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Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort

Imagine the usual disclaimers about skipping this post if you’re not interested in reading about UOR…AGAIN! I know, I know, it’s not local, but I’ve got some great pictures and food talk from a short visit paid to UOR during their holidays celebration.

I’ll spare you the details of how I ended up at UOR for 2 days recently, you don’t care. Suffice it to say that I arrived at the recently reopened and always wonderful Loews Portofino Bay Hotel on a late Sunday morning, departing the next day whenever I got around to it.

(For those that care about such things, both UOR in general and the Loews hotels are knocking it out of the park, safety-wise. Daily temperature checks for hotel guests, limited capacities, physical distancing, all that stuff. As an UOR annual passholder, I keep an eye on the Facebook group and the reports have been glowing from most visitors not only about the resort and workers, but also the behavior of the guests being respectful, mostly, of the rules. It was this feedback that made me comfortable planning the visit. My experience was in line with others’, people wore masks and generally stood apart in lines where the markings were clear and frequent. On many rides, only one party is allowed in a car/vehicle, even if it’s a party of one.)

I wanted to go badly enough to go under current conditions and alone because we haven’t been able to experience the holidays there before. I’ve been drooling over the photos of food and decor since before Thanksgiving. I had a checklist of things to see, do, and eat and I think I got just about everything crossed off. I actually spent pretty much all day Sunday at Universal Studios, which is rare as we usually go back and forth between parks. But I was in no hurry and had things to see. One of the first places I looked in was the prop shop and was thrilled to see that they had the small poster sized architectural drawings of the Islands of Adventure lighthouse in stock again. I made a note to pick one up later (and did and even got it home safely!). I wanted to see the holiday version of the Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees show in Diagon Alley so I check the schedule and got there with time to spare. Except for some reason they put on one of the puppet shows instead. But, happily, they did the Tale of the Three Brothers so I finally got to see that. I did get to see the show later in my visit and it was great, even with the physical distancing.

Next on the list was badly needed lunch so I got on line at the newish crepe stand in Central Park. I had my sights set on the seasonal crepe, essentially a holiday turkey dinner in crepe form – turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, craisins…

First, that stand is SLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW. Like, crazy slow. Three people working in it and it took me a solid half hour to get my crepe despite being behind maybe 4-5 parties. Even having that long to watch them work I have NO CLUE why it was taking so long. Each crepe seemed to be assembled pretty quickly. Fortunately, my crepe was TOTALLY worth it. The only problem was that it was BLAZING hot. As in, I burned my hand walking a short distance to find a place to sit hot. I kept shuffling it around in my hand trying to hold different spots, but it was really bad. Protect your hand with some napkins, trust me. But it was really good and filling. Despite it being my first food of the day at 1:40 or so I was filled right up. It was after this I hit up Celestina’s show.

A while later I was ready for a snack and headed for the Holiday Tribute store.

It was cute, you can easily find a lot of photos online of the inside. Basically a few rooms with lots of Christmas stuff available. There’s a Grinch-centric room, a Harry Potter room, etc. They had some great posters in a connecting hall:

That last one’s a hoot.
The final room has a bunch of holiday treats, but I was focused on the gingerbread whoopee pie.

So, it was OK. The soft cookies were good and the little gingerbread confection was tasty. The filling was a real letdown, though. Was it…lemony? Not sure, but really not fabulous.

Just outside the store is the big Christmas tree in the New York area.

By this point I was ready for a rest. Did a bit of shopping, including my IoA poster, and headed for the hotel for a break. I used the expanded mobile ordering to set a 6:00 pick up for a calzone from Sal’s at Portofino and that went smooth as can be. After eating some of that I managed to drag myself back to the park to experience Diagon Alley in the dark, which was great as it was near closing and pretty empty. Great photos.

At this point it was time to head back, hitting one more target. I took the Hogwart’s Express to Hogsmeade in IoA.

I got some more nighttime photos from that park.

I went to Toothsome and ordered the Gingerbread milkshake, a kinda sorta not really secret menu item advertised to passholders. It took a pretty long time to get it and then a really long time to get a boat back to the hotel, so it ended up sort of tepid by the time I ate it, but it was pretty good, especially the cookie on top.

And that was the end of Sunday.
I slept in a bit Monday, I wasn’t looking to get on any popular rides so I didn’t care about early entry and was more concerned with sleep. I opted to check out IoA mostly. Saw this cute barrel of Maxs:

But then there was this much less cute barrel of Dobbys 😀

Some nice daytime photos:

I love Port of Entry and was happily getting pictures with few or no people in them. A quick rain shower went through, which I managed to time with picking up a hot butterbeer in the Hogshead that I sipped under cover until the rain passed. It was lovely after that all day. After puttering around I was ready for lunch and, since I saw that Green Eggs and Ham was open, decided to get some tots!

I was sorely tempted by the pizza tots, but followed the recommendations I’d read and got the buffalo chicken tots.

The ladies here rivaled the crepe stand for speed and I waited probably 20-30 minutes behind 2-3 parties. Again, though, totally worth it. These were GREAT. Perfectly crispy tots, plenty of crispy fried chicken pieces, hot sauce, etc. Very filling, too. I thought this might be more of a snack stop, but it was plenty for lunch. I went back to Universal Studios to try to catch the still-new Bourne Stuntacular that replaced T:2 3-D. It was a trying experience, first standing waiting for 30 minutes (with limited capacity you have to get there early to get in), then it was delayed, I dunno, another 20 or more? It was a long time standing waiting. Since I was planning to leave afterwards, I stuck it out, though. I’m afraid my review here is not as glowing as some I’ve seen. Yes, the effects are pretty cool, but the story was sort of dumb. I didn’t hate it or anything, but was underwhelmed and in no rush to see it again.

Again used mobile ordering to order some Voodoo Doughnuts to take home (worked great) and a couple of other things and I was on the road. I’m of the opinion that Voodoo haters are either ordering the wrong doughnut for them or are fighting nostalgia. Like pizza and takeout Chinese, if you grew up on Krispy Kreme or whatever, different doughnuts will hit you wrong. Or, with so many choices, maybe they’re choosing wrong. If you’re used to a cake doughnut, a yeast shell might seem all wrong, or vice-versa. I don’t have any particular doughnut allegiances and I think they’re pretty good doughnuts. They don’t skimp on the toppings, for sure. The Universal Orangesicle was a standout – a yeast bar doughnut on a stick, filled with Bavarian cream, citrus frosting, and crunchy chocolate pearls on top. Even the fairly simple Chocolate Old Fashioned was good – a simple chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting.

Overall, a pretty satisfying trip. It was nice to take my time and not try to push myself. I didn’t ride much, which was fine and as intended. Saw and ate some new things. You can do a lot worse than enjoying some holiday cheer at Universal Orlando Resort.