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Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras 2024: A Global Feast & Fest

Words & Photos by Jaimz Dillman

Seems these days Mardi Gras is such a big party it’s no longer contained to New Orleans. Once just a celebration before Lent, places all over the globe are now celebrating the festival of food, drinks, parades, and beads. Universal Orlando has had their particular event for over 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Parade performers dressed in all forms of sparkle and costumes welcome you through the walk down Production Central. Happily posing for pics, crawdads, stiltwalkers, and masked dancers mingle through the crowd. It’s a great way to get those shots for the ‘gram.

This year, lots of culture’s carnivals and fiestas are highlighted with an international tour through the foods and drinks that make each region unique- and delicious. Small booths throughout the park have several sample-portion offerings of sweet and savory bites along with adult beverages sure to get you in the spirit of the night.

We stopped at the Mardi Gras titled area first for, arguably the best thing to eat to fuel up for a party- beignets! These beautiful little fried and sugar-coated pastries of love are sweet, warm, and melt in your mouth. And will leave you covered in powdered sugar no matter how you try to eat them. Even though they’re not as authentic as what you’d find at the famed Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, they do the trick.

We moved on to the Brazil booth for some cheesebread bites- which, in my opinion, are the savory answer to beignets and are definitely a must. Columbia’s mini slider burger was tasty topped with pineapple chutney and potato sticks but don’t be fooled by the pic on the menu- it’s tiny. Yes, items are supposed to be sample size, but for $9.99, it was a pricey sample.

Another stand in the French Quarter area rounded out our tastings with papas bravas but the spice used was way too salty and they were little more than home fries with a bit of cream sauce on top. Other countries featured are Germany with the Biergarten across from Mel’s Diner (almost done with a huge refurbishment set to reopen soon), Belgium, Italy, China, Thailand, Puerto Rico, and more! There’s no lack of options to choose from for sure.

The Tribute Store has been reimagined for the beauty of the bayou with loads of event merch and photo ops. This fan-favorite offering has become a must-see at each event with bakery sweet treats also available inside along with spooky lighting effects and set pieces on display from previous years.

The Big Easy comes alive once the sun goes down and the parade starts up. With jazz music, bright lights, and colorful creatures among festooned floats winding through the park’s streets, riders toss much-coveted bead necklaces to guests lining the route. We found a great spot in the New York area to see the spectacle… and avoid those clambering for as many beads as they could grab. People are serious about their beads.

The concert series punctuates the weekend and has grown to include some of the best and brightest in the music industry. Ranging from pop to indie-rock, R&B to country- there surely is something for everyone.

We attended the night of Barenaked Ladies and the crowd was huge. The stage for concerts has a great courtyard though, with marked paths for easy in and out. And when the band started, attendees were ready for them. The Canadian quartet is often seen at Universal for the event and has a great rapport with each other and the fans. Even when technical difficulties shut down the sound - twice- during their set, they took it in stride joking with each other and making up a freestyle song about all the rides they went on earlier in the day.

There is a food and beverage card available for $65 which gets you $75 to spend but it’s not a sample punch card like other parks offer. I didn’t think we’d spend that much, as we were only there for a couple of hours and not big drinkers, but I can see it benefiting those wanting to stretch their dollar a bit more.

As a part of regular admission to the park, and so many different food and drink options, loads of event performers to interact with, a beautiful parade, and different concerts each weekend, Universal Orlando has the Mardi Gras event that’ll keep you coming back for more!


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