Universal Orlando kicks off its Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular and Macy’s Holiday Parade 2013

December 8, 2013, 8:28 PM · The 2013 holiday season is here, and Universal invites you to start "untraditional" holiday traditions at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

This year I was very fortunate to attend on the behalf of Theme Park Insider for the opening of the 2013 holiday celebrations at Universal. You too can catch the festivities at Universal December 7 through January 4.

Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular

The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular is the centerpiece of the Grinchmas celebration at Seuss Landing. It's a very sweet, live show starring the Grinch. The show also includes a colorful cast of Who-ville residents and music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller. As wonderful as the live actors are, an actual dog plays the part of the Grinch's dog Max, and he certainly steals the show at times.  The Wholiday Spectacular is scheduled at various times throughout the day. You will want to check your in-park map for times. Something important to note is that there aren't any restrooms available inside the building — so be sure to plan accordingly. The show is really enjoyable and the Grinch makes the audience laugh quite a bit. I remember being a little frightened by the cartoon at a young age — but nothing about this show seemed to bother even the youngest kids, which was nice.


The Who-ville Tree as seen backstage when you are waiting for the show to open.


Who-ville residents are super excited that Christmas is coming!


Max rides on the sled that the Grinch has filled with gifts. To get the best view of this part of the show, you'll want to sit stage left.


The Who-ville Tree before the Grinch steals the ornaments...


Then afterwards...that naughty Grinch!


No worries, at the end of the show all is restored, and the Grinch is much more kind and gentle. However he does not lose his gritty edge. He is still that rebellious Grinch that we all know and love.

After the show, the media was treated to a question and answer session with the show director for Universal Orlando Resort, Lora Wallace, and John Piper, the vice president and creative director of the Macy's Parade. It really shows that they are very proud of just about every aspect of this beloved parade. The excitement and giddiness of these two business professionals was really great to see.


One of the things Lora and John told us is that the major change in this year's parade is the addition of Happy Hippo. Just like the song, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas," Happy is really fun and makes everyone smile. You may recognize Happy from her TV appearance on the original Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. She hasn't appeared in the parade since the 1940's — and she has had a makeover since then. She is now in Orlando, fresh from New York, with her newly updated girly pink toenails and eyelashes. In fact — she is such a star — that she was revealed to us in her very own mini preview. Doesn't she look fabulous?




This is the first time Universal Studios guests will be able to see a parade balloon before it's marched through the park. Happy will make a street appearance like this one near Mel's Drive-In each night. "She will walk out as low as we can possibly make her walk..." said Lora. Balloon pilots also delighted guests by making Happy "dance" and jiggle to the music. It is really funny to see. Happy will appear at 3:50 p.m. ahead of the 5 p.m. parade during Universal's event except from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31, when the parade will step off at 8 p.m., and Happy will appear at about 6:50 p.m.

Safety precautions were also discussed during the press conference. John told me that the New York and Orlando balloon pilots go through very extensive training. In fact, because the show here in Orlando has been running for so many years, some of the Orlando pilots are now training the New York pilots. Other members of the team in white suits with devices that measure wind speed can be seen everywhere before and during the parade. Universal turns all the traditional looking street lamps to the side, and any that have pointed decorations are covered in Santa hats as an added precaution.


Santa hats — not just for decoration!

This method has worked so well that many of the light posts wear jester hats during that other famous parade at Universal — Mardi Gras! Once the press conference was over we made our way to our parade viewing spot.


Along the way we saw Curious George


and these sweet faces behind us!

Macy's Holiday Parade

For many of us, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is something most of us have probably only seen on TV. The beauty of Universal hosting this parade here in Orlando is that once the legendary New York City parade ends, many of its awesome balloons and (even the floats!) are sent down here to us!


Universal does a great job with this spectacular version of the parade. Here are some highlights:

















Replies (5)

December 9, 2013 at 3:15 AM · Do they still let park guests sign up to be balloon handlers? The pass holder site doesn't mention it anymore and I don't eee anything on the universal site about it.

In did it back in 2011 and it was a lot of fun.

December 9, 2013 at 11:44 AM · Thanks, Krista. I really appreciate your contribution to TPI and look forward to more of your reviews and great photos in the weeks and months ahead!
December 9, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Yes, they still do. My wife and I handled one of the White Stars on the 7th. They were taking volunteers over by Woody Woodpecker Kidzone next to the ET ride. It was fun and you didn't have to be an annual pass holder (although we have annual passes).
Good Luck
December 9, 2013 at 7:23 PM · Thank you so much James! Tracy - yes! Guests may still sign up to be balloon handlers. Registration opens two hours before parade time in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone (so normally 3:00pm or 6:00pm depending on the parade schedule), and is first come, first served for everyone. The only requirements are that you must be 48 inches or taller, and you must be wearing closed-toe shoes. Coordinating jump suits and gloves are provided. Remember that the parade is about 45 minutes and starts at dusk or later. This means you may be fairly warm when you go to sign up (especially if it’s still sunny out), but two hours later as the parade starts, it could be quite chilly — dress accordingly!
December 10, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Awesome report. Thanks!

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