Universal’s annual Mardi Gras party will bring Skynyrd, Sean Kingston and more to Orlando
Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:03
Universal Orlando Resort has kicked off another year of beads, bands and the good times of the Big Easy at the 2011 Mardi Gras celebration.
The ultimate street party, now in its 16th year, runs every weekend until April 23 and features a parade, Cajun cuisine and a wide range of concerts to adhere to every musical taste.
The 30-minute parade features 12 floats, including guest favorites the King Gator, King & Queen and The Riverboat. Four new floats were added this year to go with the theme of the four elements: Fire, Earth, Wind and Water.
"After five o'clock when we take over this whole thing, this park becomes something different," said Lora Wallace, show director at Universal Orlando Resort. "During the day people are here to ride rides and see the shows. But at night, they're here to eat the food, to see the concert, to see the parade, to catch some beads and it becomes a completely different park."
Universal goes to New Orleans every year and works with Blaine Kern Studios, the same company that designs the floats for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The floats take about a month to design and create and at least an additional two months to finish.
This year, the floats are flashing with lights, bursting with glitter and featuring special effects and music.
Universal estimates approximately 10,000 feet of rope lights were used decorate the parade floats and that about 2 million strands of beads will be thrown off the floats.
Wallace said she thinks the turnout for Mardi Gras this year has bypassed last year, possibly because of the warmer weather. The tryouts for dancers were more popular as well, with more than 600 dancers auditioning for about 100 spots.
For the foodies, add a little spice to your night by sampling some authentic Cajun food in the French Quarter. With the menu consisting of popular dishes like andouille sausage jambalaya, shrimp po' boys and gumbo, you won't be disappointed. Finish off your meal with some scrumptious King Cake or beignets. For those 21 and older and willing to spend $10 on a drink, try the Voo Doo juice — a spiked fruit punch that comes with a souvenir Mardi Gras cup.
In addition to big-name musical talent, Universal brings about a dozen hand-picked authentic New Orleans bands to perform in the French Quarter Courtyard leading up to the parade. Stilt walkers and other Mardi Gras-themed characters pump up the crowds and set the mood for the evening.
Tickets after 5 p.m. are $54.99 in advance and $64.99 at the gate—a steal since the rides are open until the start of the parade, at 8 p.m. The nightly concerts, which include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sean Kingston, OneRepublic and The Beach Boys, begin after the parade at 8:30 p.m.