Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Carlye Wisel
Updated December 15, 2018

Don’t just take a theme park vacation before the year’s end — cheers to Christmas and join a yuletide gathering at Universal's theme parks in California and Florida.

Literal holiday magic happens at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with immersive live performances, themed food, and exciting entertainment, while Sponge Bob Square Pants toasts to the season, Minions soar overhead, and The Grinch comes alive to (attempt to) destroy your celebrations.

Here’s all the celebratory glory you’ll find through Jan. 6 at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort.

A Celebration Fit for Gryffindors

At the mystical Hogsmeade Village — located at both Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood — mythical shops are decorated, magic abounds, and the singing Frog Choir brings cheer (and harmonic croaking) to the snow-capped town.

There’s sadly no Grand Feast — budding students should travel to London for that — but plenty of seasonal delights are on offer on both coasts, including a family-sized “holiday feast” of turkey, parsnips, and sage stuffing along with delicious hot butterbeer. Each night at sundown, Hogwarts Castle is bathed in lights, music, and projections displaying beloved moments from the series. The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts culminates in snowfall and festive revelry multiple times each evening in both California and Florida.

Diagon Alley Gets in on the Festivities

The wintertime fun continues at Universal Studios Florida, where guests can take the Hogwarts Express through Kings Cross Station — as buskers perform holiday tunes live — to reach Diagon Alley teeming with tinsel, handcrafted wreaths, and inventive decor. Don’t miss Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees providing wizard-friendly holiday cheer with original songs, and special Christmas ornaments and Hogwarts-themed tree toppers for sale.

Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

World-renowned Parades Excite

Universal Studios Florida is also home to a larger-than-life celebration that brings the magic of New York City to the Orlando theme park. With Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, colorful floats featuring characters from Madagascar, Despicable Me and Sponge Bob Square Pants travel through the theme park as eye-poppingly large balloons shaped like Minions and Shrek’s Donkey float overhead nightly. Between live entertainment, dancers, and can’t-miss sights, the parade goes beyond a regular character interaction to bring a seasonal flair to familiar animated faces.

Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

Cinematic Decor Pushes the Boundaries

Universal theme parks have fully decked the halls, adding delightful decor to many areas of the park, including Hollywood’s Despicable Me land — complete with holiday Minions — and throughout Universal Studios Florida. Trees outside the parks stun as well, with one in Hollywood’s Universal CityWalk boasting 200,000 LED icicles synced to holiday music. There’s even dancing water fountains paired with red and green lights and corresponding tunes, adding extra charm to visits throughout winter.

Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

And a Beloved Holiday Grump

Universal theme parks on both coasts offer opportunities to come face-to-face with Dr. Seuss’ unlikely Christmas hero, bringing the magic of the new Grinch film to life. Revelers at Universal Studios Hollywood can take photos with The Grinch and his dog Max, bask in the glow of an enticingly unusual 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, and take in live entertainment from Whoville residents on select dates throughout December. At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, visitors can enjoy a live show, meet-and-greets, and even a character breakfast.

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