Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras 2022 celebration has begun, and the Unofficial Guide was there on opening night to bring you five things that you must do before the annual party ends at Universal Studios Florida on April 24.
For more than 25 years, Universal Orlando has been hosting authentic New Orleans-style events every spring, and while Universal Studios Florida’s 2021 Mardi Gras was modified to accommodate social distancing, the full festival is back for 2022, including the signature parade and big-name concerts.
From beads and beverages to live music and merchandise, there’s something for everyone at Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras 2022, but here are five things we at the Unofficial Guide say you must do to really let the good times roll!
Arrive Early For (Big) Easy Parking
Universal originally created its annual Mardi Gras celebration to improve attendance during a traditionally slow period on the calendar, but today’s party has grown so popular that you can expect holiday-level crowds on many event nights. Midweek attendance may still be moderate, but if you are showing up on a weekend—especially on a night when a popular musical artist is scheduled to perform—be prepared to exercise patience when arriving at the parking garage.
On opening night, both Prime Parking and Valet Parking filled to capacity well before 5 p.m., and minimal staffing made safely navigating to a parking spot more maddening than usual. Save yourself a headache and try to head into the resort by mid-afternoon. Also, keep in mind that although Annual Passholder discounts on Prime parking are valid during Mardi Gras, you cannot get free or discounted Valet parking on concert nights.
Float Through the Tribute Store
In recent years, Universal Studios Florida has been building increasingly elaborate seasonal Tribute shops in New York’s Macy’s storefront, and the new 2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store is not only entertaining but also educational. Themed as a float factory, each room in this walk-through retail experience takes shoppers through a different stage in the parade-development process, from early concept designs through sculpting and final construction.
Along the way, visitors get to browse a variety of Mardi Gras 2022 merchandise, while keeping an eye out for Easter eggs and nostalgic reminders of the event’s history.
While you’re at it, be sure to stop next door at the temporary Universal Classic Monsters store that has set up shop in Revenge of the Mummy’s exit. Until the roller coaster’s refurbishment ends, you’ll be able to take selfies with Wolfman and the Phantom of the Opera in here, or even get a monstrous caricature made of yourself.
Want some more spooky seasonal shopping? Hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure, and check out the recently updated All Hallows Voodoo Shop in Lost Continent.
Say Farewell to Flesh and Hello to Plants
After expanding its Mardi Gras food offerings in 2021 beyond the typical Creole dishes to include carnival flavors from Europe and Latin America, Universal doubled down this year with expanded menu options embracing Asian, Indian, and other flavors.
Of course, many meaty favorites have returned, including chicken and sausage jambalaya, and shrimp and crawfish boils.
But if you want to embrace the literal meaning of “carne vale,” dig into the impressive variety of plant-based vegan options Universal has added to its Mardi Gras menus this year. Jerk jackfruit on johnnycakes, potato and pea samosas, and chai chocolate blondies are all free of animal products but full of flavor.
The best spot for vegans to snack is the fanciful “Floral Planet” booth between Springfield and KidZone, with an Indian-inspired menu that includes this standout vegetable vindaloo, a colorful and filling bowl of tomatoes, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes over rice.
To save some money on your Mardi Gras munchies, purchase a Food & Beverage Lanyard with $75 worth of credit for $65, or $150 for $120. The cards can be used at Mardi Gras booths, as well as locations throughout the theme parks and CityWalk. Annual Passholders still get their normal discounts when using the cards, and they never expire, so stock up now while they are available.
Pick Your Parade Position Carefully
This year’s Mardi Gras has an interplanetary theme, and the new float and costume designs are simply out of this world!
Although you don’t have to camp out on the curbside for hours in order to catch beads when Universal’s Mardi Gras parade goes by, it does help to plan in advance where you want to stand to watch the procession.
Your ideal location will be determined by your post-parade priority, as explained below. No matter where you decide to watch from, you’ll want to be in position about 10-15 minutes before the parade’s step-off time, which varies between 5:15 and 7:45 p.m., depending on park operating hours.
- To see the parade and exit immediately after, watch from Hollywood Boulevard around the Bourne Stuntacular entrance. As soon as the parade passes, you’ll be able to slip through the passageway behind the “Mocambo” restrooms and head out the park exit before the final float even rounds the corner. This is also an excellent spot to take photographs or video of the parade.
- To see both the parade and the concert, find a spot on the sidewalk around Classic Monsters Cafe near Music Plaza. If seeing the concert is your priority, find your position inside Music Plaza well in advance, and accept that you’ll probably catch a glimpse of the parade but no beads. From outside Music Plaza you can still hear the concert, and large projection screens let you see as well.
- To see the parade twice, watch from the area around Cafe La Bamba and the Horror Makeup Show. The parade will emerge from the Esoteric Pictures gate, travel clockwise around the park, and then return to the same gate, so spectators at this corner get two chances to catch beads.
Slow Your Roll on the Way Out
Every night as the Mardi Gras parade passes, you’ll see masses of revelers joining the tail end of the procession in a slow surge towards the park exit. A second wave of departing guests typically floods out after the concert’s first song, and again at the show’s end; on nights when there is no concert, the parade’s end prompts a massive exodus. Either way, you can expect elbow-to-elbow hordes along the walkways of CityWalk, and bumper-to-bumper conditions trying to drive out of the parking garage.
Unless you follow our earlier advice and exit the resort while the parade is still rolling, you’re better off waiting out the crowds than fighting against them. Slip into line for a ride just before the park’s official closing time, and then linger in the gift shops on your way out of the gate. Pause in CityWalk for a nightcap, take a stroll along the garden paths leading to the on-site hotels, or mobile order a dessert from Voodoo Donuts. If you kill an hour and let the post-Mardi Gras traffic subside, you’ll end your evening with far less frustration.
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.