Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is a can’t miss event in Central Florida. Here’s all you need to know about the parade and the concert!
If you haven’t read Part 1 of our Tips for Fun at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras, click here. Read all about The Food, Drinks and Music from the Big Easy that will help you Travel Through Food to straight to N’awlins!
Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras may be one day a year, however at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras the celebration runs from February – March. This annual event, inspired by New Orleans’ most famous street party, is included with your theme park admission, which is a huge bonus. The evening festivities include authentic Cajun & Creole cuisine, live musicians straight from the Big Easy, a spectacular parade with gorgeous floats, street performers, lots of free beads which you don’t have to do anything naughty to get, plus a headliner concert featuring some of the biggest names in the music industry. This is a family-friendly event that is definitely not short on fun.
Here’s all you need to know to get the most fun out of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras:
The Parade of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras would not be Mardi Gras without floats. The colorful Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parade takes place each night there is a Mardi Gras Concert and features floats made by Blaine Kern, the company that has created Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans since 1947.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is featuring their most popular floats completely refurbished including The Gator, The Jazz Club and The Riverboat. Plus they have a party float that does a special performance at two spots along the route – Hollywood Boulevard and New York Street. Thousands of beads are thrown out by the float crews and street performers really jazz up the fun.
People go crazy for beads – lots of beads – at the @universalorlando #MardiGras2015 parade! Millions of free beads up for grabs and this is a family environment so nothing naughty to get 'em! Event runs select nights through April. It's one of the #Top9 Reasons to Visit Central Florida! Check out the full list on www.GoEpicurista.com http://wp.me/p4fu8P-v0 #ontheblog
Keep these tips in mind when planning for the parade:
- ^ The parade starts between 7pm – 7:45pm and lasts approximately 20-25 minutes. Check the schedule as times vary.
^ The parade begins on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Horror Make-Up Show theater, and makes its way around the main thoroughfare of the park, down Plaza of the Stars Avenue and New York Street.
^You don’t have to be up front to catch beads or get a good view of the floats as street performers are on stilts and the floats are about two stories high. If you do want a spot up front get in place at least 30 minutes prior to the parade starting.
^ Choose your viewing site accordingly. The most crowded parade viewing area is in front of Monsters Café and the Music Plaza because this is also the best spot to see both the parade and then the headliner concert.
^ If you care more about the parade than the concert, then your best bet is to pick a spot along Hollywood Boulevard. If you have young children or are not planning to stay for the concert, this is also a great area to easily access the exit after the parade.
^ The Little Jester’s viewing area for kids opens an hour before the parade, in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop, on Hollywood Boulevard.
^ A special viewing area for Universal Annual Passholders is in front of Mel’s Drive-In.
^ The ADA viewing area is in front of the Macy’s building, next to the Revenge of the Mummy® ride in the New York Street area.
^ American Express card holders viewing area is located on Delancey Street in the New York area.
^ If you want to join the action and ride a float, your best bet is to become a Preferred or Premier Annual Passholder. One of the many benefits is you get to request to be on a float as long as you do it online by 12 noon Friday, one week prior to the desired date. If you are not a passholder, follow Universal Orlando on social media as they will post requests for additional volunteers are needed.
If you get lucky, you’ll catch lots of free beads. If not, Universal Orlando Mardi Gras offers themed merchandise and beads for purchase so you don’t feel left out!
The Headliner Concert at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
After the parade, head over to The Music Plaza stage area, located between Despicable Me Minion Mayhem® and Twister…Ride It Out® as Universal Orlando Mardi Gras brings you a one hour headliner concert with popular musical acts. The lineup has everything from rock, to pop to country to hip hop to Latin, there is something for everyone. Unlike other events where popular artists only perform a handful of songs, here they have enough time to give you their greatest hits combined with some new songs.
Legend Olivia Newton John opened 2015 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras with an amazing show singing everything from Xanadu to Physical to country music to jazz standards to her famous Grease songs and absolutely thrilled this long-time fan (Grease is my favorite movie of all time!) and thousands of people in the crowd.
In 2015, English pop sensation Jessie J took the stage on February 14th to a huge Valentine’s Day crowd. Known for her hits “Price Tag” and “Bang Bang”, she brought the house down and turned the lights up throughout the show as she interacted with the audience. She even gave a microphone to a lucky guy in the audience who wanted to serenade her and sang with him. I’m sure that made his night and his year.
Keep these tips in mind when planning for the headliner concert:
^ The concert starts between 8pm – 8:30pm. Check the schedule for times. The more popular the artist the earlier folks will park themselves in their selected viewing spot.
^ The Music Plaza area gets full and it is standing room only. There is no reserved seating and its first come, first served. Once you find a spot you need to stay there to keep it, so plan accordingly for comfy shoes, bathroom visits (the nearest ones are next to the Twister ride) and food and drinks (carts are located along the perimeter of the plaza) and choose your location accordingly.
^ If you want to be close to the stage, my best advice is get there early and grab a spot. Some folks will take a seat on the lawn first thing when the park opens and spend all day lounging there just to get first row look at their favorite stars. If you do this, you will have to forget about getting a close look at the parade so it depends on what is more important to you – getting a once in a lifetime close view of your musical idol or catching free beads.
^ If you want to sit and listen to the concert, find a spot in front of Monsters Cafe. Keep in mind, this area gets full quickly as it is also a good spot for parade viewing and folks will sit there for hours prior.
^ If you want to attempt a closer look of the stage after the concert has started, head along the sidewalk for the Twister ride towards the restrooms. The Music Plaza is divided in sections by barricades and so you may be able to reach the front section and see if you can squeeze in.
^ No standing is allowed on the walk areas going through the Music Plaza so it’s best to keep moving. You don’t want to upset Universal Orlando security.
^ If you don’t want to be part of the crowd and prefer to listen and watch on the big screens, the area between Monster’s Cafe and the French Quarter Courtyard entrance is perfect. Plus you are close to bars and food kiosks.
^ At the end of the show, the crowd exiting the park is quite large and can make you feel like you’re part of a cattle call. The main street exiting the park is sectioned off with barricades to help funnel the crowd. The sidewalks can be less crowded.
^ Some musical acts will come back out for an encore. To be sure you don’t miss it, wait until the lights on the stage go up completely. I have seen folks start walking out of the park only to try to turn around to catch the last song, which is usually a big hit.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras After-Party
If you want to continue the party, stop at Universal CityWalk® on your way out of the park as there is no admission to walk around the area. There are plenty of eateries from casual to fine dining, entertainment venues with live music, dancing, karaoke and movies at Universal Cineplex. Best of all, five of the clubs offer free admission with your paid Universal Orlando admission ticket on Mardi Gras nights. Admission to the clubs is 21+
For the New Orleans themed atmosphere, get yourself a frozen concoction at Fat Tuesdays two locations or how about a party at Pat O’Briens with one of their famous Hurricane cocktails and live piano bar entertainment?
For the ultimate New Orleans themed dining experience, make reservations at Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Emerils. They will truly add the “BAM” to your evening!
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is held on select nights through April 18, included with Universal Studios Orlando admission: $96, $90 child. Universal Orlando, 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando. Toll-free 1-800-837-2273.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is one of the Top 9 Reasons to Visit Central Florida in February. Check out the full list here. I hope these tips will help you get the most fun out of your visit.
Have you been to Universal Orlando Mardi Gras? Please share your favorite memories in the comments below. What did you like most? The food? The parade? The Show?
Let the good times roll!