Holidays Return to Universal Studios Hollywood

No mask was going to quiet the Grinch at Universal Studios Hollywood, who wore a color coordinated mask when hugging reporter Charly Shelton.
Photos by Charly SHELTON


After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theme parks worldwide last year, California’s parks were among the last to reopen. Last year there was no Christmas at the theme parks, just one of the many things 2020 couldn’t offer in LA. The 14-month shutdown ended this spring and guests were welcomed back to the parks for some slightly altered experiences; however, many people were just grateful to be back. Now with the arrival of the holiday season, many families are eyeing a trip to a theme park to see the holiday decorations, try some holiday food and relive some favorite family traditions.

In Los Angeles, there is nowhere better for this than Universal Studios Hollywood. The Grinch is back to celebrate Grinchmas with all of his fans, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” and festive holiday décor lines much of the park. It’s a good feeling to have again, and one of the things most dearly missed during the shutdown.

As the two-year mark of the pandemic approaches, the “firsts” are drying up: the first day back, the first festival with pandemic safety procedures, the first line experience with social distancing, the first ride with Plexiglass dividers, the first haunt at Halloween Horror Nights in masks. Now it’s time for just about the last “first” – the first Grinchmas celebrated in masks.

One might think that wearing masks in the park with favorite characters doing the same might be a constant reminder of the virus; that’s what this reporter expected heading into the event. But in fact it was quite the opposite.

Seeing that Seuss-style curly Christmas tree and the lights all over the park made it feel just like old times. Attending the park was something unknowingly missed and having all the lights and garlands hung around just melted away the time and frustrations since the last time the holidays were celebrated in the park. And sure – the mask was noticeable but it didn’t detract from the majesty of the season. The Grinch has always been the loudest one in the room and no mask is powerful enough to silence him.

The one thing that was noticeable was at the nightly tree lighting, which no longer featured characters on stage but rather pre-recorded audio introductions from The Grinch were played. Other than that, it felt like old times.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had few changes as the feature wasn’t predicated on people but rather on decorations. The nighttime castle light show is unchanged and as magical as ever, a perfect way to end the night. And the English holiday dinner in The Three Broomsticks tavern is one of the finest theme park meals found anywhere with hearty turkey slices, cinnamon spiced cranberry sauce, stuffing, bacon-wrapped sausage, glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s holiday festivities continue through Jan. 9 making a great time to celebrate a festive Christmas season.