By Jaimz Dillman
We needed a boost of holiday Who-bilation so the mini-me and I headed to the Universal Orlando resort for some cheer.
Full disclosure- I worked at the parks for a very long time and have special memories and fondness for a place that was once home- so I may be a bit biased as I write.
Let me start with this… it was hot. Like summer hot. Yes, Florida has a warm Christmas every year but the day we went combined over 80° heat with humidity due to an incoming evening storm and our jingle bells were none too jolly.
Still, we soldiered on and made our way starting with Islands of Adventure and Grinchmas!
The live show, featuring the music of Mannheim Steamroller, has now relocated to the stage that once housed the Blue Man Group before closing earlier in the year. This makes things more comfortable for the audience as there are theater seats rather than metal bleachers of the past.
For reasons not explained to us (although inside sources have claimed cast call-in coverage has been a challenge) the first show of the day, which we were in line for, was canceled and the guests exiting the queue were given express passes for other rides.
Oooooh kayyy… we grabbed some holiday punch (green sour apple, yum!) and some Grinch cookies (soft sugar cookies with small candy hearts, another yum!) part of the seasonal food offerings in Seuss landing and enjoyed a ride with Cat in the Hat plus a few pics with the characters of the book.
Back in line again and this time we made it! Sidenote- while I LOVE Universal, I will say Disney has a much better grasp on keeping guests comfortable in queue lines. As Grinchmas is a seasonal limited-run show, guests are just snaked through temporary stanchions to wait out in the open sun- or rain- with no shade, fans, etc. On a cooler day, it’s not so bad but we were all roasting like chestnuts on an open fire!
But- I digress. Grinchmas is, and will probably always be, my favorite. It’s a traditional feel-good holiday story with fun songs, silly characters everyone knows from Seuss, and a solid message. I had the honor to perform in an earlier version of the show and became a Who for 2 years. And I miss it every time I see the cast having just too much fun on that stage. Even my tween, who protested seeing a show “we see every year” found herself laughing and tearing up. Colorblind casting this year was a welcome surprise and they just knocked it out of the park! Definitely a must-see.
Making our way around Islands of Adventure, there isn’t a lot of happy merry happening in addition to the usual park fare. Yes, Hogsmead is dressed up and there’s an expansive sweets selection at various stores with ornaments and such but the Studios had more festive sights to take in.
The tree in New York is impressive for sure, and keep your eyes peeled for Easter eggs of rides from the past in the garland decor through the area. These include slime and marshmallows on the wreath of the Jimmy Fallon experience as it once housed the Ghostbusters, a shark for Jaws, a Delorean from Back to the Future, etc.
Diagon Ally is dressed for the holidays, you’ll find seasonal versions of The Blues Brothers, Sing-It, and Marilyn shows in the New York streets.
Plus, additional characters are out to meet and greet from the Macy’s parade before step-off.
The Tribute store received a sprinkling from the sugar plum fairy with different rooms dedicated to Santa’s workshop, Earl the Squirrel (the unofficial mascot of holidays at Universal), the Grinch- and most stunningly- the great hall of Hogwarts. Lots of souvenirs are offered along with more treats for that sweet tooth.
Our evening ended the same as it started- the parade was canceled due to inclement weather- so, unfortunately, our hearts didn’t take flight but there are plenty more opportunities to catch all the floats and balloons as the event runs through January 2nd.
A final festive farewell can be found on your walk back to the garage as Mistletoe Pines has sprung up in CityWalk with fun cabins featuring limited-run food, drinks, souvenirs, and we met lumberjacks!
There’s plenty to please at Universal Resort to make spirits merry and bright- as long as the weather cooperates! All info and tickets can be found online at universalorlando.com