When we booked our 3 week family holiday to Florida we weren’t totally sure that we would go to Universal. We knew little about it as all of my research had been about Disney World and where to stay for a break after Disney. Originally we had looked at going to the Florida keys for the final week but it was always coming back so incredibly expensive and as you can imagine it’s quite tough budgeting for three weeks away. So we pretty much, out of the blue, decided to spend our last 5 days and nights at Universal and we have no regrets. We loved it. One of our highlights was the Mardi Gras and I am so glad that we visited when it was on because it was such good fun.
What is the Mardi Gras at Universal Studios?
When you think of Mardi Gras you think of the parades in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is actually also called Shrove Tuesday and refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’. It’s actual date changes every year but will either be in February or March.
The Mardi Gras celebrations have been at Universal Studios Orlando, Florida for a few years now. The time of night for the parade can vary so when you arrive it is worth checking the park maps for times or asking where you are staying. When we were there it was on at 7:15pm most nights and 7:45pm on a Saturday.
Dubbed as Florida’s biggest party
I was warned that there would be more people at Universal in the daytime than normal because of the Mardi Gras. To be honest it still wasn’t anywhere near as busy as Disney World. A peak day at Universal is nothing compared to a quiet day at Disney!
What is on for the Mardi Gras celebrations 2018?
As well as the evening parade at Universal Studios there is also live music in the French Quarter from 4pm everyday. This features bands direct from New Orleans and authentic cuisine which is available to buy. Right next to the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit they have a large stage set up with a grassed and paved area for sitting or standing. On select nights at 8:30pm some of the biggest names from pop, rock, country, R&B and more play live on the stage. For a full concert line up please check out the Universal App (more about the app coming soon).
The Mardi Gras 2018 is on now until the 7th April.
Where is the best spot for the Mardi Gras parade at Universal Studios?
We kind of fluked a really good spot. I hadn’t researched the best spot and honestly we didn’t need to sit down as early as we did (6pm!). However we found a bench and we barely moved from it. We didn’t want to run the risk of anyone standing in front of our four year (happened at Disney), nor did we want him pushed about etc. So getting a bench early was great for us. When you enter Universal Studios take a right down the first main street. This is the Hollywood Boulevard and it not only is the first street that the parade comes down but if you sit or stand near Mel’s Drive in you can enjoy the parade twice.
As soon as the parade has passed just head on over to Mel’s Drive in and you will later catch the parade again as it makes its way back. There are some areas for annual and seasonal passholders here so you will have to walk a bit further round to find a spot away from them and you aren’t guaranteed a front line spot. It’s not something we did as we wanted to get back to the hotel but plenty of people did it. It’s also not far to walk to exit the park from here.
It was rather magical seeing the sky get darker and all the pretty lights come on down the street. It felt like we were really sitting on a street in Hollywood.
What to expect from the Mardi Gras parade
We didn’t go to the Mardi Gras parade on the first few nights as we were eating out late instead. On the Friday we made sure we had a late and rather large lunch so that we could head to the Mardi Gras and grab a small snack to eat while we were waiting for the parade. I knew we’d end up with some beads because every night on the bus from Universal Walk we saw people with lots of beads. Little did I realise just how many our 4 year old would end up with!
For a real feel of the parade I have made a video of what we saw and featured as many of the floats and dancers as possible. My video is about 8 minutes long. The parade itself lasted for approx. 15 minutes.
The parade is very colourful with street dancers and floats pulled by pick ups. A lot of the street dancers are on stilts and most of the dancers make the effort to interact with the kids. Jamie had quite a few high fives, fist pumps and comments about how many beads he had!
The Mardi Gras parade is included in your admission ticket. It costs no extra to be there and watch the parades.
The new floats this year are based on constellations in the night sky such as Orion the hunter, Scorpius and Taurus. A few of them have extra effects such as billows of confetti and others with smoke blowing out of them. They also used a few other floats from previous years.
Beads, Beads, Beads
Honestly, it is so much fun. We were all smiling, dancing and thoroughly loving it. The floats are so bright and a lot of work has gone into them. The floats are where the beads get thrown from. It’s quite a scramble. There were beads flying at us from all directions. Sometimes you’d catch someone’s eye and they’d try to throw beads to you personally which rarely goes right and leaves you in a scramble with the person near you. Some landed directly on our hands, most on the bench and one even on my camera!
People are so friendly and Jamie was being handed beads from all directions. Between the three of us we went home with 52 beaded necklaces!
One Final Tip
If you are heading to the Mardi Gras on the day/night of one of the concerts grab your spot early as this is when they are expecting larger crowds.
If you miss the Mardi Gras at Universal this year then have no fear it will return in 2019 so get planning now. It’s guaranteed fun and everyone attending is so incredibly friendly. We left the park chatting to so many people.
This post starts my long series of posts about our recent holiday to Florida. I have written this post before all the others as the Mardi Gras isn’t on for much longer. However, I hope to write my other posts in order of what happened when on holiday, top tips, reviews, what went wrong and much much more. So I hope that you will subscribe my monthly newsletter to keep up to date? Or keep in touch on social media. We are very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not pin this post for later? Simply click on the image below and maybe give us a follow as well.