By Charly SHELTON
It’s that time of year for gingerbread everything, holiday lights and the gentle hiss of a “snoap” machine giving SoCal a white Christmas. That’s right; it’s time for the holidays at the local theme parks.
From Universal Studios Hollywood to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and everywhere in between, the holiday decorations and events are in full swing for family and friend get-togethers over the season. Last week, we looked at the holiday offerings of Knott’s Merry Farm and its fantastic foods. This week, we’re heading closer to home to Universal Studios Hollywood and its dual Christmas offerings – Grinchmas and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Most theme parks – indeed most public events ¬– held at this festive season of the year use the term “holiday” for inclusive purposes despite the overall lack of Hanukkah or Kwanza decorations. But with celebrations based on two movies that specifically name-drop Christmas, the USH events stick just to the one holiday.
Grinchmas returns for its 20th anniversary event, celebrating the Christmas that Mr. Grinch brought back. He was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas but, when his heart grew three sizes, he brought the celebration back and has invited LA to share in the fun. Guests can meet Max, the Grinch’s dog, and dine on festive Who-foods like a Grinch donut, peppermint hot chocolate or green holiday popcorn. And for the most fun taking a picture all year, visit the Grinch himself. He talks a mile a minute and keeps guests in stitches the whole time. Scan the QR code attached to this story to see the video interview with Mr. Grinch.
But most importantly, to grow your heart three sizes and help those in need this year, guests can fill out postcards for the Grinch and with each postcard sent USH’s Discover A Star Foundation will make a donation to School on Wheels – a volunteer organization that provides free tutoring and mentoring for kids living in motels, shelters, group homes, vehicles and on the street. For more info on this organization, visit SchoolOnWheels.org.
This is always a fun event that holds up surprisingly well. This version of the Grinch is from the 2000 live action film starring Jim Carrey. Most of the kids taking part in the event are probably more familiar with the 2018 animated version of the story from Illumination Entertainment, but that doesn’t seem to disconnect them from the festivities as they smile and pose for pictures with the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who, Martha May Whovier and Mayor Augustus Maywho. After all, a good time is a good time. While there isn’t much to actually do as far as activities other than fill out the postcard and eat, there are plenty of story time performances and tree lightings to keep younger guests enthralled and give parents that perfect photo moment.
Around the corner in Hogsmeade, Christmas is in full swing. Snow-capped roofs are complemented this time of year with brightly-lit garlands and wreaths. Hot butterbeer flows to every cup and the sound of a magical frog choir croaking out holiday favorites dances through the air. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lights up at night with Christmas decorations and brings back its annual Christmas show –The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. This six-minute show brings Hogwarts Castle to life through projection technology that maps the façade with Christmas ghost carolers, dancing lanterns, house-specific snowmen and Christmas trees. Walls slide away to reveal the inner workings and chambers of the ancient castle. While the runtime is short, the show is really not to be missed. It’s a spectacular nighttime experience that rivals most shows with longer runtimes at other parks. The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle runs approximately every 30 minutes after sunset.
Whether it’s character greetings, photo ops, holiday foods or nighttime entertainment that makes the season special, Universal Studios Hollywood has something for everyone. Grinchmas and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter run through Dec. 29. Visit UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for more info.