After the 2020 shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the holidays have made their triumphant return to Universal Studios Hollywood through Jan. 9, 2022. With elaborate décor, delicious bites, and roaring music, the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season are fully embraced at the Southern California theme park. While fancy can be found throughout, the two cornerstones of the celebration are Grinchmas and Christmas in Wizarding World.
By Carly Caramanna
As part of Grinchmas, Universal Plaza is transformed into Who-ville, where you can meet its beloved residents, including Cindy Lou. The centerpiece is a 65-foot tall tree that is whimsical in nature and strung with hundreds of ornaments and lights. Christmas in The Wizarding World sees the addition of beautiful holiday décor to Hogsmeade as well as holiday-themed entertainment. The pinnacle is the evening’s “Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” a holiday light and fireworks show.
We were recently invited to experience Grinchmas and have a one-on-one with the Grinch.
For those who have visited Universal Studios Orlando’s Grinchmas, I was first struck by the completely immersive nature at the west coast property. Grinchmas is held in Universal Plaza and the all-encompassing layout truly makes you feel enveloped in the celebration. The centerpiece is the large tree but circling around the plaza you’ll find a holiday treats booth, merchandise, props from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000), meet and great locations, and the Who-ville Post Office. All embrace the signature bright pastel colors and whimsical designs of Dr. Seuss.
The Who-Ville Post Office is one of the most visually stunning of the areas. Here, guests can send a postcard to the Grinch, and for every postcard mailed, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Discover a Star Foundation will make a donation to Schools on Wheels benefitting homeless youth in Southern California.
Throughout the day, guests can queue to meet both the Grinch and his faithful companion Max. Cindy Lou hosts story times while the residents of Who-ville, including Mayor Maywho, freely mingle with guests throughout the Plaza. The cast of characters were incredible at their craft, each adding a unique energy to the celebration, and a highlight of the immersive experience. It was a welcome sight to see the return of roaming streetmosphere to the parks.
The Grinch was just as hilarious as ever playfully dancing and doing yoga moves in between chatting. I also loved meeting the adorable Max, a dog from Universal’s Animal Actors who has been with the park for six years.
The Grinchmas tree lighting takes place several times throughout the evening with Cindy Lou, The Mayor, and the Grinch playing host. Crowds are large so it is best to grab a spot early if the show is of importance to your visit. I stood far back in the plaza and had a great view of the tree, plus had the added bonus of being able to also see the fireworks coming from the Wizarding World. This is a wonderfully done production that embraces the heartwarming stories of Dr. Seuss and is complete with falling snow at the end.
At Christmas in the Wizard World, the already stunning décor of Hogsmeade sees the addition of elegant holiday wreaths and garlands throughout. The beloved frog choir also receives a special wintertime update. Specialty food and beverage offerings can be found here, including a mulled wine and hot pear cider from Hog’s Head Pub and an English Holiday meal at Three Broomsticks. Hot Butterbeer was a popular grab and quickly sold out on our visit. The Hogwarts Castle comes to life several times in the evening through a light projection show synchronized with music and fireworks. Although nothing new has been added for this year, it remains as magical as ever.
As part of the overall Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood, specialty food and beverages can be found at locations throughout the park, including French Street Bistro, Mulligan’s Irish Pub, and Palace Deli & Market. I was able to try a few of the seasonal offerings during my visit.
After having a delicious specialty cupcake during Halloween Horror Nights, I was looking forward to trying the holiday gingerbread cupcake. This was easily one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. The cake portion was moist, almost like banana bread, and notes of nutmeg and cinnamon shined through.
I also grabbed one of the specialty holiday cocktails, a spiked hot cocoa from Mulligan’s Pub. Peppermint liquor is added to hot cocoa and then topped with a peppermint infused toasted marshmallow. This was absolutely delicious and the marshmallow acted similar to a hot chocolate bomb and slowly melted, infusing a subtle peppermint flavor to the beverage.
The mulled wine may have been my favorite of the specialty food and beverage offerings. I have to commend the chefs who created this because they had put great effort into it. As a fan of the wintery beverage, this was excellently executed with notes of cardamom and star anise coming through. I’m hoping they add this permanently to their winter offerings as it is a fine addition as the temperatures cool in Southern California.
I was also pleased to see several of their fall offerings stick around for the holidays, including their turkey chowder bread bowls and their pesto pasta salad.
It is an exciting time for Universal Studios Hollywood as they continue to shine with seasonal offerings and I’m looking forward to what is to come.
To learn more about holiday offerings at Universal Studios Hollywood, visit UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.