Holiday Matsuri review!
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Holiday Matsuri (HolMat) for short. But I still have fond memories of this unique convention. I attended Holiday Matsuri before the event truly became popular to the mainstream community. And I don’t blame people for wanting to attend; the event is wonderful and festive. Not only did I get to have a nice vacation in Florida where it was warm (compared to freezing cold in Canada), I got to be part of a fun Anime convention on top of that!
I’m surprised that there aren’t too many conventions that take place during the winter. I feel like a majority of both Anime and Comic conventions all take place in the summer. Logistically, this makes sense. But I would love to have more options during the winter, especially for us people who live in cold climates. Give us more excuses to travel to a warmer place! For now, we have Holiday Matsuri to satisfy our warm weather and holiday vibes.
Anyways, in this post I’ll give you Senpai’s Holiday Matsuri review. I’ll go over the pros and cons of this unique Anime convention in Orlando, Florida that happens annually in December. I’ll also go over the things I liked and disliked. Overall, Holiday Matsuri is a great convention with solid programming and resort vibes that make you feel comfortable during the holidays.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What is Holiday Matsuri?
Much like all the big popular conventions out there, Holiday Matsuri is a 3-day Anime convention that takes place at Marriott Center in Orlando, Florida. However, don’t let the Anime convention fool you into thinking HolMat is like your typical Anime con inside a big convention center. It’s not like that at all!
To me, Holiday Matsuri is a resort convention. After all, the convention takes place at the Orlando World Center Marriott, where not only there is a big pool; there is also a big hot tub! They also had an artificial waterfall in the pool that was pretty cool.
HolMat has similar vibes with YetiCon as both conventions feel like a nice resort getaway vacation, especially for me because I’m from a cold climate! But despite the resort vibes, Holiday Matsuri is a convention full of programming. You’ll find your usual stuff such as panels and cosplay. You’ll also find a bunch of shows along with video gaming and arcades. The event is a lot of fun and I’ll go over the pros of this convention.
Great programming for a mid-sized convention
The year I went to Holiday Matsuri, the convention wasn’t as big or popular as it is today. To me, the convention was mid-sized so I was surprised to see how much programming there was for a smaller convention like this. And not only was there a lot of programming, the activities were unique and special! The definite highlight of the programming in my opinion was the Idol Show, where various idol groups perform and the audience decides which one is the winner. I myself am not really into idols, but the performances were amazing. One of the groups even did cartwheels on-stage!
As mentioned previously, Holiday Matsuri also has a video gaming section which was really good! In general, I find American cons to have such wonderful video game rooms and HolMat was no exception. While not as big as MAGFest or Youmacon, the selection was still decent. They had Ski Ball, which I genuinely liked.
Overall, you can expect to see and do a lot of things at Holiday Matsuri. So much fun!
Unique holiday theme
One of the things that makes Holiday Matsuri unique is the Christmas theme. Yes, not only do you get to see Christmas decorations and trees, but the cosplayers also dress up their costumes in holiday gear! As far as I know, there is no other convention that does this.
That is why people gravitate to HolMat; you won’t find a convention that has Christmas themes! And like I mentioned earlier, most conventions take place during the summer. Holiday Matsuri is really the only medium and large sized convention that happens in December. So if you are in Florida, have the time off or you want to get festive in cosplay, then Holiday Matsuri is the perfect con to attend!
Great photoshoot opportunities
If you’re a cosplayer looking to get some special photos done, then HolMat is the right convention for you. This convention is the perfect opportunity to get photos of your Christmas-themed cosplay done.
But by far the biggest attraction is the venue itself. The Orlando World Center Marriott is so beautiful, especially by the pool and hot tub area. You will find lots of cosplayers taking photos beside this picturesque area of the resort. There is also the HyCube with the pretty lights, as well as the Christmas trees and palm trees at the venue.
So if you’re looking to get some unique cosplay photos, then Holiday Matsuri is one of the best conventions to do so.
Alright, now that I’ve talked about some of the best things about HolMat, let’s discuss some of the negatives that I experienced:
While the Orlando World Center Marriott is a wonderful venue, the location itself isn’t so convenient. You may not know, but Orlando is very big and spread out, which means it’s very difficult to reach places if you don’t have a vehicle. I’m someone who uses public transit often, and the public transit service in Orlando is very minimal. There’s no frequent transit service to reach the Orlando World Center Marriott, so you’ll have to either drive or call a taxi to get there.
The venue is pretty much surrounded by long winding roads; you basically can’t walk anywhere nearby. Well you could, but the area is not pedestrian friendly at all. During the weekend, I basically stayed at the convention venue the whole time because there wasn’t really anything around or close. So if you’re used to attending conventions in a downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants nearby, then Holiday Matsuri is the complete opposite! The event is its own little island; isolated and far away from everything else. So if you need to get somewhere, you will need a vehicle, whether that’s your own car or a taxi.
The good thing is that there are quite a few shops and restaurants inside the Orlando World Center Marriott itself. While it would have been nice to have more food options, I found the food in the hotel venue to be good and reasonably priced. But if you’re someone who wants more variety, then you’ll have to drive or taxi outside the venue to other places such as Disney Springs or in downtown Orlando.
The shuttle buses and traffic
The organizers at Holiday Matsuri have shuttle buses that go to parking lots and other nearby hotels which is nice. However, from what the attendees have told me, they’re not the most reliable. Not only do they get crowded, but they don’t always come at the time they’re supposed to.
Fortunately, I was able to get a hotel room at the actual convention center, so I did not need to take any shuttle buses to/from the convention. Before I was about to book a hotel, everyone told me to stay at the convention hotel and I’m glad I did. Taking the shuttle buses can be a huge hassle. But if you are planning to commute to the convention, then you may have no choice but to use them.
Dates may be difficult for some
Attending Holiday Matsuri may be difficult for some people, simply because the event takes place near the holidays.
While Holiday Matsuri takes place near the holidays which is great for us congoers who appreciate having that option, that also makes it difficult to attend as well. In general, it’s not easy to be able to get the holiday season for work, especially for retail workers.
On top of that, it’s also more expensive and crowded to travel during this time. Therefore, it’s not the easiest convention to be able to attend, simply because it’s during holiday season!
Overall, Holiday Matsuri is an awesome convention that’s definitely worth attending. If you’re able to get the time off work and/or afford to travel during the holiday season, then you should definitely consider Holiday Matsuri as one of your main conventions to attend. The wide variety of programming, along with the unique holiday festive themes make this convention a great getaway. I certainly enjoy a place with warm weather during December. 🙂
Overall score: 8/10
I hope you enjoyed my review of Holiday Matsuri.
If you have any questions or if you’ve been to HolMat as well, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments below.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!