Universal Mardi Gras has officially kicked off at Universal Orlando Resort! After ending the event early in 2020 due to the pandemic and modifying the event in 2021, it’s back in its full glory with the parade, performers, beads, and more food than you can handle! So what should you expect from this year’s event?
First, while Universal Mardi Gras is promoted as happening all throughout the entire resort, most of the fun is happening at Universal Studios Florida. Some food options are available throughout the resorts as well as CityWalk, and of course, the party rages at Pat O’Brien’s, but that’s about it. That means if you want to get the most out of Universal Mardi Gras, you MUST have park admission for at least Universal Studios Florida.
Once you’re in the park the party is all around you. It’s not Mardi Gras heavy in the morning, but in the afternoon things will start to kick into high gear with food and drinks flowing. As it gets closer to parade time, performers will hit the streets to take photos and get everyone in the Mardi Gras spirit. Sometimes the performers will even have beads on them so you can get started on your collection of plastic necklaces.
The parade kicks off in the early evening and the time depends on the date and will be either 5:15, 6:16, 7:15, 7:30, or 7:45 pm. The parade happens nightly except April 1, 2, and 8 and there is no bad viewing for the parade, but how many beads you catch can be impacted. The parade leaves from Hollywood, rolls through Production Central into New York, and finishes back in Hollywood. If you get a spot where the parade starts and ends you have double the chances of catching beads. However, bead throwers are told to go slow at the beginning so they don’t run out of beads so the start isn’t always fruitful. If they get overly crazy with the amount they are throwing there won’t be many beads to be had at the end of the parade as well.
The Mardi Gras parade is comprised of authentic Mardi Gras floats like the King Gator along with six themed floats that change yearly. This year’s theme is space and it’s definitely out of this world… or universe? The themes of the floats align with the different food booths around the park, so you’ll see Cape Canaveral, Volcano Planet, Floral Planet, Machine Planet, Comet Cruisin’, and Planet Mardi Gras.
The parade is not to be missed, but you might get hungry while you’re there so definitely check out some of the food options. Just like last year’s makeshift Mardi Gras event, the food booths are placed around the entire park and has more of an international food festival feel rather than just Mardi Gras. You can find your typical New Orleans-style cuisine in the French Quarter Courtyard and beyond with dishes like jambalaya, seafood boils, and King Cake, but it’s nice to have some variety with dishes from different cultures.
We haven’t had the chance to try EVERYTHING this year at Universal Mardi Gras, but we’ve had a small sampling of food. The best things we’ve tried so far would be the Creole Crab Beignets and Mardi Gras Bubble Waffle from the Machine Planet booth on the bridge between The Simpsons and Diagon Alley, and the Blackened Chicken Po’ Boy from the Planet Mardi Gras booth in the French Quarter Courtyard. We tried to get a King Cake in multiple locations, but they went quickly on night one, so get yours early.
There are lots of drinks flowing at Universal Mardi Gras with refillable drink options to get the best bang for your buck. The signage on the booths displays options for 9 oz fills, 12 oz souvenir cups, and 12 oz souvenir cup refills. This wouldn’t have been confusing except Universal also delivered with another classic blinky cup that wasn’t featured in the pricing on any of the menus, which lead to discrepancies on the first night. Needless to say, if you’re coming regularly then you can save some money in the long haul with a souvenir cup.
The first weekend of Universal Mardi Gras had Sugar Ray performing on Saturday night. It’s always incredible to think that the concerts are included with the price of an admission ticket to the park, like all of the Mardi Gras offerings, but if the performer means nothing to you then you’ll probably just skip it. If you really care about the artist, get a spot early and forget about the parade. If you’re a casual fan, you can hear decently well at the very back of the Universal Studios Music Plaza. Most people abandon the concerts after a few songs and by the end of the show, you can work your way up very close to the stage.
Universal Mardi Gras is happening now through April 24, so you have plenty of time to get out and enjoy the event. Take a look at our Mardi Gras page for the full list of performers and more information on the event.