The Complete Guide to Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

The Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios Florida in the Universal Orlando Resort is typically held every night from early February to mid-April and is completely free with your theme park admission.  Universal puts on quite the show for Mardi Gras with the one of the best theme park parades, amazing concerts, food, music and more. 

This a family-friendly event while it is completely age appropriate for younger children, it is still a super fun time for adults.

Mardi Gras 2024 at the Universal Studios Florida

The 2024 Mardi Gras event at Universal Studios Florida starts February 3 and extends to April 7, 2024. (which is shorter than usual).  Guests will find the best theme park parade, themed food & beverages, live concerts and more.

Following is a summary the this years Mardi Gras celebration experiences and offerings.

Mardi Gras Concerts

Concerts for Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebration are back for 2024 and this year features a number of popular artists. Concerts are scheduled (tentatively) for 8:30 PM and as with prior year, will be held on the Music Plaza Stage right in from of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. 

  • February 3rd: Walker Hayes
  • February 10th: The All-American Rejects
  • February 17th: Nessa Barrett
  • February 18th: KC and The Sunshine Band
  • February 24th: The Barenaked Ladies
  • March 2nd: DJ Khaled
  • March 9th: Ava Max
  • March 10th: Queen Latifah
  • March 16th: Luis Fonsi
  • March 17th: Zedd

Unfortunately the number of concerts are down from prior years but this year’s line up has a number of high quality performers.  We are hoping that Universal adds some additional acts to the mix for 2024.

Nightly Mardi Gras Parade

In addition to the concerts, the nightly Mardi Gras Parade is one of the best features of this event. Six new floats will be featured with it’s theme inspired by Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, the Sun and the Moon. As always, the parade will being with the Riverboat float and finish with the 50-foot long King Gator.  The Endless Summer family has been on both of these floats and they are always the best in any parade.

Parade start times for 2024 are as follows:

  • 5:15 PM: February 5th, 7th, 12th and 27th
  • 6:15 PM: February 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 13 – 16th, 21 – 23rd, 25th, 26th, 28th and 29th
  • 7:30 PM: February 19th and 20th, March 11 – 15th, March 18 – 31st, April 1 – 7th
  • 7:45 PM: February 3rd, 10th, 17th, 18th and 24th, March 2nd, 9th, 10th, 16th and 17th

ENDLESS SUMMER TIP TO GET MORE BEADS: we have found that it is not too crowded if you stay right outside the starting gate and you get the chance to catch beads at both the beginning and end of the parade route (effectively doubling the chance to get beads).

Mardi Gras Food and Beverage Offerings

The Mardi Gras food and beverage experience will also include the traditional culinary adventure with traditional New Orleans style cuisine along with a number of specialty items inspired by countries around the world.  Guests will find a number of pop up kiosks in the New York area as well as throughout the park. 

If you are a foodie and looking to sample a number of different food and drinks, Universal is offering a discounted food & beverage card based on the following prices:

  • $65.00 purchase price for $75.00 in food & beverage value
  • $120.00 purchase price for $150.00 in food & beverage value (Annual & Seasonal Passholders only)

These cards work at any Universal owned and operated restaurant and cart as well as the Mardi Gras pop up kiosks and can be used to purchase food, drinks and alcoholic beverages.  In addition, standard passholder discounts are still being offered.  Selections include:

  • Beignets
  • Chicken Schnitzel
  • Chilaquiles Verdes
  • And much more….

Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay are also getting into the Mardi Gras spirit with specialty food & beverages offerings like King Cake, Jambalaya and Gumbo.

Mardi Gras Tribute Store

The Mardi Gras Tribute Store will return for 2024 with an all new design and theming.  Located in the Hollywood area of the park, this is the best place to buy your souvenirs. 

Click here to see a full tour of the 2023 Mardi Gras Tribute Store.

The Red (Cursed) Coconut Club

Similar to what Universal did for Halloween Horror Nights and the Holidays at Universal Orlando, CityWalk’s Red Coconut Club will be transformed with a Mardi Gras theme.  For the season, the club known as the Cursed Coconut Club.

How do I get on a Mardi Gras Parade float (2024)?

In prior years Universal Orlando offers its annual passholders the ability to volunteer as a bead tossing float rider on a first come first serve basis. Typically an email goes out to passholders but it has been years since we have received one. We usually keep an eye on the UOAP Facebook Group for updates.  Once announced, many of the weekend dates are filled within the first few hours. 

Other ways to ride on a float include:

Virtual Line

According to Universal’s web site, “Reservations will be accepted in-park via the Virtual Line™ experience in the Official Universal Orlando App”.  Additional details are forthcoming but we expect this option will be also be on a first come first serve basis for Universal Orlando Passholders.

Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience

This option is fairly new and it ensures a reserved spot on a parade float.  In addition to a place on a float, guests participating in the ride and dine experience also get a 3-course meal at one of the following restaurants:

  • Finnegan’s Bar & Grill
  • Lombard’s Seafood Grill
  • The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar (CityWalk)
  • NBC Sports Grill & Bar (CityWalk)

The cost of this experience is $84.99 per plus tax – gratuity is included.

With the exception of 2022, the Endless Summer family has been able to get on a float and we consider it the absolute best time we ever had at a theme park. 

Riders must be at least 48 inches in height, 18 years of age (or accompanied by a supervising companion).  Riders are required to wear “The Krewe” costumes during the parade and large items are not allowed on the floats.

Mardi Gras 2023 at the Universal Studios Florida

The 2023 Mardi Gras event at Universal Studios Florida started February 4 and extended to April 24, 2023. Following is a summary the this years Mardi Gras celebration experiences and offerings:

Mardi Gras Concerts

Concerts for Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebration in 2023 included:

  • February 4th: Patty LaBelle
  • February 10th: JVKE
  • February 11th: Goo Goo Dolls
  • February 18th: Maren Morris
  • February 19th: WILLOW
  • February 25th: 3 Doors Down
  • March 4th: Sean Paul
  • March 5th: Lauren Daigle

Concerts are scheduled (tentatively) for 8:30 PM and as with prior year, will be held on the Music Plaza Stage right in from of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Nightly Mardi Gras Parade

In addition to the concerts, the nightly Mardi Gars Parade is back for 2023 (with the exception of three select nights – see below).  This year’s parade theme is “Mystical Realms” which includes six new detailed parade floats inspired by magical creatures like dragons, phoenixes, unicorns and more (sounds like this theme was influenced by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Let’s not forget that the parade will also include some of the traditional floats like the Riverboat (typically the first float) and the King Gator (typically the last float).

Mardi Gras Tribute Store

The 2023 Mardi Gras Tribute Store was relocated to the Hollywood section of the park.  Guests will not only be able to purchase Mardi Gras merchandise but also enjoy themed snacks and treats just for the season.

Where to stay during Mardi Gras?

Local area hotels book up quickly so it is our recommendation that you get your reservations as early as possible.  Crowd levels are typically particular high during the Mardi Gras season due not only to this special event, but there are always school holidays as well as “Spring Break” during this time.  And in the spring time there are always large conventions coming to Orlando where many hotels block off room for the convention attendees.

With the high crowd levels we feel that it’s best to try and stay on site at Universal for your Mardi Gras experience.  If you don’t want to fight the crowds for boat or bus transportation, our recommended hotel would be The Hard Rock.

Although one of the more expensive hotels at Universal, The Hard Rock is the easiest walk which will lead you at the entrance just outside of the main gate at Universal Studios Florida.  The wait to get through security is never long and at the end of the night, you will back at your room in less than 10 minutes.  This is especially good if you have enjoyed a few adult beverages during the evening.

If the Hard Rock is outside your budget, the next best hotel would be the either the Loews Sapphire Falls or the Aventura Hotel.  The wait for boat transportation to Sapphire Falls may be lengthy, but so is the walk and after a long night in the parks, you will be glad you waited for the boat.  

ENDLESS SUMMER TIP:  If you are staying at the Aventura Hotel, don’t take the bus as the wait can be long.  Just walk across to Sapphire Falls and hop on the boat. 

If any of these hotel recommendations don’t work for you, CLICK HERE to see a list of other on site hotels as well as local area hotels near Universal.   You will be glad you did come check out time.

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1988 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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