From Feb. 4 through March 25, guests will let the good times roll as they experience an authentic, family-friendly version of the Mardi Gras bash at Universal Studios Florida. The event – which now will run 50 straight nights – couples unparalleled theme park entertainment with a dazzling parade, authentic New Orleans musicians, mouth-watering Cajun cuisine, tons of glittering Mardi Gras beads and live concerts by high-profile artists.
We’ve gathered everything you need to know before heading out to the event, including parade times, and how to plan your night for the event; whether it be the 1st weekend, or during a very busy Spring Break.
Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando is designed to be family friendly, and is included with park admission. Once the parade starts, Universal’s rides and attractions will close. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular will not be held during Mardi Gras Nights. The event occurs rain or shine; so if rain is in the forecast, bring an umbrella. With the event now running 50 straight nights; every night will feature the parade but will not feature a concert.
Before enjoying the live concerts, guests can dance along with dozens of energetic street performers and collect beads by the handful as the Mardi Gras parade winds through the streets of Universal Studios. The parade will have different start times depending on the night you go:
February 7: 5:00 PM
February 5-6, 8-10, 12-17: 6:45 PM
February 20–24, 26–27 and March 1–3, 6–10: 7:15 PM
February 4, 11, 18, 19, 25, 28 and March 4, 5, 11–25: 7:45 PM
Some of the same floats from previous years will be featured – but will also feature 6 newly-designed floats, which is a massive addition comparing to year’s past. The new parade floats this year will be:
- Manticore’s Majesty
- The Rise of the Garuda
- The Dance of the Dragon
- Phoenix from the Flames
- Garden Sprites
- The Flight of the Pegasus
To ensure a good spot to view the parade, we recommend picking out a location about an hour before the parade starts, especially during weekend/concert nights. Weekday parades are expected to be less-crowded. The parade does make 2 stops to perform a mini-celebration/dance number and release confetti. The stops are made down Hollywood Blvd and in New York by the Revenge of the Mummy attraction.
If you’re traveling with children, kids get their own private parade experience in the Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area located in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop. Also, several ADA viewing areas will be set up along the parade route for those in need.
Annual Passholders can enjoy the Mardi Gras parade from a special viewing area at Mel’s Drive-In.
Here’s a look at this year’s parade route:
Fun Fact: The parade’s elaborate, hand-crafted floats are built by Blaine Kern Artists – the same company that designs floats for the Mardi Gras pa rade in New Orleans.
Here’s video from 2014’s Parade near the Annual Passholder area by Mel’s Drive-In:
Ride a Float
If you want to experience being a part of the Mardi Gras, you’re in luck! A limited number of Annual Passholders and guests can be part of the festivities and ride through the streets of Universal Studios on one of the floats, tossing beads to the crowd. There are some restrictions however:
Float Rider Restrictions:
- Must be at least 18 years (or accompanied by an adult)
- Must be at least 48 inches in height
- No bags or strollers
- Can accommodate standard push wheelchairs only with advance notice
- All participants will be required to complete and sign a Waiver prior to riding the float.
- All minor participants will be required to complete a Minor Waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian prior to riding the float.
Annual Passholders get priority selection and can RSVP by going here. To ensure a spot, you must sign up by 12 noon on Friday the week prior to the event date you’ll be attending. In some cases, Universal employees may ask guests on the day of as the parade time draws near if they are interested in taking part. The selection is completely random and is “first come, first serve”.
French Quarter Courtyard
As the sun begins to set, Universal Orlando opens up it’s very own French Quarter Courtyard. Guests can enjoy music from authentic New Orleans bands while chowing down on some authentic Cajun cuisine. Guests can find Nawlin’ favorites jambalaya, gumbo, andouille sausage, beignets and much more. The courtyard officially opens up at 4pm and will be open every night during Mardi Gras.
When it comes to the music, local New Orleans bands will be playing on each night of the event in the Courtyard. Here is this year’s line-up:
- February 4–14: Young Pinstripe Brass Band
- February 15–21: New Breed Brass Band
- February 22–March 5: Free Agents Brass Band
- March 6–15: Naughty Professor Brass Band
- March 16–25: Dirty Bourbon River Show
The Food & Drink
If you plan on eating at the French Quarter Courtyard, there is a variety of options to chose from. From the classic New Orleans favorites jambalaya & beignets to American classics like cheesesteaks and chicken tenders. Also located in the Courtyard are several bars serving beer, basic cocktails, and the event’s signature drink.
The main event of the evening features a performance of the night’s scheduled act. This year, Mardi Gras features an incredible variety of music. Below is the line-up and schedule dates:
- February 4: Trace Adkins
- February 11: Ne-Yo
- February 18: Collective Soul
- February 19: X Ambassadors
- February 25: Fifth Harmony
- March 4: To be announced
- March 5: Olivia Newton-John
- March 11: UB40
- March 12: Toby Keith
- March 18: Jason Derulo
- March 19: Earth, Wind & Fire
- March 25: The All-American Rejects
The concerts take place at the Universal Music Plaza Stage. Depending on the act, guests may begin to line-up early in the morning. If your sole purpose for attending Mardi Gras is for the musical act, we recommend skipping the parade and lay claim for a good spot to view the concert. The plaza stage is Standing Room only, so it would be a good time to take a seat and relax before the night concert starts. Guests with disabilities do have a designated ADA viewing area as well.
Concerts begin shortly after the parade ends and can last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Annual Passholder Benefits
As an passholder, Universal gives some great perks for the Mardi Gras event. This year, the perks include:
- Passholders can purchase Annual Passholder Exclusive Mardi Gras Beads during the Mardi Gras event for $11.95 plus tax.
- As stated before, a limited number of Passholders and one guest can register for an opportunity to ride a Mardi Gras Float. Passholders who are selected will be notified a few days prior to the event. Click here to learn more and sign-up.
- Premier and Preferred Passholders receive 10% off all Mardi Gras food tents from 4:00pm-6:00pm on Mardi Gras event nights.
- The Annual Passholders Special viewing area for the Mardi Gras Parade near Mel’s Drive-In.
For the most part, Mardi Gras has tolerable crowds. However, the event can bring in some heavy traffic, especially during a Holiday weekend or “Spring Break” time. Mardi Gras weekend that features 2-3 acts are the weekends where Universal expects huge turnouts, so plan accordingly. We recommend adding an extra 30-40 minutes of time to plan for your parade/concert viewing spot.
With the event now running 50 straight nights, it may help alleviate some of the crazy crowding that want to take part of the parade viewing.
Make sure to check back throughout the event as we will update this page as the event kicks off.
For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com/mardigras.
Here are some photos from last year’s rainy opening night: