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You can’t make many comparisons between a visit to New Orleans and a trip to Universal Orlando Resort, but when it comes to Mardi Gras, they have more in common than you might think. Every year, Universal Orlando throws a months-long Mardi Gras party with the same celebratory vibes you’d find in “The Big Easy,” but in an atmosphere that’s perfect for kids who aren’t quite ready for Bourbon Street.
Sound intriguing? This year’s event is being held in Universal Studios Florida park and runs Feb. 5 through Apr. 24, 2022, so you have plenty of time to party. Here’s everything you need to know to let the good times roll during Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando.
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No matter what time of year you visit, Universal Orlando is a perfect spot for families. But when Mardi Gras rolls around, there are even more family-friendly festivities, food, and fun. Costumed characters and New Orleans brass bands stroll the streets of Universal Studios Florida, there are food booths and a nightly parade (that means beads and beignets – two things we’re pretty sure your kids will love), and the concert lineup is impressive. Even more impressive is that admission is included with your park ticket.
There’s also a Mardi Gras-themed scavenger hunt called the Krewe Crawl that will send you all over Universal Studios Florida looking for Mardi Gras masks. You can pick up a map for just $10 at merchandise locations inside the park, and you’ll walk away with your own Mardi Gras mask as a prize for completing the hunt.
Universal switches up the theme for its Mardi Gras celebration every year. This year’s theme is “Planet Mardi Gras.” You’ll see otherworldly parade floats, performers, and food items that reflect the “Planet Mardi Gras” theme, which has a backstory all its own. Planet Mardi Gras is a far-off planet where revelers from all across the galaxy travel for the biggest and best Mardi Gras party the universe has ever seen.
The nightly parade at Universal Studios Florida is where you will really see the “Planet Mardi Gras” theme come to life. In addition to classic floats like a riverboat, a gator, and a jazz-themed float, you’ll see floats representing a liftoff to space, a machine planet, a floral planet, a volcano planet, and a Mardi Gras planet where the inhabitants of each planet come together to party. The music is raucous, the costumes and floats are covered in neon lights, and the beads are plentiful.
The parade schedule varies, so you’ll want to check the time before your visit. You can find the parade route on maps inside the park. There are plenty of spots along the parade route, but to get a front-row seat, you’ll want to find a spot 30 to 45 minutes before the parade begins.
Note: There is no parade on April 1, 2, or 8, 2022.
In addition to the lively brass bands you’ll encounter during the day, you can catch live performances by some of the biggest names in music on 15 select nights on the Music Plaza stage (in the Production Central area of the park near Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit). Acts range from Diana Ross to Marshmello, and LL Cool J, with Jason Derulo closing out this year’s concert series on Mar. 27, 2022. These festival-worthy shows are all included with regular admission and all concerts begin at 8:30 pm. A full lineup is available on Universal Orlando’s website.
You can’t do Mardi Gras without beignets, king cake, jambalaya, and gumbo (and maybe a hurricane or two), but that’s not all you’ll find. Food booths all around Universal Studios Florida (and at Universal CityWalk and Universal’s onsite hotels) are dishing out delicacies from Italy, Brazil, and more.
There are also food booths that represent the various cuisines of the planets created for this year’s festival. The machine planet booth only has foods made by machines (like bubble waffles and stuffed beignets), the floral planet booth only serves Indian-inspired plant-based foods, and, well, you get the idea.
If you want to try everything and save a bit of money at the same time, you can purchase a Food & Beverage Card and Lanyard. You can pay $65 for a card with a $75 food and beverage value or $120 for a card with a $150 value. Most dishes and drinks run between $5 and $10, so you can get a little extra bang for your buck this way.
It’s difficult to describe Universal Studios’ Mardi Gras Tribute Store. Yes, they sell Mardi Gras merchandise and tasty treats, but it’s the immersive theming that makes the Tribute Store, unlike your typical theme park gift shop.
Universal’s creative team dreams up a new design for the Mardi Gras Tribute Store each year and this year’s store is designed to look like a Mardi Gras float factory warehouse. Each room walks you through the process of designing and building a Mardi Gras float. Before exiting the Tribute Store, you’ll see the final product – a full-size Mardi Gras float that perfectly plays into this year’s “Planet Mardi Gras” theme.
Float factories are something Universal’s creative team knows a lot about. They work closely with Kern Studios, New Orleans’ premier float building factory, to bring Mardi Gras to Central Florida, even taking trips to New Orleans to scour the Kern Studios warehouse for inspiration.
Universal Orlando has eight on-site hotels that fall under four categories – Premier, Preferred, Prime Value, and Value. The Premier hotels are the most luxurious and the closest to the parks, and they offer water taxis and walking paths to the parks. But even the hotels in the Preferred and Prime Value categories are close enough that they have walking paths that lead to the parks, too. All hotels include complimentary bus transportation and early theme park entry, as well.
During Mardi Gras, each hotel offers specialty Mardi Gras menu items that let you get the party started before you head to the parks (or when you are craving a bite at the end of the night). Each hotel’s specialty menus are a bit different and you don’t have to be a guest of that particular hotel to take advantage of these limited-time dishes and drinks.