Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebrates all things carnival with food, concerts, a bead throwing parade, and much more. In this article, we will cover all there is at Universal’s Mardi Gras including concert schedules, parade times, food options, and touring tips.
Universal’s Mardi Gras 2024 runs daily from February 3 through April 7, 2024, and is included with theme park admission.
What is Universal’s Mardi Gras
Universal’s Mardi Gras is an international celebration of carnival, with a focus on New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras. The party started in 1996 with a parade furnished by the New Orleans fabrication firm Kern Studios. Designed to bring in the locals during a quiet period, Mardi Gras kept expanding with bigger musical acts and a longer season. In 2018 the event moved to daily operations with Universal expanding the food festival offerings. Now guests can sample exclusive foods from around the world, ride on a New Orleans parade float, walk through the Tribute Store, or catch a headliner concert.
Mardi Gras Food Festival
Mardi Gras is Universal’s premier food festival featuring over 50 dishes and dozens of cocktails inspired by carnivals all over the world – From Beignets and King Cakes to Chilaquiles Verdes and Godiva and Biscoff Liege Waffles. Universal Studios Florida is home to all the international destinations while New Orleans’ classic food and drinks are found in all the theme parks, resorts, and CityWalk.
Booths open at 11:00 am and close approximately half an hour before the park closes. Food items range in price from $5 to over $15 with most dishes between $8-12. Alcohol is served at all locations and full-sized drinks range from $10-$15 per drink. We advise skipping the batched cocktails and ordering fresh at Finnegan’s Bar in New York or CityWalk.
Menus change yearly, below is a sample of last year’s options:
Belgium: Liège Waffle, Brussels Fries, Trappist beers
Brazil: Picanha Skewers (beef), Linguiça Skewers (sausage), Chicken Coxinha, Brigadeiros Trio, Mango Caipirinha cocktail (cachaça), Guava Caipirinha cocktail (cachaça)
Colombia: Colombian Empanadas, Arepas de Queso (see Disney!), Refajo shanty beer, Coco Loco cocktail (rum and tequila), Choladas shaved ice
NOLA Central City: Crawfish, Shrimp, and Combo Boils, Beignets, Category 5 Punch cocktail, Abita Purple HazeOh Baby exclusive beer
Puerto Rico: Mofongo TrioAlcapurrias (beef and vegan options), Classic Piña Colada cocktail, Shaved ice
The Universal Orlando Food & Beverage Card is a prepaid food gift card accepted at most food booths and restaurants in the theme parks and CityWalk. Cards start at $65 and include $75 worth of dining credit, a $10 savings. The cards have no expiration date and prior years’ card balances are still valid at this year’s Mardi Gras food booths. Even if you never eat at a food booth purchasing dining cards can still save you 14% – that’s not bad.
Touring tips for Universal’s Mardi Gras Food Festival
Long queues form quickly at some booths, such as the France booth at Central Park Crepes. Booth waits do fluctuate, with afternoons on weekdays being the least crowded and evenings on the weekend being the most crowded. We suggest picking up a tasting card and planning your route to start at 11:00 am sharp.
Mardis Gras Parade
Straight from New Orleans is the Universal’s Mardi Gras Parade, featuring floats designed by the world-renowned Kern Studios of New Orleans, LA. This ain’t no Disney parade, this one starts with a full police motorcycle escort followed by dozens of dancers, stilt walkers, and decked-out floats full of guests. Did I mention guests can ride the floats? Yup, guests can ride the floats, and as is New Orleans tradition, toss beads to the crowd. Floats this year are themed to the natural elements – earth, water, fire, air, etc. These new floats join perennial classics like the King Gator and Riverboat carnival floats.
Touring Tips for Universal’s Mardi Gras Parade
The parade lasts for 15 minutes and takes 45 minutes to make its way through the park. The parade starts at the Horror Makeup Show and then moves towards Transformers and counterclockwise around the park. We suggest picking a spot between Transformers at the lagoon for the most elbow room while watching. The Mardi Gras Parade performs nightly – for a full list of parade times visit Universal Orlando’s website.
For years Universal was begging guests to ride floats and throw beads, now Universal is requiring revervations or virtual lines to toss. Floats fill nightly now and Universal has capitalized on this by offering multiple ways to ride on a Mardi Gras float. Parade float riding is a multi-hour experience from check-in, prep, the parade, and disembarking. This is a fun treat for returning guests but not advised for anyone on a touring time crunch.
The easiest way to ride is by purchasing the Float Riding Ride & Dine Experience, starting at $84.99 per person plus tax. Your float riding spot is guaranteed plus you get an appetizer, entree, dessert, and soft drink at one of several USF and CityWalk restaurants. Be warned, dining spots are in the late afternoon, around 3:30 to 4:30 depending on the parade time.
If you balk at $85 then a Virtual Queue option is offered on the day of your visit through the Universal Orlando app. Universal Annual Passholders have the option to reserve float times online, but these fill quickly months before the parade date.
Know someone on a float? Ask which float and where they will be located, then position yourself at Mel’s Drive-In across from the Horror Make-Up Show. You can grab photos as they enter the parade route and then reposition yourself quickly for when they exit. The whole parade length is around 45 minutes long.
Concert Series & Live Entertainment
What is a party without some music? The streets of Universal Studios Florida light up with music and dance daily. Headliner musical acts perform on Saturdays from February 3 through March 17 at the Music Plaza Stage next to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. Concerts start at 8:30 pm and run for approximately 80 to 90 minutes.
2024 Universal Mardi Gras Concert Schedule
- February 3: Walker Hayes
- February 10: The All-American Rejects
- February 17: Nessa Barrett
- February 18: KC and the Sunshine Band
- February 24: Barenaked Ladies
- March 2: DJ Khaled
- March 9: Ava Max
- March 10: Queen Latifah
- March 16: Luis Fonsi
- March 17: Zedd
Touring Tips for Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Concerts
Concerts vary in popularity from fun diversions to crowds so large they shut down the park. If you are planning on attending a concert we suggest showing up at least two hours early to Universal and staking out your spot at least an hour before showtime. If you are not interested in attending the concert we suggest avoiding the Minion Land and New York areas of the park and staying towards San Francisco, London, World Expo, and Hollywood areas.
Roaming entertainment pops up throughout Universal Studios Florida during Mardi Gras, from Zydeco street bands to stilt walkers. Entertainers perform in the late mornings to before the parade time through New York, Hollywood, and Central Park areas of USF.
While the food booths operate in the rain, entertainment does not. The parade and roaming entertainment do not perform in the rain or when lighting is in the area.
Mardi Gras Miscellaneous
Universal’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store
The Tribute Store combines intricately themed spaces with exclusive merchandise and snacks. Each Tribute Store features a new theme, with this year’s store pulling inspiration from New Orleans jazz clubs and speakeasies. Inside guests walk through several decorated rooms filled with Mardi Gras apparel, home goods, souvenirs, snacks, and photo opportunities. Tribute Stores are free to experience and open with the park, tour at any time.
Cursed Coconut Club
This fun spot is a pop-up New Orleans bar that leans into the occult. Located at the top of the escalators in CityWalk, the Cused Coconut Club is open daily from 5 pm till CityWalk closes.
Mardi Gras at Universal’s Hotels
All of Universal’s on-site hotels feature their spins on traditional Mardi Gras fare. Fun entrees, appetizers, and drinks are available throughout the hotel, talk to your front desk for a list, or visit Universal’s website.
Mardi Gras Touring Tips
- Save Money and purchase the Universal Food & Beverage Card to use at most theme park and CityWalk venues.
- Save Time and arrive at the food booths early. Lines form early and stay busy all day.
- Get the best spot at the parade by arriving at least 30 minutes before the parade starts.
- Show up at least an hour before the show time for a headliner music act.
What is your favorite part of Universal Mardi Gras? Have a dish you have your eyes set on? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!