As a theme park journalist, I spend a lot of time in Central Florida’s theme parks during the Christmas season. From the holidays at Walt Disney World to SeaWorld, I’ve experienced most of what these parks have to offer during the holidays. In recent years, the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort have become a favorite—especially inside the gates of Universal Studios Florida. One of my favorite spots for a romantic stroll during the holidays at Universal is its Holiday Tribute Store, which can best be described as a nostalgic walk through some of your favorite Universal films, intellectual properties, and stories.
What is Universal’s Tribute Store?
At each of Universal’s seasonal, festival-style offerings, a Tribute Store pops up to celebrate the event. You’ll find a Tribute Store for Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras, for example, but there’s also one unveiled each Christmas that focuses on everything from the holidays at Hogwarts to the Mean One himself, Mr. Grinch.
Through the years, Universal’s Tribute Store has become equal parts theatrical set walk-through, merchandise shopping destination, and sweet treat venue. Inside, a couple can spend tons of time simply perusing the store, looking at the intricate nods to all things Universal and choosing which merchandise and snacks they want to take home with them at check-out.
Note: To plan a date night walk-through of the holiday Tribute Store at Universal Studios Florida, a park ticket (or annual pass) is required. While you’re there, you may also want to snack on the special, holiday-themed food offered throughout the park or take in the nightly holiday parade. There are also plenty of Christmas decorations to look for, holiday characters to meet, and more.
What is Universal Orlando’s 2023 Holiday Tribute Store Like?
Lora Sauls, assistant director of creative development and show direction at Universal Orlando Resort, says this year’s holiday-themed Universal Tribute Store is “brand new,” focused on the holiday tradition of mailing things to the ones we love. Before you even visit this year’s store for a date night, it’s good to keep this in mind, as thinking about celebrating the people you love most is a great way to get into both the date night and Christmas spirit.
“[The Universal Tribute Store and Post] is all about sharing the holidays and how we mail out our Christmas cards and send gifts,” Sauls said at a media event kicking off Universal’s holiday celebration, which runs from November 17 through December 31. “It’s so beautiful in there, and it’s where you can get all the holiday merchandise—especially holiday merchandise with our beloved friend, Earl the Squirrel.”
Holiday park icon Earl the Squirrel definitely plays a major role in the 2023 holiday Universal Tribute Store and Post, but so do lots of other Universal intellectual properties and stories. Read on for a guide to each room of this year’s Tribute Store.
The Universal Tribute Store and Post Mailroom
When you first enter the Universal Tribute Store and Post, you and your partner will find yourself smack in the middle of a busy “mailroom” where mail is sent throughout Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.
On several bulletin boards throughout the mailroom, you’ll find nods to Universal attractions like Men in Black: Alien Attack and film franchises like Jaws and Ghostbusters. Spend time looking at the details on each bulletin board and see what each other can find hidden among the papers pinned to the cork boards.
Around the top of the walls in the mailroom, you’ll also see tubes that deliver mail to areas of the theme parks like Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, Hollywood Boulevard, King Kong’s Skull Island, and Jurassic Park and World’s Isla Nublar. Eagle eyed-Universal fans will also find nods to things like Halloween Horror Nights and the story of Earl the Squirrel.
Christmas at Hogwarts
The next room of the Universal Tribute Store and Post is all about Christmas at Hogwarts. You and your date will enjoy checking out an impressive array of Harry Potter merchandise, from Hogwarts Christmas sweaters to ornaments that pay tribute to the four Hogwarts houses.
There’s a holiday tree decorated with pieces of mail from the Owl Post and a sweet collection of Harry Potter-themed stuffed animals that is sure to get any muggle in the mood to snuggle.
The Whoville Post Office
The Whoville Post Office is a series of rooms dedicated to Dr. Seuss and the entire How the Grinch Stole Christmas franchise. Here, you’ll find a delightful bakery case full of treats like trifle cake, macaroons, cupcakes, and more. Pick out a sweet treat to enjoy with your sweetie after you explore the store.
Don’t miss the selection of Grinch merchandise in these rooms, as well as funny nods to the Grinch’s grouchy disposition, such as mail scattered around the floor that pokes fun at the 2000 Jim Carey live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch messes with the Whos’ mail by sending things like jury duty summons and eviction notices.
Earl the Squirrel
The Universal Tribute Store and Post ends with everyone’s favorite Universal Christmas icon, Earl the Squirrel. In the final rooms of the store, Earl is attempting to sell Christmas trees and giving guests a peek into his own home, which he shares with recently-introduced character Pearl the Squirrel.
Be on the lookout for the funny wallpaper in Earl’s home, which tells a bit of his Universal Studios Florida origin story.
“Earl came to us many, many years ago as a real squirrel that liked to eat the lights on our Christmas tree,” Sauls said of the zany character. “He became so popular that he is now … the unofficial icon of the holidays here at Universal Orlando.”
Even the Store’s Check-Out Area is Intricately-Themed
Once you’ve explored the Universal Tribute Store and Post and picked out merchandise and sweet treats to purchase, it’s time to head to the final room of the store, the check-out lines. Even this area is highly-themed, filled with vintage plastic holiday figurines and more Earl the Squirrel references.
Once you’ve paid, be sure to stop on the way out for a final photo with Earl amid lots of holiday decorations.