If you don’t want to drive the 10-plus hours to New Orleans or even wait until late February to celebrate Mardi Gras, Universal Studios has you covered with its traditional Mardi Gras celebration that will last 50 nights, from Feb. 4 to March 25. Universal has celebrated Mardi Gras for more than 15 years and the event remains one of the most popular tourist draws for the theme park.
Mardi Gras celebrations have taken place for thousands of years and has at its roots the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States is believed to have taken place in 1699. While most Americans think of Mardi Gras as a New Orleans celebration, it’s celebrated in many different countries around the world, where it also known as Carnival. There are large-scale annual celebrations in Alabama and Mississippi, although Louisiana is the only state where Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
Universal Studios takes great pride in giving people a realistic alternative to New Orleans, going so far as having Blaine Kern Artists design the floats for the nightly parade. Kern Artists have created the floats used in New Orleans since 1947.
There are some differences, however, primarily that Universal Studios is designed to be a family friendly location, so some of the more risqué elements of New Orleans will likely be absent, and there is also a special parade viewing area just for children.
The parade is one of the big attractions and there will be several new floats that follow the Mythical Creatures theme, including The Flight of the Pegasus, The Dance of the Dragon and The Rise of the Garuda. There are also a number of street performers who will be on hand plying their trades, not to mention the customary bead-throwing long associated with Mardi Gras.
There will be plenty of authentic Cajun cuisine at the French Quarter Courtyard and a number of New Orleans bands will be also be performing in the courtyard, giving the place an authentic Big Easy feel.
There are also a number of other concerts that take place during the Mardi Gras festivities and the line-up is as diverse as Mardi Gras itself, with performers ranging from Toby Keith to Olivia Newton-John to the X Ambassadors. Fifth Harmony, Ne-Yo and Collective Soul are also among the artists scheduled to perform, along with Trace Adkins, Kool & the Gang, UB40, Jason Derulo, Earth, Wind & Fire and the All-American Rejects. The concerts are free with paid admission and blockout dates don’t apply at any time during the Mardi Gras celebrations.