Universal Studios Orlando is known for its thrilling rides and it’s spooky Halloween Horror Nights event, but did you know that they also offer a magical holiday experience? Every year, Universal brings the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York City to Orlando in the form of their Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. This parade has become a beloved tradition for both locals and tourists alike, but how did it all begin?
It all started in New York City in 1924
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an American tradition since 1924. It features larger-than-life floats, marching bands, and, of course, the famous character balloons. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company produced these balloons to take the place of the live zoo animals that were present in the parade’s early years. Over time, the parade grew in popularity and became a staple part of American culture.
To bring the Thanksgiving Parade experience to Florida, Macy’s Studios decided to collaborate with the NBC Universal-owned Universal Orlando Resort in 2002. The reason behind this partnership was that Macy’s had recently opened their first store in Orlando at the Mall of Millennia and wanted to promote their brand in the local area. With NBC Universal’s established television contract, it was a perfect match.
Too big for a theme park
The first Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s debuted at Universal Studios on December 13th, 2002. It featured all the new floats and balloons created by Universal, as well as some of the iconic ones sent over from New York City. However, due to size constraints, not all of the character balloons from the New York parade were able to make an appearance in Orlando.
Some of the notable balloons included the Doodle Bug from Beetlejuice, a Grinch-themed balloon, and even a mystery machine balloon from Scooby-Doo. The parade was such a hit that it became an annual event at Universal Studios and was intended to only run for a few years. But, due to its popularity, it kept coming back year after year.
In addition to the parade, Universal also offered a walk-through experience called “Balloonoplis” from 2002 to 2007. This allowed guests to get up close and personal with the larger-than-life balloons and take some amazing photos. The walk-through experience even ended with the opportunity to meet Santa Claus, making it a must-do for families during the holiday season.
Unfortunately, in 2007, Universal made the decision to stop placing character balloons all over the park, leaving many visitors disappointed. However, this was not the only major change that took place. In 2017, Universal debuted an all-new Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s with a completely different look and feel.
Introducing the new Macy’s Holiday Parade
The 2017 parade featured new floats and balloons, including an adorable Shrek-themed float and a Christmas tree float featuring characters from Madagascar. The parade also incorporated elements from popular Universal films such as Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets. And of course, Santa Claus made his grand appearance on his sleigh, spreading holiday cheer to all who watched.
In addition to the new parade, Universal added a festive holiday tribute store in 2017 that featured merchandise and decorations inspired by popular films and TV shows. This store has become a must-visit for guests looking for unique holiday gifts or wanting to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit.
However, in 2020, like many other events and traditions, the Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s was greatly impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Universal could not host their usual parade due to social distancing guidelines, so they came up with a creative solution – a walk-through experience called “Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons.” This gave guests the opportunity to still see the famous character balloons up close while maintaining safety measures.
Today, the Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s is still a beloved tradition at Universal Studios Orlando and is a must-see experience during the holiday season. It has evolved over the years, but one thing remains constant – the magic and joy it brings to all who watch. So next time you visit Universal Studios during the holidays, be sure to catch the parade and see for yourself why it has become such an iconic part of the Universal Studios experience.