Guide to Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida
Overview of Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando
Mardi Gras is a special event held annually in Universal Studios Florida. This multi-month event features Cajun and Creole food, nightly parades, live music from popular New Orleans bands, and live concerts featuring well-known artists. Universal bills this event as "Florida's biggest party." The Mardi Gras event at Universal is inspired by the Mardi Gras celebration that takes place in New Orleans each year. The Universal event is smaller and more family-friendly, but really fun.
Event Nights for Universal Mardi Gras 2018
The 2018 Mardi Gras event is held nightly from February 3 to April 7.
Universal Mardi Gras Admission
Mardi Gras is not a separately ticketed event. If you have an annual pass or regular paid admission to Universal Studios Florida, you can attend all the Mardi Gras festivities, including the parade and concerts for no extra charge.
Universal Mardi Gras Parade
The Mardi Gras Parade consists of several floats, street performers, and dancers. It moves through the streets of Universal each night. (see pictures of the floats from the 2017 Mardi Gras Parade.)The people riding the floats throw out beads by the handful, so be ready to catch the prizes as they fly through the air. Sign up to ride on a Mardi Gras float.
- The parade starts at 5:15 pm on the following dates:
- February 6
- The parade starts at 6:45 pm on the following dates:
- February 4, 5, 7-9, 11-15
- The parade starts at 7:15 pm on the following dates:
- February 16, 19-23, 25-28
- March 1, 2, 5-9
- The parade starts at 7:45 pm on the following dates:
- February 3, 10, 17, 18, 24
- March 3, 4, 10-31
- April 1-7
Parade Viewing Areas
You can view the parade anywhere along the parade route. However, there are a few special viewing areas that you may want to check out:
- Kids: There is a special parade viewing area just for kids. It is called the Little Jester's Parade viewing area. You'll find it in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop in Hollywood.
- Annual Passholders: The annual passholder viewing area is by Mel's Diner in Hollywood.
- ADA: The ADA viewing area is in front of the Macy’s facade in New York.
- Watch the Parade Twice: If you want to see the parade twice, you should stake out a spot in the area in front of Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show in Hollywood.
Universal's Mardi Gras Parade features 12 handcrafted floats for 2018. This year's parade is constellation themed. New floats include Taurus, Virgo the Maiden, Scorpius, Andromeda, Orion the Hunter, and Serpentarius.
French Quarter Courtyard Food
You'll find a lot of special food stands in the French Quarter Courtyard. These stands serve up street food, some of which has a distinct Cajun flair. You can get dishes like jambalaya, grilled Andouille sausage, shrimp gumbo, red beans and rice, and beignets.
Live Music and Concerts
Live nightly music and big weekend concerts are a huge part of the Mardi Gras event.
French Quarter Courtyard Music
Every night, you'll find live music played by New Orleans brass bands in the French Quarter Courtyard in Universal Studios Florida. The bands play authentic blues and zydeco music (blues, rhythm and blues, Creole music, and music indigenous to Louisiana Natives). They do not play on a stage, but instead play in the streets around the French Quarter Courtyard. Here are the live music line-ups:
- Feb. 3 - Feb. 20: Free Agents Brass Band
- Feb. 21 - March 6: Naughty Professor Brass Band
- March 7 - March 20: New Breed Brass Band
- March 21 - March 31: Young Pinstripe Brass Band
- April 1 - April 7: Dirty Bourbon River Show
There are several big concerts at Mardi Gras. These are held on Saturdays or Sundays and take place on the Music Plaza Stage (near Despicable Me Minion Mayhem). All of the concerts start at 8:30 pm.
The Mardi Gras concert line-up includes the following performances:
- February 3: Sean Paul
- February 10: The Beach Boys
- February 17: Kelsea Ballerini
- February 18: Andy Grammer
- February 24: Macklemore
- March 3: 311
- March 4: Phillip Phillips
- March 10: Jason Derulo
- March 11: Fitz and the Tantrums
- March 17: Foreigner
- March 18: Fifth Harmony
- March 24: Jessie J
- March 25: BUSH
Concert Crowds and Tips
People always want to know how big the crowds are at the weekend concerts, and the answer really depends on who is performing. Bigger names have a tendency to draw bigger crowds.
There have been cases (the Fallout Boy concert of 2016 is a good example) in which the crowds have been so large that they spill out into areas well beyond the stage so that some parts of the crowd can hear the music but are not able to see the performer or even the stage. Of course, an older band, like UB40 for example, does not usually draw that big of a crowd. But it is important to know that crowd sizes can be influenced by the number of people in the park. For example, park crowds are usually bigger during spring break, which can increase the number of people who attend the concert.
Here are a few other things you should know:
- There is no concert seating. It is standing room only.
- The bigger the performer, the earlier you need to show up to get really close to the stage. It is not unusual for people to start lining up before noon for an 8:30 pm concert.
- The concert crowd can get a little rowdy. Keep this in mind if you will be attending with children, especially small children.
- There is an ADA viewing area on the far right side of the Music Plaza Stage.
Universal Mardi Gras Parade Video
You can watch this video from the 2017 Mardi Gras Parade to learn more about what you can expect to see in 2018.