Universal Mardi Gras: Prices, Dates and What To Expect [2023]

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In a theme park world filled with fairy tales and make-believe, approximations of reality will slip in, too. 

New York. Paris. Hollywood. 

These far-flung getaways that many can only dream of visiting are part of the theme park firmament just as much as Cinderella’s Castle or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Springfield or what have you. 

Theme parks have succeeded in mimicking the places we want to get away to even while we’re in the process of getting away. 

But New Orleans holds a special place in the Orlando parks planning. Disney has a pair of hotels dedicated to life in the Big Easy. Plus, one of its more popular princesses is a New Orleans gal who will soon have her own ride in the Magic Kingdom. 

Read Also: Is Splash Mountain still getting a retheme? The latest plans


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Mardi Gras Universal Entrance Sign 2022
Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration, pictured in 2022 (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

When is Mardi Gras at Universal?

Universal is no different. Each spring, Universal dedicates a good two months of its calendar to embracing New Orleans biggest celebrating tradition – Mardi Gras. The 2023 celebration will be from Feb. 4 through April 16.

Why is New Orleans so popular? I think it’s because in most people’s imaginations, the idea of New Orleans is as much a fairytale as it is reality. 

It’s a place where the party never stops. It just keeps getting refurbished by daily arriving groups of tourists being brought in like reinforcements to the front. 

Rich with food and music and drink, New Orleans – sometimes a bit too much like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island – has lesser inhibitions and increasing freedoms which are fun to think about even if you’re not the type of person to give in to such opportunities. 

New Orleans is where – if you have the money – you can build your own parade.

There are bands just waiting to be hired as well as marchers who will hire in to give your parade heft. 

Then – on some random Tuesday or whenever – you can walk through the streets of New Orleans in style drinking and parading and having the time of your life while the rest of the world frets over spreadsheets in a cubicle.

It’s not the kind of thing that would fly in say Indianapolis or Des Moines. New Orleans is a special place. It’s no wonder theme parks want to siphon off some of that magic. 

New Orleans Style Food Stand at Mardi Gras Universal
Patrons enjoy NOLA-style food during Mardi Gras at Universal Studios (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What exactly is Mardi Gras at Universal?

Mardi Gras at Universal is a multi-month celebration based on the French tradition of Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday and the Brazilian Carnaval.

Both celebrations have their roots in Catholicism with the idea of celebrating the richness of life with food and drink and more prior to the season of Lent, which is marked by the faithful giving up something they love to show their willingness to sacrifice. 

Both New Orleans and Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil are known to be fairly wild affairs. Universal Mardi Gras is decidedly more family-friendly. 

Read Also: Where can you find Voodoo donuts in Orlando? Best 10 donuts to order

A Giant Mardi Gras Mask Universal Studios
The Mardi Gras celebration at Universal typically runs from early February to mid-April (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is Mardi Gras still going on at Universal?

Yes. The 2023 Universal Mardi Gras Celebration will be from Feb. 4th to April 16th. 

Stilt Walkers Mardi Gras Universal
Stilt walkers entertain guests during the spring Mardi Gras event (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Wait. That seems like a long time to celebrate Mardi Gras

It is. Mardi Gras is Tuesday, Feb. 21. In New Orleans, they can squeeze a good fortnight out of Mardi Gras celebrations. Rio’s Carnaval celebration is for five days.

But the theme park version of Mardi Gras isn’t beholden to religious affiliation, so Universal is happy to let the bon temps rouler – on select nights – through half of the spring. 

At Universal, Mardi Gras is all celebration, no sacrifice. 

The NOLA sign at Universal Mardi Gras
The Mardi Gras event at Universal is included with your park admission (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is Mardi Gras free at Universal?

You don’t pay extra to attend like some other seasonal celebrations. It is included in the price of regular admission.

I don’t know if I consider that “free”, but you don’t pay extra. 

Mardi Gras Street Sign Universal Studios
Mardi Gras Universal is fun for both adults and kids (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Why Mardi Gras?

It’s gotta be something, right? Universal’s biggest season success is Halloween Horror Nights where it beats the pants off of its rival Disney. But Disney owns the Christmas holiday season. 

The two parks are competing for tourism dollars in the spring.

The Mardi Gras theming is fun for adults and kids with the various accouterments like colorful Mardi Gras parade floats, beads – without the more risqué traditions that accompany them in New Orleans – and cajun cuisine.

This makes the Universal Orlando Resort a more attractive destination in the dull days of February and March. 

A Styx concert during Mardi Gras Universal
Live concerts are also a part of Mardi Gras at Universal (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What is there to do at Mardi Gras Universal?

Eat, drink and embrace your Cajun or Brazilian heritage. 

The Mardi Gras floats are spectacular and the parade dancers and stilt walkers are fun – but plan ahead the parade is only on select dates.

Guests can enjoy live concerts at Universal Studios Florida. Restaurants will change up their menus to offer a selection of food that includes Mardi Gras staples like crawfish, beignets, shrimp gumbo and even King cake just like being in the Big Easy. 

Colorful Float at Mardi Gras Parade Universal Studios
The floats in the parade during Mardi Gras at Universal are spectacular and you can pay to ride and dine as well (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Can I get on a Mardi Gras Parade Float a la Ferris Bueller? 

Of course you can. The Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience – currently for $64.99 per guest – comes with a reserved spot on a parade float where you can toss beads to the crowd.

Your package comes with a choice of meals from Finnegan’s Bar & Grill or Lombard’s Seafood Grille in Universal Studios Florida or The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar or NBC Sports Grill in Universal CityWalk. 

A 3-course meal is included in the price. 

The parades and vibrant floats are a little more fun when you’re in the thing. 

Additionally, Universal promises some of the top names in music on select nights, usually on weekends. 

The concert lineup for last year featured Hall of Famer Diana Ross sandwiched between 90s Ska rockers Sugar Ray and Canadian nerd rap rockers the Barenaked Ladies.

Other acts last year included 70s rockers Styx, Hall of Fame rapper/TV host/hat wearer LL Cool J, Lee Brice, Seal, Gavin DeGraw and Jason Derulo. 

They really try to mix up the genres. 

Crowds will vary depending on the popularity of the artist. 

The concert lineup for last year’s Mardi Gras was announced in mid-January.

What do you think of Mardi Gras at Universal? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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