Universal during Christmastime - tips and must dos?

Smugpugmug

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 3, 2022
Hi everyone!

My family and I booked a last minute trip to WDW for Christmas/New Years since my sister and I were able to get time off from work that week. We decided to skip Hollywood Studios and do a day at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure instead (I vouched for doing 2 days but was outvoted). We will be there from December 24th-January 1st with our Universal day on December 29th. None of us have ever been to Universal during Christmas and I was wondering what were some absolute must do shows/events/food/drinks/etc. that are only around during the holidays.

I am aware that there is a Grinchmas show - is that worth seeing if you only have 1 day? How about the parade in Studios? Do any rides get overlays for the holidays? Do the Wizarding World sections do anything special? Are there any exclusive food/alcoholic beverages that we should try?

We bought tickets from The Park Prodigy since they are advertising early entry as a perk so we will be able to enter the park early despite not being hotel guests. How early would we have to be there to have a reasonable Hagrid's wait (70 mins and under). Or should we just do Velocicoaster since we have to drive from our resort (AKL Kidani) to Universal? If it matters we do plan on getting the Express Passes. We know how insane WDW crowds are during this time of year and expect similar for Universal.

One more question - I was reading that the parks will close due to reaching maximum capacity. We plan on being early so we aren't concerned with being locked out but would we be able to reenter the park later in the day? For example, if we enter Islands and then take the Hogwarts Express to Studios, would we be able to leave Studios and then reenter Islands?

Thank you for any advice and sorry for all of the questions. Just a little bit overwhelmed since my family and I aren't Universal experts and especially since we have only went in May and July.
 

georgina

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
I have not been that week. My understanding of capacity is that both parks are considered one entity, it is not like they close IOA for capacity but not US. You should be able to take the train between and there is sometimes a walkway within the parks so you don't have to leave and reenter.

I would probably grab coffee and pastries and get in line an hour before EE starts to be on Hagrid's quickly. That's me thinking really busy week, but no actual experience. I go a half hour early during less busy times.

Wizarding World holidays - the Frog Choir in Hogsmeade does carols, Celestina Warbeck in Diagon Alley does holiday songs, neither of which is a must-do for me. They do a short holiday projection show on the castle, nice but I hesitate to tell anyone what they must see. Can probably find it on YouTube.

I love the Grinchmas show, always end up with a few tears. They moved it to a bigger theater last year but we still lined up a half hour before. Your busy week might require more time. Meeting the Grinch is also a hoot but will require waiting in line. You need to decide what your priorities are - rides or some of the holiday stuff. To me the Grinchmas show is #1, the parade 2nd.

If you watch the parade you have to be careful where you stand to see it. We got trapped trying to get to Diagon Alley afterwards and had to follow the parade all the way around fighting through the crowds.

Both Orlando Informer website and undercover tourist has lots of information on holiday things. I have been several times in Nov/Dec and can't think of any ride overlays. There were some fancy cupcakes in the tribute store but I don't pay attention to special food or drinks.
 
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Smugpugmug

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 3, 2022
I have not been that week. My understanding of capacity is that both parks are considered one entity, it is not like they close IOA for capacity but not US. You should be able to take the train between and there is sometimes a walkway within the parks so you don't have to leave and reenter.

I would probably grab coffee and pastries and get in line an hour before EE starts to be on Hagrid's quickly. That's me thinking really busy week, but no actual experience. I go a half hour early during less busy times.

Wizarding World holidays - the Frog Choir in Hogsmeade does carols, Celestina Warbeck in Diagon Alley does holiday songs, neither of which is a must-do for me. They do a short holiday projection show on the castle, nice but I hesitate to tell anyone what they must see. Can probably find it on YouTube.

I love the Grinchmas show, always end up with a few tears. They moved it to a bigger theater last year but we still lined up a half hour before. Your busy week might require more time. Meeting the Grinch is also a hoot but will require waiting in line. You need to decide what your priorities are - rides or some of the holiday stuff.

If you watch the parade you have to be careful where you stand to see it. We got trapped trying to get to Diagon Alley afterwards and had to follow the parade all the way around fighting through the crowds.

Both Orlando Informer website and undercover tourist has lots of information on holiday things. I have been several times in Nov/Dec and can't think of any ride overlays. There were some fancy cupcakes in the tribute store but I don't pay attention to special food or drinks.
Thank you for the tips! I didn't know about the walkway. I was concerned that we would not be able to reenter Islands if we were not able to do Hagrid's and wanted to get on line in the evening.

Yeah we are 100% fully expecting it to be insanely busy, which is why we are getting the Express Passes as well. I'm not sure how to broach the topic of potentially having to leave our hotel super early depending on when early entry is.

Good to know about the Wizarding World and Grinchmas. None of us are humongeous Harry Potter fans but we do love when theme parks are decorated for Christmas so we'll most likely walk by and look rather than watch the shows or anything. I will be telling my family about Grinchmas. It sounds like something I know they will like.

Our priorities are mostly rides with the big ones being Velocicoaster and Hagrid's since my family has never ridden them but I know that we will want to at least watch Grinchmas. From what I've read online, it's not just an average theme park stage show but rather an entire performance.

I'm not sure yet if we'll watch the parade or use that time for rides. I'm fine with skipping it but my family might want to see it. But thanks for the tip about that.
 

Jonfw2

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 23, 2019
My best advice is patience. We were there Christmas week pre Covid. It was body to body in several areas, specifically around Hogwarts.

But if they are doing the Christmas projection show this year it’s well worth the trouble.
 

Smugpugmug

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 3, 2022
My best advice is patience. We were there Christmas week pre Covid. It was body to body in several areas, specifically around Hogwarts.

But if they are doing the Christmas projection show this year it’s well worth the trouble.
Yeah we are fully expecting it to be insane. We've done Epcot on New Year's eve and it was the exact same. It's why we're skipping theme parks on Christmas day and New Year's eve and staying at our resort pool (on Christmas we're staying at Beach Club so yay!!)

How often does the projection show happen? Is it at set times or is it like every 15-20 minutes?
 

Jonfw2

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 23, 2019
Yeah we are fully expecting it to be insane. We've done Epcot on New Year's eve and it was the exact same. It's why we're skipping theme parks on Christmas day and New Year's eve and staying at our resort pool (on Christmas we're staying at Beach Club so yay!!)

How often does the projection show happen? Is it at set times or is it like every 15-20 minutes?
When I was there it ran regularly all evening. They only paused long enough to get a group out and get the next one in. Despite the massive crowd, it was pretty efficient.
 

maverik85

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 27, 2016
If you enjoy parades I definitely recommend the Christmas parade. It has some great floats in it. Grinchmas was a lot of fun too. Definitely recommend both.

Don't recall any specific must try holiday foods or drinks but they do have a decent selection available in CityWalk and the tribute store. Which the Tribute Store itself would be another highly recommended thing to walkthrough. It changes each year and is really well decorated and very cool to see.

Ridewise, in addition to Hagrid's and Velocicoaster, I highly recommend Spider-Man (Transformers is also the same system), Mummy, and Gringott's. Forbidden Journey is a really cool ride with a great queue through Hogwarts but if you don't really care about Harry Potter it probably won't be as big of a thing for you and if you are prone to motion sickness it is an intense one for that. Great ride to do if you can though as well.

Not a must do, but if you have time, the Seuss Trolley Train ride is fun at night as it gives a great view of the decorations around Seuss Landing and across Islands of Adventure.
 

Smugpugmug

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 3, 2022
If you enjoy parades I definitely recommend the Christmas parade. It has some great floats in it. Grinchmas was a lot of fun too. Definitely recommend both.

Don't recall any specific must try holiday foods or drinks but they do have a decent selection available in CityWalk and the tribute store. Which the Tribute Store itself would be another highly recommended thing to walkthrough. It changes each year and is really well decorated and very cool to see.

Ridewise, in addition to Hagrid's and Velocicoaster, I highly recommend Spider-Man (Transformers is also the same system), Mummy, and Gringott's. Forbidden Journey is a really cool ride with a great queue through Hogwarts but if you don't really care about Harry Potter it probably won't be as big of a thing for you and if you are prone to motion sickness it is an intense one for that. Great ride to do if you can though as well.

Not a must do, but if you have time, the Seuss Trolley Train ride is fun at night as it gives a great view of the decorations around Seuss Landing and across Islands of Adventure.
Thanks for the additional tips! All of us have been to Universal, but everyone except for me has not been in about 10 years. We know what rides we want to prioritize during the busy holiday period and we decided just to bite the bullet and have us buy the Express passes (I vowed to do less takeout in order to budget for it lol). None of us are prone to motion sickness though I did get motion sick when I rode Forbidden Journey in May. The part where you nearly go upside down is what got me.

I would not have thought the Seuss Trolley would be something to do, but I'll keep it in mind. My mom especially is not a fan of the Seuss theming but she does enjoy general Christmas decorations so I think she'll like it.

Where is the Tribute store? I don't think I went in there when I went in May. Is that in City Walk? Also just today my mom was looking at the holiday food/drink offerings that Universal had last year and she noticed that they had eggnogs flavored with whiskey. Has anyone tried those, specifically the Fire Eggnog? My mom loves Fireball and she's thinking of trying it.
 

lisam70

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
I would do both the Grinch show and the parade both are great!
I would start the day in IOA and try to knock out Hagrids and velocicoaster then do other rides with express and see one of the earlier Grinch shows. Then hop to US for rides and parade and seeing Diagon Alley lit up at night.
 

maverik85

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 27, 2016
Where is the Tribute store? I don't think I went in there when I went in May. Is that in City Walk? Also just today my mom was looking at the holiday food/drink offerings that Universal had last year and she noticed that they had eggnogs flavored with whiskey. Has anyone tried those, specifically the Fire Eggnog? My mom loves Fireball and she's thinking of trying it.
The tribute store is in the Studios park in the Central Park area. It's just to the left of the Mummy.
 

kbelle8995

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 28, 2009
Go see Suess Landings and New york Street at night. Especially if you or someone in your group love decoration and lights. It's really quite pretty. Also sometimes in Suess Landing the Whovilians(Who-citizens) come out and perform. I saw them sing Christmas music. I love Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees no matter what time of year it is. They do have a Christmas show which I love. I can't help it. "I got a Hippogriff for Christmas" Come on.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2020
There is a holiday tour. I would highly urge that. With it, you get reserved parade viewing, Wholiday spectacular reserved seating, cookies and cocoa with the grinch, meeting with Santa, post-closing Hogsmeade and a special late night Hogwarts Castle light show. Plus there is some extra Q&A with the whos after the last show.

This will basically knock out all of the Christmas stuff in one swoop, and you can focus your day on doing regular park stuff.

Just my $.02

And their tours are not ridiculously priced like Disney. (I know we're shocked that something at universal is a better value)
 

denman007

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Joined
Mar 21, 2002
When do the holiday tour tickets go on sale and do you recommend this for adults as well?
 
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Joined
Jan 2, 2020
No guarantees of when exactly, but we bought our tickets in early November last year. The tour had just been added to the calendar, and most dates were open. But they do sell out - especially on weekends and week of thanksgiving/christmas/new years.

Our adults had fun, but it depends how silly you are willing to get. Honestly, just the Hogsmeade late at night made it worth it. All the shops were open, including the pub. Depending on your group size, you will be lumped with other groups (about 10 people total). We had a few adults-only parties in our tour group.
 

Monykalyn

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 11, 2014
Universal decorates whole parks, not the first street like Disney. Suess land at night during Christmas is my favorite. Couple years ago you could sign up for a Grinch photo shoot slot-it’s truly one of the best character interactions. It’s gonna be packed, so if you get express just get the one EP per ride-even with EP expect to wait a bit and you won’t really have time for re rides anyway.
The parade has Macy balloons made for the park so it’s truly spectacular. There’s a huge Christmas tree in New York area and a good spot to watch as snope will fall.

I love Universal at Christmas!
 

schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
During Holiday capacity times the backstage area may open as shortcut between parks-they still have TM's scanning tickets to be sure you have Park to park. Used it several times Christmas week, open at peak times only.

Yep, it was open at times when we were there Nov/Dec, and it`s also used routinely for Orlando Informer events.
 

Smugpugmug

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 3, 2022
During Holiday capacity times the backstage area may open as shortcut between parks-they still have TM's scanning tickets to be sure you have Park to park. Used it several times Christmas week, open at peak times only.

Yep, it was open at times when we were there Nov/Dec, and it`s also used routinely for Orlando Informer events.
So I have a question for you guys, since you've been to Universal during the holidays.

I booked Cowfish for 6:30 pm. Do both parks reach capacity at that point where if we were to leave them to have dinner, we would be unable to return to them afterwards?
 









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