It’s no secret that our family loves when the holiday season comes to life in the parks. It’s so exciting to see each park put their own personal spin on our most beloved traditions. Some go super traditional and nostalgic, while others could give Clark Griswald a run for his money with their spectacular light displays. Then there is Universal Studios. Universal Studios Hollywood stands out in the crowd by daring to be different. I mean why have Santa when you can have… the Grinch! And seeing the Grinch and visiting Whoville is just where the fun starts! Come along with us as we take you through our family fun day visiting Universal Studios for the WHOlidays…I mean holidays.
GRINCHMAS AND HOLIDAYS AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD PODCAST EPISODE
Stay to the end of the article for a bonus Super Nintendo World Merchandise surprise!
We were beyond excited to take our daughter to experience the holiday season at Universal this year. She just turned 4, has seen The Grinch movie, and LOVES Christmas…we knew we were in for a fun day! To no one’s surprise, we headed straight for Whoville as soon as we entered the park. Not without admiring the gorgeous and traditional holiday decorations along the way. As soon as you pass under the archway in the Universal Plaza you feel as though you have been transported straight on to that tiny town on a snowflake.
The attention to detail in this area is so great. From the whimsically twisty Christmas Tree to the stellar performances given by all of the many Citizens of Whoville, Universal definitely shows off their ability to bring the movies to life in such a small space. This year’s Whoville layout is slightly different than it has been in years past, and we think that the changes really improve the flow of the area. The Grinch meet and greet is in the same spot, but the Max meet and greet has moved to the left of the tree where the Post office used to reside. In Max’s old spot there is now an area dedicated to a Story time with Cindy Lou. Overall, it really seems like these portions on either side of the tree received major upgrades. You can really tell the difference when you’re up close to them for either experience.
As usual, if you’re hankering for some treats while visiting Whoville, Universal has set up a few different carts where you can endulge in some holiday favorites. You can get some sweet hot beverages and if you’re of age, you can add some liquid holiday cheer. You can also get an extremely cute Grinch popcorn bucket, other holiday cocktails and various snacks. But if you’re interested in more filling holiday options, there are various locations throughout the park where you can find some tasty dishes. Some of them would be the Holiday Popcorn Chicken & Waffle, Max 22” Hot Dog, Harvest Stew in a Bread Bowl (Vegan), and in the Wizarding World you can get the English Holiday Meal.
The citizens of Whoville were stellar as usual, as soon as we walked in, we were greeted by the Postmaster. Then another group of helpful citizens stopped to talk with us and our daughter and take a photo. We caught them right before the Whoville Welcome Committee show that happens throughout the day. This group gave us just about the best advice of the day. At the time, the Grinch meet and greet was at a 90 minute wait…and as much as we wanted our daughter to meet him and get a picture, that is no easy wait time when you have a 4 year old. These lovely citizens let us know that the Grinch has also been known to stop by the exit of the Studio Tour, so if we were headed that way we might catch him with a much smaller line! We were still unsure if our kiddo was quite ready for the Studio Tour, but we headed that way and decided to let her make the call when we got down there.
After convincing our Daughter to leave Whoville, we made our way over to the stroller parking for the Studio Tour and what do you know…we spot the Grinch! We rush in line and happily wait around 10-15 minutes (Thank you for the tip, citizens of Whooville)! Now, even though we have seen the movie and our daughter has been happily talking about meeting the Grinch (who she called the Griff), she did get a bit nervous when it was nearing our turn to go meet him.
We’d love to give a huge shoutout to the team member playing the Grinch, he took his time and kept his distance at first and was just talking with her about the stuffed dog that she had in her arms. In no time at all he had her laughing and ready to take a photo with him. As we were walking away she even exclaimed that she wanted to go back and give him a hug. Just goes to show how an experience Team Member can really make a difference for those kids that might be a bit more shy of the big green guy.
Riding the high of the meet and greet with the Grinch, our daughter confidently announces that she is a “big brave girl” and that she wants to go on the Studio Tour. She held our hands pretty tight during some of the bigger show scenes, but did really well! She loved King Kong 360 3D. As she said “I saw dinosaur and big monkey!” and that was enough for her to be entertained! Overall, even though some of the experiences went over her head, she enjoyed the experience of the Studio Tour. From Jaws, King Kong, Fast and Furious, and even Earthquake; she was cheering through it all. We do really wish that some of the holiday magic rubbed off a bit more on the Studio Tour. Even if it’s as simple as adding a Santa hat to Norman Bates or adding decorations to the Nope set. A little added decorations throughout the experience can go a long way.
After a few more rides, we decided to take a break on French Street and try out a couple of Holiday sandwiched from the French Street Bistro. Gabe got the Ham and Brie sandwich while I got the Turkey and Brie sandwich, and we both indulged in a cup of spiked hot chocolate. It was a perfect holiday treat while we relaxed and took in the ambiance of French Street decked out for the holidays. They even had what sounded like French Christmas music playing over the speakers! The Turkey sandwich was the heartier of the two. It was incredibly tasty, but needed some cranberries or something sweet to offset the savory nature of the sandwich. The ham sandwich was just as good, but Gabe added some mustard and mayo which was good enough to accent the whole sandwich.
While we were taking a load off and digesting our delicious food, we had two of the best character interactions ever! First, our Daughter became enamored with a French stilt walker, who walked down the street holding her hand and then they blew kisses to each other. And then perhaps one of the highlights of our whole day was when we met Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride. Eireann has been obsessed with these characters for a long time. Gabe has clothes with Frankenstein (yes we know it’s Frankenstein’s Monsters, it’s just a lot to write every time) on it, she has a stuffed animal of the Bride, and she distinctly remembers meeting him on our last visit. At home she talks about meeting him, being his friend and giving him a hug. While the hug didn’t happen, seeing her face light up as they took the time to interact with her is something that we will not soon forget. It was probably the highlight of the trip for her as much as it was for us.
Gabe was nearly in tears from being so happy. Right after, we spotted Dracula and ran over for a photo. Our kiddo was a bit less thrilled because he can be rather scary, but she was brave and even Dracula let her know she was very brave.
After this wonderful interaction, we took some time to check out all the great merchandise items the park has to offering during the holiday season. If you love How The Grinch Stole Christmas, you’re in luck because they have so many cute things. From the book, stuffed animals, and even spirit jerseys! We actually completely forgot to pick up an ornament during our visit, so we need to go back and snag that for ourselves. Gabe is also dying because he wants the spirit jersey so bad! I think it would fit his personality during the holiday season.
We quickly made our way back to Whoville just in time for the first Tree Lighting Ceremony of the night. At the entrance of Whoville is a sign that says the show times and entertainment offerings of Whoville. Make sure to look at it when you get to the park so you can plan ahead.
On this day, there were five different show times for the tree lighting. We grabbed a spot and watched as the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas was acted out in front of us. It is such a fun and energized moment when the tree lights up in all its glory and the “snow” begins to fall. If you’ve been following along on our adventure to theme parks for the holiday season, you’d know that our kiddo loves the fake snow. The smile on her face when the first pieces of white sudds hit her face is unmatched.
Because of the changes to the sets and building surrounding the tree in Whoville, the Tree Lighting Ceremony seemed to get some upgrades as well in terms of its presentation that we noticed immediately.
After witnessing the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes, we said farewell to Whoville, and said hello to my favorite area…Hogsmeade! The Wizarding World is magical (no pun intended) all year round, but there is something extra special about it during the holidays. The area seems made for this time of year, especially when the air is cold and crisp. We headed straight over to the stage area outside of Hogwarts and waited for The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projection show.
This show never fails to impress and is something that we absolutely look forward to every year. Honestly, we look forward to all the projection shows throughout the year. A big tip for those wanting to see this show, keep in mind that The Wizarding World is rather small so Team Members have one way traffic to get in and out. Historically, the later show times have had minimal crowds as opposed to the first few shows. But if you’re going to face the crowds for the first few shows, just bring your patience. And try and plan on getting your spot early. Just grab a hot butter beer and relax till show time!
We topped off the night with a hot butter beer (with cinnamon whiskey you can get at The Hogs Head Pub) and sat in our favorite spot behind the Three Broomsticks and reflected on what an amazing day we had. We even stayed long enough to see the show again from a completely different angle. We have a very specific table we sit at every time we go, and it’s the perfect table to see the show from.
From the moment you walk through the iconic archway, Universal Studios Hollywood has created such a unique and special experience with Grinchmas and the holidays in the Wizarding World. The whimsy and colorful nature of the holidays is up front and center during this time of year. And the park looks absolutely stunning with the various decorations throughout the park. Whetheer that be Pet’s Place with half eaten gingerbread men along the garland entry way, a dangerous gift from Dr. Nefario to Gru, or even the snow covered buildings along the New York facades.
There are unique and tailor made decorations throughout the park to accompany the different IP’s you’ll be experiencing. But you aren’t just experiencing the holidays; you are being transported into the movies during the holidays. That’s something no other park in SoCal can achieve like Universal Studios. Whether you grew up with How The Grinch Stole Christmas as a book, cartoon, or even the live action film; it will connect with you on some level. It’s hard to ignore the genuine nature of the story brought to life in front of us. If anything, as with previous years, we’d love to see the offerings at Universal Studios Hollywood for the holidays, expand past the Upper Lot. Whether that means expanding Grinchmas past Universal Plaza, adding more IP specific holiday experiences, or just general holiday silliness to the attractions. Knowing how well Universal can execute the holidays makes us confident that a possible expansion of holiday offerings would be successful. Personally, I’d love to see the Idominus Rex receive a Santa hat and beard during the holidays! Either way, the holidays are truly magical at Universal Studios Hollywood. Especially when you share it with your loved ones. And spending the day at the park with our kiddo, watching her eyes light up in Whoville, created memories that will last a lifetime. Honestly, it feels like a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood during the holidays will keep anyone from becoming a Grinch during the holiday season.
FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD AND GRINCHMAS, CLICK HERE
If you haven’t visited the park recently, Universal Studios Hollywood is introducing Super Nintendo World merchandise into the parks. Here is a look at what you can get next time you visit the park.