Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Guide and Parade Tips For 2024

Inspired by the Fat Tuesday traditions of New Orleans, Universal Orlando Mardi Gras brings the fun, flavor, and party to Florida. Universal Orlando Mardi Gras enthralls visitors with incredible extra entertainment in addition to the fabulous theme parks included in your ticket. Come explore Universal Mardi Gras from February 3, 2024 through April 7, 2024.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parade

A smoke breathing alligator float draped in beads and glitter closes the Universal Mardi Gras parade

Universal Mardi Gras’ spectacular parades are the best part of Universal’s Carnival season. Surprisingly authentic and gorgeously themed, the floats light up the night while dancers, stilt walkers, and other performers entertain the crowds in-between floats.

The parade starts with a “police” escort of several motorcycles running sirens and looping around the route. These motorcycles are a fun way to warm up the waiting crowd and also bring an extra layer of authenticity to the Universal Mardi Gras parade. 

Next stilt walkers and other outrageous street performers come past getting the crowd even more excited for the very first float.

A large steamboat float kicks off the real frenzy. Draped in giant beads and sparkling traditional colors of purple, gold, and green this first float is gorgeous. The smokestacks billow “smoke” and two stories of riders start tossing beads to the waiting people below.

There are about a dozen Universal Mardi Gras floats in the parade with some new floats this year. Expect each one to come down the parade route covered in colorful lights, sparkling glitter, and over-the-top designs.

What’s Mardi Gras without a collection of beads? Be ready as the floats roll past for your chance to catch heaps of beads.

You’ll grab the most beads along the first layer of parade watchers, but some Krewe members have strong arms and toss beads several people deep. However, unlike a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, only beads are tossed to the crowd instead of being mixed with specialty throws like cups or tokens.

Want to be part of the Mardi Gras action? Book a special Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dine Experience, join the limited virtual queue, or book an annual pass reservation to ride the floats.

Universal Mardi Gras Parade Tips

A life size NOLA sign makes a great photo spot for Universal Mardi Gras

Know What Time The 2024 Universal Mardi Gras Parade Starts

Universal Mardi Gras parade times vary each night, but usually start at 6:15 pm, 7:30 pm, or 7:45 pm. However, on February 27, 2024 the parade rolls early at 5:15 pm.

Check the online schedule for the most up-to-date Universal Mardi Gras parade start times.

Grab a Spot Early

The Universal Orlando Mardi Gras parade route is long with lots of great viewing spots. However, if you want a quick exit, or easy access to the concert, you’ll need to find a spot about an hour ahead of parade start time.

On some concert nights premium parade viewing areas get crowded over an hour before parade kickoff.

If the concert isn’t important to you, you’ll have greater flexibility. However, I still suggest grabbing a spot at least 45 minutes before the parade start time for the best bead catching spots.

Use a Matador Blanket

Having a thin picnic blanket keeps people from encroaching on your hard earned parade spot at the last minute. The Matador blanket (Affiliate link: Buy on Amazon) takes up almost no space when folded but opens easily to cover enough space for three or four people.

We use the blanket to hold our spot until the parade starts, then quickly fold and toss it back into our bag.

Find The Right Location For Both The Parade and Concert

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras concerts draw huge crowds with people lining up hours ahead for center stage spots. The Mardi Gras parade is barely visible from the back area of the concert lawn, and there is no way to get beads that far away.

If you want to do both the Mardi Gras parade and concert your best bet is to find a spot on the same side of the street near the concert lawn. We lined up directly along the parade route and then quickly moved to the concert area once the King Gator float passed us. This rapid transition gave us a good viewing spot for both the parade and concert.

Our view was pretty good and the concert sound was incredible. This spot also let us easily exit the park once the live music ended.

Mardi Gras Concerts

Universal Mardi Gras concert stage in front of Rip Ride Rockit

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras live concerts are a huge bonus on select dates at Universal Studios Florida. A diverse group of musicians grace the Mardi Gras concert calendar and put on a great show on Music Plaza Stage for no additional fee.

Concerts start at 8:30pm, and musicians perform for around 90 minutes. Because of the short length there is no opener, just the headliner at the Mardi Gras concerts.

A couple years ago we saw Styx and although I’m not a huge fan, the musicianship and performance made the time fly by. Originally we planned to leave part way through the set, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the amazing, free concert.

Please note: certain Universal Orlando seasonal passholders are blocked out on select nights. Confirm your annual passholder blackout dates before arriving to avoid disappointment.

2024 Universal Mardi Gras Concert Line Up

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

2024 Mardi Gras Tribute Store

The 2024 Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Tribute Store is themed as P.S. Songbird, a steamboat of the Mississippi. Despite its initial welcoming atmosphere the P.S. Songbird met its demise and now has a more sinister energy.

Interactive screens make it seem like alligators are swimming past and other creepy surprises await visitors in this unique gift shop.

Universal Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval

Chicken and shrimp jambalaya beautifully plated with a crawfish perched on top

There are an overwhelming number of food and drink booths during Universal Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval. When attending Universal Orlando Mardi Gras we usually opt for traditional Mardi Gras food like jambalaya, gumbo, beignets, and king cakes with both booths found in New York.

Although these flavors help us imagine we are back in Louisiana, the food is not as good as the authentic Cajun food we’ve experienced in New Orleans.

Find links to all the International Flavors of Carnaval food booths including full menus here.

Krewe Crawl Scavenger Hunt

Large Mardi Gras masks for Krewe Crawl scavenger huntinside a store

Looking for an excuse to walk the entire park during Mardi Gras? Purchase a $10 Krewe Crawl scavenger hunt map at Universal Studio Store and search for oversized Mardi Gras mask displays.

Earn a stamp at each location, and then show your completed map at the Betty Boop store. Afterward you’re rewarded with a colorful Mardi Gras mask to commemorate your success.

Mardi Gras Photo Ops

A colorful jest surrounded by plants, flowers, and records is a great Universal Mardi Gras photo op

Find gorgeous Mardi Gras inspired photo ops throughout Universal Studios Florida. Large statues surrounded by greenery, flowers, and cool decor are perfect for capturing Universal Mardi Gras memories.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Atmosphere

A girl chats with Universal Mardi Gras parade performers during the day

Mardi Gras jester hats perch atop each of the light poles in Gramercy Park giving a festive feel to the area.

A roaming jazz band plays live music adding an authentic feel to the Mardi Gras festivities. Stilt walkers and other street performers interact with visitors providing an immersive party-like atmosphere during the day.

Want to start your bead collection early? Some performers hand out necklaces to guests that interact or take pictures with them.

Final Thoughts On Universal Orlando Mardi Gras

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras lets the good times roll for everyone, including those with small kids. Each year we look forward to experiencing Universal’s Mardi Gras parade, free concerts, food, and incredible atmosphere which are included in our annual passes or guest tickets.

The amount of entertainment included with your theme park admission makes Universal Mardi Gras a great value and tons of fun for all ages.

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Universal Orlando Mardi Gras brings New Orleans traditions to Florida with an amazing Mardi Gras Parade, concerts, and fun atmosphere.