Universal Orlando is getting Mardi Gras under way this month with daily parades. And for the event’s 25th anniversary, the theme park has added more food options, a pumped-up concert lineup and a bayou-themed Tribute Store that’s an attraction of its own.
Unlike in New Orleans, the parades and fun won’t end on Fat Tuesday, which falls on Feb. 25 this year. Universal continues the party through April 2 with concerts, which include Marshmello, TLC, the Roots, Diana Ross and Earth, Wind and Fire.
New this year is a Tribute Store, modeled in the same vein as the park’s Halloween Horror Nights store. It is Big Easy focused with the vibe of a jazz hall. Inside, you’ll find a vine-draped bayou cemetery with key chains, lanyards, masks and T-shirts. Shoppers hear the sounds of frogs, crickets, ravens and gator growls in the background.
The nightly parade will feature 12 intricately detailed floats engineered by Kern Studios, the same company that has created floats for the New Orleans celebration since 1947. The popular Riverboat and King Gator floats will also return with a makeover.
Universal is expanding its menu with global grub that changes every two weeks. Traditional New Orleans favorites will include jambalaya, shrimp gumbo, crab etouffee, red beans and rice, gator bites, po’ boys, king cake and beignets. They’ll be offered in a tent in the French Quarter Courtyard in the New York section of the park. Those eats are joined this year by a rotating menu of international dishes, from the Caribbean to Brazil and Germany.
In addition, the park’s Schwab’s Pharmacy plans to serve three “Float Floats” inspired by Mardi Gras: king cake, cream cheese crema and pastry cream topped with king cake and a beignet.
Feb. 1-15 — Trinidad & Tobago:
- Grilled Pineapple Trini Chow
- Pholourie (fried spicy split pea dough with turmeric, curry powder and a tamarind chutney)
- Chickpea Double (chickpeas served on a spicy bara flatbread with micro cilantro and mango chutney)
Feb. 16-29 — Louisiana Creole:
- Soft-shell crab slider
- Cauliflower dirty rice
- Pecan Street (cocktail with pecan vodka, caramel and apple cider)
March 1-14 — Brazil:
- Pão de Quiejo (traditional warm cheese bread)
- Sugared sweet plantains
- The Girl from Ipanema (cocktail with gin, lime, orgeat syrup, coconut water and pineapple simple syrup)
March 15-April 2 — Germany:
- Grilled bratwurst
- Warm pretzel
Feb. 1: The Roots
Feb. 8: Karol G
Feb. 15: Bell Biv DeVoe
Feb. 16: Live
Feb. 22: Kool and the Gang
Feb. 29: TLC
March 7: REO Speedwagon
March 8: Dustin Lynch
March 13: Luis Fonsi
March 14: The All-American Rejects
March 15: Diana Ross
March 20: Chris Young
March 21: Earth, Wind and Fire
March 22: Marshmello
March 28: Why Don’t We
March 29: Gavin DeGraw
Universal’s Mardi Gras concerts start at 8:30 p.m. The parade start times vary according to night, ranging from 6 to 7:45 p.m.
New Orleans bands will perform in the park’s French Quarter Courtyard. Scheduled are Dirty Bourbon River Show (Feb. 1-13), Free Agents Brass Band (Feb. 14-March 5), New Breed Brass Band (March 6-21) and Naughty Professor Brass Band (March 22-April 2).
Season pass holders are blocked out of Universal Studios all day on Mardi Gras concert dates. Only Power, Preferred or Premier pass holders are admitted. Admission starts at $119 at universalorlando.com.