be aware tat the park does have human drying stations near every water ride ($5).

Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas

Universal Studios Orlando is composed of 8 different neighborhoods and all 8 were not equally festive for the holidays. Much of the Christmas decorations were centered in the New York and Hollywood neighborhoods.

There was a big Christmas tree in the park in front of Macy’s in the New York neighborhood where I ran into Marilyn Monroe and some other starlets singing holiday tunes. This neighborhood is, after all, not the 21st century New York, but the 1950s version.

The holiday parade route circles New York and Hollywood. The parade features Macys and Santa but there are more minions than elves in this parade, because… this is Universal.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also decked out for Christmas with decorations along Diagon Alley. There are wrapped presents among the luggage awaiting the Hogwarts Express.

This year the park is hosting live concerts with Mannheim Steamroller, the “best selling holiday artist of all time.” I was unaware of their Noel notoriety, although I think I do own 2 of their Christmas CDs.

Mannheim Steamroller at Universal Studios Orlando

Christmas at Islands of Adventure

The decorations in Universal’s Islands of Adventure are mostly limited to two neighborhoods: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Suess Landing, but these two have pulled out all the stops.

In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade is festooned with snow and decorations. This was, after all, where young wizards who stayed at Hogwarts over the holiday break would celebrate Christmas.

The real gift isn’t opened until dusk when a light show lights up Hogwarts with “The Magic of Christmas” light show. Every 20 minutes from dusk until the park closes the castle overflows with revelers (including some of its famous ghosts), lights and fireworks. The brilliant thing about this show is that if you fail to get a great place to see it, just wait about 10 minutes from the end of one show and another one will begin.

Seuss Landing is covered in decorations because you know how much those Whos love the holiday. There are even signs with the lyrics to the song that the Whos sang at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores
Welcome Christmas Come this way
Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
Christmas day is in our grasp,
So long as we have hands to clasp

This is useful as it will prepare you for the Grinchmas show.
Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure
If you are a fan of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then make sure you take in a live performance of the Grinchmas celebration. The show actually takes place in one of the big studios in Universal Studios’ Production Central but can only be accessed through Seuss Landing.

The production features some of your favorite songs and some new numbers as well. If you don’t leave singing then I fear that maybe your shoes are too tight or your heart may be two sizes too small.


All your favorite rides are of course also still there, so make your plans to visit this holiday season or a future one. Thank you to Universal’s PR team that provided me with tickets to the park.

We did not stay in the park but at the Buena Vista Suites. But this is Orlando, there are many good hotel options in Orlando including hotels closer to Universal Studios.

Buy your Universal tickets in advance and save money.

Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas Time Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas Time

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

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