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Universal's Mardi Gras - Universal Orlando

Home > Orlando > Festivals | Food and Wine | Nightlife | Theme Parks
by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at www.ABLETravelPhoto.com and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
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Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Neon Float


When you visit Orlando, Florida, you're likely going to the Universal and Walt Disney World Theme Parks. One of the best times to visit Universal Orlando is the six weeks before Easter because they celebrate Mardi Gras throughout Lent.

Universal's Mardi Gras, inspired by Carnaval and Karnaval celebrations around the world has you dancing in the streets, marveling at stilt walkers, and, if you're participating in their special dining program, even riding the floats tossing beads to lookers on. Live music and concerts are the name of the game as the Universal goal is to go Beyond the Bayou this year!

While Mardi Gras "Fat Tuesday" and Carnaval or Karnaval have long histories of celebration before Lenten sacrifices begin, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida takes it that giant step forward, as only Universal can, to include the entire season of Lent in their Mardi Gras festivities.

Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Cast Members


During the day, cast members festooned in colorful costumes, on stilts or on foot, dance and sing and stroll their way along brilliantly colored Purple (justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power) decorations to help visitors celebrate the season. These colors first surfaced in 1872's New Orleans for a Russian Grand Duke's visit during carnival. The symbolic colors are attributed to the 1892 festival whose theme was "symbolism of colors."

The first Mardi Gras is thought to have taken place in medieval Europe, traveling from Rome to the French House of Bourbons. Then the fatted calf revelry developed and the French custom spread to the French American colony in modern day Louisiana where, on March 3, 1699, the first American Mardi Gras took place.

Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
Mardi Gras Characters on Stilts


Once a holiday rooted in religious tradition, modern day Mardi Gras is a cultural phenomenon embraced by Universal Studios. It's great fun for the staff and for the guests. This life of its own now, independent of church or state, with parties galore and celebrations from the family to the community to the state to the country can be a great time to build community within your own hometown.

Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
The White Stallion Float Mardi Gras Universal Orlando


But after dark at Universal Studios, when the sun is down and the people are ready to party, almost New Orleans style (no chest flashing required), the parade begins and floats, dancers and street performers start from the beginning of the Parade Route (between the Cafe LaBamba and the Hollywood Costume Horror show) around the park to great cheers and jubilation.

Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
Festive Floats Continue


At the Mardi Gras Celebration I attended at Universal Studios - Orlando, Universal Orlando Annual Passholders receive a cordoned-off area (entry through card ID) right in front of the float's entry point. It's a great place to take photos without being trounced by a crowd (ok, there can be large crowds at Universal but, to be fair, no trouncing during this very pleasant and fun-filled event).

Able to take photos over the top of children's heads, I took photo and video as people riding the floats tossed necklaces and Mardi Gras coins from their seats. I ended the night with five, the number that physically hit me (I figured I deserved them).

Universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
More Colorful Floats


It was good to be able to see what was what and recognize the names of several Krewes common in New Orleans both in person and in literature. The Rex Krewe, aka King of Carnival leads the way. The Bacchus Krewe, in New Orleans now typically a celebrity,https://www.kreweofbacchus.org/kings/
overindulges especially in all things alcohol. But many of the floats weren't so easily identified. While brightly colored and stunning, they didn't display the name of their Krewe in a way that was visible. The alligator float required three sections, two just to contain its tail.

The parade lasts about 30 minutes and, as the final stewards came forth holding the linear floral segment to indicate the end of the parade and protect the final float from intruders, I was out of the cordoned-off area and headed back across the Universal Lot to reach Kings Cross station and travel over to the Islands of Adventure for the Harry Potter light show. There's always more to do at Universal.

I'm glad I got to see the Mardi Gras parade and interact with the cast members who obviously love this time of year. While only February, the sun is hot like summer in many parts of the world - up in the 80sF today - and the humidity is high. This isn't like any Mardi Gras I experienced while living in the north and, even when I lived in Louisiana, it was more likely to be gray, cool, and even rainy there.

I definitely prefer this version.

universal Orlando, Mardi Gras, Celebration, Party, Lent, Easter, Special Event, Purple, Gold, Green, Parade, Float, Krewe, Carnival, Karnaval
Rex Krewe


Oh, and for you foodies out there, check out the Mardi Gras dining package. As part of their International Flavors celebration, you can enjoy sampler portions across the park. Do you enjoy Crawfish and Mofongo? They've got incredible options at reasonable prices (compared to regular) to allow your Cajun cooks tease those tastebuds as you eat your way across the park.

As you walk across the park, you'll find food and drink tents with country names like Brazil or Mexico or even Belgium and enjoy typical Mardi Gras fare from these regions. Those Liege Waffles are as good here as we enjoyed at the Christmas Markets.

But you can just never go wrong with the beignets.

You'll find King Cake in the French Quarter Section (find Menu #1). Long ago, a bean was baked into a cake and whoever found it was king for the day. In Louisiana, and other places that have King Cakes, it's typically now a small figure of the baby Jesus that's found in the cake (don't let children take a bite of cake before the figure is found) and allows that person to be king for the day. This King Cake was covered with cinnamon swirl icing and Mardi Gras sugars.

Check out the Tribute Store. This time of year, it's filled with baked goods. It's hard to pass up those beignets.

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Universal Orlando great for Mardi Gras


Whether you're visiting or a resident, Mardi Gras remains a grand time to visit Universal Studios Orlando.

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When: Feb. 4ĖApr. 16, 2023
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