The announcement has come quite a bit later this year than in previous ones, but, then again, 2020 has been thoroughly dominated and scrambled by COVID-19: today, Universal revealed what its Holidays celebration will consist of for this year.
First, though, we should probably jump back just a second and say what the Christmas festivities usually look like, in non-pandemic times. As you can tell by how our insider’s guide is broken down, there usually are three major components: Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s at Universal Studios Florida, Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure, and Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both parks; an unofficial fourth category, meanwhile, would be Universal Orlando’s hotels, which traditionally are a hub of various holiday activities (including the only place where guests can meet-and-greet with Santa Claus). Unsurprisingly, given the realities of the coronavirus and the safety precautions needed to combat it, most – if not all – of these experiences need to be modified to one degree or another for this holiday season.
And that’s precisely what Universal, at long last, has announced today, saying that its “most beloved holiday traditions and characters come to life in reimagined ways that align with the destination’s enhanced health and safety procedures.” One of the biggest items in question is easily Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s, which has traditionally been the headlining act of the resort’s yuletide celebrations. As has been pretty consistent all across both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts all throughout 2020, this parade has been cancelled (since it’s pretty difficult to maintain social distancing in such crowded situations). And also like other solutions we’ve seen at the various theme parks, Universal has opted to take the floats and Macy’s balloons and place them in a stationary location, creating a “picturesque pathway” which will allow spectators to get (relatively) up close and personal with them and snap plenty of festive photos (replete with some of the performers still clad in their processional best – yes, still including Santa Claus, who’ll be available for a socially distanced portrait). The company has even gone ahead and given this setup a brand-new name: Universal’s Holiday Experience Featuring Macy’s Balloons.
Seeming to go hand-in-hand with this, there’s also something called Universal’s Holiday Character Celebration, wherein the various characters from the traditional Holiday Parade – including denizens of the Despicable Me, Madagascar, and Shrek films – will arrive on floats and then “perform special holiday show moments” that will allow guests to sing and dance along. Afterwards will come even more socially distanced selfies, the very same approach adopted by all the other meet-‘n-greet characters everywhere else at Universal Orlando (and as we just saw with ol’ Saint Nick).
And then there’s Grinchmas. While the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular stage show and The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast won’t be coming back this year, there’s at least two elements that will remain in effect: appearances by the mean green one somewhere throughout Seuss Landing, along with the various residents of Who-ville as they go about their holiday routines. It should come as no surprise, however, that all these Christmasy individuals will now be sequestered off to the side away from guests, allowing for some safe distances while still being able to take photos.
Over at Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we know that the gorgeous, individualized Christmas decorations that bedeck every storefront will be back – and, in fact, already largely are, as we’ve been happy to report recently. While this may sound like something rather superficial, rest assured it’s actually one of the most effective and immersive components of Universal’s Holidays, and a highlight that’s surely not to be missed in any year. And so are the two other returning festive elements: the holiday versions of both the Frog Choir and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees shows, along with “seasonal treats, holidays eats, and beverages” – although, sadly, there were no further details on this last point.
As if all this weren’t enough, Universal has also confirmed that its Holiday Tree Hunt will be returning for the first time (after spawning an offshoot for this past Halloween, to boot), though for 2020 it’ll be an upcharge experience. And there’s the new Holiday Treat Trail, which will be comprised of “specialty food and beverage menu items across select dining venues” throughout the whole resort, and the equally new Holiday Tribute Store, which will take the template established by Halloween Horror Nights and then expanded by Mardi Gras and apply it, obviously, to Christmas; expect four themed rooms, including one devoted to – of course – The Grinch. And bringing up the rear of these additional items is the food truck near the Universal Music Plaza that was originally deployed for this year’s mini-Halloween festivities, which will now be serving an arepa (a sort of South American cross between a tortilla and pancake) menu:
- Beef picadillo (savory beef) – $9.25
- Pollo (shredded chicken) – $9.25
- Queso (white shredded cheese) – $8.25
Finally, at Universal Orlando’s various hotels, a number of safety-enhanced holiday meals will be in full effect, running the entire seasonal gamut from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. There will also be at least one celebratory activity, as well: the Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremony in their lobbies (which, this year, will be every evening at dusk from Thursday, December 10 to Friday, December 18).
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