All you need to know about Universal’s Mardi Gras festival

Mardi Gras Festival Universal Orlando

Get in the carnival spirit over at Universal Studios this spring, for the annual Mardi Gras celebrations!

Every night from 9th February – 4th April you are invited to ‘Florida’s Biggest Party’, packed with spectacular parades, stilt-walking street performers and some of the top names in the world of music performing live in concert!

There is something for everyone over at Universal Studios, and what’s more, entry to the Mardi Gras festivities is included in your regular theme park admission! If you have never been before, make 2019 your year to attend the best Mardi Gras celebration in Orlando, and catch some of those flying beads!

The nightly parade that passes through the streets of the park come rain or shine, is a wonderful spectacle which encapsulates that party spirit! It features a whole host of brightly-coloured and ornate floats that this year are themed around animals, with arctic, jungle, swamp, sky and ocean habitats on display! The intricately designed floats are created by Kern Studios, the company who have been responsible for the New Orleans festivities since 1947. You’re in for a treat as colourful confetti rains down and strings of beads are thrown into the waiting crowds, as well as stilt-walkers, dancers and street performers getting everyone involved in the celebrations!

“We’ve been to Universal the last few years for Mardi Gras and it’s brilliant, we look forward to going back this year, you won’t be disappointed if you visit!”

Be a part of the Mardi Gras parade

There’s even the chance for guests to get on the parade floats themselves; if you are staying at an on-site hotel, or are a pass holder you can sign up for a chance to be among the lucky people given a spot on the float, check the website for full terms and conditions. There is also a standby line that you can join two hours before the parade begins over at Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, by the A Day in the Park with Barney attraction. If guests who were already allocated spots on the parade floats don’t make it, then you might be lucky enough to be offered their space!

Best viewing spots for the Mardi Gras parade

Mardi Gras parade Universal Orlando

At past Mardi Gras celebrations, the parade has taken around 20 minutes to traverse the route from the Horror Make-Up Show in the Hollywood area of the park, round through to the Production Central and New York areas and back, so this would be a good indication of how long it will take this year. If you want to catch the parade twice find a spot near Mel’s Drive-In on Hollywood Boulevard; you’ll be able to see it once as it sets out and as it returns. Mel’s Drive-In is opposite the Horror Make-Up Show theatre, and will be a great place to take some photos!

If you have children in your group, then consider a vantage point of the parade at The Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area, situated in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop on Hollywood Boulevard, where kids will be assured of an unobstructed view of the parade. You will be able to take up your position here an hour before the parade starts; make sure you get a good spot! Don’t forget, once the parade is in motion you won’t be able to cross the route to leave the park until it’s finished, so if you need to get away early, you might want to find a spot where you can get to the exit easily.

“The kids had a great time collecting the beads. Awesome party feeling and we can’t wait to come back soon.”

There are several different start times for the parade over the course of the Mardi Gras period. Make sure you take note of the start time so you don’t miss the event!

5:15pm start:

  • 21st February, 4th March

6:15pm start:

  • 10th – 15th, 18th – 20th, 22nd, 24th – 28th February
  • 1st, 5th – 8th March

7:15pm start:

  • 3rd March

7:30 start:

  • 11th – 15th, 18th – 22nd, 25th – 29th March
  • 1st – 4th April

7:45pm start:

  • 9th, 16th, 17th, 23rd February
  • 2nd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 24th, 30th, 31st March

Live music at Mardi Gras Orlando

Live music at Mardi Gras Orlando

If you are a big fan of live music, then you might want to consider heading to the park on select weekend nights over the celebrations, when some huge names come to town, to perform on the Music Plaza stage, from many different musical genres. As the concerts can be quite crowded – especially if a popular act is on stage, they might not be suitable for the younger children in your party.

Not all of this year’s artists have been announced yet, but the current listing is as follows:

  • Saturday 9th February – BUSH
  • Saturday 16th February – Gavin DeGraw
  • Sunday 17th February – Dan + Shay
  • Saturday 23rd February - Macklemore
  • Saturday 2nd March – Sabrina Carpenter
  • Saturday 9th March – Becky G
  • Sunday 10th March – Sean Paul
  • Saturday 16th March – Steve Miller Band
  • Sunday 17th March – Ziggy Marley
  • Saturday 23rd March – NF
  • Sunday 24th March – Pitbull
  • Saturday 30th March – Bazzi
  • Sunday 31st March – TBA

Check on the official website, or on our Twitter/Facebook pages for updates of the last few acts to be announced.

All of the concerts start at 8.30pm, and it’s worth noting that there are no seats at the Music Plaza stage, though there is a specific viewing area for disabled guests. As such if you want to get to the front near to the stage, you need to be prepared to skip the parade and queue early; in the past the fans of some big-name acts have lined up in the morning to make sure that they are as close to the front as possible! If you are at the parade and want to head to the concert immediately after, then find a space at the Production Central area, before making a dash over to the nearby Music Plaza stage!

Enjoy a taste of New Orleans

Food at Mardi Gras Orlando

You can’t have a party without great food, and you won’t be disappointed as the taste and sounds of the Big Easy – New Orleans itself comes to the New York area of the park – specifically in the French Quarter Courtyard! Tempt your taste buds with some delicious authentic New Orleans-style food and drink that is available to purchase, such as jambalaya, gumbo and beignets.

“The food is great and it’s fun to see the live bands, though our favourite part was the parade – we loved watching the dancers and catching the beads!”

As you eat, or take a relaxed stroll around the French Quarter, you’ll also be able to enjoy some toe-tapping street-side performances from authentic Louisiana bands, who belt out jazz, blues and zydeco music to get you dancing in the streets!

There are a variety of acts performing over Mardi Gras, so if you wanted to see someone in particular check the dates below:

  • 9th – 17th February: Dirty Bourbon River Show
  • 18th –27th February: Naughty Professor Brass Band
  • 28th February – 18th March: Free Agents Brass Band featuring Honey Bannister
  • 19th March – 4th April: New Breed Brass Band

There’s something for all the family to enjoy at this year’s Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, so book your tickets now for the biggest party in Florida, and get ready to put your hands up to catch some beads!

We’d love to see your photos of the colourful floats and performers, so please get in touch via our social media channels – we might even share some of your pictures.