Mardi Gras returns to Universal Orlando, celebrating 25 years of parades and partying at Universal Studios Florida.
The event has become one of the most popular events at Universal, and even around Central Florida (trailing behind the behemoth that is Horror Nights) and has become a great time to visit Universal. We continue to echo our thoughts of previous reviews: Mardi Gras is a must-do, especially if one of your favorite musical acts comes to town.
To celebrate 25 years, a lot of love and focus was spent on the parade. The floats this year look better than ever. This year, Universal introduced another 6 new parade floats, themed to “Treasures of the Deep”. Blake Braswell, Creative Development Group – Show Director for Mardi Gras, stated they wanted to do something different than just having themed floats – so this year, the parade also tells a story. The introduction of the story starts with the Treasure Map and ends with the X Marks the Spot. Fan-favorite floats, including the Riverboat and Title floats, return with all-new vibrant décor celebrating 25 years of party. The King Gator also received a lot of attention – now featuring green, purple, and gold scales, all decked out in glitter.
The French Quarter Courtyard returns, with favorite classic Cajun dishes including jambalaya, shrimp gumbo, crab etouffee, gator bites, a variety of po’boys, king cake, beignets and more. New this year is the Carnival Around The Universe Tasting Tent. Inspired by Mardi Gras/Carnival celebrations around the world, the tent will introduce new menu items every couple of weeks. During opening weekend, the featured country was Trinidad and Tobago, with a primarily plant-based menu. The Pholourie can only be described as a doughy, curry-flavored hush puppy. The Chickpea Double was very spicy, but very delicious – where the heat only complemented the flavors of the other ingredients. The menu will still be around for week 2 before shifting to a Louisiana Creole menu, which will feature a Soft Shell Crab Slider, a favorite of ours from the Mardi Gras preview.
The Mardi Gras tasting lanyard returns, which we highly recommend if you’re looking to chow down at the event, and is available in 3 options: 5 items lanyard for $30, 10 items lanyard for $50, and the passholder exclusive 15 items lanyard for $60. Also returning is The Bayou Boil, allowing guests to enjoy a Louisiana-style boil featuring crawfish, shrimp, potatoes and corn-on-the-cob, as well as an exclusive viewing area for the Mardi Gras parade with king cake, beignets, sparkling wine, and assorted non-alcoholic beverages. Tickets for adults are $59.99 plus tax, and tickets for children (ages 3-9) are $39.99 plus tax.
As the event has grown, and definitely for the better, we think it’s time that the food tents expand beyond its current set-up. Hopefully, this year’s “Carnivals Around the World” is the first step of that expansion. The French Quarter Courtyard can get very crowded, especially on weekend nights. The event has just become too big to be confined to that area.
New this year is the first-ever Mardi Gras Tribute Store, based on the cemeteries and bayous of New Orleans. Fans of Horror Nights will undoubtedly get their HHN-fix here. Rob Cametti, Director of Visual Merchandising and Store Design, tried to bring the darker side of New Orleans culture as a way to differentiate it from the fun, party-like atmosphere the rest of the park offers. As the event is celebrating 25 years of Mardi Gras, the merchandise prominently features the beloved King Gator. Other pieces of apparel include King & Queen couple t-shirts, a wide array of masks, and a commemorative pin.
The most entertaining thing to do at Mardi Gras – and maybe even Universal Orlando period – is riding a float and taking part in throwing beads to guests. This year, guests can register to ride a float by reserving a spot in the Virtual Line. Accessed by the Universal Orlando app, guests must be in the park and choose a check-in time, along with the party size. Passes are first-come, first-serve, with access available just a few hours before the scheduled parade time.
As we’ve stated time and time again, Universal’s Mardi Gras is a must-do. The acts this year are top-notch, the food is delicious, and the parade looks better than ever. Universal’s Mardi Gras 2020 will run daily from Feb. 1 through April 2.