It’s that time of year again! That time when kids ride their brooms across the sky above Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and a large and furry green guy gets all grumpy, then learns the magic of Christmas. Yes, I’m talking about Universal Studios Hollywood and the holiday festivities.
I got a chance to visit the theme park for Vital Thrills and check out Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas, as well as the decorations all over the park. The day I was there, it was full of revelers, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. I even walked past a wedding party!
The first thing we checked out was Grinchmas. The area is all decked out as Who-ville, with themed ornament making, little shop carts with adorable hats, treats, and toys, and the curved buildings you know from the films. Little kids were squealing all around us, especially when the Whos-Bee Doo-Wops singing group walked by to start their performance.
It was so cute, and the crowd was absolutely into it. The 65-foot tree looked lovely in the sun, but at night when the lighting ceremony was going, the colors changed over and over. Make sure you get in the line to go in early for each of the three lightings. It gets crowded quickly. That said, you can definitely see a lot, even if you don’t go inside the area.
The Grinchmas events also include story time with Cindy-Lou Who, though we didn’t get to see that. There were a lot of kids around, and we didn’t want to get in the way. If you want to, mail a postcard with three good deeds at the Who-ville post office, and pick up a Grinch Donut.
Speaking of the Grinch, you can choose to take a picture with the grouchy guy, which we did. Even the line (which moved very quickly) was fun as you got to see this performer improving spectacularly. Seriously, it was incredible. He posed a dozen ways, engaged with everyone waiting, and it was the highlight of the day.
Then, after dark fell, we wandered over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s always a highlight, but for the holidays it’s all decked out with snow, garlands, and lights. Oddly enough, it always feels bigger and more magical at night. I mean, I’ve run a 10K through it during a Run Universal event during the day and it’s wonderful, but at night it just sparkles.
We didn’t make it up to see the Frog Choir, but we heard them and they were great as they are every year. We’ve seen them before, and the puppets are good enough that it really looks like they’re holding very large frogs. There is also hot butterbeer to get (as well as frozen, which for some reason, my husband drank despite the really cold weather) which is always delicious.
In the evening, at three separate times, you can walk over to Hogwarts near the back of the area to check out a holiday light show. It’s just the loveliest thing. It really doesn’t matter that much where you stand because it’s easy to see from most angles. There was very little in the way of shoving around because there is enough room for everyone.
The show is called “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” and the projection is amazing. There is music and scenes from the films, as well as visuals of wizards and witches on brooms, zooming by the place.
It actually looks like it’s snowing on the castle. As you can see in the pic, Hermione and Viktor Krum are dancing away in one of the widows, with Harry on his broom outside another. Whatever your feelings on the franchise now, hearing the music against these images might make you tear up, remembering the love you first had for it. Oh, and there are fireworks at the end!
Everything is decorated around you, and though it’s not holiday-themed, you absolutely must visit Super Nintendo World. Do keep in mind that if you want to eat at the restaurant (and you should), you’ll have to scan a sign near there and save a spot. It fills up fast and for good reason.
I just wanted to leave you with a couple of tips here. First, dress warm. It’s always much colder than you expect up on the hill Universal Studios Hollywood sits on. There is always that hot butterbeer if you get too chilly.
Second, if you do get cold, you must get a Bowser hat from Super Nintendo World. I saw about a dozen of them and they’re the cutest. They’re also soft like plushies and cover your ears. I mean, it’s a practical purchase, right? (You can see someone wearing one in the picture of the Who-ville tree at the beginning of this story.)
You should also make sure to check out all the stores if you’re looking for something to take home. Stores outside of the Wizarding World, for instance, have items you don’t find inside.
That includes Universal City Walk if you visit for snacks and a movie. In fact, the Harry Potter section of one of the stores we were in (inside the park) actually had snow falling!
The holiday offerings at Universal Studios Hollywood are happening now and running daily through Monday, January 1, 2024 and you don’t have to pay extra. Now excuse me while I sing Who-ville Christmas songs to myself as I work today.
If you want to purchase tickets, you can do so at the official website. Happy holidays!
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games, and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.