Guide to Special Events at Universal Orlando

Special events at Universal Orlando are a great addition to your Universal Orlando vacation. These may impact your trip and are good to know about before you arrive.

If you are planning a visit to Universal Orlando you may want to be aware of the special events at Universal Orlando throughout the year. These events are typically included with your admission to the park and can be a great time to visit the Universal parks.

Special Events at Universal Orlando Resort

  • Halloween Horror Nights
  • Holidays at Universal
  • Mardi Gras
  • Rock the Universe: Florida’s Largest Christian Music Festival
  • Running Universal (Retired as of 2024)
  • Harbor Nights at Loews Portofino Bay

We love visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure at different times of the year to experience the special events that are offered.

Each event is unique and has fun food as well as entertainment options available.

Most of the events are at Universal Studios with the exception of Grinchmas which is in Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure. The main special events at Universal Studios are Holidays at Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights, and Mardi Gras.

guide to special events at universal orlando
Mardi Gras is an awesome time to visit Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Orlando Special Events Calendar

Below is a list of the events and the expected dates. Dates will be updated as they become available.

  • Halloween Horror Nights (Select Nights September 2nd-October 31st. Separate ticket needed for event.)
  • Holidays at Universal: November – January (2024 Dates have not been announced yet.)
  • Mardi Gras (Feb 3rd- April 7th 2024)
  • Rock the Universe: Florida’s Largest Christian Music Festival: January 26 & 27, 2024
  • Harbor Nights at Loews Portofino Bay (Ticketed event with music, wine, and food. Offered 4 times a year. Learn more.)

Tickets for Special Events at Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras and Holidays at Universal are included in your Universal Orlando admission ticket. Events like Halloween Horror Nights require a special events ticket.

Where to Stay for Special Events at Universal Orlando

We prefer to stay on-site when visiting Universal Orlando. On-site guests have early park admission and guests staying at a Premier Resort receive Universal Express Pass included with their stay.

Hard Rock Hotel is a great choice for a premier hotel at Universal. Check Hard Rock Hotel prices. For a budget friendly stay we like Endless Summer: Dockside Inn & Suites. Check Dockside prices.

Below you will find review articles of the on-site Universal Hotels we have stayed at.

Holidays at Universal Orlando

The Holidays at Universal Orlando is one of my favorite times to visit. This is celebrated at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as well as at CityWalk.

I’ve written an entire article covering the event: Holidays at Universal Orlando Guide

At Islands of Adventure the highlights of the event are Grinchmas which turns Seuss Landing into Who-Ville for a holiday celebration. There is a Grinchmas show that is included in your general admission ticket as well as special holiday treats.

You can also celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts with Holiday projection show and holiday treats at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

holidays at Universal Orlando Resort parade
Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios Florida.

At Universal Studios you can visit the Holiday tribute store which is has themed rooms for the holidays. It is a very cute gift shop themed around the holidays.

Universal Studios also has the Macy’s Holiday Parade which is so good. It has all your favorite Universal characters as well as a visit from Santa at the end. The Universal Resorts like Cabana Bay are also nicely decorated for the holidays.

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios

Mardi Gras at Universal is an event that you want to take advantage of during your visit to Universal Orlando. Most of this event is at Universal Studios, not Islands of Adventure.

There is a Mardi Gras parade nightly, a tribute store themed to Mardi Gras, specialty food booths, as well as concert nights.

Each year there is the theme. For 2024 the theme is Universal Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval. There will be specialty food items available for guests. The food is our favorite part of the festival.

One of the other big perks of visiting Universal Studios during Mardi Gras is the free concerts. On select nights there are concerts held at the park.

These are free to guests with a ticket to the park. If you have an annual pass be aware that some passes are blocked out for concert nights.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

Halloween Horror Nights is not a kid friendly event. This Halloween event will have scares from the minute you enter the park.

There are scare actors roaming the park. There are 10 haunted houses, 5 scare zones, and 2 shows. If you are not into scary Halloween this is not for you.

As a family we are not into scares and have not attended Halloween Horror Nights, we are more a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party group but, I have heard amazing things about this event and it is something fans look forward to each year.

Tickets for the event start at $73.99 a person and some nights do sell out. The event typically starts at 6:30pm. End time varies.

If you are planning a visit to Universal Studios with your family during Halloween Horror Nights be aware of the times and that the park will be decorated for Horror nights during the day.

This will be mostly skeletons and other spooky décor in the daytime. There are many YouTube videos to check it out for yourself if you want to preview it first.

FAQ About Universal Orlando Special Events

Are Universal Orlando Special Events free?

Most of the Universal Orlando special events are free. The exception is Halloween Horror Nights. Halloween Horror Nights is a ticketed event. Mardi Gras and Holidays at Universal are offered to anyone with a park ticket.

Is there a nightly fireworks show at Universal Orlando events?

There are fireworks during the Christmas at Hogwarts castle show. This is at located at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.

Are there activities at both Universal parks during events?

Most events are held at Universal Studios Florida but during the Holidays at Universal event you can find celebrations throughout the parks and at CityWalk.

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando for a special event can make your trip to Universal even better. We really enjoyed the Holidays and Mardi Gras events and have attended them multiple times.

Universal Orlando is a great place to visit year round but we highly suggest planning a visit during the events.

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