Universal Studios is fun at any time of year, but during Mardi Gras, there is an extra sense of celebration and colorful joy throughout the entire park.
If you are considering going, continue reading for everything you need to know to make the best out of your trip.
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Origins of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a tradition started by Christians to celebrate the last day of eating before Lent, a time of fasting.
Today, people with various religious backgrounds celebrate it as a day of fun, celebration, and, of course, eating.
One of the biggest authentic Mardi Gras celebrations in America is in New Orleans.
During Mardi Gras, the streets of New Orleans turn into a festival complete with lots of colors (mainly purple, green, and gold), food, drinking, music, and entertainment.
Universal Studios emulates the classic New Orleans’ street parties in a family-friendly way that everyone can enjoy.
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How did Mardi Gras start at Universal Studios in Orlando?
Believe it or not, this festive event evolved from the annual Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
During the second year of the haunted event, Joseph Curley, Universal Studios Florida PR Manager at the time, stated that the 1992 year would be like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
From that initial statement, Mardi Gras would go on to make its official debut at Universal Studios in 1995.
Now that you understand how Mardi Gras landed at Universal, let’s go over what you can expect at this epic celebration.
What’s New for 2021 at Universal Studios Mardi Gras
Epcot is not the only Orlando theme park allowing you to dine around the world! This year Universal Orlando is giving you a new feel to the Mardi Gras celebration.
On your visit, you’ll be able to sample the delicious Carnaval flavors from places like New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Spain, Brazil and many more! The new take on this annual event is called Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval!
When is Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida?
This year’s event will take place daily from Saturday, February 6 and continue through Sunday, March 28, 2021.
Although the festivities were cut short last year, this year’s event will add a twist in the entertainment and activities to make the best of our current theme park situation.
Let’s Talk About the Food at Mardi Gras!
This year instead of the few tasty booths to choose from, you’ll be able to delve into more than 70 tantalizing dishes and drinks at 13 locations. Below is the menu for this year’s biggest celebration.
Here’s a guide for the select food options: GF – Gluten Free, VG – Vegan and V – Vegetarian.
Universal Studios Mardi Gras Menu for 2021
- Jerk Chicken(GF): Jerked marinated chicken, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
- Jerk Jackfruit(GF, VG): Jerked marinated jack fruit, rice & peas, scotch bonnet salsa
- Goombay Smash: 9oz Bahamian rum punch
- Carib Lager: 9 oz International pilsner
- Belgium Liege Waffles(V): Sweet liege waffles with strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate
- Brussels Frites with Roasted Garlic Veganaise(GF, VG): Crispy seasoned fries with choice of dipping sauce: garlic mayonnaise, andalouse, or joppieaus
- Hoegaarden Witbier: 9oz Belgian wheat beer
- St. Bernardus Abt. 12: 9oz Belgian quadruple, Abbey ale
- Lindemans Strawberry Lambic : 9oz Fruited sweet and sour ale
- Moqueca de Camarao(GF): Shrimp coconut cream stew, white rice, sweet potato curls
- Stuffed Coxinha: Crispy pulled chicken tear drop fritters
- Brigadeiros(GF, V): Brazilian classic with condensed milk, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles, toasted peanuts
- Pineapple Caipirinha Punch: 9oz Cachaça and pineapple flavors
- Strawberry Caipirinha Punch: 9oz Cachaça and strawberry flavors
- Mixed Caipirinha: 9oz blend of pineapple and strawberry caipirinhas
- Beef Short Rib Poutine: Crispy fries with short rib, cheese curds, demi glaze
- Nutella Doughnut(V: Fried sweetened dough, Nutella, sugar, chopped hazelnuts
- Maple Doughnut(VG): Fried sweetened dough, cinnamon sugar, maple syrup
- Sugar Shack Springtime Punch: 9oz complex Canadian whiskey punch with a base of pear juice
- Labatt Blue: 9oz International pilsner
- Carnitas Arepas(GF): Corn meal cake pocket filled with avocado, carnitas, mayonnaise, ketchup, culantro
- Coco Loco: 9oz Limonada de Coco spiked with rum and tequila
- Limonada de Coco: 9oz Limeade sweetened with coconut cream (non-alcoholic)
- Cuban Sandwich: Roasted pork, Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles on Cuban bread served with plantain chips
- Cuban Flan(GF, V): Baked vanilla custard, dark caramel
- Plantain Chips(GF, VG)
- Cuba Libre 9oz Rum and Coke with choice of: Bacardí 8 Year, Bacardí 4 Year, Bacardí Light
- Cuban Coffee
- Poached Pear Crème Brulee Crepe(V): Red wine poached pear, vanilla pastry cream, toasted almonds, caramel, crispy sugar topping
- Vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone Blanc: 3oz White wine
- Notorious Pink: 3oz Slightly sweet rosé wine
- Vieux Chateau Lamothe Bordeaux: 3oz Red wine
- Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone: 3oz Red wine
- Vegan Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions(VG): Vegan bratwurst, beer braised onions, spicy mustard, French quarter baguette
- Bavarian Pretzel(V): Warm pretzel, spicy mustard cheese sauce
- Pork Schnitzel Slider: Fried pork cutlet, spicy mustard, braised red cabbage, gruyere cheese
- Weihenstephaner Kristalweissbier: 9oz Clarified wheat beer
- Weihenstephaner Vitus: 9oz Strong wheat, bock hybrid lager
- Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen Rauchbier : 9oz Smoked Märzen Oktoberfest-style lager
- T Schmidt Riesling Kabinett, Estate: 9oz Sweet white wine
- Italian Rainbow Cookie(V): Colorful layers of almond cake sandwiched with raspberry jam and coated in chocolate
- Cannoli(V): Italian pastry shell, chocolate chip cannoli cream, chocolate shavings
- Arancini(V): Fried risotto, wild mushrooms, truffle, parmesan cheese
- Affogato(GF, V): Vanilla gelato served with a double shot of espresso
- Fantinel: 3oz Prosecco
- Vietti Moscato d’Asti: 3oz Slightly sparkling sweet white wine
- Querceto Chianti: 3oz Red wine
- Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: 3oz Red wine
- Crawfish Boil(GF): Mix bag of crawfish, andouille, red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob
- Shrimp Boil(GF): Mix bag of shrimp, andouille, red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob
- Crawfish & Shrimp Boil(GF): Mix bag of shrimp, andouille, red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob
- Jambalaya(GF): Mixed rice with andouille, shrimp, chicken, peppers, tomatoes
- Muffaletta Sandwich: Mortadella, salami, ham, mozzarella cheese, olive relish on a toasted bun
- Shrimp Gumbo: New Orleans style gumbo with Gulf shrimp, bacon, andouille sausage, okra, bell peppers
- Etouffee: New Orleans style creamy stew with crawfish, bell peppers, white rice
- Beignets(V): Sweet fried pastry with powdered sugar
- Andouille Twisted Tater(GF): Stuffed Cajun twisted tater, sausage (Add andouille queso as an upgrade)
- Twisted Tater(GF, VG): Flavored with Cajun spices
- Abita Purple Haze: 9oz Raspberry fruited lager
- Tropical Storm Punch: 9oz traditional Mardi Gras cocktail incorporating rum, orange and passionfruit flavors
- King Cake Milk Punch: 9oz bourbon milk punch using our house-made King Cake syrup
- Bloody Mary: Wild Bloody Mary or Mild Bloody Mary
- Pernil & Mofongo (GF): Roasted pork, smashed plantains, onion mojo
- Picadillo Empanada: Picadillo beef filled fried pastry dough
- Quesito(V): Guava and cream cheese filled fried pastry
- Piña Verde: 9oz twist on the classic piña colada incorporating green chartreuse
- Paella Mixta(GF): Saffron yellow rice, chorizo, squid, mussels, shrimp
- Charcuterie: A traditional platter of Spanish meats and cheese, olives, grapes, lavosh
- Leche Frita(V): Crispy fried with condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon
- Pinord “La Dama” Cava: 3oz Sparkling wine
- Don Olegurio Albarino: 3oz White wine
- Hacienda de Arinzano Rosé: 3oz Tempranillo-based rosé wine
- Hazaña Viñas Viejas Rioja: 3oz Red wine
Trinidad and Tobago
- Pholourie(VG): Deep fried spicy split pea dough with turmeric, curry powder and a side of tamarind chutney or powdered sugar
- Pineapple Trini Chow(VG): Grilled pineapple skewers, spices, micro cilantro
- Queen’s Park Swizzle: 9oz National cocktail of Trinidad and Tobago; minted dark rum grog with a light float of Angostura bitters
- Carib Lager: 9oz International pilsner
Hipster Power Tip: Don’t forget to pick up your tasting lanyard to taste your way around this Carnaval festival for one price.
Activities and Entertainment at Universal Studios’ Mardi Gras
Although the INCREDIBLE parade will not be happening at Universal Studios this year, the Team Members have made sure to make your day quite special with some fun activities happening around the park.
See the Parade Floats Up-close
Universal will allow you to get a closer look at the colorful floats that usually stroll down the streets of the park each year.
My favorite part of Mardi Gras (minus the food) are the entertainers who roam the park dancing with so much high energy. But I especially love the brass band musicians who truly make you feel as if you’re smack dabbed on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Plus, be sure to look out for some beads to commemorate your trip to the park!
Time to Shop!
You’ll be able to visit the Tribute Store which is similar to the experience for the Halloween Horror Nights event. Here you’ll get exclusive park merchandise and food in the highly themed rooms.
Safety at Universal Orlando Resort
Now I know you may be wondering how is Universal going to do all of this AND keep us safe?
Since the park reopened after lockdown, Universal Orlando has and will continue to keep guidelines in place for the safety of everyone. Such as:
- A focus on screening, spacing and sanitization
- Implementing physical distancing
- Increasing disinfection procedures
- Limiting capacity
- Requiring face coverings
Please Note: According to Universal, Guests may remove their face coverings while actively eating or drinking, but must be stationary and maintain appropriate social distancing.
7 Easy Tips and Strategies for Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida
Now that you know what to expect from this Cajun celebration, let’s go through ways to make the most of your time there.
1. Share and Sample
There are so many delicious foods to try out during the Mardi Gras celebrations at Universal Studios, just like in New Orleans and other locations throughout the world!
Most likely, you will want to try as many different cuisine options as you can, and full-size meals do not allow you to do that, so it is a great idea to share and sample.
If you are going with other people (you know and trust), you can order a single order (or a double order if there is a lot of you) of any menu item and share it between the group.
Do not worry if you are traveling alone; you can still sample with the best of them and try as many foods as your heart desires.
Back in 2019, Universal Studios began offering a Tasting Lanyard. For varying price ranges, you can purchase a Mardi Gras Tasting Lanyard.
With this lanyard, you can get a certain number of items (based on the price) in a sample size from the food booths all over Universal Studios in Orlando.
Additionally, if you go back for a second night, you can continue to use your lanyard from the night before if you did not use up all your samples. This is because the lanyard DOES NOT EXPIRE.
2. Have Fun Interacting with the Street Performers from a Distance
As previously mentioned, there are street performers hanging out and vibing to the New Orleans scene at Universal Studios. Especially around the French Quarter area.
Watching them perform and interacting with them can be a lot of fun.
So, if there are musicians around, join in and dance to get the true feeling of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
3. Make a List of Your MUST Eats
As you can see from the menu, Universal Orlando is coming out strong this year with their version of eating around the world. So, be sure to review the Mardi Gras food menu from above and make a list of your must-do’s for your trip!
4. Start Early
Coming early to Mardi Gras will give you a chance to pace yourself. You will be able to enjoy not only the amazing food that’s being offered, but you’ll also get to experience the attractions at the park.
With Universal Orlando parks being limited to the number of people who can enter, the parks may reach capacity early. This is important if you try to visit on the weekends or holidays.
5. Map Out Your Day
This is another classic tip for any avid Universal traveler. Mapping out your day will save you the headache of missing out on any of your must do items, especially if you’re only able to visit once.
6. Go During the Weekdays
For the best time I recommend attending the festival during the weekdays (Monday through Thursday). These days tend to be the least crowded days at Universal Studios.
This will help you be able to make the most of your time at Mardi Gras.
7. Have Fun!
You’re really going to have a great time, so try not to stress too much if you find yourself spending too much time at the food booths or dancing along with the brass band.
Whether you’re going solo or with friends, just have fun enjoying this incredible Orlando theme park!
No matter who you are, you are sure to find something fun to do at Universal Studios during Mardi Gras Season.
You can spend the day enjoying all the fun that Universal already has to offer, and as it gets a little later in the afternoon, you can enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities.
Are you read to make you trip over to Universal Studios? If so, read 19 Amazing Ways to Do Universal Orlando on a Budget.
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
(Original Article Date: January 15, 2015/Updated February 2, 2021)