Universal Studios Hollywood Grows Our Hearts Three Sizes with its Holiday Festivities
The holiday season is upon us and at Universal Studios Hollywood, which could only mean one thing…THE GRINCH IS COMING TO TOWN! Unique to Universal Studios, Grinchmas allows visitors to mingle with the citizens of Whoville, indulge in holiday treats (such as Who-Hash) and meet the titular Grinch himself. Not only that, but just down the way, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has received a rather spirited layover.
As you approach the gates of USH, you know the citizens of Whoville have been hard at work decorating for the holiday season. Ornaments, garland, presents and WHO-rrificly silly trees adorn the entrance to the park. We love the decorations outside the park because it communicates exactly what to expect inside.
The upper lot is decked out in a mixture between traditional Christmas decorations and Whoville inspired decorations. With the recent reconstruction of the entry way into the park, the subtle decorations work well. The beauty of the buildings shine through, but with a little holiday cheer added on top.
There is something rather fitting seeing the fake snow cover the New York sets on the Upper Lot. Especially with the extra added snowman photo op.
As you approach Universal Plaza, the entrance to the Whobilation is decorated with the same ornaments, lights and trees as we saw out front. This lets you know you are in the right spot.
As you pass under the decorated archway, you are greeted with a commanding, curved Christmas tree that is straight from the Grinch film. Whoville citizens roam merrily around and are ready to talk and joke with anyone who crosses their path! Everything just fits together perfectly, it’s a real testament to the artists behind recreating such iconic characters and sets.
The make up and prosthetic work done on all the Whoville characters are second to none. We found ourselves staring at their faces just to find the seams in the makeup, but could never do it. We only succeeded in looking like weirdos!
On the same note, all the costumes for the characters were incredibly fun and imaginative. Each one perfectly fitting the style and attitude of the character wearing them. from the Mayor to Cindy Lou Who, every costume was spot on perfect!
Although Grinchmas has plenty to offer, I would say the main attractions of the event are the photo meet and greets with Max the Dog and the Grinch. This is because these are two characters who aren’t available the rest of the year. If this is something you are interested in, we highly suggest you get in line for the Grinch early because his line can go upwards of 75 minutes. We never saw Max have a line longer than 10 minutes, but believe me when I say that holds no weight to its entertainment. Max is adorable and he is even cuter when wearing that iconic single antler on top of his furry head.
Unfortunately we did not get a chance to meet the Grinch on our visit, but we’ve done so in the past. Each year we are impressed with the actors they get to play Whoville citizens, but mainly the actor who plays the Grinch. The character of the Grinch is so specific and if the actor doesn’t get it just right, guests would spot it from a mile away.
If you get hungry as you travel around Whoville, you won’t have to look far to find a festive bite to eat! They have Grinch cookies, Grinch cupcakes, even Grinch cotton candy! Not to mention Universal’s famous giant donuts completely decked out for the holidays!!!
If the food, characters and setting wasn’t enough for your voracious appetite for everything Grinch, USH has you covered with plenty of fun souvenirs to take home.
From Grinch mugs, Grinch shirts, Grinch plushes and ornaments, you can find almost anything in Grinch green during Grinchmas. Personally we love getting items that commemorate moments in our lives and for us that was the Grinch and Max ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree.
If you feel like your wardrobe could use a little more Grinch Green in it, simply head over to the merch stand located in front of the Whoville post office. We are particularly fond of the ‘Resting Grinch Face’ shirt and the adorable Grinch plush! How can anything so grouchy look so cute!?!!?!!?
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Venturing out of Whoville, you are mere steps away from more holiday cheer in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Looking around Hogsmeade, it is impossible to miss all the beautiful yet subtle holiday decorations. An already impressive section of the park is made that much more…dare I say… MAGICAL!!!! Garland and wreaths and snow adorn every building, truly making this festive area come to life.
What is particularly impressive is the fact that the decorations are subtly inspired by the shops that they adorn. You will find candy in the garland over Honeyduke’s sweet shop and feathers in the wreaths that hang on the post office door. It is this attention to detail that really shows how much thought and care goes into this beautiful section of the park.
A visit to the wizarding world isn’t complete without a meal at the Three Broomsticks. Here you can find a myriad of delicious food options that are inspired by British cuisine. When ever we find ourselves at USH, this is the place we MUST eat at. The quality of food for a quick service restaurant in a theme park is beyond compare. Even beyond that, sitting out back with a beautiful view of Hogwarts Castle, wonderful John Williams music flowing through the air and incredible food, is almost impossible to beat.
For the holidays, The Three Broomsticks has added the English Holiday Dinner. As you can see, it was plenty of food for a meal at a theme park. It’s a wonderfully balanced meal for a relatively affordable price point.
The Nighttime Festivities
Once the sun sets, USH becomes a beautiful holiday paradise. Strands of garland and wreaths shine bright on all the buildings. This is also the time when you can witness the tree lighting ceremony in Whoville.
All the wonderful characters you’ve encountered all day come together to celebrate this occasion. It’s actually rather fun to see all of them interact with each other. One of them was on stage, talking to all the families waiting, all about trees…all kinds of trees. Apparently he was a connoisseur of trees, his words not mine.
Eventually, after all the Who-shenanigans, the tree lighting show begins! It’s a rather fun retelling of how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes and eventually succumbs to the sensibilities of Cindy Lou Who and the rest of Whoville.
Having grown up watching the cartoon and loving the live action film, this show made our hearts grow three sizes. Something about watching your childhood holiday favorite come to life right before your eyes makes any grownup feel like a kid again. If anything, parents who introduce their children to this timeless story, can now take their children to USH to see it all come to life. I can tell you first hand that seeing the sparkle in a child’s eyes when they meets Max, Cindy Lou Who or even the Grinch for the first time is priceless.
Down the way, things couldn’t be anymore different at nightfall. Instead of the thousands of colorful lights of Whoville, Hogsmeade has the more subdued and traditional string lights.
With the snow capped rooftops, the glimmering white lights and a chilly night, it’s really quiet easy to lose oneself in the environment of the wizarding world.
New this year, there’s nightly snowfall in the wizarding world. At specified times during the nights, music will swell and snow (SN-OAP) will fall from the skies. In all honesty, we found ourselves sat in the middle of Hogsmeade trying to figure out where the snow machines were located and simply relegated ourselves to truly believing it to be magic. The snowfall is executed so well, probably better than any other theme park we visit. Although each and every theme park treats their snow differently, we think USH has the best when it comes to how it’s presented. Although we would love to see it tied into the castle show at sometime in the future. We think it would help alleviate the multiple crowds waiting for the two different shows.
Speaking of which…
The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle is back and just as stunning as it was before. The wonderful projections upon Hogwarts are crisp and clear; which honestly impresses us. This is the perfect type of show USH needs for it’s guests to leave on a high note. Disney has its fireworks, Universal has its Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. It’s a wonderful addition during the Holiday season. Moving forward, we would love to see the show evolve and change, including different characters from the Harry Potter films…Dolores Umbridge anyone?
Universal Studios Hollywood has a unique and wonderful event for the holiday season. Although Grinchmas has its name at the top of the billing, Christmas in the Wizarding World is a great secondary celebration. We do think there is plenty of room to grow for the USH holiday event. We would love to see it take over every aspect of the park. Instead of placing it only in the Universal Plaza, have it so the citizens of Whoville have taken over the entire park to spread holiday joy! Just so that the holiday feel and atmosphere completely permeates every aspect of the park. Imagine the Hells Harvest scarezone at HHN, but replace the horrible creatures and decor with Whoville Citizens! We know, it’s hard to imagine…just trust us that it would be amazing.
Although this holiday event is minimal in comparison to other events, USH sets themselves apart from the competition by mixing the whimsical Whos of Whoville with the magical world of Harry Potter to help create theme park magic that few can reproduce. To put it simply, USH has truly created a holiday event that can create magic for anyone and everyone.