With its snow-laden roofs and its carby British treats, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—both at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood—offers cozy winter vibes all year long. But during the holidays, the Hollywood theme park amps up the winter wonderland feeling with a Christmas feast.
In the evenings, there’s a light show projected onto the castle (“The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts”) celebrating the Yule Ball and all of the delights of the season. But the real magic happens when, in the middle of a mild Southern California evening, fake snow starts fluttering down from above. The same happens in the Harry Potter shop near the entrance to the park. I was shopping there the other day, adding a Monster Book of Monsters Christmas ornament to my collection. when all of a sudden I heard a gust of air, and felt snowflakes rain down on me from inside the building itself.
It’s all delightful, and something to look forward to every winter. And of all the seasonal flourishes, the can’t-miss holiday event is the Harry Potter Christmas dinner at The Three Broomsticks.
Christmas dinner, wizard-style
Anyone who has read the novels knows that The Three Broomsticks is the tavern favored by wizards in Hogsmeade, the village just outside Hogwarts Castle. And anyone who has been to Universal Studios knows that this tavern is where some of the best food in the theme parks can be found. It’s a real departure from the typical park fare: You can opt for healthy entrees, like roasted chicken and vegetables, or a plant-based Irish beef stew.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there’s a limited-time dining option plucked straight from the books (and from the UK). The English Holiday Dinner is a plate of roasted turkey breast with sourdough stuffing, glazed carrots, Brussels sprouts, bacon-wrapped sausage, gravy, and cranberry sauce.
I will take absolutely any way to feel more immersed in the Harry Potter books: I’ll lock myself into a chair and fly around dodging dragons and dementors on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride; I’ll participate in a wand selection ceremony at Ollivander’s; I’ll wait in big, unwieldy crowds to see the “snow” in Hogsmeade; I’ll buy chocolate frogs over and over again from Honeydukes, even if they are expensive and kind of hard to eat. When I was in London earlier this year, I even bought a bag of sherbet lemons, sweet lemon hard candies, because they’re Albus Dumbledore’s favorite.
And yet the holiday dinner at The Three Broomsticks somehow outshines every other opportunity to eat as the wizards do. It isn’t just a meal: it’s an elaborate preparation, surprisingly well done for how many plates the kitchen needs to crank out every day. It feels all the more special because it’s only available at the Hollywood park, and only for a few weeks a year.
Orlando has a lot more Potterverse than Hollywood. In Florida, park visitors can not only experience Hogsmeade, but hop on the Hogwarts Express train connecting Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, where there’s another major ride, live performances, a real-life Knockturn Alley, and Florian Fortiscue’s Ice Cream Parlor, which serves better ice cream than you can get pretty much anywhere.
The California park has snow created by Hollywood movie magic, and it has a Christmas dinner. But these distinctions are ones to embrace, and it’s hard to feel shortchanged as you tuck into your meal, even if you can hear the faint theme music of Simpsons Land in the distance while you eat.