SATURDAY SIX – 6 Reasons We Love MARDI GRAS at Universal

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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. Earlier this year, EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts was shockingly good and we’re incredibly excited it is already scheduled to return in 2018.  Villain’s Unleashed? Okay, that was the exception that proves the rule.

King Gator float. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One of our favorite events of the year takes place at Universal Studios Florida and 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 – 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. In fact, these options in the French Courtyard combined with the offerings at Fast Food Blvd and Diagon Alley make USF the greatest single place on Earth for theme park snack eating. This year there is a new item in the Funnel Puffs. Deep fried donut holes which you can get covered in a variety of toppings including chocolate, fruit, sugar, and whipped cream. While Mardi Gras in years past put a spotlight on VooDoo Juice, this year’s event has has several signature drinks available including the Berry Vicious VooDoo,  the Carnival Cocktail, the Rajin’ Rumbalaya, and the Masquerade Madness Cocktail (which combines the two previous drinks.) Trust us on this one, throwing and catching beaded necklaces is even more fun after a few adult beverages.

Beignets! (photo by Brandon Glover)
Shrimp with beans and rice. (photo by Brandon Glover)
New to Mardi Gras Celebration 2017 is the Funnel Puffs and we wouldn’t mind them sticking around all year long. We’re looking in your direction Universal…. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
The citrusy Carnival Cocktail. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Cajun Sampler, including Andouille sausage and shrimp gumbo. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Follow this sign to some good eats! (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5 – 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 that will come 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).

Walk around characters. (photo by Brandon Glover)
VooDoo. (photo by Ryan Kennedy)
A garden sprite. (photo by Ryan Kennedy)
Some of the interactions between the street performers are priceless. (photo by Ryan Kennedy)
These two walk around characters clearly follow the SATURDAY SIX diet (although possibly have skipped the oversized donuts, extreme milkshakes,  28 inch large pizzas and pitchers of Miller Lite.)
The jesters always have a lot of fun with Mardi Gras guests. Here they hatch a soon-to-be foiled plan to get a drink from @CPlagmann (photo by Brandon Glover)
Character from Party Gras float gives us a kiss goodbye. (photo by Ryan Kennedy)

# 4 – Musicians Straight From New Orleans

One of the things I truly loved about Disney’s Night of Joy parties was 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, but has to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the performers. For Mardi Gras, Universal brings in authentic New Orleans musicians for live performances. This is a wonderful touch that lets guests enjoy bands in a more intimate setting. In previous years, Mardi Gras had a small stage set up in the French Quarter Courtyard, but this year the bands have been out walking the streets as they play their tunes. One area that USF dominates in is live music, and these intimate shows have the vibe that the amazing Blues Brothers and Celestina Warbeck bring to the table.

Young Pinstripe Brass Brand. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Young Pinstripe Brass Brand. (photo by Ryan Kennedy)


# 3 – The Big Concerts

That said, Universal generally brings in some heavy hitters for their main stage concerts. In the last couple years we have seen Kelly Clarkson, Weezer, Robin Thicke, Daughtry, Pitbull, Matchbox Twenty, and Demi Lovato, all of whom could easily sell out their own shows at the Hard Rock Live next door. While this year does have some big acts, including the All-American Rejects, Ne-Yo, and Toby Keith, for the most part the line-up has the sort of feel we get at the Eat to the Beat concert series during Food and Wine. Oliva Newton-John, UB40, Collective Soul, and Earth Wind & Fire certainly have brand names, but seem to skew a bit older than the crowd Universal generally targets. It is great when you look atthe 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 one coming that you will want to see in person.

Ne-Yo on the main stage. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Kelly Clarkson playing the main stage in 2015. (photo by Chad Evetts)
Oliva Newton-John plays the main stage in 2015. (photo by Bri-Man of Orlando United)
Weezer plays the main stage in 2014. (photo by Bri-Man of Orlando United)

# 2 – The Mardi Gras 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. While Disney is the market leader in incredible parades such as Festival of Fantasy and the Main Street Electrical Parade, Universal’s Mardi Gras is a lot of fun. Now, just as Mickey’s Boo-to-You Parade generally has few changes from year to year, Universal’s Mardi Gras Parade usually only has a couple changes…but this year there are SIX new floats (around these parts we like that number.)  In a great touch, there are dedicated viewing areas for those traveling with children (by the Brown Derby hat shop) and for Universal Orlando Annual Passholders (by Mel’s Drive-In.)

India-themed Rise Of The Garuda float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Garden Sprites float. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Phoenix From the Flames float. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Greek mythology themed Flight Of The Pegasus float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New Orleans themed float, led by a character we may have seen earlier…. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Fan favorite King Gator float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 1 – YOU Can Be In The Parade!

We mentioned in a previous SATURDAY SIX that one of the neat benefits of doing the Star Wars Guided Tour at DHS is that you get an opportunity to be part of the March of the First Order. 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

Talk about being star struck, this float not only has SATURDAY SIX Editor-in-Chief Megan Stump but also theme park’s beloved Banks Lee! (photo by Mikey Mayhem )
This float is FILLED with theme park royalty including Travis Terrell (co-host of the Grim Grinning Hosts podcast) and Jenn and Tim Tracker. Yes THOSE TRACKERS. (photo by Taylor Strickland of Orlando Informer)
This float happened to have some superstars from Attractions Magazine including Matt Roseboom in the middle. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Center of this picture has The Park Blogger podcast co-host Aengus Mackenzie. (photo by Bri-Man)


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 2017 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.

Mardi Gras Celebration 2017 Coin. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love MARDI GRAS at UniversalSee 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).

Always a great time at Mardi Gras! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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

Our Six Favorite Jokes in Universal’s Springfield USA

Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort

Six Snacks at Universal Orlando You Gotta Try

Six “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort

Six Reasons We Love Univesal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Grim Grinning Hosts podcaster Travis Terrell, Rhode Island’s Favorite Son Ryan Kennedy, Orlando United‘s own Bri-Man, SATURDAY SIX pledge Hunter Underwood, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 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. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)

This is what the streets of Universal Studios Florida look like after the Mardi Gras parade passes by. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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6 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX – 6 Reasons We Love MARDI GRAS at Universal

  • March 11, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t think I have ever said this out loud before and certainly not to my Disney loving family but…..I am going to plan a trip to USF!!! After reading the review on Sapphire Falls and now this Saturday Six edition I NEED to go! I love Mardi Gras and so miss all the fabulous food. Beignets and shrimp gumbo aren’t easy to find in DC. So exciting!!!

  • March 11, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Don’t get why they’re calling it Mardi Gras when we’re now two weeks into Lent.

    • March 13, 2017 at 12:39 am

      Exactly what I was thinking. Pathetic marketing.

      • March 13, 2017 at 12:48 pm

        doesn’t Disney celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving?

    • March 13, 2017 at 1:35 am

      Same reason it’s Halloween all through September and October. Limiting theme park special events to the actual dates they celebrate isn’t practical. The event can’t properly generate revenue or serve its guests if it’s stuck on just one day.

    • March 13, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Wouldn’t suggest limiting it to a single day – but by the nature of the event, it makes sense *before* Fat Tuesday, not *after*.


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