Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Updated: Feb 26
Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
Mardi Gras at Universal is a whole thing. It's not just a day or a week, it's two full months of food and fun. Last week, I spent a few days at Universal Studios checking out the offerings and atmosphere.
Last year, my team and I were honored to participate in one of the nightly Mardi Gras parades — throwing beads to enthusiastic guests from a float as we snaked around Universal Studios. It was a highlight of our trip, and I do look forward to doing that again in the future, hopefully next year. So, I was a bit worried that the modified experience due to Covid this year would be a big disappointment. I was wrong. It was a different experience, for sure. Some things, like the parade, were missing, but Universal clearly put great effort and thought into expanding this yearly festival in other ways.
Universal seems to be taking its cues from that other theme park in Orlando (you know, Disney). Instead of the nightly parade, the floats are placed randomly throughout Universal Studios with several performers stationed at each float to engage the guests and hand out the very important beads. This very much reminded me of the cavalcades Disney has used to replace its longer parades and the random, socially distanced character experiences. While the floats are stationary at Universal, they gave me the same feeling as the cavalcades—a really nice, pleasant experience to come upon as I wandered the park on my own schedule (read: I didn't have to be somewhere at a specific time.) I never saw a large crowd in front of the floats; it was definitely possible to socially distance while taking in the "show" and procuring beads. I hope that Universal will find a way to have a similar experience and put on an actual nightly parade because I thoroughly enjoy both for what they are.
Another area in which Universal seems to be borrowing from Disney is the expansion of the food booths/offerings for this festival. In the past, the Mardi Gras food offerings have been limited to a few booths all placed in one central location. This year, Universal has added many more food booths and offerings and scattered them throughout the park similar to the floats. The food is not just limited to traditional Cajun food either, rather Universal is embracing a celebration of Carnival from around the world. You'll find booths for Brazil, Cuba, Columbia, Spain, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and more.
Unfortunately, on this trip, we only had one day to eat around the park. The tapas size food portions were quite substantial and very filling, so we only made it through the New Orleans booths! I'll be back in March to taste even more of these delicious foods.
My only complaint with the food is a silly one. At a few of the booths, service was a bit slow, but that was because the food is being freshly prepared as its ordered. The dishes were spiced well. Not so overbearing that I, someone who isn't particularly fond of spicy food, could not enjoy the food. Yet, enough spice to satisfy my husband who eats Three Alarm Fire chicken wings on the regular. Now, let me be clear. Universal's food was good, but it was not NEW ORLEANS good. I mean, the jambalaya was tasty and had all the right elements and flavors, but Coop's Place jambalaya it was not.
Of the deserts we tried, two were very good and one was a fail. Surprisingly, the more basic beignets and the Bourbon Whiskey cake pop were stand-outs. So good!
The King Cake were nearly inedible though. The icing on the top had a horrible and yet bland flavor all at once, while the cinnamon roll cake was dry and also lacking in flavor after you ate the outer layer. Save your money!
Speaking of money, I purchased the annual pass tasting lanyard which allows me 15 food or beverage items for its $65 cost. That works out to about $4.33 per item, and given that most everything costs more than that, it's a good deal. The jambalaya and the shrimp boil above were both above $10 each.
Universal's Mardi Gras celebration runs through March 28, 2021. There's still time to plan your trip and Diserella Travel Agents are ready to help you make the most of your visit. Contact us today to starting planning your vacation!