Dining, Events

My First Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience

February 29, 2024

As a master’s student, full-time intern and accommodating-eldest-sibling, I barely have time on the weekdays to do anything but reset for the next day. However, a couple of Tuesdays ago was absolutely the opposite of what a normal weekday night usually is for me. I had the honor of experiencing my first ever Mardi Gras parade! If you’ve never come to Universal Studios Florida during Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval, here’s your sign to change that ASAP.

Picture this: a fun-filled day of riding roller coasters and catching shows all culminating with a perfect three-course meal and bead tossing from one of Universal’s fantastic Mardi Gras floats during the best party of the season! 

The Mardi Gras event that takes place every year at Universal Orlando celebrates a variety of cultures through atmosphere, food and entertainment.  Not only can you celebrate New Orleans Mardi Gras and international variations of Carnaval, but you can also book a Float Ride and Dine Experience (like I did a couple Tuesdays ago!) and I’m here to give you the rundown on everything you need to know. 

Dinner is Served

A wide view of Lombard's Seafood Grille at Universal Studios Florida. In front of the white building with turquoise and red awnings over the many windows, red lining, and a fish-shaped yellow sign with blue-ish-green text reading "Lombard's" on one of the roofs, is a body of water with a blue-and-white boat inside. Various wooden docs with wooden poles surround the water, and parts of boats floating on the water can be seen. The sky behind the building is blue, with a few white clouds.

A crucial part of the Float Ride and Dine Experience is — of course — the dining! For this portion of the bundled experience you’re able to choose from four Universal Orlando Resort dining locations. These include: Lombard’s Seafood Grille, Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, NBC Sports Grill & Brew and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. The dining will take place prior to the float riding and on early days, this could mean as early as 3:00 p.m. 

For my experience, I opted to try Lombard’s Seafood Grille (my first time ever) and it did not disappoint. The meal plan includes a nonalcoholic beverage, an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert from the full menu of the restaurant that you opted for. Here’s a look at what we ordered, but what I learned this night is you really can’t go wrong at Lombard’s.

Tuna Poké

Tuna poke appetizer.

Sushi-grade ahi tuna in a soy garlic sauce mixed with fresh vegetables, next to a bed of refreshing frisée, and served with fried wontons and a crispy nori chip — this one is a must-try if you’re craving a light appetizer. 

Monterey Garlic Shrimp

Gulf shrimp tossed in pan-roasted garlic, herbed butter, chili peppers, and fresh lemon served with a rosemary focaccia. What really stood out about this dish — besides the yummy flavors and nice little kick — is that they served the shrimp butterflied for you to place on top of the nicely charred focaccia. 

Catch of the Season

Halibut and salmon entrees.

For the catch of the season, I opted for the grilled halibut offering which was a nice mild flaky white fish. This was served with a smooth celeriac purée, roasted mushrooms, crispy brussels sprouts, chive oil and crunchy pomegranate seeds. 

I usually do not order halibut and stick to my favorite — salmon — but I thought I’d take some risk this night  — boy was I right. The mildness of the halibut balanced well with the celeriac purée. The pomegranate seeds were also a surprise hit for me because they added an extra layer of complexity and  texture to the dish. 

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake

Devil's food chocolate cake.

I know they call this the Devil’s cake but it sure was heavenly. Three layers of cake topped with dark chocolate ganache… a chocolate lover’s dream come true. 

Classic Key Lime Pie

This pie embodies the definition of timeless with a graham cracker crust and a tart lime filling topped with vanilla whipped topping. 

Check In

After the fantastic meal, we headed on over to Animal Actors on Location! around 5:00 p.m; we got there one hour before the parade started, but you may want to head over earlier depending on your parade time. At the meeting point, we were checked in for our float ride by some awesome team members. When it’s your turn, just tell them your reservation name and they’ll ensure you have a waiver signed for the float riding experience. 

Once we got our float assignment, we then moved on to the wardrobe area. This part was super fun because I got a fancy costume to reflect the float I was riding on. For this portion, my friend, Nicole, and I were actually crowned queens and got to wear these sparkly gold dresses and crowns on the King and Queen’s Krewe. A couple of very enthusiastic and lovely team members helped us put on our gowns and made sure we looked our best for the big show. I was super excited and knew that this was my time to shine — like I had been waiting my whole life for this moment. 

The Unforgettable Ride

2 women holding beads sitting on a throne.

As the two queens, we were each given about 100 bead necklaces to toss into the crowd as we sat on a beautiful throne bench. This was absolutely my favorite part of the night  — yes,  even more than that heavenly chocolate cake  — because I was able to really witness how much people truly enjoy the Mardi Gras parade and catching beads. The crowds gathered, cheered, and danced to the Mardi Gras music while the floats kept rolling. I can’t believe my first ever Universal Mardi Gras and I got to be the queen of it!

It was the perfect evening to try the Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience, too, because it wasn’t hot and humid, but rather a nice temperate night with a cool breeze. Something about Florida winters just adds to the magic of Mardi Gras, so don’t miss your chance to join in on the party this season! 

Share with us your first Mardi Gras float experience by leaving a comment down below and stay up to date on all things Mardi Gras here.

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