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Every spring, the fun and excitement of The Big Easy makes its way to Universal Orlando Resort for Mardi Gras – an authentic celebration that completely transforms Universal Studios Florida into a family-friendly version of the famed New Orleans street party.
You’ve just found the world’s most popular insider’s guide to this event – and our article now includes our “Best of Mardi Gras 2014″ video (found at the end) and nearly 100 new images from this year’s event.
To learn everything there is to know about Mardi Gras 2014 – from the food in the French Quarter Courtyard to how you can sign up to ride a float – we strongly recommend that you read this article from top to bottom!
Concerned about the weather? Check out our Orlando weather page to learn more (that link will open in a new window for your convenience).
Bands & Beads at Universal Orlando
On Saturdays and other select nights, 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 2014 concert lineup
Dates that appear in bold are either Fridays or Sundays; all other dates are Saturdays.
- Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm: Daughtry (official site, popular video, @CHRIS_Daughtry)
- Saturday, February 15, 8:00pm: Barenaked Ladies (official site, popular video, @barenakedladies)
- Sunday, February 16, 8:00pm: Thomas Rhett (official site, popular video, @ThomasRhett)
- Saturday, February 22, 8:00pm: Robin Thicke [canceled]
- Saturday, March 1, 8:00pm: Collective Soul (official site, popular video, @CollectiveSoul)
- Saturday, March 8, 8:00pm: Prince Royce (official site, popular video, @PrinceRoyce)
- Friday, March 14, 8:30pm: Cody Simpson (official site, popular video, @CodySimpson)
Saturday, March 15, 8:30pm: Foreigner (official site, popular video, @ForeignerMusic)
- Friday, March 21, 8:30pm: A Great Big World (official site, popular video, @AGreatBigWorld)
- Saturday, March 22, 8:30pm: Gavin DeGraw (official site, popular video, @GavinDeGraw)
- Friday, March 28, 8:30pm: Kelly Rowland (official site, popular video, @KellyRowland)
- Saturday, March 29, 8:30pm: Weezer (official site, popular video, @Weezer)
- Saturday, April 5, 8:30pm: Skillet (official site, popular video, @skilletmusic)
- Saturday, April 12, 8:30pm: Lynyrd Skynyrd (official site, popular video, @Skynyrd)
- Saturday, April 19, 8:30pm: Kool & the Gang (official site, popular video, @KoolntheGngLIVE)
- Saturday, April 26: Mardi Gras is not scheduled for this evening
- Saturday, May 3, 9:00pm: Nelly (official site, popular video, @Nelly_Mo)
- Saturday, May 10, 9:00pm: The Wanted (official site, popular video, @thewanted)
- Saturday, May 17, 9:00pm: The Roots (official site, popular video, @TheRoots)
- Saturday, May 24, 9:00pm: Cher Lloyd (official site, popular video, @CherLloyd)
- Saturday, May 31, 9:00pm: Huey Lewis & The News (official site, popular video, @Huey_Lewis_News)
** The June 7 Mardi Gras event date featuring Robin Thicke was added to the schedule to replace the performer’s canceled performance on February 22 (that evening, the Mardi Gras parade and other activities still occurred, which will also happen on the new June 7 date).
Visual aid: You can also view these dates along with crowd estimates on our free 12-month Universal Orlando crowd calendar. (That link will open in a new window for your convenience).
Concert times are either at 8:00pm, 8:30pm, or 9:00pm as you see listed above. The Mardi Gras parade (discussed at length below) is scheduled 45 minutes before the concert times. So, for example, if the concert is at 9:00pm, the parade starts at 8:15pm. From start to finish, the parade lasts about 25 minutes.
Why is Mardi Gras a month longer in 2014 than in previous years?
During the year leading up to the spring 2010 opening of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal experienced a significant drop-off in attendance. Simply put, many guests were waiting until WWoHP opened before they spent money on admission. Now with Diagon Alley set to open this summer, the resort faces the same predicament — and we believe that making Mardi Gras a bigger event is just one step they are taking to keep guests coming through the turnstiles before Diagon Alley’s grand opening.
But Universal doesn’t have to worry about taking these additional steps for too long. Once Diagon Alley opens, all Universal attendance records will be shattered. Learn more about Diagon Alley
It’s also worth noting that Universal’s 2014 Summer Concert Series has been canceled.
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 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 parade theme is Around the World in Eighty Days, reflecting the sense of fantasy and exploration of Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale. You’ll see floats that take you around the globe to exotic locales, as well as three spectacular new floats bringing to life various modes of transportation: air, sea, and ground.
The parade generally starts 45 minutes before the scheduled concert times, which we have provided at the top of this page. However, always be sure to double-check when you’re at the park!
From start to finish, the Mardi Gras parade 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 party-goers – 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 (most entrees between $8 and $10).
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
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 $69.99 plus tax if purchased in advance by calling 407-224-7840; at the front gate, the ticket costs $79.99 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.
FL residents get up to 3 months free with a new annual pass
UPDATE: This promotion ended April 30. However, we’re keeping the info here for future reference.
If you live in Florida and you purchase a new annual pass (sorry, renewals don’t count), you can get a total of 15 months worth of admission for the price of 12 months — or three months free — when you purchase a Preferred or Premier Pass. If you purchase a Power Pass, you can get one month free. Florida residents can buy their new passes online and enter a UPC code from a designated Coca-Cola product or Wendy’s cup during checkout. Please note that new annual passes must be purchased and activated by April 30 to receive the additional three months free.
If you’re have difficulty finding a Mardi Gras Coke UPC code, don’t fret. Instead of ordering online, you have two options. First, visit your nearest Publix, because they may sell the Florida resident Annual Pass you’re interested in with the promotion already included – you can see this here:
Otherwise, just call Universal directly to place your order. More times than not, when ordering over the phone, they’ll give you the free months without any sort of code needed. Call 407-224-7840 or toll-free at 1-877-801-9720 to try it out!
Is Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida appropriate for young kids?
The French Quarter Courtyard, pre-party, and parade are well done and totally family-friendly. I definitely recommend bringing along everyone in the family! Many Mardi Gras “characters” walk the streets near the Universal Music Plaza and French Quarter Courtyard handing out beads and posing for photos. Mixed with the New Orleans party music filling the air, it’s a very festive atmosphere.
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 to the park, they can get packed! I mean PACKED! I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids around the Universal Music Plaza anytime towards the end of the night, unless you happen to be going when a decidedly unpopular or older band is playing.
Luckily, it’s very easy to enjoy the Mardi Gras’ family-friendly party atmosphere and parade while steering clear of the Music Plaza. 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.)
Continue to the second page to learn how to sign up to ride a float, where the best spot is to watch the parade, and so much more…
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