Let the Good Times Roll! Mardi Gras Is Actually Returning to Universal Orlando

by Mommy Frog on January 13, 2021 Orlando   Video

Universal 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! 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, will be on display throughout the park. 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 ribbiting guide for Mardi Gras, including treasurable tips to make the most of your visit. Let the good times roll, frog friends!

Universal Mardi Gras Parade (Modified for 2021)

Universal Mardi Gras - 25th Anniversary Float

Universal celebrated 25 years of Mardi Gras in 2020, and the headlining parade had SIX new floats for its "Treasures of the Deep" theme. Arrr, matey! These new floats were inspired by a treasure map, the sunken city of Atlantis, creatures of the deep and a treasure-filled shipwreck island. We saw lots of pirates and parrots, and skulls and sea creatures, as beads and confetti fly in the air. The show-stopping King Gator float remained as the grand finale, and King Gator sported a dazzling makeover.

Universal Mardi Gras - King Gator Float

In years past, it was important to strategically plot your parade spot. But in 2021, the traditional parade won't be taking place. Instead, the Pirate Treasure themed floats, as well as some returning classics, will be on display at select spots throughout the park, giving guests an up-close look at them at their own pace. Three of these iconic floats will be located at Music Plaza Stage. We really loved this unique experience for the holidays, and are excited that we'll get to see the festive and intricately detailed floats this year, even if it's not in parade form! (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., with the later showings booking up the fastest! We recommend lining up about 30 minutes in advance.)

Universal Mardi Gras - Crowd Catching Beads

While the parade is usually the easiest way to get some beads, in 2021, you can expect bead stations, entertainment and other surprises all around the park.

Universal Mardi Gras - Family With Beads

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.

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 taste 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 Mardi Gras - Sisters with Snacks

New Orleans is known for its hoppin' delicacies, and the Cajun offerings at Universal Mardi Gras are no different. You can find these food booths, which typically open at 4 p.m. every day, at the French Courtyard Quarter across from the Mummy and Jimmy Fallon rides. Bold flavors will ignite your taste buds, and there are so many menu options to choose from! With gator bites, jambalaya, beignets and so much more, you'll want to try everything.

Universal Mardi Gras - King Cake and Beignets

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! In the past, you could get five items for $30 or 10 items for $50 (and annual passholders had an additional option of 15 items for $60). You get multiple sample-sized dishes for one price, and you don't have to fish for your wallet since they simply scan the barcode on the lanyard. 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 during regular park hours.)

Universal Mardi Gras - Tasting Lanyard

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! In 2020, the all-new Carnival Around the Universe food tent explored tastes from different carnivals around the world and switched out its offerings every two weeks. For 2021, each of these tasting tents will be available for the duration of the festival — so bring your appetite!

Universal Mardi Gras - Trinidad and Tobago Dishes

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

  • Bahamas
    • Tasting Menu: 
      • Jerk Chicken - Jerked marinated chicken, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
      • Jerk Jackfruit - Jerked marinated jack fruit, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
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  • Belgium
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  • Brazil
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  • Canada
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  • Colombia
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  • Cuba
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  • France
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  • Germany
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  • Italy
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  • New Orleans
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  • Puerto Rico
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  • Spain
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  • Trinidad and Tobago
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Mardi Gras - Mardi Gras Float Float

Tad and Lily looooved the Float Floats in 2020, which were ice cream floats inspired by the parade floats (pictured above). Guests could indulge in the Shipwreck float (pineapple soft serve ice cream, chocolate soft serve, pineapple soda, cotton candy and waffle cone flag), the Sunken City of Atlantis float (vanilla soft serve, wild berry soda, mango boba and gummy shark) or the Mardi Gras float (pineapple and lime soft serve ice cream, grape soda, blueberry boba and waffle cone flag). They were available at Schwab's Pharmacy in Hollywood, and one float counted as one credit with the tasting lanyard. We're crossing our froggy fingers that these return for 2021!

Universal Mardi Gras Atmosphere

Universal Mardi Gras - Dance Party

In normal years, 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. These are awesome photo-ops for your tadpoles to enjoy. Tad loved goofing off with the jesters, and we all know Lily can't resist greeting royalty! This year, Universal has said that street entertainers, as well as roving musicians, will keep guests on their feet (though the experiences will likely be modified due to health and safety measures in place). With blaring trumpets and beating drums, it’s hard not to dance along to the rhythm! A Mardi Gras scavenger hunt will also be available in 2021 — hop back for details!

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. Take a look at last year's store in Tad's video below! The cemetery room will return 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 Mardi Gras - Brother and Sister

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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