Walking into Universal Studios Orlando on my recent trip, I thought myself a pro! I’d been to the resort several times before and even wrote blog posts about them. Aside from the new ride at Universal Islands of Adventure, I was confident that I’d had every experience they offered. Instead, I happened upon a Universal Studios tradition of 25 years as Universal Studios Orlando celebrates Mardi Gras!
The celebration begins each day at 3:30 pm when the streets of the New York area at Universal Studios become New Orleans, filled with Mardi Gras performers. The king and queen of the Mardi Gras are out and about along with an assortment of other performers in costume. Be sure to dance along and interact with them to earn your Mardi Gras beads!
On select nights you can celebrate Mardi Gras at Universal Studios with a live concert from some impressively big names in music. This year’s line up includes Diana Ross, All American Rejects, The Roots, and Marshmello just to name a few. These concerts are included with the regular price of admission, though annual passholders will be blocked out on concert dates.
Next, enjoy a taste of New Orleans in the French Quarter courtyard! Opening daily at 4 pm, the French Quarter courtyard hosts a variety of food stands each offering traditional New Orleans fare. Here you’ll find beignets, miniature king cakes, po’ boys, gumbo, and more. If you plan to be around for a while, there is a tasting lanyard—similar to Disney’s Sip and Savor Pass—available to get the best bang for your buck. There are two types of lanyards available; a 5 food item lanyard is $30 and a 10 item lanyard for $50. As many of the food items contain meat (because duh, New Orleans) I skipped the tasting lanyard and just tried the beignets. I was not disappointed.
If you’re a really big fan of New Orleans style food, you’ll want to check out the Bayou Boil. The Bayou Boil is an exclusive dining experience offered during Mardi Gras at Universal Studios on select nights. Included with the experience is a Louisiana style crawfish boil as well as an exclusive view of the parade while you enjoy king cake, beignets, and sparkling wine. The Bayou Boil is $59.99 + tax per adult and $39.99 + tax per child.
In all of its excitement and splendor, is it strange that my favorite part of celebrating Mardi Gras at Universal Studios was the Mardi Gras Tribute Store? That’s because this is truly a gift shop experience like no other. The entire shop is a themed experience that takes you from an old abandoned jazz hall to a replica of one of New Orleans many historic cemeteries, to the rural bayou backwoods. Along the way, you can browse masks, beads, and all sorts of Mardi Gras themed merchandise.
While this isn’t an intentionally scary experience, I will advise that it may come off as a little spooky for younger kids. The entire experience is very dark with elements of voodoo, but there are no actors or jump scares involved in spite of the mild Halloween Horror Nights vibe.
You simply can’t celebrate Mardi Gras without a grand parade! The Mardi Gras parade at Universal Studios takes place every eventing of the event (times may vary) and includes floats, dancers, and of course Mardi Gras beads! There is a special parade viewing area for kids in front of The Brown Derby Hat Shop that offers an unobstructed view for the littles.
I am so glad my trip just so happened to align with this 25-year-old tradition at Universal Studios Orlando. I’m already making plans to return next year!