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April 22, 2013
Universal Mardi Gras 2013 is over. Next event? Summer Concert Series 2013
Beads & bands at Universal Orlando
Event overview: This spring, the fun and excitement of The Big Easy makes its way to Universal Orlando Resort for Mardi Gras 2013 – an authentic celebration that completely transforms Universal Studios Florida into a family-friendly version of the famed New Orleans street party.
OI subscribers, remember that you can ask us any question you’d like in the OI Forum — so if you have a question about this event that is not answered in the information below, head on over to our forum and give us an opportunity to answer it for you!
On Saturdays and select nights February 9 through April 20, Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebration combines unparalleled theme park entertainment with an elaborate Mardi Gras parade, dozens of colorfully costumed performers, authentic New Orleans bands, delicious Cajun cuisine, and live concerts by nationally and internationally recognized recording artists.
Mardi Gras 2013 concert lineup
The Big Easy just got easier
Before enjoying the live concerts, guests can experience all the fun and excitement of The Big Easy as Universal Studios Florida becomes a family and kid-friendly version of Mardi Gras. The celebration includes an elaborate Mardi Gras parade, where guests can dance along with street performers and collect beads by the handful as colorful floats wind down the streets of Universal Studios.
Mardi Gras 2013 floats
Don’t miss the return of crowd-favorites like the Gator, Riverboat, and King and Queen floats, along with incredible brand-new designs. This year’s theme is “Colorful Cultures Around the World,” and it’s your passport to exotic faraway lands. The Elegance of India will enchant you with vibrant colors and hypnotic charm, while Chinese New Year celebrates Asian mystique complete with a giant dragon. The Mexican Day of the Dead is led by a skeletal bride and groom who summon souls from the other side, and the Music of New Orleans brings it all back home to the great city itself, and the legendary music that made it an American treasure.
The parade is scheduled to start at either 7:30pm or 7:45pm — Universal keeps moving the time around — so just be sure to double-check when you’re at the park! From start to finish, it is about 25 minutes in length. Keep reading for more info about the parade route.
French Quarter Courtyard
The heart of Mardi Gras is Universal Studios’ French Quarter Courtyard, where guests can groove to the soulful sounds of authentic New Orleans bands every night before the headliner concert. Since 2006, more than 20 bands have traveled straight from The Big Easy to Universal Orlando to perform Blues, Jazz, and Zydeco music for partygoers – adding to the authenticity of Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration. The French Quarter also features an array of delicious New Orleans fare available for purchase, including jambalaya, gumbo, beignets and more.
The French Quarter Courtyard opens at 4:00pm and closes at concert time, but the individual booths may extend their hours depending on how busy it is.
Admission to Mardi Gras 2013
All Mardi Gras activities — the concerts, parade, and French Quarter Courtyard — are included with admission to Universal Studios Florida. As long as you have a ticket to get through the turnstiles on a Mardi Gras event date, you have access to everything.
Florida Residents After 5:00pm Ticket
Florida Residents can purchase an “After 5:00pm” Ticket which grants you admission to Universal Studios Florida after 5:00pm on any one Mardi Gras event date. If you’re only interested in the Mardi Gras festivities, which all happen in the evening, this is a slick way to save a little money verses buying full-day admission. The ticket costs $59.99 plus tax if purchased in advance by calling 407-224-7840; at the front gate, the ticket costs $74.99 plus tax.
If you use a Universal Power Pass for admission to the parks, you already know that some dates over Spring Break are blocked out for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure (see the updated calendar). But, on Mardi Gras nights, Universal allows guests with Power Passes to enter Universal Studios Florida after 5:00pm even if the date is blocked out.
Florida residents save up to $25 on annual passes with a Coca-Cola UPC code
As Universal does every year, during Mardi Gras Florida residents can save up to $25 on any annual pass. To do so, Florida residents are asked to purchase their new passes online and enter a UPC code from a designated Coca-Cola product during checkout.
Because I know you purchased a qualifying Coke product and your mother threw it away before you could write down the UPC code, here are two you can try using: 049000055412 or 04968401. Keep in mind that you enter the UPC codes at the very last screen, right by where you enter your credit card information.
If neither of those codes happen to work, just call Universal’s Guest Contact Center at 407-224-7840 and order your annual passes over the phone. The agent should give you the Florida resident discount without any sort of Coke UPC code — you just have to mention the offer.
Is Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida appropriate for young kids?
The Mardi Gras Courtyard, pre-party, and parade are well done and totally family-friendly. I would definitely recommend bringing along everyone to see it!
The part of Mardi Gras that may not be quite so family-friendly is the free concert after the parade. Universal is able to get some pretty big names to play, and since the concert is free to anyone who has admission tickets or annual passes, they can get packed! I mean PACKED! I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids around the Music Plaza area anytime towards the end of the night, unless you happen to be going when a decidedly unpopular or older band is playing.
Luckily, it is very easy to enjoy the Mardi Gras’ family-friendly party atmosphere and parade while steering clear of the Music Plaza area. In fact, Universal has set up a special parade viewing area just for kids called the Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area. It is located next to the Terminator 2: 3-D attraction, and it opens an hour before the parade starts. And, surely by design, Universal has put this special viewing area right next to the park exit so you can easily leave with your kids once the parade passes.
To view the location of Terminator inside Universal Studios Florida, open our special interactive map by clicking here. (Be sure to switch it to Satellite View.)
Speaking of kids, you’ll also want to know that there is a special Mardi Gras themed stage show in Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone called KidZone Mardi Pardi Krewe. The shows run daily (even when there isn’t a Mardi Gras parade and concert) at 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm, and 5:00pm.
Where is the best place to watch the parade?
The parade route this year is different than in year’s past — see the image below. Universal regulars will note that this is the same route as the daytime Superstar Parade, just backwards.
To view this route on our interactive map, click here (for the best viewing experience, make sure to switch the map to Satellite View and turn off labels).
So, where’s the best spot to watch the parade? For this event, it is more about finding a strategic area based on what you’re most interested in.
I’d like to leave USF as quickly and as early as possible. Then you will want to line up along Hollywood Blvd, near Terminator 2 and the Little Jester’s viewing spot (more info below). This will allow you to quickly exit the park after the parade has passed.
I’d like to have an opportunity to see the parade twice. In this case you will want to line up in front of Mel’s Drive-In, located on Hollywood Blvd. Once the parade has passed once, you can quickly move up to the end of the parade route for another viewing.
I’d like the best spot for taking pictures. This is somewhat a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, based on my experience, lining up in the New York backlot near Finnegan’s Bar & Grill or Louie’s Italian Restaurant will get you the best pictures. I believe this because the building facades along Delancey Street really help the parade floats look like they’re traveling down a real city street, like you might actually see in New Orleans.
I’m going to the concert afterwards. If you really want a good spot for the concert, you’ll need to skip the parade altogether (more on that in a little bit). But if you really want to see both, then for the parade you will want to line up in Production Central, basically as close as you can get to the Universal Music Plaza.
Because the Mardi Gras floats are mostly two-stories, and because virtually all the street performers are on stilts, you don’t lose much not being in the very front of the crowd. Of course, wherever you choose as your viewing area, being in the front of the crowd will give you the best shot at collecting beads and taking the least obscured photos. To do this, choose your area based on the information above and get there at least one hour before the parade start time. Final note: If you are interested in taking pictures, I highly recommend that you do not select the corner near Mel’s Drive-In as your spot. I did this on the first night, and several of my pictures ended up having the silly “Suits” billboard in the background.
Special parade viewing areas
As noted above, the Little Jester’s Parade Viewing Area for kids is located next to the Terminator 2: 3-D attraction near the very front of the park.
The ADA viewing area is in front of the Macy’s facade in the New York backlot, right by Revenge of the Mummy.
The Annual Passholder viewing area is in front of Mel’s Drive-In, right at the start of the parade.
American Express Card Holders get their own special viewing area along Delancey Street in the New York backlot.
How do I sign up to ride a Mardi Gras parade float?
Method 1 – Annual Passholders
Each week a limited number of Universal Orlando Annual Passholders can be a part of the festivities and ride through the streets of USF on one of the colorful Mardi Gras floats, tossing beads to thousands of cheering spectators. To sign up for a chance for you and one guest to have the ultimate Mardi Gras experience, follow this link:
- Offer is only available to Preferred & Premier passholders
- Space is limited
- Sign up does not guarantee a spot
- Must be 18 years of age (or accompanied by an adult)
- Must be at least 48 inches tall
- No bags or strollers
- Can accommodate guests in standard push wheelchairs with advance notice
Last year one of our readers got to ride a float and wrote an OI Share story about her experience.
Method 2 – AMEX Cardholders
Purchase ANY Universal Orlando multi-day ticket or annual pass with ANY American Express Card and you can receive one of these special experiences:
- Entry to the American Express Reserved parade viewing area along Delancey Street in the New York backlot.
- Your chance to be a Float Rider in the Mardi Gras Parade — meet at the American Express Float Rider area in Universal Studios, located in the Barney Courtyard, 90 minutes prior to the beginning of the Mardi Gras parade.
For both of these experience, be sure to bring your receipt and AMEX card!
How does concert seating work? How far in advance should I get there?
There is no concert seating. It is all general seating — or really, general standing. The Universal Music Plaza is an open field, so to speak, so you get to watch the concert from wherever it is that you’re standing when they start playing music. There is no VIP area to upgrade to, and no special viewing area for guests with Express Passes or guests staying at Universal’s on-site hotels.
So, how early do you need to get there? If you want to be somewhat close to the stage, you need to get to the Universal Music Plaza at least three to six hours before the concert starts — the more popular the band, the earlier you need to get there. Saying that the Universal Music Plaza gets very crowded is a bit of an understatement. If there is a band playing and you want to be close, plan on getting there early and don’t plan on seeing the parade. Crowd levels will also be influenced by Spring Break, so you will want to review our Universal Orlando crowd calendar.
Final note: Universal does provide an ADA viewing area. It is located in the middle of the Music Plaza and can be accessed via the regular Plaza entry points. See the team members on-site for assistance.
Front Row Alert: Want to see your favorite artist from the front row at the Universal Music Plaza? There are no special requirements for this other than a willingness on your behalf to line up at the morning for an evening concert. These Matchbox Twenty fans were lined up before 10:00am to see their favorite band up close:
What about Universal’s Superstar Parade and Cinematic Spectacular?
On Mardi Gras event dates Universal’s Superstar Parade will occur at 2:00pm, and Cinematic Spectacular will at different times based on the park closing time — see the in-park map for the exact schedule. Please note that on all other dates the Superstar Parade runs at 5:00pm and Cinematic Spectacular begins at park closing.
Annual Passholders benefits for Mardi Gras
- Special Passholder Parade Viewing Area in front of Mel’s Drive-In, right at the start of the parade.
- Mardi Gras bead offer (receive an exclusive set of Annual Passholder Mardi Gras beads when you spend $30 on theme park merchandise at Universal Studios Florida and/or Universal’s Islands of Adventure between February 9 – April 20. Also available to purchase separately for $10.95 +tax.). Amount is pre-tax. Offer not valid for third party merchandise, food, beverage, alcohol, ticket or online purchases. To redeem, must present proof of purchase with original receipt(s) dated between 2/9/13 and 4/20/13 and a valid Annual Pass. No copies or reproductions will be accepted; void if altered. One bead set for every $30 minimum qualifying purchase made between 2/9/13 and 4/20/13.
- As noted above, Annual Passholders can sign up for a chance to ride a Mardi Gras float. Space is limited and is available on a first come, first served basis.
Mardi Gras and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
What do these two things have in common? Something you will definitely want to know. Check out number 4 in our list of The only guaranteed ways to beat the crowds at the Wizarding World.
OI Blog posts tagged with Universal Mardi Gras
Believe it or not, our coverage of Mardi Gras doesn’t end with this page. We have several awesome posts on our blog about the event, including the top 5 Mardi Gras snacks and our report of Universal’s media event. To view the posts, click here.
Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida – HD video & photo gallery
Want to see what all this action looks like? First, we’ll start with a video I shot last year. You’ll see some of the pre-party activity in the French Quarter Courtyard, followed by footage of the parade, with a minute or two of Universal CityWalk at the end.
Here is our huge photo gallery for Mardi Gras 2013. Remember that you can click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right to advance through each section of the gallery.
If you’d like to share some of these photos on Facebook, we’ve uploaded a condensed photo gallery here.