Saturday SixUniversal Orlando Resort

The SATURDAY SIX Parties at Universal’s MARDI GRAS – a look at the food, the Tribute Store, the parade and more!

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The theme park calendar is filled with many fantastic seasonal events, from January’s Festival of the Arts to the end of year Christmas celebrations, but for our money the best pound-for-pound experience takes places at the Universal Orlando Resort, and is included with regular park admission.

That’s right, we’re talking about MARDI GRAS, and this resort-wide celebration has unique food options, great music, and Universal’s best parade. 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 – Cursed Coconut Club

We mentioned that Mardi Gras is celebrated resort-wide at Universal, including exclusive food and drink items options at all the onsite hotels and a makeover of CityWalk’s Red Coconut Club into the Cursed Coconut Club.

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, Red Coconut Club was a lively nighttime spot at Universal CityWalk, offering signature drinks, live music, and dancing in a sophisticated tiki-themed atmosphere. When the entire Universal Orlando Resort shut down for Covid in March 2020, the Red Coconut Club became one of the only places at Universal that never re-opened. For Halloween Horror Nights 31, the Red Coconut Club was transformed into the DEAD COCONUT CLUB and became an instant fan favorite. Since that time, the CityWalk venue has also been turned into the Red & Green Coconut Club for Christmas season, and the voodoo-themed Cursed Coconut Club during Mardi Gras.

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

The outside of the Cursed Coconut Club features a vine covered hearse and a skeleton “driver.”

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Inside the hearse is an actual coffin. Rumors and Innuendo tells us the person in the coffin lived an entire life while waiting for Disney to add tables to Woody’s Lunch Box at DHS.

Rumors and Innuendo tell us that the person in the coffin was born when Disney began construction to add tables to Woody’s Lunch Box at DHS, and lived an entire fulfilled life.

There are plenty of photo-ops both outside and inside the club.

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Scott Sanders)

The vine theme continues inside the club…

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Scott Sanders)

…which has two floors of added theming.

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Each floor of the Cursed Coconut has its own drink menu. Here is the menu for the upstairs bar.

Cursed Coconut Club. (photo by Scott Sanders)
French 75 – Beefeater’s Gin, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Bonne Chance Brut, simple syrup, garnished with a lemon zest. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Vieux Carre -High West Double Rye Whisky, Courvoisiervs Congac, Martini and Rossi Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s and Angostura Bitters. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Now let’s head over to Universal Studios Florida.

# 5 – The Popcorn Bucket (and Atmosphere)

Regular readers of the Theme Park Enjoyment Index have seen that we have been documenting the meteoric rise in Universal’s popcorn bucket game. In just a couple years the popcorn buckets went from the outhouse to the penthouse, and now rival Disney. For this year’s Mardi Gras celebration Universal debuted the new King Gator popcorn bucket and it is adorable!

King Gator popcorn bucket. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
King Gator popcorn bucket. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

There are Mardi Gras decorations throughout Universal Studios Florida that now have become annual traditions, and give guests some great photo ops along with adding a bit of overall fun to the average park day. You also just might see some live music along with walk around characters getting into the festive mood…

Once nighttime comes, colorful projections can be seen on both the ground and on buildings.

Projections on ground. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Projections on ground. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Projections on buildings. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Projections on The Simpsons Ride. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 4 – The Outdoor Kitchens

The explosion in quality when it comes to the food and drink offerings during Mardi Gras can not be overstated. What was once a small selection of tents in the New York section of USF featuring primarily fried foods is now a wide array of themed outdoor kitchens featuring culinary options from around the world. Not that long ago Universal’s Mardi Gras wasn’t even in the same league as EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival. Today, in my book, Mardi Gras has put “Food & Wine” in its rearview mirror. This is something that is almost impossible to wrap my head around.

Like all theme park food festivals, guests have the option to buy everything on the various menus à la carte, but Universal also has Tasting Menu cards available to save some money. Annual Passholders have the opportunity to get even bigger savings.

The wide variety of food options is pretty amazing, so be sure to bring your appetite.

Puerto Rico Outdoor Kitchen. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
PUERTO RICO. Pastelón – A layered casserole of sweet plantain, picadillo beef topped with Edam cheese.
Canadian Mardi Gras festival kitchen at night. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
CANADA. Candied Bacon & Onion Poutine – Candied bacon spiced curly fries with caramelized onion gravy, cheese curds, spiced maple bacon and parsley. Delicious.
New Orleans Outdoor kitchen.
Fried Green Tomato Po’Boy –Flash-fried green tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, and Cajun remoulade served with Cajun kettle chips. Tasty! (photo by @bioreconstruct)
COCA COLA MARKET SQUARE. Cherry Cola BBQ Pork Slider – Slow-cooked carnitas with cherry cola BBQ sauce on a Hawaiian pretzel bun served with lemon-lime soda-infused coleslaw. Solid sauce on this one.
THAILAND. Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp – Sautéed shrimp on a salad of shredded green papaya, carrots, with Thai basil, peanuts, tossed in a spicy Thai dressing. Not recommended. Plain with little shrimp.
GERMANY. Currywurst –Crispy skin German bratwurst sliced and topped with a spicy curry ketchup. This was great but could have used a base of rice underneath it.

Not only does each international menu have unique food options, each has drinks inspired from the area as well.

CHINA. Hong Kong Boba Tea and Spicy Smashed Cucumber. Great stuff.
PHILIPPINES. Buko Juice – Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut cream, pandan extract, smoked sea salt. Served in a souvenir coconut cup. Wouldn’t get this again, but you had me at “souvenir coconut cup.”

# 3 – The Tribute Store

No one is a bigger fan of the seasonal Tribute Stores that Universal has been doing over the last several years, and for this year’s Mardi Gras the Tribute Store theme a river cruise aboard the PS Songbird river boat.

The façade has many faux advertisements for the PS Songbird river boat. Fans of previous Tribute Stores will recognize several reference on these posters, including Gerg the llama.

Two collections of themed ads seen outside the Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Guests enter the Tribute Store as if boarding the P.S. Songbird paddleboat docked on the Mississippi River.

Entrance of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Each Tribute Store is a collection of themed rooms, and our first room welcomes us onto the PS Songbird.

We also get some backstory to the boat along with its captain, Victor Pavo.

This leads us to our next room which features the quarters of Captain Pavo. Not only do we get to see his desk…

…but we even get a glimpse of his ghost! That’s right, Captain Pavo’s spirit materializes in front of our eyes, turns around and tips his cap towards us before disappearing back into the unknown.

Our story continues on until a reveal comes that the PS Songbird has crashed into the Louisiana Bayou and nature is reclaiming the boat. This includes a great projection on the floor as if you are stepping over broken wood of the ship as gators pass under you.

Pictures, and even the video below do not do justice to the projections Universal has in the Tribute Store. Pretty amazing stuff.

There are fun details in the room, including this incredible wanted poster featuring an “artistic interpretation” of the King Gator parade float. This is straight up E-Ticket.

Gator in the bayou.

My favorite part of every Tribute Store, the snack case.

The theme of this year’s Mardi Gras parade at Universal is Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, the Sun, and the Moon, so we definitely wanted to try this Sun and Moon mini cake…

…and how can you not love this cute cookie?

Gator Cookie.

Our final room of the store has us walking through another boat which has crashed into the bayou, and features more references for eagle eyed Universal fans, including the logo for the Tribute Store Comics.

Overall another amazing job in creating a memorable shopping experience. It is absolutely wild that so much thought and detail can go into these seasonal stores (and it is APPRECIATED!)

Laughter from who seems to be Dr Oddfellow is heard in this room of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The crates below disguise the exit of the Tribute Store and have one more reference for Universal fans…

Crates hiding the exit of the Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A nod to Universal executive Tom Williams. Fun Fact: one of the streets in Universal Orlando is named Tom Williams Way. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
There is also a star on the “Walk of Fame” dedicated to Mr. Williams as well. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 2 – The Parade

A staple of Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration is the nightly parade. It features 12 floats that are a mix of classic floats that we see every year (such as King Gator, the Miss New Orleans Riverboat, & Krewe of Dionysus) along with brand new elaborately themed floats. Each float also has an entire group of entertainment characters walking around with it, so get your cameras ready because many of these characters are out on the streets before the parade. The interactions that come with some of these characters can really elevate your Mardi Gras experience.

Each Mardi Gras parade begins with police motorcycles. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The parade begins and ends with traditional Mardi Gras floats while the middle has the newer floats.

Krewe of Dionysus, one of the traditional Mardi Gras parade floats. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This portal-like float bookends the newer float designs in this year’s parade.

Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
An Earth-themed parade float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A wind-themed parade float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Just like John Hammond for Jurassic Park, no expense was spared in these floats. While it doesn’t photograph well, there are two flames blowing underneath the balloon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A fire-themed parade float in the Universal Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A performer in the Universal Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A water-themed float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
“Beads are friends, not food.” (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Keep your eyes open for some fun details in every single float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The characters for each float group are tremendous. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A sun-themed float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The backside of the sun float features the moon.

Mardi Gras 2024 parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A performer in the Universal Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)


The final float in the parade is everyone’s favorite, the iconic King Gator.

King Gator in the Universal Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Possibly the best part of Universal’s Mardi Gras parade is that it is also an interactive one. Not only can people watching the parade catch beads thrown by people on the floats, it is actual park guests ON THE FLOATS THROWING THE BEADS!

Four devilishly handsome men before boarding a float to toss beads. (photo by @matthewfdz)

As far as in-park experiences go, this is one of the most fun you can have at Universal…

The same four men as seen from the crowd. (photo by @jodicab22)

…and you never know who you may see on a float.

TouringPlans’s own Len Testa throwing beads

# 1 – The BEADS

Catching beads during the Mardi Gras parade is a total blast for those who are young…

S-tier parenting. (photo by @zacstack)

…or young at heart.

The “brain” part of me knows the beads are something cheap I could buy myself at a dollar store, but the “heart” part of me loves them just like the trick-or-treat candy at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party. GIMMEE ALL THE BEADS!!!!  (photo by @AestheticPuppet)

Thanks to the opening of Minion Land last Summer, we also have some new residents at Universal Studios Florida who also want to catch beads…

“Beads! Over here!” Said the Minion as he waved to the Mardi Gras parade. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This is my exact reaction when catching beads during the Mardi Gras parade. Minions, they truly are just like us.

One of the Minions that caught Mardi Gras beads. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A Minion catches beads. (photo by @bioreconstrcut)
One of the Minions that caught Mardi Gras beads. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The all-time champion in catching beads? The iconic Bead Tree located on the way back to the Universal Parking Garage.

Bead tree. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Checks out Universal’s 2024 MARDI GRAS! 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 THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

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

The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Ian Barritt

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. 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.

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