In 2020, Universal Studios Florida are celebrating their 25th annual Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) with a nighttime New Orleans style Mardi Gras parade, live music, authentic Cajun cuisine and lots of beads (over 1.8 million!!) spread over nearly eight weeks.
This year, Mardi Gras celebrations run daily over 62 consecutive nights from February 1 to April 2. On select nights there are concerts at the Music Plaza stage mostly on a Saturday with the occasional Friday or Sunday.
A range of New Orleans bands also perform daily in the French Quarter.
Admission is included in the standard single day ticket or annual pass to Universal Studios Florida (though Seasonal Passholders cannot attend on concert days).
The concert dates for 2020 are February 1, 8, 15, 16, 22, 29 March 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 28 and 29.
The whole event is family friendly and there is even a special Little Jester’s parade viewing area specifically for kids, in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop.
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 Café La Bamba and Mels Drive-In.
The twelve illuminated floats are made by the same company, Blaine Kern Studios, that 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.
For 2020 the theme is “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 are thrown from the floats to be caught by the watching onlookers.
There is a reserved viewing area outside Mel’s Drive-In for Annual passholders plus another viewing area for American Express card members.
Note the time of the evening parade varies by date ranging from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m.
If you want to be a part of the action you can sign up to ride on one of the floats for yourself and up to five guests but places are very limited and spots are picked at random.
Mardi Gras Concert Series
For 2020, 16 top artists are performing 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 take place at the Music Plaza stage in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster next to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
The provisional Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras concert schedule is as follows, starting at 8:30 p.m.:
- February 1, 2020 - The Roots
- February 8, 2020 - Karol G
- February 15, 2020 - Bell Biv DeVoe
- February 16, 2020 - +Live+
- February 22, 2020 - Kool & the Gang
- February 29, 2020 - TLC
- March 7, 2020 - REO Speedwagon
- March 8, 2020 - Dustin Lynch
- March 13, 2020 - Luis Fonsi
- March 14, 2020 - The All-American Rejects
- March 15, 2020 - Diana Ross
- March 20, 2020 - Chris Young
- March 21, 2020 - Earth, Wind & Fire
- March 22, 2020 - Marshmello
- March 28, 2020 - Why Don’t We
- March 29, 2020 - Gavin DeGraw
French Quarter Courtyard Live Music & Food
There are also additional musical performances by New Orleans bands at the French Quarter Courtyard located in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida near Battery Park starting at 4 p.m.
The provisional lineup for the French Quarter Courtyard is as follows:
- February 1, 2020 to February 13, 2020 − Dirty Bourbon River Show
- February 14, 2020 to March 6, 2020 − Free Agents Brass Band
- March 7, 2020 to March 21, 2020 − New Breed Brass Band
- March 22, 2020 to April 2, 2020 − Naughty Professor Brass Band
Universal Mardi Gras Food and Drink Offerings
The French Quarter Courtyard is also a great place to go to experience authentic Cajun and Creole food such as crab etoufee, po’boys with either fried catfish, chicken or shrimp and andouille sausage, gumbo, jambalaya with or without shrimp, red beans and rice with or without shrimp, twisted taters with Cajun seasoning, king cake, sweet beignets and French crepes plus speciality cocktails including Ragin’ Rumbalaya, Vicious Voodoo and Carnival Cocktail.
There is also a non-alcoholic cocktail called Bayou Bog Water with lemonade and ginger ale, blueberry boba beads and gummy worms and fish! Also new for 2020 is a Mimosa Bar.
In 2020 all food is now served 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.
Mardi Gras Tasting Lanyard
If you plan on sampling a few of the food and drink offerings then The Mardi Gras 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.
- 5 item lanyard for $30
- 10 item lanyard for $50
- 15 item lanyard for $60 (passholders only)
Carnival Around The Universe
New for 2020 is the Carnival Around The Universe tent where new menu items are featured every fortnight throughout the Mardi Gras celebrations.
On select nights you can also enjoy a crawfish broil or andouille sausage jambalaya with drinks when you purchase a ticket for the Bayou Broil, held in Battery Park.
Price is $59.99 for adults and $39.99 for children (plus tax) with a 20% discount for certain passholders. Dates for the Bayou Broil are February 1, 8, 15, 16, 22, 29, March 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 28 and 29.
After the meal you can then watch the parade in an exclusive standing only viewing area outside Café La Bamba accompanied by King Cake, beignets, sparking wine and a choice of non-alcoholic drinks.
Mardi Gras Feast & Floats Dessert Party
Universal is now offering a dessert party similar to the special event dessert parties that Walt Disney World have been putting on for a number of years. Price is $49.99 for adults and $29.99 for children (plus tax) with a 20% discount for certain passholders.
The Mardi Gras Feast & Floats Dessert Party is available on select nights during the Mardi Gras celebrations; namely March 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, April 1 and 2.
You gather an hour before the start of the parade at the Café La Bamba close to the parade start/end point for hors d’oeuvres, speciality desserts and drinks, sparkling wine or cider and a choice of non-alcoholic drinks.
You can then watch the parade in an exclusive standing-only viewing area outside Café La Bamba which gives you views of both the start and end of the parade.
Later the same evening, you move to another exclusive standing or picnic-style seating viewing area in Central Park accompanied by more non-alcoholic drinks to watch the nighttime Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration.