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Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2021

Voodoo float at Universal Mardi Gras
Voodoo float at Universal Mardi Gras

In 2021, Universal Studios Florida are celebrating their 26th annual Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) with a difference. Due to COVID-19 safety considerations, there is no nighttime New Orleans style Mardi Gras parade or concerts but there is still live music, lots of floats, authentic Cajun cuisine and lots of beads spread over seven weeks.

This year, Universal’s Mardi Gras celebrations run daily over 51 consecutive nights from February 6 to March 28, 2021 (11 nights less than last year). On March 11, Universal announced that Mardi Gras had been extended for a further 14 nights and it now ends on April 11, a total of 65 nights.

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 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval”.

Admission is included in the standard single day ticket or annual pass to Universal Studios Florida.

You can still 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 Floats

All parks have stopped their parades to help avoid crowds of people being packed close together as it would be impossible to control social distancing protocols in this situation.

Like with their Christmas celebrations, Universal is allowing guests to get up close to static parade floats, this time located throughout the park. Throughout the day at select times, performers will throw beads from the floats for passing guests.

Some of the floats are from the past collection of Universal’s classic Mardi Gras floats as well as some new Pirate Treasure themed floats for this year.

Details of previous Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parades can be found below.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Food and Drink Offerings

The Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval has become a full blown food festival with offerings from 13 different regions:

  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Columbia
  • Cuba
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • New Orleans
  • Puerto Rico
  • Spain
  • The Bahamas
  • Trinidad and Tobago

There are over 70 new food and drink options inspired by carnival celebrations throughout the world. The food stations are situated throughout the park and most offer two to three food items and two to three drink items. Food sampler prices range between $3.50 and $13.49 and drinks between $3.49 and $18.00.

There are several New Orleans food stations and between them have many more options including authentic Cajun and Creole classics like:

  • Crawfish & Shrimp Broil — with shrimp, andouille sausage, red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob
  • Muffaletta Sandwich — mortadella, salami, ham, mozzarella cheese, olive relish on a toasted bun
  • 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
  • Etouffee — New Orleans style creamy stew with crawfish, bell peppers, white rice
  • Andouille Twisted Tater — stuffed Cajun twisted tater, andouille sausage
  • Beignets — sweet fried pastry with powdered sugar

Speciality cocktails include Abita Purple Haze with raspberry fruited lager, Tropical Storm Punch with rum, orange and passionfruit flavours and King Cake Milk Punch, a bourbon milk punch with house-made King Cake syrup.

In 2020 Universal started serving the food in taster sized samplers and note that all guests must be 21 or over with Photo ID in order to purchase or consume alcoholic drinks.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Tasting Lanyard

If you plan on sampling a few of the food and drink offerings then the Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval Tasting Lanyard might be a good option. It allows you to sample a number of the special food sampler and drink items and if you are visiting on multiple days, you can carry over any unused credits.

Prices are:

  • 10 item lanyard for $55 plus tax
  • 15 item lanyard for $65 plus tax (passholders only)

If you are visiting Citywalk or one of the Universal Resort Hotels, then you will find more Mardi Gras inspired food offerings like Shrimp & Grits at Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville® and Bake & “Shark” flatbread with breaded catfish at Bob Marley-A Tribute To Freedom℠.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Concert Series

For 2020, 16 top artists performed including some of the biggest names in pop, rock, R&B and country music including Kool & the Gang, REO Speedwagon, Diana Ross and Earth, Wind & Fire.

All the concerts took place at the Music Plaza Stage in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster next to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

Unfortunately the concerts for 2021 are another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been cancelled.

Instead in 2021 the Music Plaza Stage area has been turned into an outdoor courtyard with three New Orleans food stations, where you can grab grab a bite to eat and drink and take a selfie with two of the Mardi Gras floats, the Riverboat Float and the New Orleans Float.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Tribute Store

The Tribute Store is becoming a regular fixture at Universal Orlando celebrations and Mardi Gras is no exception.

Inside the tribute store you will find four Mardi Gras themed rooms:

  • Jazz Parlour from the 1920s with duelling pianos
  • Nautical Cemetery decorated with flowers
  • Waterfront Warehouse full of smuggled treasures and trinkets
  • Firefly-lit Swamp with the remains of Jean Lafitte’s long lost “The Pride” ship

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!

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Scavenger Hunt

There is a Krewe Crawl scavenger hunt with 12 participating merchandise locations where you can find treasure. To take part you purchase a brochure for $7.95 plus tax and then get team members to stamp the brochure at each location as you find it. At the end of the hunt you can collect a piece of treasure.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parade

In previous years, the Mardi Gras parade would follow 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 Café La Bamba and Mels Drive-In.

The twelve illuminated floats each year were 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 were accompanied by stilt walkers, street performers, dancers and musicians.

For 2020 the theme was “Treasures of the Deep” featuring floats inspired by Shipwreck Island, Creatures of the Deep, the Sunken City of Atlantis and a Treasure Map.

Thousands of coloured beads and doubloons were thrown from the floats to be caught by the watching onlookers.

There was a reserved viewing area outside Mel’s Drive-In for Annual passholders plus another viewing area for American Express card members. The Mel’s Drive-In viewing area was great as you got to see the floats twice, at both the start and end of the parade.

The whole event was family friendly and there was even a special Little Jester’s parade viewing area specifically for kids, in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop.

If you wanted to be a part of the action you could sign up to ride on one of the floats for yourself and up to five guests but places were very limited and spots were picked at random.

Hopefully the parade will return in all its glory for 2022.