REVIEW: Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal debuted Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter two weekends ago, on Saturday, November 24, featuring all-new holiday decor around the land and the all-new Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projection-mapping show.
It is a magically breathtaking event and easily the best holiday celebration yet in Universal Studios Hollywood’s five-odd decades. Now that we’ve had some time to check out its experiences and let them all digest a bit, we’re able to provide our thoughts on everything for your reading pleasure.
The first thing you’ll notice upon setting foot in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that Hogsmeade Village is adorned with festive decor. What’s neat about the decorations is that there is a story behind each one of them: the shopkeepers of the land curated the accouterments, which is why they change as you move from store to store, reflecting each shop’s wares and personality. The garlands and various ornaments are beautiful during the day, but they’re absolutely exquisite during the night, when they light up. You owe it to yourself to check each store, both outside and inside, once the sun has set.
Our personal favorite is is the mistletoe hung by the archway next to the stage.
Another component to Christmas in The Wizarding World is the food offerings at The Three Broomsticks, which once again expanded to include some seasonal exclusives. New this year is the English Holiday Feast ($15.99), which is easily best described as a Thanksgiving dinner, served with roast turkey with gravy, pigs in blankets, celery sage stuffing, and a medley of vegetables. It is a lot of food and can be easily shared with two people. The holiday dinner is good, but there isn’t a kick of spice that adds more flavor to it, making it enjoyable but not the stuff of legends in our book.
Another new item is the Christmas Pudding, which can best be described as a raisin bread or fruitcake with caramelized brandy butter. I’m sorry to say we weren’t a fan of it; we prefer the Sticky Toffee Pudding – with its topping of vanilla bean ice cream, creating a perfect harmony of flavors – as a yuletide dessert.
Last but not least is the iconic-and-seasonally-available hot Butterbeer. The warm version of everyone’s favorite drink is absolutely fantastic, although give it a couple minutes for it to simmer down – it’s served extremely hot. It’s the perfect companion to a Christmas feast, even if this is the second year that hot Butterbeer has been available at the park.
The Frog Choir has a brand-new set list themed to the holidays. These include three original songs and one Christmas favorite, performed with a fun wizarding twist: “Christmas at Hogwarts,” “The Most Magical Yule Ball of All,” “I Put a Spell on Father Christmas,”and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” We were a fan of all four, with “Most Magical Yule Ball” our personal favorite; it’s a very spirited song, and the performers have a bit of fun with each other during it.
The holiday show runs just under ten minutes, and it puts us in the Christmas spirit every time we watch it. We definitely recommend stopping to enjoy it at least once.
The feature component of Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, however, is The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. And, man, does it deliver – The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, this past summer’s projection-mapping show, was great, but the holiday version just blows it out of the water. Magic at Christmas really uses the castle as a canvas by projecting moments from the films, such as the Yule Ball and a giant Christmas tree, which then turns the entire castle into a giant ice sculpture. The music choice is incredible, and it works well. Missing from the summer show was pyrotechnics, and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle fixes the omission, which gives the show a nice kick and a proper finale rather than a giant projected poof.
We highly recommend that everyone stay ’til nightfall to experience the production, as it’s a perfect way to cap your adventure in the park.
Overall, Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an incredible and much-needed addition to the rebranded Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood program. While the food portion isn’t as memorable as last year’s additions were (we miss Eton mess!), the holiday Frog Choir performance is a lot of fun and The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle is nothing short of a milestone at the park, bringing back a nighttime experience for the first time in some 25 years. There is no way to describe the show expect to say “wow!”
Prepare to have a brand-new holiday tradition start this year.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter runs daily now through January 7, 2018.