Universal Studios

Christmas Magic at Universal Orlando

While Disney may do everything on a grand scale, the have some competition with this year’s Christmas celebrations at Universal Orlando. With plenty of free events to check out, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The Decorations:IMG_1807

Universal only fully decorates certain sections of their parks for the holidays. There are three main sections to look for. At Universal Studios, the New York section is all lights and garland. With a massive tree at the entrance, this region is all Christmas from the second you enter.

If you’re looking for an overload of Christmas cheer, Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure is the place for you. It’s all decked out for Grinchmas in the most Seuss-inspired style possible. Every inch of this area is a Christmas overload.

For a special treat, Universal has finally started decorating Harry Potter World for the holidays. As a massive Harry Potter fan, I was naturally most excited for Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I was not disappointed. Every decoration has a naturalistic look with details about the shop that they’re on. Each building has different decorations and different greenery. If you know the books or movies, you’ll appreciate this section’s extreme detail.


I didn’t see much change with Universal’s merchandise or store layouts. Many regions that didn’t have decorations had trees lining the entrances to popular shops with a holiday t-shirt at the front of each store. Seuss Landing went wild with decorating stores, and even restaurants. Their merch remained the same as they showcase the Grinch year-round. Other than ornaments being added to the main display at IoA’s conglomerate store, the Harry Potter sections remained untouched with holiday goodies. If you’re looking for a wonderland of holiday merchandise, check out each park’s Christmas shops.

The Shows:

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Universal offers a wide variety of holiday events for no added cost. At Studios, they have a Macy’s Day Parade that takes to the streets around 6pm. While it is a lot better than their usual parade, this just doesn’t compare to Disney. If you’re tired of walking and want to relax for a few minutes, this might be your speed. Studios has also themed their smaller performances, like Blues Brothers and the Diagon Alley singing show, to have Christmas tunes.

Islands of Adventure is where all of the action happens. Seuss Landing has Grinchmas every year. It’s a cute show with indoor seating. If you can brave the wait, you’ll be watching an adorable musical in cool air conditioning. The main event of the night is The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts, a Harry Potter light show. Projected on the castle every few minutes once the sun goes down, there are several showings to catch before you call it a day. Trust me, this is the one event you don’t want to miss.


Everyone is ridiculously excited for The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts show. The more crowded you notice Hogsmeade is getting, the shorter the wait time is for Skull Island: Reign of Kong. If you watch a later showing of the light show and head over to Kong, you could be welcomed with a 10-minute wait time. Believe me, that’s rare for this ride.

Catching a later showing of the Harry Potter show could help you in more ways than one. Since the parks are closing ridiculously early, 7 pm, you can avoid a big chunk of traffic if you leave around 6:45 or at 7 since everyone tends to leave after the light show. You may also miss some of the crowding. Hogsmeade is packed during this show so staying toward the back/middle of the crowd will give you an easy escape rather than being pushed to the front.

Universal outdid themselves with the sections they did decide to decorate. While it’s unfortunate that you only have about an hour to fully appreciate them once the sun goes down, they went all out where they could.


My Three Must Rides at Universal Studios

Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando is known for being packed with thrilling rides around every corner, but Universal Studios has some incredible rides as well. Studios is a bit roomier than its neighbor and has more nooks to explore making it a more relaxing experience. While it’s a refreshing park, it does have amazing rides to get your adrenaline pumping. Obviously, I recommend every ride in this park because “when in Rome,” right? However, there are some stand out attractions that I think you need to make time to experience before your trip to Studios is over.

The first ride on my list that you’ll come across is Revenge of the Mummy. This is an indoor roller coaster based on the film series The Mummy. I was quite worried when the new movie was released that they would re-do the ride’s theming, luckily, I don’t think Brendan Fraser is going anywhere. I say “luckily” because this ride is one of my favorite rides in Orlando. It’s an indoor coaster that takes you through real sets as you escape Imhotep. The theming for the ride is immersive, the queue is perfectly creepy (and air conditioned), and the coaster itself is a blast. It’s a simple ride that’s easy to enjoy. If you don’t like the Florida heat, don’t like screen rides, and aren’t too jazzed about riding a coaster as big as Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, this is the perfect ride for you.

The next ride on my list is one I don’t think anyone would skip. Just in case you’re on the fence about it, you need to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Potterheads and muggles alike will enjoy this ride. It’s a 3-D ride that spins you, lifts you, and even drops you. It has some physical elements that are impressively massive and the videos that you watch are impressively realistic looking. I would like to include a disclaimer about this ride, if you’re lucky enough to be placed in the front cart, you’re in for a real treat. If you’re placed in the second cart however, your experience won’t be as incredible. It’s an unfortunate design flaw that takes away the immersive magic that this ride offers. I still highly recommend this ride to anyone visiting the parks. It really is magical. Both this ride and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are groundbreaking rides that I think are both enjoyable as well as uniquely impressive. Both have incredible queues, amazing theming, and are just a good time. Even if you don’t like Harry Potter, you’ll be blown away by the detail and you’ll have no choice but to crack a smile.

Hidden in the back of the park is the ride for all people seeking a relaxing break from the heat without having to lock up your belongings for a thrill ride. E.T. Adventure is one of the cutest and most relaxing rides in the park. You start in an outdoor waiting area and are ushered into three small standing theatres where you get a special mission from none other than Steven Spielberg. After giving your name to an attendant, you enter a forest with the most satisfying smell anywhere. Seriously, I’d wait in line for an hour just for the smell. You then get on bikes and help return E.T. to his funky home planet. If you’re lucky, E.T. will even say your name as he thanks you for helping him. This is a relaxing indoor ride for everyone in the family to enjoy. It may seem a bit outdated but the nostalgia you’ll feel will make up for it. It’s a classic Studios ride worth the hike to the back of the park.

Unlike my Must Rides at Islands of Adventure, I do know which ones I like most. Revenge of the Mummy is hands down my favorite ride in this park. I ride is every single time I go to Studios.  It’s a great thrill ride and I hope to see its style copied in the new Fast and Furious ride. My second favorite is E.T. Adventure. I have a soft spot for this ride and when I’m lucky enough to sit in the front row, I’m actually giddy over it. Because of the design flaw in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, this ranks as my third favorite. It’s a great ride that is worth braving the line for, but maybe head there as soon as the park opens so you can make the most of your day.

Much like my previous Universal Must Rides post, I struggled to pick these three since I have multiple favorites. So to be fair I have to give Men in Black: Alien Attack an honorable mention. This is an arcade style game that whirls you around as you try to protect the planet from an alien invasion. This ride honestly could replace Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts as a favorite for me but I’ve ridden this ride so many times that the excitement is wearing off. I think if you’ve never ridden this ride, it will most definitely be a favorite of yours. While I say I’ve over-ridden it, I still ride it almost every time I’m there. It’s just a fun ride.

Well those are my must rides for Universal Studios in Orlando. If you have any questions on rides for a vacation, staycation or a spontaneous day trip, ask away! If you have different opinions on these rides or have a different set of favorites, I’d love to hear them. Any info you’d like me to discuss on Orlando theme parks, leave me a suggestion. See you next time!