All the Ways to Celebrate the Holidays This Year at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort invites guests to set their festive side free with its destination-wide Holidays celebration kicking off this month. Guests can experience a mix of merry and mischief brought to life from holiday classics to experiences inspired by pop culture icons, creating a memorable holiday atmosphere unlike any other beginning Friday, November 17 and running daily through Sunday, December 31.
From the wondrous spectacle of “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, and coming face-to-face with everyone’s favorite green grouch, the Grinch, during Grinchmas, to gazing at the floats and larger-than-life balloons during Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, there are boundless opportunities for guests to enjoy at Universal Orlando this holiday season.
Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Holiday magic fills The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as the streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade transform into a wizarding holiday wonderland overflowing with festively themed décor, lights, garland and more. The nighttime spectacle, “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” returns to Hogsmeade at Universal Islands of Adventure bringing to life a stunning projection show highlighting Christmas moments and holiday spirit inspired by the beloved characters and stories of the “Harry Potter” films.
The Frog Choir, comprised of Hogwarts students and their giant croaking frogs also returns to Hogsmeade with a special holiday-themed performance, plus guests can groove to the music of the wizarding world’s most popular singing sensation, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, in Diagon Alley.
Universal's Holiday Parade
Guests will gaze in awe as beloved pop culture-inspired stories from Illumination’s Despicable Me and DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek and Madagascar fill the streets of Universal Studios Florida during Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. These beloved stories come to life as larger-than-life balloons, colorful holiday floats and hundreds of jolly performers embark on a picturesque journey that culminates in a stunning finale including a special appearance by Santa Claus and the lighting of the magnificent 80-foot Christmas tree.
Grinchmas at Universal Islands of Adventure
Revel in the spirit of Grinchmas at Universal Islands of Adventure where the Grinch stars in the live retelling of the Dr. Seuss holiday classic, the “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.”
Seuss Landing will transport guests into a whimsical atmosphere decked out with oversized candy canes, twisty Christmas trees, stunning tinsel ornaments and more. There will even be appearances from the Whos from Who-ville and a special photo opportunity that brings guests face-to-face with the mean, green one himself, the Grinch.
Additionally, the popular dining experience, “The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast,” allows guests to start their day with a delicious breakfast and fun appearances by the Grinch and other favorite Dr. Seuss characters. The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast takes place in Confisco Grille in Universal Islands of Adventure on select dates November 17 through December 27 for $58.99 + tax per adult and $32.99 + tax per child (ages 3-9) and can be booked by visiting www.UniversalOrlando.com/Holidays. Premier and Preferred Annual Passholders can receive a 20% discount on purchases of The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast for select dates by calling 407-224-7554.
Festivities at Universal CityWalk and Resort Hotels
Guests can keep the celebration going at Universal CityWalk with seasonal food and beverage and special entertainment. Plus, all eight Universal Orlando Resort hotels will be decked out with festive décor that enhances each hotel’s theme – and the whole family can indulge in holiday feasts and activities. Special menus will be available at Universal hotels for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, and there will also be menorah lighting ceremonies and more. Select hotels even offer special holiday entertainment like Christmas tree lightings and strolling carolers. Guests can now save 20% on a four-night stay in the 2-bedroom suites at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites & Surfside Inn and Suites and the family suites at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Special Holiday Deals
- See it all and book Universal's Holiday Tour: Guests can enjoy a guided tour that gives them special access to all the beloved holiday entertainment experiences taking place across the destination. Universal’s Holiday Tour is available on select dates beginning November 19 through December 30, 2023 and can be booked by visiting www.UniversalOrlando.com/Holidays. Pricing begins at $79.99 per person (plus tax) and separate theme park admission with a 1-Day 2-Park Park-to-Park ticket is required. Annual and Seasonal Passholders can get a $10 off discount per ticket per passholder with a valid Annual or Seasonal Pass. The tour includes:
- A chance to meet the maven of mischief himself, the Grinch, and his dog, Max, while enjoying small bites, desserts and non-alcoholic beverages
- Reserved seating at the “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular” in Universal Islands of Adventure
- A meet-and-greet photo opportunity with Santa Claus in Universal Studios Florida
- An exclusive, after-hours showing of “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal Islands of Adventure to complete the night’s festivities
- Get 2 days of park admission free with a special deal: Access to Universal Orlando’s Holidays celebration is included with regular admission to the theme parks. U.S. and Canada residents can now take advantage of an incredible deal giving them five days of access to Universal Orlando Resort’s thrilling theme parks for the price of a three-day ticket to enjoy the ultimate holiday getaway. Guests also have the option to upgrade their ticket to include Universal Volcano Bay. Click here for more information and to purchase.
- Take advantage of special experiences for annual passholders: In addition to discounts on select holiday experiences, Annual Passholders will get special access to enjoy Universal’s Holidays Parade featuring Macy’s from a viewing area just for Passholders, as well as exclusive merchandise and early access to the Holidays Tribute Store.
— The Holidays celebration runs daily from November 17 through December 31 at Universal Orlando Resort and from November 24 through January 1, 2024 at Universal Studios Hollywood. For more information about Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort, visit www.UniversalOrlando.com/Holidays.
It's estimated that US households will spend over $12 billion collectively on candy, costumes, and more for Halloween this year. With all that money, time, and energy invested in what is the third most popular holiday in the country, potential trick-or-treaters will want to know what are some of the best places to be on October 31st. WalletHub recently set out to discover the answer to this question, and ranked the best towns in America to spend Halloween this year. WalletHub compared 100 US cities using 20 metrics that included trick-or-treater friendliness; crime rates and pedestrian safety; the number of costume stores, party supply stores, and chocolate and candy stores; entertainment options like haunted houses, pumpkin patches, movie theaters, bars, and amusement parks; as well as weather forecast predictions and averages. Below are the destinations that topped their lists. Welcoming cities on the East Coast A trick-or-treater holds up a painted pumpkin by Julia Raasch - Unsplash There are several great advantages to being a large metropolitan area for Halloween. For trick-or-treating, condense city living makes it easy to hop from one household to the next and kids can easily rack up large bags of sugary loot. There's also typically lots of shopping options for costumes and candy, as well as several kinds of entertainment for all ages. Taking the top spot overall is New York, New York. The Big Apple took first place in the treat-or-treater friendliness category, and came in third for the most Halloween fun. With winter still holding off at this point in the northeast, the city even took fourth place for good weather. Additionally, New York City tied for the most costume stores per capita and candy and chocolate stores per capita—so there's no doubt that both those trick-or-treating and those passing out the treats will be well-prepared for a great evening. Nearby Jersey City, New Jersey came in at second place, just behind New York, in the friendliness category. Overall, Jersey City took fifth place. Eighth place-ranked Boston, Massachusetts also got a great rankings boost thanks to its welcoming and friendly atmosphere, which came in third in that category. Boston and the surrounding New England area is a great place for "Halloween vibes" thanks to the many intriguing, and often spooky, stories behind the historic homes and destinations in the area. It's perfectly crisp autumn weather also landed it a 27th place position in that category. Western towns with the most fun Trick-or-treat decor and pumpkins by Nick Fewings - Unsplash Second place over all went to Las Vegas, Nevada. Sin City topped the rankings for the most Halloween fun, most costume stores per capita, and most candy and chocolate stores per capita. It had modest placings in the friendliness and weather categories, but its sure be a perfect spot for those looking to party. Those without kids, especially, will likely find Vegas as the most fun place to spend a holiday with spooky attractions and adult-only thrills, and bars and nightclubs for the crowd that wants to party the night away. However, if family-friendliness is what you're looking for, check out Gilbert, Arizona, ranked 10th place overall. The Southwestern town topped the list when it came to the lowest crime rate; it also came in fourth for most friendly, third for highest percentage of potential trick-or-treaters, and fourth for highest percentage of potential trick-or-treat stops. Overall, Gilbert has the perfect recipe for a traditional night of trick-or-treating with young kids. Other Western towns performed well in the rankings, even if they didn't make the overall top 10 list. Laredo, Texas (ranked 19th overall) has the highest number of potential trick-or-treaters and is the eighth most friendly; Henderson, Nevada has the fourth lowest crime rate; and Boise, Idaho took third place for best weather forecast. Sunny destinations in California A sun-filled pumpkin patch by Maddy Baker - Unsplash California towns domination the rankings for best place to spend Halloween, with especially good showings in the "most fun" category. In addition to the wonderful weather in Southern California and along the Pacific Coast, the state has plenty of fall attractions like farms and pumpkin patches, plus a great nightlife and entertainment scene in its major cities. Los Angeles ranked fifth in the fun category and took a decent 23rd place for friendliness; overall, the City of Angels is third best place to spend the holiday. Nearby Anaheim came in sixth place overall, with a tenth place finish for most fun and 16th place ranking for most friendly. San Diego was close behind at seventh place overall, with a seventh place ranking for most fun and 20th place position in the weather category. Even California towns that didn't top the overall rankings made an impressive showing in other individual categories. When it comes to the highest percentage of potential trick-or-treaters, Bakersfield ranked second, Fresno ranked fourth, and San Bernardino ranked fifth. Santa Ana took second place for the highest percentage of trick-or-treat stops. Sacramento also took first place for the best average weather forecast on Halloween night. South Florida standouts Jack-o-lanterns by Beth Teutschmann - Unsplash Is it any surprise that Florida towns are both fun and have excellent weather, a perfect combination for a successful Halloween evening? Miami ranked fourth for most fun, tied in 20th for weather, and took 31st for friendliness, launching it into fourth place overall. Nearby Hialeah, Florida made it to ninth place overall thanks to its fifth place finish for most fun environment and 20th place tie for weather. In addition to Halloween, Florida is also the perfect place to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, thanks to its large Latin American population. —To see the full rankings and data, visit WalletHub.
Want to get into the holiday spirit, but don't like the colder temps that come along with the season? Head to sunny Florida for late fall and early winter. The Sunshine State is home to several great celebrations and events—from food festivals, art shows, light displays, and more—leading up to the holidays. Enjoy musical performances along the Gulf Coast Pensacola, Florida - courtesy of Visit Pensacola Taking place this November, the Annual Frank Brown Songwriters' Festival will once again bring nationally acclaimed songwriters and musicians from around the world to venues along Florida's Gulf Coast from November 9th to 19th, with several can't-miss engagements at the iconic Flora-Bama on Perdido Key. Next year will mark 40 years as the festival continues to provide musicians an opportunity to share their stories behind lyrics that otherwise may go unheard with music-loving fans. Additionally, this November also marks the 10-year anniversary of a Pensacola staple, the Pensacola Foo Foo Festival. A 12-day celebration of culturally creative happenings, events, and moments under one banner, this year's events will take place from Thursday, November 2nd to Monday, November 13th. Set to be one of the most memorable iterations yet, this year's Foo Foo Fest will see leading acts such as Manchester Orchestra, Broadway star Megan Hilty, immersive fine art experiences and tours, performances by the Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Children's Chorus and others. Celebrate the holidays on the beach Celebrating its 11th year in Jacksonville Beach, Deck the Chairs will start November 22nd. During this unique event, visitors will see American Red Cross Lifeguard chairs decked in coastal holiday decorations and lights. New for the event this year is an additional display at James Weldon Johnson Park in Downtown Jacksonville that debuts on December 6th. Each year, thousands come out to see the decorations and support local arts education. Take part in a frost-free snowball fight From November 24th to December 29th, the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens will host the Dazzling Nights exhibition. Immersive lighting displays dazzle the property and can be enjoyed on evenings throughout the holiday season. With their nightly snowfall during the event and snowball fights inside a gigantic snow globe, guests can have a wintery experience not common to Floridians. See dazzling lights in St. Augustine Christmas lights illuminate St. Augustine, Florida - courtesy of Florida's Historic Coast For the past thirty years, St. Augustine has marked the Saturday before Thanksgiving with Light Up! Night (November 18th this year). During the annual Nights of Lights, millions of twinkling white lights come to life and illuminate the historic architecture of the nation's oldest city. The festival has roots in the Spanish tradition of placing lit white candles in the windows of homes to mark the Christmas season. Light Up Night! is a free event that begins at 4 p.m. with a spirited holiday performance by Showtime USA at City Hall. Then at 6 p.m., the All-Star Orchestra takes the stage with great swing and big band sounds at the historic Plaza de la Constitución Gazebo. At 6:45p.m. the switch is flipped, lighting up the city. St. Augustine has many local businesses that provide a variety of ways to sit back, relax, and enjoy the lights. Join Ancient City Tours for guided walking tours full of fascinating stories, or check out Old Town Trolley's Famous Nights of Lights Tour and Ripley's Red Train Nights of Lights Tours. For a vintage vibe, climb aboard a horse-drawn carriage and take in the lights leisurely. Rides with The Tasting Tours are offered daily, including boutique wines and VIP boarding. Take in the entire illuminated landscape from the sea by booking an intimate and highly customizable sailing experience on one of St. Augustine Sailing's luxury sailboats departing from Camachee Cove Marina. For larger groups, the Schooner Freedom brings traditional sailing techniques to life during their Sunset and Nights of Lights sails. For a powered boat journey, hop on board with Florida Water Tours, St. Augustine Scenic Cruise, St. Augustine Boat Tours, St. Augustine Eco Tours, Pia & Me Charters, and Red Boat Tours. For a piratical spin, check out the Black Raven Pirate Ship. Enjoy fresh seafood in Ormond Beach Daytona Beach Located between The Casements and the Halifax River in Ormond Beach, Rockefeller Gardens will celebrate the coastal lifestyle and all things water at the 13th Annual Riverfest Seafood Festival on November 18th and 19th. Guests can enjoy freshly caught fried fish, sip on a craft beer and enjoy live music and much more. The kids can even get in on the fun with the annual kid fish clinic. That same weekend, Woodland Boulevard in DeLand will transform into an artist’s garden of colors with the 30th Annual Fall Festival of the Arts. The event will feature works from 170 national artists, who will display and sell artwork in a wide variety of mediums including paintings, sculpture, glass, jewelry, leather, photography, printmaking, wood, ceramics and fiber. Go on a festive shopping spree in Jacksonville Holiday lights in Jacksonville, Florida - courtesy of Visit Jacksonville Holiday shoppers traveling to town will want to check out the St. Johns Town Center Holiday Spectacular on November 11th. The outdoor mall's annual event includes giveaways from the Town Center's stores, ornament decorating, oversized games, a 360 photo studio and live entertainment. The Spectacular ends with Santa Claus lighting a 32-foot holiday tree and kicking off a fireworks display. Residents of Jacksonville love putting together light displays throughout their businesses and neighborhoods during the holidays. Thanksgiving weekend brings the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade, a 30-year tradition, where boats float down the North and South Banks of the St. Johns River with fantastic holiday light arrangements. The parade finishes with a fireworks show featuring one-of-a-kind waterfall fireworks on the Main Street and Acosta Bridges. Gather at Daytona International Speedway for the Turkey Run The largest combined car show and swap meet in the United States is celebrating its golden anniversary in 2023 with the 50th Annual Daytona Turkey Run on November 23rd through 26th at Daytona International Speedway. Car enthusiasts will gather to view show-quality cars from around the county, discover beautifully restored classics and foreign cars. From accessories to hard-to-find parts to classic cars, there’s something for everyone at the Turkey Run.
Pumpkin spice is nice, but before Starbucks ruled the land, fall was flavored with freshly-picked apples, spiced donuts, and hot apple cider. What better way to enjoy the tastes of the season, than with a trip to an apple orchard, surrounded by crisp October weather and beautiful fall colors? The farms below are not only some of the loveliest places to visit in the fall, but offer some of the best tasting apples around. Choose one (or more!) and plan a fall weekend getaway to one of these quaint communities during their peak apple harvest. Champlain Orchards (Shoreham, Vermont) Green apples hang from branches by Thomas Kelley - Unsplash Champlain Orchards not only offers an incredible diverse variety of fresh fruit and apples, but it also a responsibly managed operation. The farm is almost entirely solar-powered, and all fruit is certified ecologically-grown or certified organic. In addition to apples, visitors can pick their own raspberries, pears, currants, cherries, peaches, and plums when in season. Also on site, is the Cider Garden, featuring locally-sourced food and beverages, as well as activities like lawn and board games, and even family-friendly movie nights on select Friday evenings. Belltown Hill Orchards (South Glastonbury, Connecticut) This fourth-generation orchard features a farm market, bakery, and pick-your-own fruit nestled in the rolling hills of New England. The season begins early with strawberries and sweet cherries, and continues through fall until the holidays with pre-cut Christmas trees. Pies, apple fritters, donuts, jams and jellies, cookies, and other delectable goods are available for purchase. Graves Mountain (Syria, Virginia) Two people carry a basket of apples by Ryan Arnst - Unsplash Weekends in October are best spent at the Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival in the picturesque countryside of Virginia. Each year, the festival features celebrates the local apple harvest with food and drinks, and hosts several arts and craft vendors. Apples can be purchased pre-picked, or visitors can pick their own (until the trees are bare). Live music, a petting zoo, hayrides, a hay maze, and pony rides are just some of the fun activities offered at the annual celebration. Guests can even stay on site at the Graves Mountain Lodge, cabins, or campsites. Kapnick Orchards (Britton, Michigan) A handful of apples by Natalie Grainger - Unsplash Kapnick Orchards has a great variety of apples to pick: from MacIntosh, Empire, and Red Delicious that are ripe in the early half of the season, to Granny Smith and Fuji ready in later October. The orchard also has their own bakery and cider mill on site, and an expansive product line that includes many other fruits and vegetables, homemade fudge, apple butter, jams, candies, and nuts. In addition to apples, the farm offers pumpkin picking and wagon rides through the Enchanted Forest. The annual apple festival is scheduled for October 14th and 15th this year, and features more vendors and entertainment. Red Apple Farm (Phillipston, Massachusetts) Guests can pick apples and more—including pumpkins and sunflowers—at Red Apple Farm. After picking, head over to the Brew Barn and BBQ Kitchen, open daily and serving up cider, craft brews, country barbecue, and brick-oven pizza and hosting live music and trivia nights. The farm also features giant pumpkins and an annual Thanksgiving Harvest Festival in November. Georgia Apple Festival (Ellijay, Georgia) Crates of freshly picked apples in an orchard by Terra Slaybaugh - Unsplash This year's festival in Ellijay, Georgia takes place October 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd. The event, now in its 52nd year, hosts hundreds of vendors with handmade, hand-crafted items, on-site demonstrations, live music, and delicious fair food. While the festival is not held at an orchard—it is held at the Ellijay Lions Club Fairgrounds—the area is surrounded by several local apple operations. Gilmer County is known as the "apple capital" of the state, so if you really want to get some picking in, check out this list of orchards to visit. In addition to the festival, the Apple Arts Festival in downtown Ellijay is held on the same weekends, and the apple parade takes place on October 14th. Gould Hill Farm (Contoocook, New Hampshire) One of the most beautiful farms in New England, Gould Hill grows over 100 varieties of apples. You-pick season typically is over by mid-October, but even when the apples run out, guests can enjoy items from the bakery and store (plus, they grow much more than just apples!). Be sure to pick up cider donuts and some local ice cream while you're there. Cayford Orchards (Skowhegan, Maine) Apples on the ground by Ana Essentiels - Unsplash This six-generation family farm in Maine grows a variety of fresh seasonal fruits and specializes in heirloom apples. Pick-your-own apples are available daily (while the trees have them), or visitors can grab a bag pre-picked in the store along with a jug of fresh cider.
For most people, traveling by horse is not the typical day-to-day mode of transportation, making activities like trail rides and carriage rides a fun way to experience a new destination. The four destinations below offer a variety of activities for every kind of traveler, from beach lovers to those nostalgic for a simpler time. These equine activities are the perfect way to slow-down and enjoy the sights. Take a beachside horseback ride in Florida Horseback riding in Amelia Island, Florida - courtesy of J/PR The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida offers visitors some fantastic ways to explore the area. For an experience like none other, ride along the beach on horseback and take in the pristine ocean views. (It's also a great way to avoid getting sand in toes, if that isn't your thing!) While there, check out some of the other activities offered; explore the outdoors with small-group "Ecology Field Trips" led by the on-property naturalist to connect and educate curious guests on the local area and wildlife in neighboring state parks and nature preserves. Visitors can also adventure through the winding channels on an exciting kayak tour and investigate the island by bike with more than 40 paths to choose from. Experience cowboy culture at the Fort Worth Stockyards Horseback riding with the Fort Worth skyline - courtesy of Visit Fort Worth A true Western experience unlike any other, the Fort Worth Stockyards in Texas is also home to world's only year-round rodeo and offers twice-daily longhorn cattle drives, historic tours, live music and the world’s largest honky tonk. Better yet, you can explore the Fort Worth Stockyards via horseback riding along the original Chisholm Trail. Tour a Hawaiian town via carriage ride Horseback riding in Lanai - courtesy of J/PR The Four Seasons Resort in Lanai, Hawaii offers a unique carriage ride experience to explore the area and learn about local history of this former plantation tour. Guests can tour the town in a beautiful carriage drawn by shire horses, recognized as a family-friendly and laidback breed. The private ride for parties up to four begins in Lanai City, where you’ll circle Dole Park, and ends at Lanai Ranch at Koele, home to the resort’s horses, minis and Spur, the Ranch dog. The one-hour excursion includes snacks, water, sunscreen and roundtrip transportation. Explore a vehicle-free Mackinac Island An aerial view of Mackinac Island, Michigan - courtesy of J/PR A visit to Mackinac Island, Michigan offers a trip unlike any other, to a place that feels as if it has been suspended in a forgotten, more innocent time. Situated on just 3.8 square miles of land between the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Mackinac takes pride in their culture celebrating and embracing their 125th anniversary of the motor vehicle ban, where modes of transportation are limited to horse-and-buggy, walking, and biking on its traffic-free roads. Guests can explore all Mackinac on carriage tours, the most enjoyable and authentic way to view the island - and you can even bring your furry friends! After a day of adventuring and exploring, guests can book a stay at Mission Point Resort, to experience a sweeping Great Lawn dotted with Adirondack chairs ideal for lounging, picnicking and lawn games, garden tours led by the resident horticulturist and through local partnerships. Mission Point guests will also enjoy horseback riding, kayaking, and more.