Recently, a last-minute business trip to Orlando afforded a delightful diversion to enjoy Grinchmas cheer and Wizarding World winter wonders at Universal Orlando Resort. For this impromptu holiday adventure, a few hours were afforded at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando.
Whimsical Wholiday festivities, scrumptious seasonal treats, a holiday parade, and many other magical discoveries filled the afternoon and evening. Much to my pleasant surprise just about all of the exciting Christmas experiences were enjoyed in the short 7 1/2 hour window.
With the clearing of the clouds and the morning rain’s retreat, we (my date and I) arrived at Islands of Adventure (IOA) around noon. Our first stop was to check out the new Harry Potter Holiday shop at Port of Entry. New Potter-powered ornaments and décor spilled across the shelves. We scored a treat for the tree: a miniature house banner (Ravenclaw) and pleasantly perused the fun festive finds in this new addition to IOA as well as the seasonal souvenirs next door.
After a brief snack of red velvet Yule Log cake, it was off to Seuss Landing for the first leg of our holiday adventure.
Whos were out and about enjoying their Wholiday season with a lively game of limbo as we arrived in the brightly festooned land of rhyme and whimsy. Christmas colors painted the island. Even the Whoville radio broadcast a cheerful collection of carols (though their disc jockey sounded an awful lot like Sam Meetz of “Leave it to Cleaver” fame. I wonder if they’re related?)
Soon, festive fortune found us frolicking towards an afternoon performance of Grinchmas. It had been several years since the child in me enjoyed this enchanting experience. Soundstage 23 was a welcome change in venue since the shows early outdoor performances. Of course, all the Whos and the great green himself served up Wholiday spirit splendidly. It even snowed!
Though we again learned that Christmas doesn’t come from a store, seasonal shopping at Seuss stores ensued. Along with discovering feisty fun t-shirt design (“Naughty Thing”) at the U-Design kiosk – which decided to put off purchasing until we went to Universal Orlando (as the printer for all shirts is in the MIB store), a new “talking” Grinch ornament was added to the holiday collection.
Just a short walk away (necessary since brooms and floo powder were not part of this holiday adventure), or journey took us through Lost Continent and on to Hogsmeade Village. A late lunch cast its spell upon us and we beelined to the Three Broomsticks for the holiday feast. Turkey, root veggies, stuffing, Brussel sprouts, nutmeg cranberry sauce and brown gravy successfully filled grumbling bellies.
Decorative winter wonders, Wizarding World style, captured our eyes as we walked off lunch and enjoyed the enchanted ambiance.
Next up on this holiday adventure: Universal Studios Florida
As we wanted to make the most of the merry meandering, traversing CityWalk (there was a very long wait to board the preferred Hogwarts Express) took us to the Universal Studios Florida theme park. Lights, garland and Christmas magic greeted us as we made our way to the back of the park. Our destination: Men in Black’s souvenir shop.
Even this retro-themed area of the Studios had its own style of holiday décor with teal and purple Christmas trees tucked about the MIB gift shop. At the back of this store, standing adjacent to a massive shirt printer, another U-Design kiosk. With the assistance of a helpful team member, twin “Naughty Thing” red t-shirts found their way into the printing queue.
After paying for our order, we decided to wait for the printing to complete by enjoying a unique view of Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s. From our vantage point across the show lagoon, and away from crowds, we witnessed balloons and floats find their way along the parade route. As the last balloon departed from New York, we returned to collect our shirts.
Harry Potter Holidays
Our holiday adventure continued just around the corner in London. Shining lights illuminated trees next to the Knight Bus. Even Grimmauld Place sparkled with glorious, glowing garland, except for one particular flat (a brilliant and clever continuity creation by those craving such holiday décor in this area).
With the shorter days of Winter, Wizarding World’s holiday adornments mesmerized much more magically after dark. Accompanied by her Banshees, Celestina Warbeck wooed with wonderful, merry, magical music. Muggles and Wizards enjoyed the Yuletide ambiance together as they scurried about the shops. We, of course, joined in this spellbinding practice, perusing Potter merchandise while enjoying the sights.
An enchanting surprise found us as we entered the Magical Menagerie store. “Crimes of Grindelwald” creatures occupy their own section of the shelves. Nifflers (young and old) and Bowtruckles (bendy and plush) await adoption. One particular Bowtruckle perched itself upon my date’s wrist and had to be immediately welcomed into its new residence (kudos to the team member who, upon handing me the receipt, called the printed parchment “adoption papers.”)
The last experience of our holiday adventure summoned us into the Leaky Cauldron for a nightcap. This seemingly innocent Wizarding World eatery harbors an addictive seasonal substance more commonly known as hot Butterbeer. While I’m not a fan of the “regular” and frozen Butterbeer beverages (the soft-serve ice cream, though, has enchanted me), hot Butterbeer is DANGEROUS. This sweet elixir is AMAZING! We’re both hoping that this sugary treat is somehow magically modified to remove any excess calories usually associated with such treats.
With the coffee-like cup’s contents drained, the drive home from this magical place called upon us to make our way towards the park’s exit.
With this impromptu holiday adventure behind us, a few trinkets remind us of the enchanting escape enjoyed at Universal Orlando Resort. Grateful gratitude is extended to the team members making magic that Saturday evening (and to those creative minds casting their spell upon Universal Orlando Resort to transform into the delightfully decorated holiday haven it is)!
Source and images: Universal Orlando Blog, Michael Gavin