Review: Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort will knock you off your broomstick

December 6, 2018
By

Universal Orlando Resort in Florida is a magical destination any time of year, but at Christmas it’s even more special.

November 17 was the official start of the festive season at America’s famous theme park resort and I hopped on a plane to see what all the fuss was about.

Spread across three lands: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, an Explorer Ticket allows guests to soak up the winter magic with unlimited access over 14 days.

Featuring a live retelling of Dr Seuss’s classic holiday tale starring The Grinch in the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular alongside Universal’s Holiday Parade headlining Macy’s, my adventure across the Atlantic certainly took me back to my childhood.

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From now until January 6, families can experience Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are transformed with wondrous spirit.

You’ll be able to see a snowy Hogwarts Castle, indulge in chocolate frogs and of course cosy up with warm Butterbeer (not that it’s cold in Florida at this time of year!)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
(Image: © Universal Orlando Resort)

Highlights at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

  • Board the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station in London at Universal Studios Florida and travel to Hogsmeade Station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, or the other way around.

Hogwarts Express at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
(Image: © Universal Orlando Resort)
  • On select nights, watch in awe from Hogsmeade village as dazzling light projections are cast against the majestic backdrop of Hogwarts Castle.

  • Try Butterbeer warm, regular, frozen or in ice-cream form and head to the Leaky Cauldron for a tasty banquet of British fare.

Tuck in at the Leaky Cauldron in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
(Image: © Universal Orlando Resort)
  • Don’t forget to pick up your chosen wand at Olivanders.

  • Travel deep below Gringotts bank for a multi-dimensional thrill ride.

Must-do’s in the parks:

  • Watch The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular

The Grinch
(Image: Laura Nightingale)
  • Watch Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s

Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s
(Image: ©Universal Orlando Resort)
  • Brave the scariest rollercoasters including The Incredible Hulk (located in Islands of Adventure) and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (located in Universal Studios Florida).

Where to stay: Aventura Hotel

Aventura Hotel

This sleek and stylish hotel is the resort’s newest and sixth hotel featuring a rooftop bar and grill, a serene outdoor pool and a fantastic restaurant called Urban Pantry boasting a range of food stations – expect pizza, sushi and American classics.

Guests who stay at the super contemporary 600-bed skyscraper receive exclusive benefits including early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay – plus it’s right next door to all three parks.

The tech-savvy accommodation also comes with in-room tablets that allow guests to order pizza to their rooms in addition to controlling many of the rooms’ features like the TV and room temperature controls.

Naturally, there is an on-site gym, gift shop, Starbucks, sky-line views and even a virtual reality game room.

You can hop on a charming complimentary water taxi to CityWalk, home to all the resort’s bars and restaurants too.

Where to eat and drink:

Think mighty portion sizes, decadent snacks and awe-inspiring dishes in the parks, at CityWalk and at Aventura hotel..

As you race to each rollercoaster you will feel like you are in a never-ending sweet shop, with the likes of warm pretzels, colossal cookies, cinnamon churros, moreish popcorn and luscious ice creams around every corner.

Welcome to Hogsmeade
(Image: Laura Nightingale)

You’ll have to sample Butterbeer, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Beans while you are in Harry Potter land, and when you’re in CityWalk you must pop your head into Voodoo Doughnut to taste the ridiculously indulgent flavours such as Triple Chocolate Penetration and Bacon Maple Bar.

Voodoo doughnuts in CityWalk
(Image: ©2018 Universal Orlando Resort)

For something more savoury, have dinner at The CowFish Sushi Burger Bar.

Whether you keep them separate or embrace the spirit of Burgushi for a cutting-edge fusion of sushi and burger, the unique eatery offers the best of both worlds and also has a bento box for those who want to sample a little of everything.

Finally, for something extra novel, book a table at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium also in CityWalk.

The chefs create culinary alchemy with gourmet chocolates and one-of-a-kind desserts, ranging from sumptuous sundaes to bizarre milkshakes with thick wedges of cake sitting on top.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in CityWalk
(Image: Laura Nightingale)

Who to fly with: Norwegian from Gatwick Airport

Flying to America on a budget carrier does not have to be miserable thanks to Norwegian.

With direct flights to Orlando starting from £155 one-way, Norwegian is the only low-cost long-haul airline in the UK flying non-stop to the US.

The 787 Dreamliner is one of the most comfortable and environmentally friendly options there is.


The year-round service has been increased to five a week to Orlando for this winter, as well as newly twice weekly launched service to Tampa, making Universal Orlando more accessible to travellers on all budgets.

Customers have two cabin options when it comes to booking their seats: Economy and Premium – and I can personally say I would recommend Premium if you can as it feels as luxurious as First Class but without the hefty price tag.

Lounge access is available for Premium passengers
(Image: Laura Nightingale)

What comes with Premium?

All those flying Premium will be able to head through fast track security and relax in the No1 Lounge for an elegant lunch before take-off.

Once on board travellers can enjoy spacious seating with extra legroom (over a metre), complimentary drinks, two meals and two pieces of checked luggage up to 20kg.

There is a choice of two menus which both come with wine, beer or mineral water included.

And of course, there is a state-of-the-art entertainment system with movies, TV shows, games and an interactive 3D map with travel tips for your destination.

Norwegian’s Premium seats have lots of leg room
(Image: Laura Nightingale)

A holiday at Universal Orlando Resort is a once in a life time experience (so of course more expensive than your half term break in Spain) but it is one that you will never forget.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan like me (yes I returned home with suitcase full of supplies from the Weasley twins, a Gryffindor sweater and of course my very own wand), it is the most magical place on earth.

As well as the line up of thrilling rollercoasters, mouthwatering food and marvellous festive attractions, Christmas in Orlando will not just blow you away, it will knock you off your broomstick.

Now to put on that Potter DVD boxset to reminisce my travels…

Orlando average temperatures:

January – 15°C

August – 28°C

Happy holidays!

Laura’s trip was provided by Universal Orlando Resort and Norwegian.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/review-christmas-universal-orlando-resort-15449688


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