This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Mardi Gras Celebration. No one loves theme park events more than us. Mickey’s Not So Scary? Fantastic. Halloween Horror Nights? Even better. Grinchmas, Mickey’s Very Merry, and Food & Wine? Can’t wait for each of them. Villain’s Unleashed? The exception that proves the rule.
But one of our favorite events of the year takes place at Universal Studios Florida and is included with regular park admission. 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 – The Walk Around Characters
Get your cameras ready because there are a ton of colorful characters throughout the party, and all of them would love to take their pictures with you. From steampunk inspired cowboys to court jesters and everything in-between (including jazz bands), there is something for everyone.
# 5 – The N’awlins inspired food at French Quarter Courtyard
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, po boys, shrimp gumbo, red beans & rice, Andouille sausage, and jambalaya are all on the menu at Universal’s Mardi Gras, which combined with the offerings at Fast Food Blvd and Diagon Alley make USF the greatest single place on Earth for theme park eating.
# 4 – Musicians Straight From New Orleans
One of the things I love the most about Disney’s Night of Joy parties is the amount of smaller bands and musicians that they bring in and let perform in the park. It’s great to see the headliners, but it is also nice to appreciate the smaller names, many of which guests would never know of. For Mardi Gras, Universal has a smaller stage set-up in the French Quarter Courtyard for musicians local to the New Orleans area. This is a wonderful touch that lets guests enjoy bands in a more intimate setting. One area USF dominates in is live music, and these shows in the Courtyard have the vibe that the amazing Blues Brothers and Celestina Warbeck bring to the table.
# 3 – The Big Concerts
That said, Universal brings in some heavy hitters for their main stage concerts. The fact that you can see acts like Kelly Clarkson, The Band Perry, Barenaked Ladies and All American Rejects inside a theme park seems almost too good to be true, as all of them could easily sell out their own shows at the Hard Rock Live next door. 2014 had Weezer, Robin Thicke, and Daughtry among others. 2013 had Pitbull, Matchbox Twenty, and Demi Lovato. It is truly astonishing the wide array of acts that Universal brings in, and while each particular one may not be your cup of tea, you can almost guarantee there’s another you really want to see in person.
# 2 – The Parade
One of the most popular things at every Universal Mardi Gras celebration at Universal is the parade. Filled with colorful floats and characters, the parade has a unique energy that fits perfectly within the party theme. And just as Universal’s Macy’s Holiday Parade allows guests to be balloon holders, the Mardi Gras parade gives an opportunity to actually be on the floats themselves and toss beads down to people below. That’s right, Annual Passholders have an opportunity to be a part of the parade and, trust me, this needs to be on your theme park bucket list as there’s nothing else like it.
# 1 – THE BEADS!
If you go to Universal’s Mardi Gras, you’re coming home with beads or you’re doing it wrong. Beads are tossed out by the seemingly thousands, and while it may seem crazy to read in print, when you are there it just becomes fun. It’s impossible to be objective, but just as I know it makes no sense to spend my time “trick or treating” for candy at Mickey’s Not So Scary, in the moment it is impossible not to enjoy.
While the beads tossed to guests are more of a generic variety, you can also show your Player Status by buying your own beads at various shops.
A little while ago we took a look at Ways To Repurpose Your Extra Disney MagicBands and turns out Mardi Gras beads give us another useful reason to hold on to them!
But most of all, Mardi Gras beads make kids happy, and that is what theme parks are all about. When they are happy, we’re all happy.
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 Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.
Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, Seth Kubersky, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, Kelly Clarkson back-up singer Chad Evetts, and Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey.
Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. PRE-ORDER this baby now! (For every copy sold, a percentage of the profits* go towards buying a DVD of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video.)