Grinchmas Tree at Universal Studios Hollywood
Grinchmas Tree © Universal Studios Hollywood

A Very Merry Universal Studios Hollywood Christmas Guide

If you ask us, the winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year at Universal Studios Hollywood. Christmas at Universal Hollywood means yuletide trimmings and trappings (and, possibly, even a sprinkle of snow), festive bites and beverages, characters in cozy scarves or Santa hats, and special holiday happenings in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as Who-ville’s ever-popular Grinchmas. It really is the awesomest celebration of the season.

Whether you want to leave the muggle world behind to make merry in the magical realm, get in the festive spirit with the citizens of Who-ville or simply savor all things seasonal while enjoying some holly-jolly holiday decorations, Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood has something for everyone. This year, the festive fun runs from November 24, 2023, the day after Thanksgiving, until January 1, 2024, New Year’s Day, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy it all.

If you’re thinking about taking in the park’s holiday festivities this year, grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk (just be sure to save some room for hot Butterbeer and other spirited snacks) and read on as we break down everything coming to Universal Studios’ Christmas celebration in 2023.

Universal Studios Park Entrance with Holiday Lights
Universal Studios Park Entrance with Holiday Lights by daveynin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood: What You Need to Know

Ready to mix and mingle with Cindy-Lou Who, The Grinch and his furry friend, Max? Here are some things to consider before you book your Universal Studios Hollywood vacation this holiday season.

Does Universal Hollywood do anything for Christmas?

Yup! Each year, Universal Studios Hollywood goes all out for the holiday season with Christmas decorations, seasonal celebrations, characters in their festive best, and limited-time yuletide treats and merchandise. This year, Universal Studios Hollywood will be celebrating the holidays daily from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, specifically November 24, 2023, to January 1, 2024.

Does Universal Studios Hollywood decorate for the holidays?

No matter if we’re visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland, Universal Orlando Resort or Universal Studios Hollywood, one of our favorite things about the holidays is the beautiful Christmas decorations. By the time the holidays roll around, Universal Hollywood will be all decked out with twinkling lights, merry decorations and even fanciful Christmas trees themed after Jurassic Park, the minions, Harry Potter World and, of course, the wacky world of Dr. Seuss. Talk about putting the “holly” in Universal Studios Hollywood!

You might even get to see an incredibly rare snowfall in Southern California. Or, for holiday decorations of a different kind, stroll past the Saul & Sons New York Deli and Market storefront in the park’s Upper Lot area, which typically gets a Hanukkah display in its window. Universal CityWalk also gets in on the festive fun with lively lighting and its very own Christmas tree, complete with thousands of choreographed LEDs that dance in time to a seasonal soundtrack. Needless to say, make sure you keep your cell phone close or bring your camera so you can take advantage of each and every festive photo opportunity.

Jurassic Christmas Tree at Universal Studios Hollywood
Jurassic Christmas Tree by CoasterMatt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

What is Christmas like at Universal Studios Hollywood? Is it busy?

Due to the special décor, character meet-and-greets, entertainment offerings and other limited-time yuletide treasures that are available during the holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood, the park tends to be especially busy during Christmastime. The place gets particularly packed when schools are on their winter break since folks typically flock to Universal Hollywood when they’re on vacation. Along with Christmas Day and the days directly around it, the busiest times to visit are usually the weekends. Evenings also normally have larger crowds than during the day, as this is when the Grinchmas tree lighting happens.

You’ll also want to keep in mind the overall park hours, as Universal Studios does generally close earlier on weeknights. This means fewer showtimes for entertainment offerings like the Who-liday Christmas tree lighting and The Magic of Christmas nighttime lights show on Hogwarts Castle, and, as a result, more people crowded around to see the show. So, the sweet spot to visit during the holidays is typically on one of the weekends in early December, when you’ll enjoy smaller crowds, longer operating hours and, as a result, more evening showtimes with fewer people watching them.

All the Festive Fun at Universal Studios Hollywood During Christmas

With its joyful entertainment, festive decorations, and seasonal snacks and sips, visiting Universal Studios Hollywood at Christmas is sure to make your heart grow three sizes—just like The Grinch when he first experienced the spirit of the Who-lidays. Best of all, with the exception of the holly-jolly merchandise and limited-time dining options on offer, which come at an additional cost, it’s all included in the price of your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets. It’s a Christmas miracle!

If that isn’t enough to put you in a merry mood, you can also score seasonal savings of between $50 to $140 per person by booking your Universal Hollywood tickets through Park Savers. That’s a whole lot of money that you can put into holiday shopping for your nearest and dearest (we’re thinking a Weasley sweater). Here are all the holiday happenings you can enjoy during Christmas at Universal Studios Florida.

Hogsmeade During Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Hogsmeade During Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter © Universal Studios Hollywood

Holiday Enchantment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In both the books and the movies, some of the most magical moments in the “Harry Potter” series happen during the holiday season, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is no exception. Christmas at Harry Potter World is downright enchanting, with festive decorations in the storefronts and fairy lights and ribbon-bedecked garlands lining the windows and snow-covered rooftops of Hogsmeade village. Each shop enjoys the holiday treatment with its own specially themed décor, so be sure to take a close look as you stroll along.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without some Christmas music. At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, seasonal melodies are provided by some carolers with a magical twist: the Frog Choir. In the evenings, you’ll also be able to see the storied school glow to life during The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, a dazzling nighttime show with beautiful projections and joyous music that transforms Hogsmeade into a whimsical winter wonderland. Following the first performance of the evening, the show typically runs every half hour until closing time.

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The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle © Universal Studios Hollywood

Refer to the Universal Studios Hollywood app for the day’s showtimes for both the Holiday Frog Choir and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. The best view of the castle show can be had from right in front of the Frog Choir stage. Due to the decorations and entertainment, keep in mind that Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood is even more popular during the holidays, so it is possible for the area to reach capacity around showtime on peak park days. As a result, we recommend that you plan to be at your desired viewing area at least 30 minutes before the show starts—preferably with a cozy cup of hot Butterbeer in hand.

Although you won’t be able to enjoy an enchanted holiday feast in the Great Hall of Hogwarts like Harry does, you will be able to tuck into some extra-special yuletide eats. Along with hot Butterbeer, you can also indulge in a delicious holiday meal inspired by a classic English roast, which comes with slices of turkey and stuffing blanketed with savory gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, a sausage wrapped with bacon and sweet and tangy cranberry sauce. This might just be our favorite festive food offered during the holidays at Universal Hollywood, so make sure you save some space so you can try it.

When you aren’t catching one of the shows, enjoying something tasting or admiring the glorious décor, Hogsmeade at Universal Hollywood’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also the perfect place to do some Christmas shopping. Take home a piece of the holiday magic with items like tree ornaments, stockings and more.

Dr. Seuss' Christmas tree at Universal Studios Hollywood
Dr. Seuss’ Christmas tree by daveynin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Grinchmas

Along with Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the highlight of the holiday season at Universal Studios Hollywood is Grinchmas, which brings to life the longtime yuletide classic that is How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Held in Universal Plaza, this Who-liday Seuss-tacular has a lot to offer, so let’s dive into the snarky seasonal celebration a bit.

The heart and soul of Who-ville are the many friendly residents that call the Christmas-obsessed hamlet home, and they’ll be out and about posing for photos all season long. The star of the show is, of course, the mean one himself. Unsurprisingly, lines to meet The Grinch can get quite long because not only is he quite popular, but he can also be pretty chatty, too. As a result, we suggest you get in line to see him right away in the morning before the wait time gets too long.

Famously not a people person, he has even brought his faithful, four-legged companion, Max, along for moral support, who you can also meet in front of his doghouse. Since he’s an honest-to-goodness dog (don’t let the singular antler on his head fool you), Max isn’t much of a talker. So, the lines to see him tend to be quite short and move quickly, so feel free to meet him whenever works best for you. Just be aware that since he gets dog-tired from all the action, he doesn’t stay out greeting guests as long as The Grinch.

The Grinch and Max aren’t the only ones available for meet-and-greets during Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood. Other citizens of Who-ville can be seen wandering around the area and posing for pictures, and they also take to the stage several times during the day as part of the Who-ville Welcome Committee show. Another must-see part of the merriment is Storytime with Cindy-Lou. Taking place several times throughout the day, this live reading of How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Cindy-Lou Who culminates in a meet-and-greet with the famed Who-ville resident herself.

Grinchmas with The Grinch and Citizens of Who-ville
Grinchmas by stranger3113 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

While you’re exploring the area, hop on over to the Who-ville Post Office to send a postcard to The Grinch listing out some of the good deeds you’ve done this year. (Goodness knows that he needs a little inspiration.) Universal Studios Hollywood will even make a donation to a charity for each postcard that gets sent, just in case you need any more of an incentive to do this wholesome activity.

Just like your own Christmas celebration at home, the tiny town of Who-ville gets all dressed up for Grinchmas, and at the center of it all is the massive Who-ville Who-liday tree. Every bit as whimsical as Dr. Seuss’s fantastical tales, this charming Christmas tree lights up the night several times each evening, approximately every half hour, for the Who-liday Tree Lighting. During this Grinchmas Who-bilation display, the Whos take to the stage to celebrate with song before culminating in a holly-jolly snowfall.

Similar to The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, the Who-liday Tree Lighting draws big crowds to Grinchmas during the evenings. And with good reason—between the towering tree, flurries of snow and decorations all lit up at night, this kaleidoscope of color and Christmas cheer is a joy to behold. If your schedule and showtimes permit, we recommend waiting until one of the later performances, as there tend to be fewer people milling about.

And whatever you do, don’t miss out on Grinchmas during the daytime. Although the spectacle isn’t as impressive when it’s light out, there aren’t as many people around, and you can also take in earlier shows like Storytime with Cindy-Lou and the Who-ville Welcome Committee. Refer to Grinchmas signs around the area for the daily showtimes.

Hello Kitty During Christmas © Universal Studios Hollywood
Hello Kitty During Christmas © Universal Studios Hollywood

Merry Character Meet-and-Greets

Grinchmas and The Wizarding World aren’t the only places you can get in the holiday spirit around Universal Studios Hollywood. Many characters show up for meet-and-greets all dressed up in their festive best. Think scarves, ugly Christmas sweaters, Santa hats and more. So, don your own yuletide apparel and take advantage of each and every photo opportunity.

Seasonal Snacks and Sips

Another highlight of the holidays, along with quality time shared with family and friends, is all the delicious food. Universal Studios Hollywood cooks up all sorts of tasty seasonal treats especially for the festivities, meaning that you can stuff yourself silly all day long. In the past, cozy Christmas dishes have included everything from warming soups in bread bowls and hearty sandwiches to sweet treats in flavors like pumpkin spice and apple cider. Adults hoping to feel extra jolly can even enjoy a spirited cocktail. Festive flavors can be enjoyed at restaurants throughout Universal Hollywood, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Grinchmas, other parts of the park and Universal CityWalk.

Universal CityWalk at Christmas

You don’t need to be inside the park to take part in the merriment. Universal CityWalk gets in on the festive fun, too. In addition to seasonal food offerings at CityWalk restaurants, like Voodoo Doughnut, the entertainment district also offers its own must-see decorations, including a giant Christmas tree and special musical entertainment. The Universal Studio Store has even been known to have its very own indoor snowfall.

King Kong hanging in Universal Studios Hollywood Citywalk at Christmas
King Kong hanging in Universal Citywalk by daveynin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Universal Studios Hollywood Holiday Tips

With so much happening through the holidays at Universal Hollywood, you need to be a bit strategic if you want to see it all. Here are some tricks to help you make the most of your day in the park.

Check the Park Hours Ahead of Time

Since Universal Studios Hollywood tends to close early on certain weeknights, there aren’t always a ton of opportunities to catch evening shows like the Who-liday Tree Lighting ceremony at Grinchmas or The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So, if you know you want to see this, be sure to plan your visit for a weekend or during a holiday week so that you can experience everything. Weekends early on in December offer the full slate of entertainment without the huge crowds that come later in the month.

Arrive Early and Stay Late

As there is so much to see and do during Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood, and so many people
there wanting to take it all in, you should plan on a full day in the park so that you have time to experience everything on your holiday travel to-do list.

Check the Schedule for Showtimes

Knowing when and where everything is going to happen is crucial to making sure that you experience it all. Refer to signs posted around the park and the “Alerts” section of the Universal Studios Hollywood app for the day’s schedule and then strategize the rest of your day around it. Since many people try to go to the earlier shows, wait until a later showtime to enjoy fewer crowds.

Utilize the Tools That Are Available

In addition to the many holiday happenings around the park, there are also all of the Universal Studios Hollywood rides to enjoy. To do them all without waiting too long in line, consider upgrading your visit with Universal Express so that you can skip the line. Alternatively, you can also make use of Single Rider lines or, for those traveling with children, the Child Switch service. Take a look at the Universal Hollywood app for a list of participating attractions.

Dress Accordingly

Although it can be warm and sunny in Southern California during the day, nighttime cools off quite a bit. So, consider bringing along a sweatshirt or, better yet, a Hogwarts robe or ugly Christmas sweater to help keep you cozy once the sun goes down. And bonus, you’ll also be looking your festive best for any photo opportunities that may come your way.

Universal Studios Hollywood Christmas soon-to-be night
Universal Studios Christmas soon-to-be night by daveynin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Well, ya’ll, that puts a bow on our wrap-up of Universal Studios Hollywood during the holidays. Have you ever celebrated Christmas at Universal Hollywood? What’s your favorite part of the park’s seasonal celebrations? Let us know in the comments! Then, book your discounted Universal Studios tickets through Park Savers to get your vacation started.