Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2024
By James | Last updated January 3, 2024
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In 2024, Universal Studios Florida are celebrating their annual Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) with live music, a dozen floats, authentic Cajun cuisine and lots of beads spread over ten weeks.
This year, Universal’s Mardi Gras celebrations run from February 3 to April 7, 2024. On select nights there is a concert at the Music Plaza stage mostly on a Saturday with the occasional Friday or Sunday.
Universal Studios Orlando
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Taking a leaf out of the books of the Disney Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival and Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival, this year’s Mardi Gras offering from Universal Studios Florida is called “Mardi Gras 2024: International Flavors of Carnaval”.
Admission is included with a standard single day ticket or annual pass to Universal Studios Florida but bear in mind that Seasonal Annual Passes have some blockout dates during Mardi Gras.
You can get into the Mardi Gras spirit and enjoy a Big Easy Bash with street performers, stilt walkers, live music and loads of beads as well as plenty of food and drink.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parade
The Mardi Gras parade follows the normal parade route, starting in the Hollywood Studios area of the park at the end of Hollywood Boulevard and travelling in a clockwise direction past the Music Plaza stage, the New York area and ending back at the start, near the Horror Make-Up Show and Mel’s Drive-In.
The parade takes about 15 minutes to pass and about 45 minutes to complete the circuit.
It happens most evenings but times vary by date, so make sure to check the daily park schedule. The earliest start time is 5:15 p.m. and the latest is 7:45 p.m. (on concert nights).
For 2024, the theme is “International Flavours of Carnaval”.
Amongst the six traditional floats are fan favourites like the amazing two-story Riverboat and King Gator which is about 50 feet long.
The twelve illuminated floats each year are made by the same company, Blaine Kern Studios, who have been making the New Orleans Mardi Gras floats for over 70 years starting in 1947. The floats are accompanied by stilt walkers, street performers, dancers and musicians.
Thousands of coloured beads and doubloons are thrown from the floats to be caught by the watching onlookers so it pays to choose the right spot to watch the parade from.
There is a reserved viewing area outside Mel’s Drive-In for Annual passholders.
The area around Mel’s Drive-In is great as you get to see the floats twice, at both the start and end of the parade which gives you maximum bead collection opportunities!
The whole event is family friendly and there is even a special Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area specifically for families with kids aged 10 and under, in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop. The kids area opens about an hour before the parade starts.
For those with disabilities, there is a special area set aside by the Macy’s facade next to Revenge of the Mummy.
If you are planning on watching the evening concert, bear in mind the parade comes round right before the start of the concert. Your best bet to see both is to locate yourself near to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and the Music Plaza Stage before the parade starts.
If you intend on leaving the park immediately after the parade then position yourself nearest to the park exit on the parade route so you can head straight out after the parade passes.
Wherever you decide to watch from you need to stake out a spot some 30 to 45 minutes before the parade starts especially on concert nights which are generally busier anyway.
Riding on the Floats
If you want to be a part of the action and toss some beads yourself, you can sign up to ride on one of the floats yourself with up to five guests but places are very limited. Note that larger groups may be split across multiple floats.
Guests used to be chosen on a random basis but now you can try and reserve a place using the Virtual Line Pass.
You need to be inside the park before you fire up the Universal Orlando app on your mobile device and you can attempt to snag a reservation after 3:00 p.m. until about an hour before the parade starts.
To book a float ride:
- head over to the Map and scroll down the list of Rides until you find the Mardi Gras Parade Float Riding
- click on Reserve and if passes are available, enter the number of guests and the time you want to checkin to ride a float
Remember it will take two to three hours out of your day so you may miss the start of the concert if you are planning on watching the concert as well on concert nights.
At your allotted time you need to head over to the Animal Actors on Location! to retrieve your wristband and appropriate Krewe costume smock. If you leave it too late, you will forfeit your slot.
You have to be at least 48” tall to ride on the floats and remember you have to stand the whole way round the parade route. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Dine & Ride on the Floats
For the ultimate experience you can purchase a special Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience which gives you a guaranteed place on one of the floats and a three-course meal on the same day.
The meal can be taken at one of four restaurants and you can choose from the full menu:
- Finnegan’s Bar & Grill or Lombard’s Seafood Grill in Universal Studios
- Cowfish or NBC Sports Grill & Bar in CityWalk
Each meal consists of an appetiser, entrée and dessert plus a non-alcoholic beverage and costs $84.99 per person plus tax (gratuity included). Passholders can get a 15% discount.
Note you also require a normal admission ticket to Universal Studios Orlando and dining reservations are at specific times, 3:00 p.m. for days when the parade starts at 6:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on days when the parade starts at 7:45 p.m.
Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Standard wheelchairs can be taken on the floats but you must advise Universal at least 48 hours before boarding the float.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Food and Drink Offerings
The Mardi Gras 2024: International Flavors of Carnaval is a full blown food festival with offerings from 16 different regions:
- Puerto Rico
- Trinidad and Tobago
In addition there are another 7 food and drink locations:
- Bloody Mary Bar
- Central City
- French Quarter Bar
- French Quarter #1 to #4
- Mardi Gras Hits (Islands of Adventure)
- New Orleans #1 and #2 (CityWalk)
- New Orleans Desserts (Islands of Adventure)
- Taste of the Mediterranean (CityWalk)
In total there are over 25 food booths with more than 50 food options plus drinks and cocktails inspired by carnival celebrations throughout the world.
The food stations are situated throughout the park and open at 11:00 a.m. each day and close 30 minutes before the parks close. The French Quarter Courtyard is a good location for many of the booths.
Most booths offer two to three food items and two to three drink items. Food prices are typically between $5.00 and $16.00 and drinks between $4.69 and $19.00.
Many of the alcoholic drinks come in Souvenir cups in two sizes (16 oz. or 20 oz.) and you can then get cheaper refills.
For those of you with a sweet tooth you cannot miss the Beignets or the Liege waffles with berries and cream or S’mores.
There are several New Orleans specific themed food stations including some in CityWalk and between them have many choices including authentic Cajun and Creole classics like:
- Jambalaya — mixed rice with andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken, peppers, tomatoes
- Shrimp Gumbo — New Orleans style gumbo with Gulf shrimp, bacon, andouille sausage, okra, bell peppers
- Crawfish Etouffee — New Orleans style creamy stew with crawfish, bell peppers, white rice
- Crawfish & Shrimp Broil — with shrimp, andouille sausage, red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob. Also available as Crawfish Broil or Shrimp Broil
- Shrimp and Smoked Cheddar Cheese Rice Grits — sautéed shrimp with Tasso ham over grits
- Yakamein — braised beef with poached shrimp, egg, noodles and a spicy beef broth
- Andouille Twisted Tater — stuffed Cajun twisted tater, andouille sausage
- Muffaletta Crepe — savoury crepe filled with olive relish, mortadella, salami, ham, Cajun mayo, arugala and sesame seeds
- Fried Green Tomato Po Boy — Po Boy sandwich with fried green tomatoes, lettuce, onions and pickles, Cajun remoulade served with Cajun kettle chips
Speciality cocktails include Abita Purple Haze lager brewed with raspberries and Category 5 Punch with Myers’s Dark rum, Cruzan Aged Dark rum, passionfruit puree mixed with grenadine, orange and lime juice.
Note that all guests must be 21 or over with Photo ID in order to purchase or consume alcoholic drinks and it is strictly one drink per ID.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Food & Beverage Card
If you plan on checking out a few of the food and drink offerings then the International Flavors of Carnaval Tasting Food & Beverage Card makes life simpler.
In previous years you could purchase a Tasting Lanyard that gave a set number of sampler sized items for a set price and it expired at the end of the festival.
This year Universal have gone over to a gift card which has a specific face value and it used like any other gift card and does not have an expiration date so can be used after the festival ends. As a result many of the food items are larger than you would typically get at Disney or SeaWorld festivals.
The cards are valid at both parks, CityWalk and Volcano Bay.
Right now you can save money on the new Food & Beverage Cards. You can buy a $75 value card and lanyard for $65 plus tax or a $150 card and lanyard for $120 plus tax (passholders only).
During Mardi Gras, Universal passholders get a number of perks including:
- $30 off a $150 Food & Beverage Card
- 15% discount on the Float Ride and Dine Experience plus 10 to 15% off at the food booths
- free Mardi Gras magnet
- special parade viewing area
- exclusive desserts at Louie’s Gelato Window
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Concert Series
For 2024, top music artists will be announced and are due to perform including some of the biggest names in pop, rock, R&B and country music.
All the concerts take place at the Music Plaza Stage in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster next to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Note there are no reserved viewing areas, it is strictly first come first served. Even if you are not inside the Stage Plaza area you can still watch the concert on large screens nearby.
The provisional Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2024 concert schedule will be updated via the Universal Official Website.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Tribute Store
The Tribute Store is becoming a regular fixture at all Universal Orlando celebrations and Mardi Gras is no exception.
This year the store has moved to the former Passholder Lounge on Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood area, themed as the Ambassador Ballroom.
Inside the highly immersive tribute store you will find three Mardi Gras themed rooms with an international jazz celebration and speakeasy twist.
Here you will be able to purchase a range of exclusive merchandise including keychains, pins, lanyards, face masks, caps, socks, beer steins and wine glasses. You can even buy a Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras themed licence plate!
The second room is a dark room with a large bead tree and in the last speakeasy themed room you will also find some food and drink items starting at $4.50 including brownies, fudge, large macarons, marshmallow pops, maple bacon dough balls, chocolate dipped bacon, king cake whoopee pie and Mardi Gras s’mores.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Scavenger Hunt
In 2022 there was a Krewe Crawl scavenger hunt with 12 participating merchandise locations where you could find treasure. To take part you purchased a brochure for $10.00 plus tax and then got team members to stamp the brochure at each location as you found it. At the end of the hunt you could collect a piece of treasure.
There does not appear to be a scavenger hunt in 2024.
For 2024, you can now get a taste of Mardi Gras at both Islands of Adventure and CityWalk plus Universal Orlando’s hotels.
Over in City Walk, the Red Coconut Club is transformed into the spooky “Cursed Coconut Club” completed with Halloween Horror Nights tomb façade, swirling fog and amazing theming inside including voodoo masks, skeletons, skulls and speciality drinks for Mardi Gras.
At Pat O’Briens there is a Mardi Gras After Party on select nights between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. There is a live DJ, Stilt Walkers and special food and drink offerings. Admission is free but reservations are recommended.
You will also find:
- Shrimp & Grits at Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville®
- Flatbread with breaded catfish at Bob Marley-A Tribute To Freedom℠
- Masquerade Milkshake at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
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