Review: Universal Orlando’s Incredible New Holiday Shows

Let’s be honest, the entertainment at Universal Orlando has been in a bit of a slump these past couple years.  With Cinespec and the Superstar Parade, the show entertainment quality at Universal Orlando has needed a reboot.

We may have now gotten our wish.  With the two new shows I viewed at Universal for the holidays, they are the best quality entertainment I have seen at Universal for quite some time.  I can honestly say that Universal Orlando has “classed up” their act and provided two of the most fantastic shows in Orlando right now.

The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle

Let’s start over at Islands of Adventure inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Universal Orlando has debuted its new projection mapping show: The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle.

This show is a visual masterpiece from start to finish, using a variety of special effects to bring Hogwarts Castle to life.  The projection mapping is obviously the star of the show, but take note of the other outstanding effects such as the incredible spotlights and “twinkling” trees around.  The score, although not original, is absolutely wonderful as well.  All of these put together make this show an incredible holiday experience. The show itself is only about eight minutes long, but that’s all it needs to completely captivate you.

Shows are repeated throughout the evening.  Get there early – space is very limited in the Wizarding World and this show is already extremely popular.  We found the best places for viewing are from the bridge next to Hogwarts or in front of the Frog Choir stage.

Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s

Now, let’s head over to Universal Studios Florida.  Every Holiday Season, Universal has been running the Macy’s Holiday Parade.  That parade, although decent, was starting to get stale and needed an extreme makeover.  That’s exactly what Universal did this year.  They reformatted the parade and are now calling it Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s.  With “Macy’s” not being the headline this year, they have provided creative freedom to make a new and elegant parade that focuses on their IPs.

The new parade features the Minions (of course) in addition to characters from Shrek and Madagascar.  These characters are featured on brand new floats as well.  The floats are the most dazzling I’ve seen at Universal so far, glowing in the night and some moving in all different directions. The Macy’s balloons are still present, but they are not the star this time.  They simply compliment transitions in the show.

The character floats are also accompanied by a host of street entertainers.  Costumes have always been great at Universal, but these raise the bar – some of the most incredible costumes I’ve seen in their parades.

The parade itself moves at a slower and more elegant pace – much in contrast to their faster and more energized Macy’s Parade.  This parade has a sweeping original score that accompanies soundtracks from the IPs.  It feels more like a Christmas Pageant than a high energy, crowd moving show…and I think that’s exactly what they were going for.  It’s a nice change from the normal Universal format.

Of course it can’t be a Holiday Parade without Santa as well.  They close the parade with the normal Christmas tree lighting.  The show ends on a very uplifting note, with confetti and snow falling all around you.  It’s a terrific and memorable ending to the show.

Overall, very impressed with the parade – it is one of the best that Universal Orlando has done yet.  It makes the Macy’s Parade of the past seem like a cheap comparison (which it was compared to this).  I think this is the start of something bigger as well.  I could see Universal expanding this parade and adding even more next year.  I would like to see more Universal Characters and IPs (such as The Simpsons) or maybe an All-Star Float with the most famous ones known to the park.  This parade seems like a beta test for greater things to come (crossing fingers).


From the Park Pass team to all involved in both of these incredible experiences, THANK YOU!  We have been wanting this kind of quality entertainment at the park for years.  Universal Orlando has truly raised the bar this holiday.  We can’t wait to see what comes next (cough cough, Rebooooorn! or Magical Starlight from USJ 😊)

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