For quite a few years my family’s Holiday tradition was to head over to Disney and check out the Christmas Tree trail at Disney Springs, or maybe a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But with prices and crowds soaring lately we have been looking for other options. Thankfully not too far away is Universal Studios Florida which has quickly become our new favorite place to help us get into the holiday spirit.
In 2020 we had quite a limited offering of Holiday events, but this year the parks were starting to get back into the swing of things. It’s not quite like it was before, but we are getting there slowly. The decorations at Universal are always some of my favorite and it starts before you even walk into the park.
One of my favorite activities Universal offers is their Holiday Tree Scavenger Hunt. The way it works if you buy a scavenger hunt map which contains the locations you need to visit. These are primarily all the different gift shops throughout City Walk, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Once you find the tree inside the store, just head over to the nearest team member and they will stamp your map. After you have found all the trees there are a couple redemption locations you can visit to claim your prize which is a fun ornament you get to take home. The tree pictures above was one of my favorites with some Gone But Not Forgotten Universal attractions, but there were so many of them and they were all fantastic.
In years past Universal would only offer Hot Butterbeer during the “Colder” months, but recently that has changed and it’s offered year round now. For me however, trying to enjoy this beverage during the middle of a steamy Florida summer is far from enjoyable. So I save this for a nice cool December day, I’m mean 65 degrees is cool enough right? I do enjoy all the different versions of Butterbeer in the Harry Potter areas of the park, but I will admit that the Hot version is my all time favorite. If you haven’t tried it make sure you do the next time you visit. But maybe just not in the middle of the summer.
Back in the New York area of Universal Studios near the Jimmy Fallon Race through New York Ride, and the Mummy coaster is where you can find the centerpiece tree for the parks. This thing is huge, with a ton of lights and ornaments. Plus if you keep an eye out you may even see the infamous Earl the Squire pop his head out of the tree.
Right near the big Universal Tree is the fan favorite Tribute Store. Not too long ago we were in here for the Halloween version and you check that out here. They certainly change these stores over quickly, which is amazing when you see all the details and decorations they have inside.
The first room you walk into is setup like Santa’s workshop. You can find some toys in the midst of being built, plus a much of actual items for sale. I even saw a model train moving around the perimeter of the ceiling pushing the Back to the Future Delorean.
The second room was themed all around Earl the Squirrel and had an amazing variety of sweet treats including the pictures Christmas Tree cupcakes. But there was so much more, gingerbread cookies that looks like a squirrel, Grinch candy apples, colorful holiday macarons and so much more. There was something else of note in here, but we will come back to that shortly.
The third room was all about the Grinch and Whoville. Plenty of great t-shirts, sweaters, grinch pajamas, and plenty more. with the Grinchmas music playing in the background I found myself spending quite a lot of time just hanging out in this area. It felt almost like I was up on that mountain scheming with the Grinch.
The last area of the Tribute Store this year was designs all around Harry Potter. This was really a beautiful design with plenty of snow and icicles all along the walls and fixtures. They even had projection snow falling along the walls as you walked by. I always enjoy spending time back at home in Hogwarts Castle. As you finish with this room you find yourself down a little hallway that exits back out into the park. But…..
Remember that Earl the Squirrel room with all the sweet treats I mentioned earlier? Well inside that room I came across a new set of Collectible Medallions. Some of you may remember that during Halloween Horror Nights they had released a special set of medallions that were extremely popular. At that time I had hoped this would be a continuing trend and so far it looks like my prayers have been answered.
As with the previous medallion set the cost is $5 for one coin, or $15 for the entire set of four. The designs were amazing and included the Universal Studios Logo with the Christmas Tree, The Grinch himself, Earl the Squirrel all dressed up for winter, and the facade of the Tribute Store.
The reverse image on all the coins is the same and had a fun design with some holiday lights surrounding a few snow flakes and Universal Studios. These really are a nice new set of medallions and I’m so happy Universal made these available.
For the rest of our visit we finished the tree scavenger hunt but didn’t do much else. On this holiday visit we were really just enjoying the decorations, atmosphere and eventually we stayed to watch the Parade with Macy’s Balloons. Rides would wait until the next time we visited, but on this outing our focus to getting into the Holiday spirit even if though the temperature eventually rose over 85 degrees and I just had to remove my ugly Christmas sweater to ensure I didn’t pass out.
One last note on these collectible medallions, when I visited this machine during Halloween there was almost always a line of guests picking up a set. So far I haven’t seen that type of popularity with these holiday designs but I don’t that doesn’t deter Universal from releasing more for each new event. Early in 2022 they will be having their Mardi Gras events and I would love to see some new coins with maybe a King Cake, or the famous King Gator Float. There are so many possibilities I just can’t wait to see what comes out next. If you visiting Universal Florida be sure to let them know how much we love these new coins and pick up a set so they keep making more.
Have a fantastic Holiday everyone. Enjoy some special time with your family and friends and I’ll see you in 2022.