Mardi Gras is back at Universal Orlando, celebrating another year of food, beads, and fun.
Taking place daily through April 16, 2023, Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval – features a dazzling Mardi Gras parade, mouthwatering cuisine inspired by global Carnaval celebrations, and, on select nights, live concerts. The event has become one of the most popular events at Universal in recent years, especially as Universal has expanded beyond the confines of Mardi Gras being “just a New Orleans” celebration.
This year’s Mardi Gras theme is “Mythical Realms of Mardi Gras”, which brings to life six new & incredibly detailed parade floats that will join the traditional lineup of New Orleans-inspired floats – such as the iconic, two-story Riverboat and nearly 50-foot-long King Gator.
These mystical beasts are on a journey to the Goddess of Mardi Gras. “Dragons, Pegasus, and Serpents all lead up to the Goddess, with her float overflowing with Mardi Gras”, says Lora Sauls, Senior Manager of Creative Development and Show Direction for Entertainment Art & Design.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the outstanding interactions with the Mardi Gras performers, walking throughout the streets of Universal Studios Florida in fantastical costumes all while engaging with guests from the early afternoon all the way through the parade route.
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. New this year is the Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience.
This new offering is available on select dates through April 16, 2023, and includes one appetizer, one entrée, one dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage for $84.99 plus tax, per person, from a participating restaurant, as well as one Mardi Gras parade float rider reservation on the same day. Guests can purchase this experience and reserve their spot by calling 407-224-7554 or visiting www.universalorlando.com/mardigras.
Of course, the other big feature of Mardi Gras is the food, and Universal has really expanded its menu offerings with a truly international selection. The event now spreads throughout the park, instead of just being contained within the area of New York – allowing the Mardi Gras fun to be felt everywhere; evolving the event into an outright “Food Festival”.
“We teamed up with our team members and asked them for help with some of these authentic flavors.”, says Chef Robert Martinez Jr., Executive Sous Chef, Research & Development. “We wanted to make sure we knew how to make these authentic dishes from Colombia, and India, so we brought them all into our test kitchen”.
We haven’t tried ALL of the dishes, but we did have enough to say that the Pav Bhaji from India is our favorite. The dish is a spiced vegetable stew served with a toasted King’s Hawaiian roll that you can use to scoop up the stew.
The Rød Pølse from Finland from Denmark is also a solid bite despite it being a “hot dog”. The Liege Waffle from Belgium was our favorite dessert. You can’t go wrong with sugar waffles topped with strawberries. Other honorable mentions include Chicken Coxinha from Brazil and the Bubur Ketan Hitam (sticky rice pudding) from Indonesia.
To maximize your Mardi Gras visit, we highly suggest the Universal Orlando Resort Food and Beverage Card, especially if you’re a Passholder as you will receive special savings with the purchase of an exclusive $150 card for only $120.
The Tribute Store returns, located within an all-new space in the Hollywood area of Universal Studios Florida. This year’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store invites guests to an international jazz celebration that leads to the traditional alleyways of New Orleans and ultimately into a speakeasy where the Mardi Gras celebration continues. Within the new store, guests can shop a new selection of Mardi Gras merchandise that ranges from apparel to accessories and collectibles such as keychains, pins, themed glasses, and even some personalized options – allowing them to take a piece of Florida’s Biggest Party home with them.
Guests can keep the party going outside of Universal Studios with food kiosks inside Islands of Adventure and Universal’s CityWalk. Outside of that, guests can enjoy other Mardi Gras fun around CityWalk; including Pat O’Brien’s, which will host a Mardi Gras After Party on select nights from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. that includes live entertainment and exclusive food and drink offerings. The Red Coconut Club will transform for the Mardi Gras season into the Cursed Coconut Club.
The Cursed Coconut Club evolved from the success of the Dead Coconut Club during Halloween Horror Nights. In order to stand apart from all the color and fun of Mardi Gras throughout the Resort, the team “wanted to explore the ‘darker side’ of New Orleans”.
“We tested this concept at the Tribute Store a few years ago, which went really well,” says Rob Cametti, Director, Visual Merchandising and Store Design. “We kinda kept it in our back pocket to try again. It is that final layer of New Orleans that we don’t explore in the park”.
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 2023 will run daily from April 16, 2023.
Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest news on Universal Parks & Resorts and follow along on our forums & discussion boards.