With the pandemic in full force last year, holiday celebrations at Universal Studios Hollywood were put on pause (and rightfully so). However, as we wrap up the end of 2021, festivities in Los Angeles County are back in full swing it seems. For fans of the holiday splendor Universal Studios delivers to its theme park, you’ll be happy to know that both Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas are back! And, after a year off from the holiday goodness that both invoke, it was a welcome experience to let the holiday familiarity wash over me when entering the park.
While a lot felt familiar and nostalgic, there is one major change that will irk some attendees (though, really, it shouldn’t). One of the observed adjustments I saw many attendees struggling with while at the theme park was complying with mask-related rules. However, these rules should come as no surprise. They are plastered on the website, before you enter the park, etc., and they explain the county-wide ordinance. Based on everything I saw, Universal goes out of its way to make sure no one is ill-informed before purchasing the ticket. So, try not to make the lives of the employees here worse by not following the rules, please.
Stepping into Universal Studios Hollywood, it’s hard to miss the Christmas decorations all throughout the park. As you make your way towards the Central Plaza, the New York facade that attendees can occasionally see character actors interact on is covered in snow. The Illumination/Hello Kitty store right before you hit both Plaza and the NYC facade provides a special meet and greet with Hello Kitty decked out to the 9s in her special festival wardrobe. So much time can actually be spent just walking around the upper lot surrounding the Central Plaza to check out how the theme park is dressed. From festive Minions from the Despicable Me franchise and different animals from Secret Life of Pets getting into some presents, there is a lot to take in via the Illumination-focused section of the upper lot. The French Quarters is more traditionally dressed. You can clock some old school figures of Santa Claus and Missus Claus in the windows while walking through.
We did spend the portion of the afternoon using our tickets to check out the general Universal Studios attractions before we dove into the nitty-gritty holiday festivities. While visiting the lower lot, you can get out a giant Christmas tree decked with pterodactyl ornaments. There were mini raptor moments and you could check out the Transformers characters too. While not incredibly holiday-focused, it was still nice to see how the park still added a little special flair to the decorations.
As the sun started to set, we made sure to visit Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is honestly my favorite part. Typically, Hogsmeade is already decked out in snow, but the extra bows and garland decorations give it that extra Christmas chush. Given how Christmas is featured in every Harry Potter novel, it is no mystery why they spice things up this time of year. It also gives the typical visual feel we come to associate with Christmas. While we did not get to see the Frog Choir up close and personal, we did get to hear them and they were still on fleek. Hogwarts-inspired Yuletide carols are always welcome to these holiday ears of mine. Before we headed over to Grinchmas, hot butterbeer was acquired! Brought back for the holiday season, fans of butterbeer will delite in this hot treat!
Once the sun sets, it is the opportune time for the special tree-lighting ceremony as a part of the “Grinchmas” Who-lebration. The tree will stop you in your tracks. It’s hard to miss. At this point in the day, it is incredibly crowded as everyone comes around to take in this final note to Grinchmas. As a part of the show, we get a chance to watch the Mayor of Who-ville, Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch perform onstage as the Grinch tries (and fails) to ruin Christmas for everyone. Because of the crowd, it was pretty tricky to see the performers. My advice is to make sure you get to the Tree Lighting early to snag a close-up spot. During the day and even after the tree-lighting, there are photo opportunities all around the Plaza to make beautiful memories. You can even send a postcard! There is also a chance to meet the Grinch but make sure you try to meet him early on in the day. As the hours tick on by, that line gets long and you may wait for hours to see him.
After we got done at Grinchmas, we ran back over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to try to catch The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle” show. Back when we visited in 2019, the show had been canceled due to inclement weather. With hardly a cloud in the sky, this was arguably the show I had been waiting for the most and I was not disappointed. The projections onto the castle help to create that holiday feeling while also maintaining the magic that Hogwarts Castle always manages to deliver. The only real note I could make was in the crowd management. It was a bit confusing to see where we were supposed to go, but I imagine this particular thing can be smoothed out as time goes on.
Overall, it doesn’t quite feel like the holidays in Southern California without venturing on over to Universal Studios Hollywood for their holiday celebrations. Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas still hit it out of the park, and the attention to Covid-19 regulations in the park help to alleviate some worries that attendees might have about safety. The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle” show is a must-see for both fans and non-fans alike. Watching Hogwarts Castle transform is always a real treat. For Grinchmas, plan out your day accordingly families if you want to beat the lines and get a good glimpse of that tree-lighting ceremony. Taking your family and friends to Universal Studios Hollywood during the holidays is still a must and I recommend it for all.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas will be running daily through Sunday, January 9, 2022. The holiday festivities are included in the price of admission.
More information is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com. Like Universal Studios Hollywood on Facebook and follow @UniStudios on Instagram and Twitter. Admission to Universal CityWalk is free. More information available at www.CityWalkHollywood.com.
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