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Let the Good Times Roll! Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Has Been Extended to May 2

by Mommy Frog on March 8, 2021 Orlando   Video

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - PinterestEvery spring, Florida's biggest party comes alive during Universal Mardi Gras. Universal Orlando Resort plays host to the hoppin' New Orleans celebration, complete with Cajun food favorites, toadally amazing concerts and entertainment that would make the Big Easy proud. This year, the party is returning (in modified form) daily from Feb. 6 through March 28, 2021 — and thanks to popular demand, it has been extended to May 2! The best part? All of the extra fun is included with regular Universal Orlando park admission!

Between gorgeous weather, all-star music, killer food and a festive floats ... what more could you ask for? French Quarter Courtyard is chock-full of dancers, jazz bands and delicious food ... beignets, anyone? In fact, 2021's theme is International Flavors of Carnaval, putting food center stage! Authentic Mardi Gras parade floats won't be in motion in 2021 due to social distancing guidelines, but the larger-than-life Pirate Treasure themed floats, as well as some returning classics, are on display throughout the park.

We had a lot of hoppin' fun at this year's modified event! In fact, we almost even liked it better simply because we could marvel at the floats and catch beads ALL. DAY. LONG. To help with social distancing, all of the festivities are spread out through the entire park instead of being centrally located in the front half of the park (as it usually is in "normal" years). Best of all, Universal really delivered on its International Flavors of Carnaval theme. We loved trying foods from different countries, such as the Bahamas, as well as chowing down on classic N'awlins grub. There are SO many options to choose from, and we left with our bellies full.

This fun, action-packed event takes place daily during our personal favorite season in Orlando, so you really can't miss it. Take a peek at our ribbeting guide for Mardi Gras, including treasurable tips to make the most of your visit. Let the good times roll, frog friends!

Universal Mardi Gras Floats (Modified Experience for 2021)

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - X Marks the Spot Float

In years past, it was important to strategically plot your parade spot to get the best views of the Mardi Gras floats. But in 2021, the traditional parade won't be taking place. Instead, the Pirate Treasure themed floats, as well as some returning classics, are on display throughout the park, giving guests an up-close look at them at their own pace. Two Mardi Gras themed floats (the Riverboat and the Jester floats) at the Universal Music Plaza Stage area are some of the first to greet guests, while the Pirate Treasure themed floats are anchored at the following locations:

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Family in front of Float

  • Shipwreck Island Float — in front of the Tribute Store
  • Battle for the Booty Float — in the San Francisco area
  • X Marks the Spot Float — in front of the Fear Factor Live stadium
  • Treasure Map Float — in front of the Animal Actors stadium
  • Title Float — in front of Mel's Drive-In

Throughout the day, Mardi Gras costumed performers throw beads from all of the floats. (Watch out ... they might even ask you to shimmy for beads!) We noticed bead throwing didn't start until about an hour after park opening and didn't continue after dark. The performers do randomly come and go, but it seemed to be very frequent. Plus with so many float options, it never felt like there was a shortage of bead catching opportunities.

To help with social distancing, there are blue markers on the ground that the performers will ask you to stand on. At times, it would get crowded as people (particularly larger groups) passed by. If you find yourself in this situation, we suggest waiting from a short distance until the other group catches their beads and there's a lull in the crowd. The least crowded float was X Marks the Spot since it felt the most tucked away, while Battle for the Booty got more crowded easily because it's in a narrow part of the main thoroughfare. The Treasure Map Float had the largest area to accommodate bead catchers without crowding people who just want to walk by.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Catching Beads

Note: If you're planning ahead for future years, the parade start times varied in 2020 between 5:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. (the later the parade, the faster the viewing spots filled up)! We would recommend lining up about 30 minutes in advance.

Universal Mardi Gras Concerts (Unavailable for 2021)

Universal Mardi Gras - The Roots Concert

Universal Mardi Gras always has a super impressive lineup of performers from all different music genres for its concert series. During weekends throughout the celebration, Music Plaza Stage hosts some of radio's finest bands and artists. In 2020, we boogied down with Grammy-award winners The Roots on the first night of Mardi Gras, as pictured above.

Performances usually begin at 8:30 p.m. on each concert night. Concerts typically take place on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout Universal Mardi Gras. Due to social distancing measures currently in place, there won't be scheduled concerts in 2021. Instead, you'll find roving musicians throughout the park.

If you're planning ahead and want a sample of what the typical lineup is like, here's the Universal Mardi Gras concert lineup from 2020:

  • Feb. 1: The Roots
  • Feb. 8: Karol G
  • Feb. 15: Bell Biv DeVoe
  • Feb. 16: +Live+
  • Feb. 22: Kool & the Gang
  • Feb. 29: TLC
  • March 7: REO Speedwagon
  • March 8: Dustin Lynch
  • March 13: Luis Fonsi
  • March 14: Flo Rida
  • March 15: Sugar Ray

Concert crowds will vary depending on the popularity of the artist and day of the week ... Fridays and Saturdays generally bring in larger crowds than Sundays. If you can, we recommend landing your concert viewing spot about an hour ahead of time for a spot on the grass.

Universal Mardi Gras Food and Drinks

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Germany Food Booth

New Orleans is known for its hoppin' delicacies, and the Cajun offerings at Universal Mardi Gras are no different. And since this year's theme is International Flavors of Carnaval, there are so many flavors from around the world to choose from. Bold flavors will ignite your taste buds, and you'll want to try everything! You can find these food booths spread out around the entire park. Some of the New Orleans offerings are split up in multiple locations.

Use the official Universal Orlando app to locate the exact food booth locations on a map and study the menus.

For instance, beignets are by the lagoon near Transformers: The Ride 3D, while jambalaya and the Bloody Mary Bar can be found at separate booths near the Universal Music Plaza Stage. All food booths open at 11 a.m. and operate until 30 minutes before the park closes.

Whether you're one half of a dynamic duo, or visiting with your entire frog squad, we recommend taking the sampling approach. In fact, Universal moved to sample-sized portions and introduced Universal Mardi Gras tasting lanyards in 2019 — and they are back for 2021! This year, you can get 10 food or beverage (including alcohol) redemptions for $55 (plus tax). For annual passholders, you can purchase 15 redemptions for $65 (plus tax). You get multiple sample-sized dishes for one price, and you don't have to fish for your wallet since team members simply scan the barcode on the lanyard.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Dressed Up Trio

The best part is that you can return anytime during Mardi Gras and are able to use the tasting lanyard until you run out of items. The lanyards can also be used for bottled water, popcorn and pretzels at all three Universal parks and CityWalk after the festival ends, but they will only be sold during Mardi Gras. Also, frogtastic news: If you have any credits from last year, our 2020 lanyard worked since we had seven items leftover!

The lanyard allows you to try more unique tastes, but also comes in handy when a flavor is a little too intense to commit to a full serving. It's easier than ever to test all of the foods with the tasting lanyards. You better bring your appetite!

Here's what's on the menu for Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval:

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Jerk Chicken

  • The Bahamas (near Fear Factor Live stadium)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Jerk Chicken - Jerked marinated chicken, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
      • Jerk Jackfruit - Jerked marinated jack fruit, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
    • Drink Menu:
      • Goombay Smash - Bahamian rum punch
      • Carib Lager - International pilsner
  • Belgium (Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Belgium Liege Waffles - Sweet liege waffles with strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate
      • Brussels Frites with Roasted Garlic Veganaise - Crispy seasoned fries with choice of dipping sauce: garlic mayonnaise, andalouse or joppiesaus
    • Drink Menu:
      • Hoegaarden Witbier - Belgian wheat beer
      • Lindemans Strawberry Lambic - Fruited sweet and sour ale
      • St. Bernardus Abt. 12 - Belgian quadruple, Abbey ale
  • Brazil (across from Classic Monsters Cafe)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Moqueca de Camarao with Rice - Shrimp coconut cream stew, white rice, sweet potato curls
      • Stuffed Coxinha - Crispy pulled chicken tear drop fritters
      • Brigadeiros - Brazilian classic with condensed milk, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles, toasted peanuts
    • Drink Menu:
      • Pineapple Caipirinha Punch - Cachaça and pineapple flavors
      • Mixed Caipirinha - A blend of pineapple and strawberry caipirinhas
      • Strawberry Caipirinha Punch - Cachaça and strawberry flavors
  • Canada (Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Beef Short Rib Poutine - Crispy fries with short rib, cheese curds, demi glaze
      • Maple Canadian Doughnut - Fried sweetened dough, cinnamon sugar, maple syrup
      • Nutella Canadian Doughnut - Fried sweetened dough, Nutella, sugar, chopped hazelnuts
    • Drink Menu:
      • Sugar Shack Springtime Punch - A complex Canadian whiskey punch with a base of pear juice
      • Lablatt Blue - International pilsner
  • Colombia (across from Classic Monsters Cafe)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Carnitas Arepas - Corn meal cake pocket filled with avocado, carnitas, mayonnaise, ketchup, cilantro
    • Drink Menu:
      • Limonada de Coco - Limeade sweetened with coconut cream (nonalcoholic)
      • Coco Loco - Limonada de Coco spiked with rum and tequila
  • Cuba (San Francisco Backlot)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Cuban Sandwich - Roasted pork, Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles on Cuban bread served with plantain chips
      • Cuban Flan - Baked vanilla custard, dark caramel
    • Drink Menu:
      • Cuba Libre - Choice of Bacardí Light, Bacardí 4 Year or Bacardí 8 Year
  • France (Central Park)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Poached Pear Crème Brulee Crepe - Red wine poached pear, vanilla pastry cream, toasted almonds, caramel, crispy sugar topping
    • Drink Menu:
      • Vidal-Fleury Cotes du Rhone Blanc - White wine
      • Vieux Chateau Lamothe Bordeaux Rouge - Red wine
      • Notorious Pink - Slightly sweet rosé wine
      • Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Rouge - Red wine
  • Germany (San Francisco Backlot)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Pork Schnitzel Slider - Fried pork cutlet, spicy mustard, red braised cabbage, gruyere cheese
      • Vegan Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions - Vegan bratwurst, beer braised onions, spicy mustard, French quarter baguette
      • Bavarian Pretzel - Warm pretzel, spicy mustard cheese sauce
    • Drink Menu:
      • Weihenstephaner Kristalweissbier - Clarified wheat beer
      • Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbier - Smoked Märzen Oktoberfest-style lager
      • Weihenstephaner Vitus - Strong wheat, bock hybrid lager
      • T Schmitt Riesling Kabinett, Estate - Sweet white wine

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Italian Rainbow Cookie

  • Italy (New York Backlot)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Italian Rainbow Cookie - Colorful layers of almond cake sandwiched with raspberry jam and coated in chocolate
      • Arancini - Fried risotto, wild mushrooms, truffle, parmesan cheese
      • Cannoli - Italian pastry shell, chocolate chip cannoli cream, chocolate shavings
      • Affogato - Vanilla gelato served with a double shot of espresso
    • Drink Menu:
      • Fantinel - Prosecco
      • Querceto Chianti - Red wine
      • Vietti Moscato d’Asti - Slightly sparkling sweet white wine
      • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo - Red wine
  • New Orleans (Multiple Locations)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Crawfish Boil - Mix bag of crawfish, shrimp, andouille, red bliss, corn on the cob
      • Muffuletta Sandwich - Mortadella, salami, ham, mozzarella cheese, olive relish on a toasted bun
      • Andouille Twisted Tater - Stuffed Cajun twisted tater, sausage; Add andouille queso for $
      • Jambalaya - Mixed rice with andouille, shrimp, chicken, peppers, tomatoes
      • Beignets - Sweet fried pastry with powdered sugar
      • Twisted Tater - Flavored with Cajun spices
    • Drink Menu: 
      • Abita Purple Haze - Raspberry fruited lager
      • King Cake Milk Punch - A bourbon milk punch using our house-made King Cake syrup
      • Tropical Storm Punch - A traditional Mardi Gras cocktail incorporating rum, orange and passionfruit flavors
  • Puerto Rico (San Francisco Backlot)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Pernil & Mofongo - Roasted pork, smashed plantains, onion mojo
      • Quesito - Guava and cream cheese filled fried pastry
      • Picadillo Empanada - Picadillo beef filled fried pastry dough
    • Drink Menu:
      • Piña Verde - A twist on the classic piña colada incorporating green chartreuse
  • Spain (Cafe La Bamba)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Paella Mixta - Saffron yellow rice, chorizo, squid, mussels, shrimp
      • Leche Frita - Crispy fried with condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon
      • Charcuterie Plate - A traditional platter of Spanish meats and cheese, olives, grapes, lavash
    • Drink Menu:
      • Pinord “La Dama” Cava - Sparkling wine
      • Hacienda de Arinzano Rosé - Tempranillo-based rosé wine
      • Don Olegurio Albarino - White wine
      • Hazaña “Viñas Viejas” Rioja - Red wine
  • Trinidad and Tobago (New York Backlot)
    • Tasting Menu:
      • Pholourie - Deep fried spicy split pea dough with turmeric, curry powder and a side of tamarind chutney or powdered sugar
      • Pineapple Trini-Chow - Grilled pineapple skewers, spices, micro cilantro
    • Drink Menu:
      • Queen’s Park Swizzle - National cocktail of Trinidad and Tobago; minted dark-rum grog with a light float of Angostura bitters
      • Carib Lager - International pilsner

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Jambalaya

It was so hard to narrow down what to get for our first visit. Of course, we had to get classic Mardi Gras fare, so we shared the jambalaya and beignets. (Lily wasn't a fan of the crawfish perched on top of the jambalaya.) We also tried the Stuffed Coxinha from Brazil, which is a frogtastic tadpole-friendly option! Leap loved the Jerk Chicken from The Bahamas. It was too spicy for the rest of our sensitive stomachs, but otherwise it was very flavorful and would highly recommend for more daring frogs! However, our favorite pick of the day was the Italian Rainbow Cookie. We can't wait to hop back to try out more dishes!

Universal Mardi Gras Atmosphere

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Stilt Walkers

There's entertainment all day long to keep tadpoles and grown-up frogs hoppy! From joking jesters to princesses on stilts, there's something fun for everyone. This year, the street entertainers are either on the floats, stilts or raised platforms due to health and safety measures in place. Tad loves goofing off with the jesters, and we all know Lily can't resist greeting royalty! A roaming band marches from the New York Backlot (starting by Louie's Pizza) over to a stage near Mel's Drive-In and the Universal Horror Make-Up Show. With blaring trumpets and beating drums, it’s hard not to dance along to the rhythm!

A Mardi Gras scavenger hunt is also available in 2021. For $7.95, you get a treasure map to all of the Krewe Crawl spots, where you'll receive a stamp from a team member at each location. Once all stamps have been collected, you'll receive a prize from Silver Screen Collectibles — three beaded necklaces (one of them is adorned with a Mardi Gras mask).

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Tribute Store

The incredibly-themed Mardi Gras Tribute Store, located next to the Jimmy Fallon ride, is returning for 2021. Not only can you get fancy beads, masks and event merchandise there, but there are also plenty of photo-ops. With a dark and eerie atmosphere, it felt like we were stepping inside a creepy New Orleans cemetery and mausoleum. We assured Lily that nothing would pop out at her, but the young ones could get a little frightened by the atmosphere alone. The cemetery room has returned in 2021 (with a nautical, pirate twist), as well as a hoppening jazz parlor straight out of the 1920s with dueling pianos and bellowing brass, and a waterfront warehouse, filled with smuggled treasures and trinkets.

Universal Mardi Gras is the closest thing you can get to N'awlins ... without having to worry about your tadpoles seeing or hearing anything they shouldn't. The festive floats, atmospheric decor and delicious cuisine really give your little ones a taste of the Big Easy, which is a fun exploration of a different celebration they might not be familiar with. Allow your kiddos to try new foods, interact with performers and catch all the beads they can! (Fun fact: The floats in the Universal Mardi Gras parade are designed by Kern Studios, which has created authentic floats in New Orleans for over 60 years!)

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras - Family with Matching Outfits

Are you ready to put your dancing shoes on and visit Orlando's version of the Big Easy? You're sure to have a blast! Let us know if you have any questions about Universal Mardi Gras in the comments below. 

Related: Complete Guide to Universal Orlando Events

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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