Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is a can’t miss event in Central Florida. Here’s all you need to know about the food and the music.
Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras – may technically be only one day on the calendar, however at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras the celebration runs from February thru April, because if one week is good, more must be better, right? Well, it sure is! Lots of fun is nicely packed into select dates so here’s all you need to know to get the most fun out of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras.
This annual event, inspired by New Orleans’ most famous street party, is included with your theme park admission, which is a huge bonus. During the day get all your thrills on great rides like my favorite roller coaster – Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit®, where you pick your own soundtrack, join the “Potterverse” at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter® with Diagon Alley® and Hogwarts Express®, visit Springfield on The Simpsons Ride® and laugh out loud with Gru and the Minions on the hilarious Despicable Me Minion Mayhem®.
At night, Let The Good Times Roll as the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras 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.
I am a long time fan of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras, having attended every year since I moved to Orlando in 1997. Although it has grown and changed over the years, it continues to be one of the best theme park special events of the year, which is why it’s on the Go Epicurista Top 9 Reasons to visit Central Florida List.
Here’s all you need to know to get the most fun out of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras:
The Food & Drinks of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Food is always the best place to start. The French Quarter Courtyard, located in the New York area of the park, features several kiosks selling authentic New Orleans Dishes like Jambalaya, Shrimp Gumbo, Shrimp Po’ Boys, Andouille Sausage, Red Beans and Rice and those delicious powdery Beignets. If you don’t feel like Cajun, they also have pizza, turkey legs, chicken tenders, loaded fries, and cheese steak sandwiches.
Here are some of our favorite dishes:
Jambalaya, a Creole rice dish with Spanish and French influences that originated in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is similar to Spanish Paella but spicier and instead of saffron it uses tomatoes. This small dish had a good amount of shrimp and chicken with a bit of sausage, garnished with a crawfish and bread roll. The spice level was good without being overwhelming, although if you don’t like spice at all then this is not the dish for you. On the other hand, if you want it hotter, they have bottles of Tabasco hot sauce available. The portion size has been reduced over the years but it is still filling and flavorful and a “Must-Eat” dish for me. It is a sure way to “Travel through Food” and truly feel like you are in New Orleans. Much cheaper than a plane ticket.
The Shrimp Po’Boy, the traditional sub sandwich from Louisiana, was a hit! The French bread was fresh with a crisp crust and soft fluffy center. It was filled with a good amount of battered fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise sauce. You can sprinkle some hot sauce if you want to kick it up a notch. The platter is served with French fries and it’s also one of the better deals.
Chicken Tenders with Chili Garlic had a spicy Sriracha sauce and were crisp and moist. Served with steak fries. You can also get them Voodoo Hot, which is like buffalo style or Crispy, without any sauce.
Loaded Baked Potato Fries are exactly that. Steak Fries topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream just like a loaded baked potato. They were quite filling. You can also get the Famous New Orlean’s Boo Fries, which are topped with gravy and cheese, Buffalo and Blue Cheese, Chili Cheese or Garlic Parmesan. If you are a fan of potatoes, you will be in heaven!
It is not a New Orleans themed celebration without Beignets – the famous fried dough bites topped with what looks like a pound of powdered sugar, a mess to eat but oh so good to enjoy. The Universal Orlando Mardi Gras version are shaped into long rectangular pieces instead of the typical Cafe du Monde originals which are smaller squares, but they were just as delicious. You get 4 pieces which is perfect to share (but you may not want to!). You can also order a large funnel cake with various toppings.
The signature drink of the event is The Voodoo Juice. It has seen various recipes over the years and I think this year they finally perfected it as it was not as sugary sweet as in years past. Made with rum, Full Throttle energy drink and a blend of juices it tasted like a grape Juicy Juice with a kick. It was not overly high in alcohol to juice ratio but still good. It comes in a signature souvenir glass that lights up plus and refills for a nominal fee.
Keep these tips in mind:
- The French Quarter Courtyard opens at 4pm and closes at the start of the concert. Some kiosks may extend hours but check first.
- Each kiosk has different menus so if you and your friends want to try different dishes, I recommend you split up, have each person get in a different line and then converge at a meeting point. The lines can get quite long.
- You will find several bars set up along the French Quarter Courtyard and around the Music Plaza. Unlike the food kiosks, bars feature the same selections. Voodoo juice, the signature drink of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras and Mixed Drinks in souvenir glass. Shots, Wine, draft beers, Coca Cola product soft drinks are also available.
- The food kiosks also sell beer and soft drinks so you don’t have to stand in a separate line for a drink unless you want a cocktail. You can add a 12oz Miller Lite beer to any platter for only $3, a bargain for a theme park.
- If you only want a beer or soft drink, look for the beverage carts on the streets surrounding the Music Plaza and event area. Their lines, if any, are much shorter. The point here is only wait in line at a bar if you want a Voodoo Juice, mixed drink or wine.
- The slowest times for food are typically when the kiosks first open at 4pm and during the parade. The line for the bars remains fairly steady throughout the event.
- There is no designated seating area along the French Quarter Courtyard. You will find a few benches around the area but be warned that the benches around the tall statue is a smoking area and quite smoky. You can also sit on the steps of the building facades on the street or sit curbside in front of the stage area where the New Orleans musicians play
- Universal Preferred and Premier Annual Pass Holders receive 10% discount on food at the kiosks between 4p-6p. Excludes alcohol.
- If you want a full bar experience and more beer choices, my favorite spot is Finnegan’s Bar & Grill just a few steps away, on New York Street. Although not New Orleans themed, they do offer a great bar and menu of traditional Irish and American dishes.
The New Orleans Music of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Prior to the parade, musical acts straight from the Big Easy perform at a smaller stage in the French Quarter Courtyard area. The sounds of authentic blues and zydeco music fill the air to really make you feel like you’ve traveled to New Orleans. Tap your toes and “Laissez les bons temps rouler” – Let the good times roll!
Rockin’ Jake kept the crowd going with a blend of blues and rock.
Click here to see a list of performers.
There is much more fun to be had at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras. Don’t miss Part 2 and read all about the fabulous parade, headliner concerts and the after-party.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is held on select nights from February 9 – April 4th, 2019, included with Universal Studios Orlando admission. 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!