As an Annual Passholder, I love getting away to Universal Orlando Resort whenever my heart desires (and schedule allows!). And Universal’s Mardi Gras is a visit I always look forward to every year. Bursting at the seams with music, food, and fun, this event embraces the spirit of The Big Easy with an environment that is family friendly.
The daily Universal’s Mardi Gras parade is not to be missed. The streets of Universal Studios Florida are filled with 12 festive floats, costumed stilt walkers and dazzling dancers. The parade is full of excitement from the moment the music starts down to the last confetti canon fire.
I could see our two boys getting excited as the first float made its way down the street. The glitter and lights seemed to reflect the delight in their eyes. Armed with a game plan for catching as many beads as possible, they cheered and danced with every performer that came our way.
Like with most brothers, there was a competition to see who would end up with the most beads. Unfortunately for them, dad took home the crown. But, they weren’t too heartbroken considering they got to keep the beads anyway.
• For those who are visiting with smaller children, there is a wonderful “Little Jesters Parade Viewing Area” off Hollywood Boulevard.
• The back of the Universal Music Plaza offers an excellent parade view. And you’re right there for the concert after the parade ends.
In the heart of Universal Studios, you’ll find The French Quarter Courtyard. You’ll discover an abundance of Cajun delicacies amidst festive decoration. Shrimp po’boys, jambalaya, king cake, and beignets are just a few of the mouthwatering dishes you can enjoy.
We’re a family of very diverse eaters, so having lots of options was perfect. Us adults ended up going for more Cajun specialty foods. The boys were thrilled by the Twisted Tater (a fried and seasoned spiral-cut potato). For dessert, King Cake was a must. Although there was no plastic baby hidden inside (a Mardi Gras tradition), we devoured it before you could say “Bourbon Street.”
• Can’t decide what to eat? Try the Cajun Sampler that includes jambalaya, gumbo, and andouille sausage all on one plate.
• A lot of the meals are easy to share. For families on a budget, try a few different options and let everyone sample a bit of each.
• Annual Passholders receive discounts in the French Quarter from 4-6 p.m.
No good Mardi Gras party is complete without the right drinks. This year, there are three themed fruity alcoholic beverages. There are also three frozen non-alcoholic drinks that can get anyone into the Mardi Gras spirit.
We opted to try a triple-layered drink that had all three frozen beverages combined. Of course, the kids each wanted their own non-alcoholic version. But it might have just been the cool flashing souvenir cups each drink comes in.
• If you’re in the mood for another round, your souvenir glass can be refilled at a discounted price.
• You can add an alcohol floater of your choice to the non-alcoholic drinks.
On select event nights, catch a concert at the Universal Music Plaza. From current Top 40 bands to blasts from the past, Universal has 13 different acts gracing the stage this year.
But every night, there are authentic New Orleans bands performing in The French Quarter Courtyard. The boys were thrilled to watch Young Pinstripe Brass Band, direct from Louisiana, perform their music. They were memorized by how each instrument was played. Maybe we have some future musicians on our hands.
By the end of the day, the kids were more interested in counting their bead hauls than watching the headline performer. Dad and I, however, had been waiting for this all day. We sang and danced to every song, cuddled closer during the love songs, and finally got the kids to their feet for the ones they knew and loved. It was a memorable end to an AMAZING day!
• Some fans camp out on the Music Plaza lawn during the day to make sure they have the best concert view. With widely popular bands, the earlier the better!
We left Florida’s biggest party with full bellies and necks decked out with beads. After your visit, don’t be surprised to find yourself humming a zydeco tune or two on your way home. We already started the countdown calendar for our next visit.
What are some of your favorite tips for getting the most out of a Universal’s Mardi Gras visit? Tell me in the comments below!