Everything You Need to Know for Universal’s Mardi Gras 2016

On select nights Feb. 6 through April 16, 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 the streets of Universal Studios. The parade starts on every Mardi Gras event night starting at 7:45 p.m.

Many of the same floats from previous years will be featured – including four new additions that celebrate different cultures and festivals from around the world – Venetian Carnival, Oktoberfest, 4th of July and Rio de Janeiro Carnival.

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/dance number 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.

Annual Passholders can enjoy the Mardi Gras parade from a special viewing area at Mel’s Drive-In.

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

Graphic Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Graphic Courtesy of Universal Orlando

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.

Here’s video from 2014’s Parade near the Annual Passholder area by Mel’s Drive-In:

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.

February  6 Rockin’ Jake
February  13 Mississippi Rail Company
February  14 Mississippi Rail Company
February  20 Naughty Professor
February  27 Cha Wa
March  5 Beth McKee & the Sliders
March  12 Soul Project
March  13 Soul Project
March  19 The Big Easy Playboys
March  20 The Big Easy Playboys
March  26 Gravy
April  2 Dirty Bourbon River Show
April  9 Daddy Mack Blues Band
April  16 Big Al and The Heavyweights

The Food & Drink

If you plan on eating at the French Quarter Courtyard, there is a variety of options to chose from. From the classic New Orleans favorites jambalaya & beignets to American classics like cheesesteaks and chicken tenders. Also located in the Courtyard are several bars serving beer, basic cocktails, and the event’s signature drink. This year’s menu has not been released, but take a look at some pictures of the Courtyard from last year. We will update the menu once Opening Weekend is here.

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:

February  6 Hunter Hayes
February  13 Diana Ross
February  14 Barenaked Ladies
February  20 Nate Ruess
February  27 Fall Out Boy
March  5 Kool & the Gang
March  12 The Fray
March  13 Adam Lambert
March  19 Shawn Mendes
March  20 3 Doors Down
March  26 REO Speedwagon
April  2 T-Pain
April  9 Jessie J
April  16 Yandel

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.

Annual Passholder Benefits

As an passholder, Universal gives some great perks for the Mardi Gras event. This year, the perks include:

  • Passholders can purchase Annual Passholder Exclusive Mardi Gras Beads during the Mardi Gras event for $11.95 plus tax.
  • As stated before, a limited number of Passholders and one guest can register for an opportunity to ride a Mardi Gras Float. Passholders who are selected will be notified a few days prior to the event. Click here to learn more and sign-up.
  • Premier and Preferred Passholders receive 10% off all Mardi Gras food tents from 4:00pm-6:00pm on Mardi Gras event nights.
  • The Annual Passholders Special viewing area for the Mardi Gras Parade near Mel’s Drive-In.

The Merch

This year’s merchandise hasn’t been shown yet, but the line-up usually includes year-exclusive beads, masks, shot glasses, beer glasses, shirts, and wacky hats. We will update the merch after Opening Weekend. Here’s a look at some of last year’s merchandise:

 

The “Mardi Guide” App

Universal has introduced their official Mardi Gras app called “Mardi Guide” for iPhone and Android users. Technically, the app is not new as it was released in 2015; but was only available for the last day of the event. The app allows fans to collect “virtual beads” by way of a scavenger hunt. The app also allows the user to take photos of the parade and add customized photo frames courtesy of Universal. If you’re an Annual Passholder, you can access exclusive bonus content.

To download for iOS
To download for Droid

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 or “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 30-40 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: