Mardi Gras

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What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a French term, which actually means “Fat Tuesday” in English. Basically, it’s seen as the last day to “live it up” before sacrificing everything before Lint. This year, Fat Tuesday falls on March 4th.

Universal Orlando celebrates Mardi Gras over the course of 11 weekends with bands, beads, and a good time. Mardi Gras takes place on select nights from February 7th until April 18th at Universal Studios Florida. Contrary to what Mardi Gras is like in New Orleans, Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando is family friendly and ladies don’t have to show “the goods” to get any beads. Actually, that’s frowned upon and might get you escorted out of the park, so we recommend you don’t.

Mardi Gras News

What’s the latest with Mardi Gras? You can see the latest news below.

What does Mardi Gras offer?

Live Concerts

One of the biggest draws for Mardi Gras are the concerts. Each Mardi Gras event night, there is a headlining act. Universal Orlando selects their line up for Mardi Gras based on a number of factors. The concert is held at the Universal Music Plaza Stage (located near Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit). Many people start picking their spot for the concert early in the afternoon, but you can always catch a glimpse from the screens in the back if the Concert wasn’t the big draw for you or if you arrive late. The concert is all general seating, meaning you don’t have to pick up a special ticket to see the show, and spots are based on a first-come, first serve basis. Keep in mind that by the time the parade ends, the concert area will be full, and the concert is standing room only.

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In the photo above, the concert area is fairly empty, but after the concert begins, the entire area will be full, plus the area in front of Monsters Cafe will be too. Universal will create pathways between the concert venue and Monster’s Cafe, so if you’re not interested in seeing the show, you won’t have to fight your way through a big crowd. If you’re really into the artist that is playing, you might just want to skip the parade or enjoy the music from afar. The best part is that if you are far from the stage, Universal has screens set up so you won’t miss anything.

2015 Mardi Gras Concert Line Up

February

  • Saturday, February 7 – Olivia Newton-John
  • Saturday, February 14 – Jessie J
  • Sunday, February 15 – Barenaked Ladies
  • Saturday, February 21 – Kelly Clarkson
  • Saturday, February 28 – Heart

March

  • Saturday, March 7 – Trace Adkins
  • Friday, March 13 – TBD
  • Saturday, March 14 – STYX
  • Sunday, March 15 – American Authors
  • Friday, March 20 – Becky G
  • Saturday, March 21 – Yandel
  • Sunday, March 22 –  The B-52s
  • Saturday, March 28 – TBD

April

  • Saturday, April 4 – The All-American Rejects
  • Saturday, April 11 – The Band Perry
  • Saturday, April 18 – Trey Songz

Tips

Concerts can be a lot of fun, but if you really want to see the concert, you might have to do some waiting to ensure yourself a good seat.

  • The concert is an outdoor venue, so be sure to check the weather before heading to Universal to decide how you should dress.
  • Universal Orlando will not permit you to bring lawn chairs for the concert.
  • The concert is standing room only and spots are on a first come, first serve basis. The music plaza does get very crowded, so if you have no intentions to see the parade, I recommend finding a spot early so you can be as closer than if you watched the parade.
  • Universal normally has screens up so if you’re in the back, you’ll still be able to watch the screens.

Mardi Gras Parade

The Mardi Gras parade travels through the streets of Universal Studios, where float riders toss beads by the handsfuls into the crowd below. Stilt Walkers accompany the floats that travel through the streets, making it one whole experience.

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The Mardi Gras Parade only takes place on Mardi Gras event nights – every Saturday from February 9 until April 20, plus other select evenings. The Mardi Gras parade will follow the same path each night, however parade times will vary depending upon a number of factors.

Parade Times

February

  • Saturday, February 7 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 14 – TBA
  • Sunday, February 15 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 21 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 28 – TBA

March

  • Saturday, March 7 – TBA
  • Friday, March 13 – TBA
  • Saturday, March 14 – TBA
  • Sunday, March 15 – TBA
  • Friday, March 20 – TBA
  • Saturday, March 21 – TBA
  • Sunday, March 22 –  TBA
  • Saturday, March 28 – TBA

April

  • Saturday, April 4 – TBA
  • Saturday, April 11 – TBA
  • Saturday, April 18 – TBA

Parade Viewing Areas

The Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area: If you have young children, this area is perfect for kids. Located near the Termination 2: 3D attraction is an area that is reserved just for kids. The area will open one hour prior to the start of the parade. Seating in the area is limited and is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so arrive early for a spot.

Annual Passholder Parade Viewing Area: If you’re an annual passholder, all you have to do is show your pass and you’ll be able to watch the parade from a reserved area. The area is located just in front of Mel’s Drive In.

American Express Cardholder Parade Viewing Area: If you purchased your tickets with your American Express credit card, you can enjoy the parade from a special location reserved for American Express cardholders. The area is located near Finnegans in the New York section and will open one hour prior to the start of the parade.

Best Location

So, what is the best viewing spot? Based on a similar parade route in 2013, we highly suggest choosing a spot at the first turn, near Pantages (Horror Make Up Show) due to the fact that it is on a turn, which offers a great view of the parade, plus it is at the beginning of the parade. From past year’s experiences, when we wait at the very end of the parade, we have found the most float riders have already thrown all their beads and have nothing left to toss to you. If you wait for the parade at Pantages (Horror Make Up Show), it will pass by again if you wait long enough. Another great spot is just outside the entrance to Transformers: The Ride 3D. The area is not very crowded in comparison to the front of the park, giving you a better chance to catch some beads.

Tips

Catching beads is a lot of fun, but there’s a few ways to maximize your fun and catch globs of beads.

  • Choose your spot early. Most people start waiting for the parade roughly an hour prior to the beginning of the parade.
  • Have some fun with it – scream, shout, dance… You name it! If you look like you’re having a good time, you’ll probably get more beads thrown your way.
  • Keep your ears alert for the pinging of coins. Float riders are equipped with coins and they will occassionally toss them. They come in three colors: Purple, Gold, and Green. The coins change every year.
  • Wait at the beginning near Pantages and when the parade ends, head toward the end for a second round of fun.
  • Try not to stand behind someone taller than you. Chances are they will catch most of the beads.
  • You might get a set of broken beads. Be respectful and don’t throw them back at the float riders! You can actually take them home and turn them into an arts and crafts project. This is great for kids to do and quite a bit of fun.

Float Riding

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Float Riding is exactly what it sounds like – you would be the one throwing beads into the crowd below. It’s a unique experience because not everyone will get a chance to ride a float. There are several different ways, and though none of them are guaranteed, I can help provide some insight on how you might get your chance to feel like a rock star.

Keep in mind that in order to ride a float, the following restrictions apply:

  • You must be 18 years or older (or accompanied by an adult)
  • You must be at least 48″ or taller
  • Bags and strollers are not permitted on the floats (so you’ll need to find a locker or a friend who isn’t float riding before hand)
  • Standard wheelchairs can be accommodated with advanced notice
  • You will be required to sign a wavier before you are permitted on a float
  • Wearing of “The Krewe” (a colored slip on) is required
  • You must wear closed toe shoes

Annual Passholder Sign-ups: One of the many perks of being an Annual Passholder at Universal Orlando is that they allow you to sign up to be a float rider. While it can be very difficult to get on a float this way, it does happen, so trying is worth it. If you’re an annual passholder, here is what you can expect from the process.

Step 1:
Sign up for the day(s) of your choice. You will need your annual pass for this, so be sure to have it handy when you’re ready to sign up. Note that signing up does not guarantee a spot on the float.

Look for a link to sign up soon

Step 2:
Once you’ve signed up, Universal will select passholders at random to ride floats. Universal Orlando will call whatever number you have on file with your annual pass. They may or may not call from a blocked number, so be sure to answer if you’ve signed up for float riding.

Step 3:
If you are selected, you need to check in at Guest Services at the front of Universal Studios Florida prior to 6pm. Bring your ID as you will need it to check in.

Step 4:
Arrive at the Barney Courtyard by your designated time where you will receive your wristband (see picture below). You will also be required to sign a wavier before you are allowed on a float. The color of your wristband will designate what float you ride. Annual passholders typically always ride on King Gator and Riverboat.

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American Express: If you’re an American Express cardholder, it’s very simple to ride a float. If you purchase your multi-day ticket or annual pass with your AMEX credit card, all you have to do is bring your credit card and your receipt for your tickets to the Barney Courtyard an hour and a half before the parade begins. You must purchase your tickets at the front gate or on Universal Orlando’s official website to qualify.

Play the waiting game: This is probably the most ineffective way, but if you’re lucky – you might just catch a ride on a float. Although Universal Orlando anticipates full floats each night of Mardi Gras, sometimes things happen and folks don’t show up. If pass holders don’t show up, or there aren’t enough American Express card holders, Universal will take volunteers to ride floats, but you have to be waiting just in case. Arrive at the Barney Courtyard about an hour and a half prior to the start of the parade and wait around.

French Quarter

The French Quarter opens on Mardi Gras event nights at 4pm and closes shortly after the park closes. You can find a snack or something for dinner, listen to live music straight from New Orleans, or meet and greet with characters.

Live music straight from New Orleans

February

  • Saturday, February 7 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 14 – TBA
  • Sunday, February 15 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 21 – TBA
  • Saturday, February 28 – TBA

March

  • Saturday, March 7 – TBA
  • Friday, March 13 – TBA
  • Saturday, March 14 – TBA
  • Sunday, March 15 – TBA
  • Friday, March 20 – TBA
  • Saturday, March 21 – TBA
  • Sunday, March 22 –  TBA
  • Saturday, March 28 – TBA

April

  • Saturday, April 4 – TBA
  • Saturday, April 11 – TBA
  • Saturday, April 18 – TBA

Characters

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You can meet and greet with the characters that will be in the parade beginning at 5pm throughout the French Quarter and the streets of New York and around the Concert Plaza. Be sure to bring your camera for great family photo opportunities.

Food

Looking for authentic Cajun food to complete your Mardi Gras experience? You can find a variety of Cajun food, including: Jambalya, Creole Gumbo, Andouille Sausage, Red Beans & Rice, Beignets, and more in the French Quarter. You can also find the a signature alcoholic beverage, Voodoo Juice, to go along with a souvenir blinky Mardi Gras cup here for $10 (refills are $7).

Tips

  • Around 5pm, stilt walkers and performers from the Mardi Gras parade will being to fill the streets (they also hang out in New York and around the Music Plaza stage).
  • You can get a head start on beads here: sometimes the performers will give you beads when you get your picture with them.
  • If you plan on having a few beers (or Voodoo Juice) or making several trips to Mardi Gras, I highly recommend a Blinky Cup. Your first fill will be at a higher cost since you are buying the cup, but refills are a bit cheaper afterwards. It also makes for a great souvenir later on as the cups change annually.

How do I see Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando?

Mardi Gras is included with admission to Universal Studios Florida, so as long as you have a ticket of some-sort valid for a Mardi Gras event night, whether it’s a day ticket or an annual pass, you can get access to everything Mardi Gras has to offer.

Florida Resident Tickets

Mardi Gras After 5pm ticket

If you’re just looking to visit Universal Studios Florida for Mardi Gras, the After 5pm ticket for FL Residents is perfect for you. After 5pm, you can enter Universal Studios Florida for just $69.99 (Price coming soon, hopefully) plus tax. Ticket is valid only on Mardi Gras event nights. Must be 21+ to purchase ticket and must show proof of Florida Residency. Ticket must be purchased online. Not valid with other promotions.

Stay tuned for a link to buy your after 5pm pass.

2-Night Getaway

If you’re looking to experience everything Universal Orlando has to offer and a hotel, this might just be the package for you. It includes a 2-night stay at a nearby Universal Partner Hotel or an on-site Universal Orlando hotel, a 2-day park-to-park ticket, early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (valid theme park admission required), and free scheduled transportation from your hotel to Universal Orlando. The cost for this package starts at $119.00 per adult.

Purchase now through February 6th for travel. Other terms and conditions may apply. Please see Universal Orlando’s official website for more information by clicking here.

3-Night Getaway

If you’re looking to experience everything that Universal Orlando has to offer and a little bit more than what the 2-Night Getaway offers, this package might just be right for you! It includes a 3-night stay at a nearby Universal Partner Hotel, a 2-day ticket (one park each day), early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, and free scheduled transportation from your hotel to Universal Orlando. The cost for this package starts at $89 per adult.

Purchase now through March 31st for travel through May 22nd. Purchase your Florida Resident Tickets by clicking here.

Annual Passes

If you live close enough to Universal Orlando to visit a few times a year, an annual pass is worth spending the extra money. Not only is your pass valid for an entire year, but it also offers extra perks that a day ticket doesn’t.

Power Pass

The Power Pass is the cheapest pass available. It offers admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure all year, however, it does have blackout dates. Blackout dates are dates that your Power Pass are not valid, meaning you won’t be able to visit on certain dates. Click here to see 2014 blackout dates.

The cost of the Power Pass is currently $174.99, or $8.48 per month (after a down payment of $93.19) if you choose to pay on a month-to-month basis.

Preferred Pass

The Preferred Pass is the next step up cost and benefit-wise. It offers admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure all year without blackout dates. It also includes other perks, such as: in-park discounts, discounts on valet parking during certain times of year, discounts on regular admission, free regular parking, and more.

The cost of the Preferred Pass is currently $244.99, or $11.86 per month (after a down payment of $130.46) if you choose to pay on a month-to-month basis.

Premier Pass

The Premier Pass is the most expensive pass, but offers the most perks available between all the passes Universal Orlando offers. It offers admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure all year without blackout dates. It also includes other perks, such as: in-park discounts, free valet parking (only during select times of year), free regular parking, discounts on regular admission, free Express after 4pm, a free ticket to Halloween Horror Nights, and more.

The cost of the Premier Pass is currently $369.99, or $17.92 per month (after a down payment of $197.02) if you choose to pay on a month-to-month basis.

Purchase your annual pass today by clicking here.

Disclaimer: Behind the Thrills is in no way related to NBC Universal or any of it’s theme parks. If you feel any of the information above is inaccurate, please don’t hesitate to contact us. This guide was last updated on Monday January 12, 2015.