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A Parent’s Guide to Holiday Tree Hunt at Universal Orlando 2023

The holiday season at Universal Orlando Resort is full of festive family activities, from guided holiday tours to strolls through this year’s Holiday Tribute Store. Taking in the holiday decorations alone is worth the trip to Universal, and a great way to see them is to participate in Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt. During this scavenger hunt, which spans Universal CityWalk and both Universal theme parks, kids can hunt for ornaments that reveal a secret message.

Interested in visiting Universal Orlando to check out this year’s Holiday Tree Hunt? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt?

The Holiday Tree Hunt is a scavenger hunt where kids look for Christmas trees throughout Universal CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal Islands of Adventure, keeping an eye out for ornaments that reveal a secret holiday message. The 2023 version of this festive happening is sponsored by Earl the Squirrel’s tree farm.

Who’s Earl the Squirrel? To sum up a long story, many years ago there was a real-life squirrel who lived in the giant Christmas tree at Universal Studios Florida and liked to chew on the Christmas lights that decorated the tree.

Over the years, Earl has become a bit of a holiday icon at Universal, and now has everything from a character meet-and-greet to his very own scavenger hunt.

Holiday Tree Hunt Universal Orlando Map and Ornament 2023 - image by Terri Peters
Holiday Tree Hunt Map and Ornament 2023 image by Terri Peters

What parents should know about Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt

If you’re planning a visit to Universal to take part in this year’s Holiday Tree Hunt, here’s what to know:

  • Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt costs $13 (plus tax) and includes a map, pencil, and ornament prize.
  • There are 15 holiday trees to find: Two at Universal CityWalk, six at Universal Studios Florida, and seven at Universal Islands of Adventure.
  • Maps can be purchased at the register at any of the 15 stores that have a tree inside.
  • You do not need to find all 15 trees to get the ornament prize—it’s given to you at the time you purchase the map.
  • If you do choose to find all 15 trees, everyone in your party will need valid park admission to both Universal Orlando theme parks.
  • Each tree is located inside one of Universal’s gift shops, but Universal does a great job placing them toward the front of each store, so parents can get in and out quickly.
  • To earn the prize, find each tree and search for the numbered ornament hidden in its decorations. Each ornament has a number on it, which then gets plugged into a secret decoder ring, where you’ll discover which letter to fill in on the map.
Universal Studios Attractions Themed Holiday Tree 2023 inside legacy store
Universal Studios Attractions Themed Holiday Tree 2023 image by Terri Peters

Tips for participating in Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt

I recently completed the 2023 Holiday Tree Hunt with my teenage son and we had a great time traveling to all 15 locations and seeing the holiday trees.

Each tree is decorated with a pretty unique theme, from a tree at Universal Studios Store CityWalk with Jaws and Back to the Future trappings to one fully decked out in Men in Black accents at the MIB Gear shop at Universal Studios. Here are some tips for a smooth day of tree-hunting:

  • Remember: To keep things easy, Universal has placed the trees at the front of each store. There’s no need to voyage deep into the stores with kids in tow, these beautiful holifay trees should be waiting for you near the entrance.
  • Because you don’t have to enter the theme parks to get the prize, just hitting the locations at CityWalk can be an inexpensive way to do something holiday-themed without entering a park. Remember, on the weekends, Earl the Squirrel is also out at CityWalk posing for photos with guests.
  • The 15 spots on this scavenger hunt map take you to three separate destinations, so plan to start or end at CityWalk, and move between the two theme parks using the Hogwarts Express train to give kids’ feet a rest.
  • If you’ve got more than one kid and you want them each to receive a prize, you’ll need more than one map. However, there are plenty of other places to look at festive merchandise at Universal, including this year’s Holiday Tribute Store, so pocket that ornament for yourself and let them choose their own prize for some extra fun.
  • Remember to check the hours for the theme parks on the day you attempt the scavenger hunt, as the theme parks close early on some nights during the season because of Holiday Tours.
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Terri Peters