Everything You Need to Know for Universal’s Mardi Gras 2015

On select nights Feb. 7 through April 18, guests will let the good times roll as they experience an authentic, family-friendly version of the Mardi Gras bash at Universal Studios Florida. The event couples unparalleled theme park entertainment with a dazzling parade, authentic New Orleans musicians, mouth-watering Cajun cuisine, tons of glittering Mardi Gras beads and live concerts by high-profile artists.

We’ve gathered everything you need to know before heading out to the event, including parade times, and how to plan your night for the event; whether it be the 1st weekend, or during a very busy Spring Break.

The Basics

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando is designed to be family friendly, and is included with park admission. Once the parade starts, Universal’s rides and attractions will close. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular will not be held during Mardi Gras Nights. The event occurs rain or shine; so if rain is in the forecast, bring an umbrella.

The Parade

Before enjoying the live concerts, guests can dance along with dozens of energetic street performers and collect beads by the handful as the Mardi Gras parade winds through Universal Studios.

To ensure a good spot to view the parade, we recommend picking out a location about an hour before the parade starts. The parade does make 2 stops to perform a mini-celebration and release confetti. The stops are made down Hollywood Blvd and in New York by the Revenge of the Mummy attraction.

If you’re traveling with children, kids get their own private parade experience in the Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area located in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop. Also, several ADA viewing areas will be set up along the parade route for those in need.

Here’s a look at this year’s parade route and parade times:

Graphic Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Graphic Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras Parade Times
   Sat, Feb. 7     7:15pm    Sun, Mar. 15     7:45pm
   Sat, Feb. 14    7:15pm    Fri, Mar. 20    7:45pm
   Sun, Feb. 15    7:15pm    Sat, Mar. 21    7:45pm
   Sat, Feb. 21    7:15pm    Sun, Mar. 22    7:45pm
   Sat, Feb. 28    7:15pm    Sat, Mar. 28    7:45pm
   Sat, Mar. 7    7:15pm    Sat, Apr. 4    7:45pm
   Fri, Mar. 13    7:45pm    Sat, Apr. 11    7:45pm
   Sat, Mar. 14    7:45pm    Sat, Apr. 18    7:45pm

Fun Fact: The parade’s elaborate, hand-crafted floats are built by Blaine Kern Artists – the same company that designs floats for the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.

Ride a Float

If you want to experience being a part of the Mardi Gras, you’re in luck! A limited number of Annual Passholders and guests can be part of the festivities and ride through the streets of Universal Studios on one of the floats, tossing beads to the crowd. There are some restrictions however:

Float Rider Restrictions:

  • Must be at least 18 years (or accompanied by an adult)
  • Must be at least 48 inches in height
  • No bags or strollers
  • Can accommodate standard push wheelchairs only with advance notice
  • All participants will be required to complete and sign a Waiver prior to riding the float.
  • All minor participants will be required to complete a Minor Waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian prior to riding the float.

Annual Passholders get priority selection and can RSVP by going here. To ensure a spot, you must sign up by 12 noon on Friday the week prior to the event date you’ll be attending. In some cases, Universal employees may ask guests on the day of as the parade time draws near if they are interested in taking part. The selection is completely random and is “first come, first serve”.

French Quarter Courtyard

As the sun begins to set, Universal Orlando opens up it’s very own French Quarter Courtyard. Guests can enjoy music from authentic New Orleans bands while chowing down on some authentic Cajun cuisine. Guests can find Nawlin’ favorites jambalaya, gumbo, andouille sausage, beignets and much more. The courtyard officially opens up at 4pm.

When it comes to the music, below you can find the dates on which New Orleans bands will be playing on event nights.

French Quarter Patio Musical Acts
   Sat, Feb. 7 Rockin’ Jake    Sun, Mar. 15 Mississippi Rail Company
   Sat, Feb. 14 The Big Easy Playboys    Fri, Mar. 20 Soul Project
   Sun, Feb. 15 The Big Easy Playboys    Sat, Mar. 21 Soul Project
   Sat, Feb. 21 Grady Champion    Sun, Mar. 22 Soul Project
   Sat, Feb. 28 Cha Wa    Sat, Mar. 28 Naughty Professor
   Sat, Mar. 7 Beth McKee & The Sliders    Sat, Apr. 4 Daddy Mac Blues Band
   Fri, Mar. 13 Mississippi Rail Company    Sat, Apr. 11 Big Al and the Heavyweights
   Sat, Mar. 14 Mississippi Rail Company    Sat, Apr. 18 Gravy

The Concert

The main event of the evening features a performance of the night’s scheduled act. This year, Mardi Gras features an incredible variety of music. Below is the line-up and schedule dates:

Mardi Gras Acts
   Sat, Feb. 7 Olivia Newton-John    Sun, Mar. 15 American Authors
   Sat, Feb. 14 Jessie J    Fri, Mar. 20 Becky G
   Sun, Feb. 15 Barenaked Ladies    Sat, Mar. 21 Yandel
   Sat, Feb. 21 Kelly Clarkson    Sun, Mar. 22 The B-52s
   Sat, Feb. 28 Heart    Sat, Mar. 28 Phillip Phillips
   Sat, Mar. 7 Trace Adkins    Sat, Apr. 4 The All-American Rejects
   Fri, Mar. 13 MKTO    Sat, Apr. 11 The Band Perry
   Sat, Mar. 14 Styx    Sat, Apr. 18 Trey Songz

The concerts take place at the Universal Music Plaza Stage. Depending on the act, guests may begin to line-up early in the morning. If your sole purpose for attending Mardi Gras is for the musical act, we recommend skipping the parade and lay claim for a good spot to view the concert. The plaza stage is Standing Room only, so it would be a good time to take a seat and relax before the night concert starts. Guests with disabilities do have a designated ADA viewing area as well.

Concerts begin shortly after the parade ends and can last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The Crowds

For the most part, Mardi Gras has tolerable crowds. However, the event can bring in some heavy traffic, especially during a Holiday weekend and does run thru “Spring Break” time. Mardi Gras weekend that features 2-3 acts are the weekends where Universal expects huge turnouts, so plan accordingly. We recommend adding an extra 20-30 minutes of time to plan for your parade/concert viewing spot.

Make sure to check back throughout the event as we will update this page as the event kicks off.

For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com/mardigras.

Here are some photos from last year’s event:

 

To check out photos from this year’s event, as well as more information – check out our opening weekend report.