SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s 2019 MARDI GRAS Celebration!

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Universal Orlando Resort’s MARDI GRAS Celebration! One of our favorite events of the year takes place at Universal Studios Florida and it is included with regular park admission. It has unique food options, great music, and Universal’s best parade. That’s right, we’re talking about Mardi Gras, and today we’re going to look at six reasons why this is the best party outside of New Orleans itself and we’ll start off with….

# 6 – Voodoo Doughnut

We’ve loved Voodoo Doughnut ever since they opened last year, but our love has only gotten stronger thanks to a series of donuts exclusive to Universal. We’ve had limited-time donuts themed to last year’s Jurassic World film, Halloween Horror NightsGrinchmas, and more. We were hoping for a Mardi Gras-themed creation, and we got one with a beignet-like donut that is half dipped in vanilla, half dipped in sugar, filled with Bavarian cream, and topped with colorful sprinkles.

Voodoo Doughnut’s Mardi Gras themed creation. (photo by Michael Carelli)
A close up of the donut reveals Mardi Gras themed decorations. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
“Half dipped in sugar, half dipped in vanilla” is what I want on my tombstone. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 5 – The Food and Drink

One of our favorite places on Disney property is Port Orleans French Quarter and a big reason for that is the Cajun-style food. Beignets, king cake, catfish po’ boys, shrimp gumbo, red beans & rice, Andouille sausage, crab etouffee, and jambalaya are all on the menu at Universal’s Mardi Gras. In fact, these options in the French Courtyard combined with the offerings at Fast Food Blvd and Diagon Alley just may make USF the greatest single place on Earth for theme park snack eating. This year there is not only a new item with GATOR BITES, but a whole new way to experience eating your way around the French Quarter Courtyard with the tasting lanyard. You can get a five item lanyard for $30, or a ten item lanyard for $50 (Universal Annual Passholders can get a 15 item lanyard for $60!) With food items ranging between $4.99 to $6.99, this can range anywhere from a good deal to a great one. The lanyard can also be used to order beer samples (9 ounce pours).

Entrance to the French Quarter Courtyard. To paraphrase Len Testa “Thems good eatins here!” (photo by Michael Carelli)
Words to live by. (photo by Hunter “Elvey” Underwood)
The Universal King Cake is a delight. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
It ain’t a Mardi Gras celebration with BEIGNETS. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The UOAP Tasting Lanyard, one of the best deals in the park. You do NOT have to use all your “tastings” in one day, as each purchase is scanned off your lanyard until you hit zero. (photo by Daddy O)
Jambalaya. (photo by Joseph Machado)
Gator Bites. (photo by Joseph Machado)

Another new entry to Universal’s Mardi Gras food offerings is the Bayou Boil. For $59.99 per adult and $39.99 for kids (with UOAP discounts also available), guests get to experience one hour at an all-you-can eat Louisiana-style boil. Afterwards you then get access to an exclusive parade viewing area where there is also a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, including king cakes and beignets. That’s right. All you can eat beignets. This is like that moment in Ocean’s 11 when George Clooney tells Brad Pitt that the house always wins, but sometimes there is that one moment where you can beat the house. All you can eat beignets? This is my moment.

Bayou Boil. (photo by @bigpappa040)
Corn, shrimp, crawfish, sausage, and red potatoes. (photo by Big Papa)
Drinks available at the parade viewing area for Bayou Boil guests. (photo by @bigpapa040)
Snacks available for Bayou Boil guests. (photo by @bigpapa040)

Some of the drink options at Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras specialty drinks. (photo by Hedgehog’s Corner)
Ragin Rumbalaya. (photo by @hedgehogscorner)
Mardi Gras-themed candy apple. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 4 – The Live Musical Acts

Between the big concert musical acts and the more personal smaller bands located near the Courtyard, Mardi Gras has a lot of great music going on. Headline acts play on Saturday nights, and some major league musicians are booked for the weekends including BUSH, Gavin DeGraw, Macklemore, and Pitbull. However, live music takes place every single day in the Courtyard. Even better, the smaller acts are all from New Orleans.

BUSH playing “Machinehead.| (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Bush. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Gavin DeGraw. (photo by Megan Stump)
Gavin DeGraw. (photo by Megan Stump)
Dan + Shay. (photo by Joseph Machado)
The Dirty Bourbon River Show, straight from ‘Nawlins. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

Maybe the biggest news this year was the debut of PIZZA FRIES at Mardi Gras. Normally a staple of Halloween Horror Nights, pizza fries are available on concert nights and can even be mobile ordered! Our prayers have been answered!

UOR mobile ordering.
Pizza Fries!!!!! (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 3 – The Walk Around Characters

Get your cameras ready because there are a ton of colorful characters throughout the park, and all of them would love to take their pictures with you. The street performers include groups of characters that are representing each parade float later in the evening. The interactions that come with some of these characters can really elevate your Mardi Gras experience, and you just may get a fun surprise (but we’ll get to that later in the article).

Mardi Gras characters. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Mardi Gras characters. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Mardi Gras “shrimp.” (photo by Michael Carelli)
VooDoo. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Mardi Gras character. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Not only were there Mardi Gras “flower” characters… (photo by Hunter Underwood)
But they were followed around by “bees” in the parade. A fantastic touch. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Mardi Gras characters. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

# 2 – The Parade

A staple of the Mardi Gras celebration is the nightly parade. Theme park fans used to Disney’s amazing Festival of Fantasy parade may not understand why Universal’s floats are pulled around by trucks, but this is actually a nod to the Mardi Gras parade held annually in New Orleans. Every year Universal also creates several new elaborately themed floats, and this year’s entries were themed to  “party animals.”

Truck pulling a tiger themed float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Universal is the theme park leader in fire elements. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Frog float. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Ocean themed float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Theming on the sea life float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Insect float led by a Queen Bee. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
An arctic-themed float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

We mentioned earlier about interacting with the street performers, right? Well that is how you can get a chance to obtain an official Mardi Gras coin. Sometimes the characters will ask you trivia, other times they will play a fun game with you to “earn” the coin, but no matter how you get your hands on one, this little coin represents everything we love about theme parks. This years coin is themed to the various floats in the parade.

Mardi Gras coins. (photo by @Schmoofy)

Don’t worry, all of the classic floats are also in the nightly parade, including the King & Queen, Bourbon Street, Jester, and everyone’s favorite, King Gator.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

 # 1 – YOU Can Be In The Parade!

For Mardi Gras, Universal allows Annual Passholders to sign up for a chance to ride on one of the floats during the parade and throw bead necklaces to the crowd! The Passholder can be accompanied by up to 5 guests (who do not have to be Annual Passholders) which can make for a incredibly fun group experience. For more information on how to sign up for this opportunity: CLICK HERE

Guests aboard a Mardi Gras float getting ready to throw beads to the crowd. (photo by Big Papa)
Being on a Mardi Gras float can give you some unique views! (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Here we have my personal protege Hunter Underwood on the new insect float from this year’s parade. He is joined by some true heroes of the theme park community.
On this float we have SATURDAY SIX editor in chief Megan Stump. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
On this float we have Attraction Magazine‘s own Matt Roseboom and family. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
And of course Tom Brady’s official ball deflater Aengus Mackenzi. (photo by Bri-Man of Inside Universal)

 

Honorable Mention – We’re here for the beads! AND THE BEAD TREES!

Beads are an important part of Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration. You’ll see them everywhere, and there are some really unique ones available to purchase throughout the park.

Mardi Gras beads. (photo by Michael Carelli)

When leaving Mardi Gras, you’ll more than likely notice the “Bead Trees” on the way back to the parking garage. These are a normal trees that quickly become covered by strings of beads thrown by guests and begin to turn into a colorful plant life that seems to belong on Pandora: the World of Avatar.

Bead trees. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Bead trees. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Beads. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Official SATURDAY SIX bead tree policy as per Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men: “On the record I tell you that I discourage the practice in accordance with the NIS directive. Off the record I tell you that it’s an invaluable part of the Mardi Gras experience, and if it happens to go on without my knowledge, so be it.” (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

Double Secret Honorable Mention – UOAP Pin

Universal has been releasing several fun pins for its annual passholders, and during Mardi Gras you can pick up one featuring the King Gator himself (along with a mouthful of beads.)

UOAP pin. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Here we have Hunter Underwood showing that a theme park photographer does whatever it takes to get their shots! (photo by the lovely @caitlizgrace)

So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s MARDI GRAS Celebration ! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

DO’S and DON’TS at Universal Mardi Gras

6 Reasons We Love PORT OF ENTRY at Islands of Adventure

6 Reasons We Love Universal’s ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT

6 SURPRISING SECRETS of the Universal Orlando Resort

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, the sweet siren of secret shopping Hedgehog’s Corner, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

An actual BEAD-themed walk around character. We are officially in the best time line. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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