Mardi Gras is running on select weekend nights through May 31 at Universal Studios Florida. That means you can get the full Mardi Gras experience (well, okay, minus the flashing), including Cajun food, street performers, bands, parade floats, and lots of beads. Prince Royce taks the main stage on Saturday, and genuine New Orleans bands will be playing in the Bourbon Street area. The headline concerts are nice (and they’re included with your park admission), but as a local, I enjoy going to the park on Mardi Gras nights just to soak up the ambiance. It’s nice to enjoy some gumbo, top it off with a colorful slice of king cake, and enjoy the antics of the street performers, set to a soundtrack of live jazz. I also love watching the parade, with authentic floats built by Kern, just like the ones you see in the Big Easy. There’s a rain of colorful beads from each float, and you can end up with quite a haul by the end. See all those beads I’m wearing in the photo? I wasn’t even trying to catch any. I was busily taking photos, but I was still pelted with enough plastic prizes to make Cleopatra jealous. If you’d like to get your own haul, here are some tips from your friendly local on how to accomplish it: 1) Take advantage of special viewing areas. If you’re an annual pass holder, their are special spots set aside just for you. If not, do you have young kids in your party? They can hang out in the Little Jesters area, a prime spot near the beginning of the parade. And that brings me to the next tip… 2) Stake out a spot near the parade’s start. It kicks off across from Mel’s Diner, and the people throwing the beads are chock full of energy right at the start. That means they throw early and often, to the point where beads will boink you in the head even if you’re not trying to catch them. The tossers are annual pass holders who volunteer for a spot on the floats. By the time they get to the end, their arms are tired and the rain of beads tends to lessen. Still, being at the end of the route isn’t always a bad thing… 3) Look for spots with less competition. Depending on the crowd density in the park, you might be able to find a spot toward the end of the parade route with very few people around. The people riding the floats might not toss as many beads, but you’ll still rack up a huge stash if you’re not fighting a crowd to get them. Those are my three tips, and the big batches of beads I’ve earned each year are proof that they work. The parade is great fun, even if you’re not in it for the baubles. You can see it in the video below:
Please use this link if the video doesn’t show up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEZWqjtD2is
The next video gives you some insider insights into this year’s float and theme:
Please use this link if the video doesn’t show up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HXP6uCtrp8
The real Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana may be over, but you’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy the Universal Studios Florida version. Head out on one of the weekend event days by May 31 and enjoy a little bit of New Orleans in Orlando.
Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to email@example.com.