Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans may come and go, but until April 16, 2023 you can enjoy the sights, sounds, flavours, excitement and traditions of the event at Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval is a daily event that kicked off in early February with international dishes, a parade of wild and whimsical floats, street performers, and concerts on select nights.
On the first night of the festivities, my family and I went to the parks, we tried a bunch of food, and we had an awesome day. My daughter caught more than 30 strings of beads, I tried dishes from all over the world from the food vendors, and we went on a lot of rides. And to top it all off, we caught the great Patti LaBelle performing on stage.
Universal’s Mardi Gras is a great deal because the events are included with your theme park admission to Universal Studios Florida, so you can enjoy all that the park has to offer. It’s another great reason to visit the park this winter or early spring, especially thanks to some of the deals Universal has on right now. More on that in a little bit.
We spent two days at the parks, starting in Islands of Adventure and then we went on every ride we could find and found a few Mardi Gras treats around the park. After lunch we used our Park-to-Park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios, and then spent the second half of the day exploring that side of Universal.
It was a perfect day, we went on more rides, and I tried a bunch of the Mardi Gras dishes, including their take on a Crawfish Boil, and then we enjoyed the parade and caught the concert.
If you’re looking to try some unique dishes, there are lots of options around Universal Studios. You can find a few Mardi Gras dishes in Islands of Adventure, but the majority of the vendors, as well as the parade, concerts, and street performers are in Universal Studios.
For the food, you can find Poutine with Short Rib Gravy at the Canada booth, Crawfish or Shrimp Boil at Central City, there are Beignets at a few of the vendors, and watch out for Shrimp Gumbo, Chicken Schnitzel with Käsespätzle, Gulab Jamun with Rose Water Syrup, the Tour of Italy Arancini Flight, Baja Shrimp Ceviche Tostada, and Grilled Octopus! And, of course, look out for the classic King Cake.
If you’re planning to try a few dishes, you can buy a $75 food and beverage card for $65 from a number of vendors, and it’s good all over the park.
Shoppers can also find lots of Mardi Gras-themed goodies, like t-shirts, masks, and I picked up an awesome mini Voodoo doll to put on my camera bag.
Outside of the park you can also celebrate Mardi Gras at Universal CityWalk with food and drinks. That’s where you can find the octopus dish, and over at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium you try a Masquerade Milkshake.
To make our days at Universal Orlando even better, we also had express passes for the rides and that was a fantastic upgrade. It meant that we had time to go on a lot more rides, and we even went on a couple of rides twice. Universal Express Pass is a great deal if you want to wait less and ride more.
For the Spectacular Parade, I love that you can catch the performers around the streets near the parade route beforehand. And then the parade itself felt like a giant, family-friendly street party. The parade start time varies by date, so check the Universal Orlando website or app for details, and I do recommend lining up along the route about 30-45 minutes early to get a decent spot. Grab a snack or a drink and relax while you wait.
For those who want to take the party up a notch, you can also sign up to ride on the Mardi Gras floats and toss beads with Universal’s Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience. With the experience you’ll enjoy a three-course meal at one of the restaurants, and then climb on board the float–like the 50-foot-long King Gator–and toss beads to the crowd. Everyone on the floats looked like they were having a blast.
And for the concerts, you can still catch 3 Doors Down on February 25, Sean Paul on March 4, and Lauren Daigle on March 5.
If you want to make a bigger trip out of your Mardi Gras experience, Universal Orlando is offering a special ticket deal, with two free days when you purchase a 3-park, 3-day Park-to-Park ticket, all for $329.99. So you get a total of 5 days, and that means you can enjoy Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park in one trip, and there are a number of deals on rooms at Universal hotel stays too.
Watch my video from the experience, and scroll down for photos:
All photos by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.
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