Universal Studios Florida trip report – February 2014 (Mardi Gras parade, Daughtry in concert, construction updates)
The holidays are long over and the Celebration of Harry Potter is a fond memory. What’s next at Universal Studios? Mardi Gras! I visited Universal Studios Florida (USF) this past Saturday, which was the first day of the highly popular Mardi Gras celebration. Although the weather was substandard for Florida – cold rain with the temperatures in the 50s – I spent an enjoyable evening at USF.
Due to it raining most of the day, my arrival was delayed at the park. I finally arrived around 4:30 pm and first noticed the Mardi Gras sign at the entrance and heard the New Orleans jazz playing in the courtyard.
As I entered USF, devoted Daughtry fans were already in line for a coveted spot near the stage of the Universal Music Plaza.
[wptouch target=”non-mobile”]Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 50 new full-screen images at the bottom of the post.
I stopped by the Universal Studios Store to explore the Mardi Gras merchandise available for sale: vibrant strands of beads (three for $10.00); commemorative hurricane glasses and colorful mugs ($14.95); flashing, sparkling fedoras in five different colors ($12.95); limited-edition unique pins ($14.95); and a festive Mardi Gras t-shirt ($21.95) were just some of the items available.
My favorite souvenir was a delightful Minion Mania Mardi-Gras t-shirt for $21.95.
The French Quarter Courtyard was set up in the New York backlot across from Revenge of the Mummy.
The authentic-looking entryway had a wrought-iron scrollwork sign that would not be out of place in “Nawlins.” In addition, characters from the parade were out early for photo ops, trying to make the most of the unpleasant weather. (It’s worth noting that the wet ground prevented any of the stilt characters from making an appearance either before or during the parade.)
The enticing aroma of a wide variety of foods, including some Cajun specialties, was mouth-watering. Voodoo Chicken Tenders, andouille sausage, red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp po boys, cheese steaks, bignets, mufalettas, and the ever-popular Twisted Taters could be purchased along the courtyard.
King Cake was on the menu but not available this night. A Team Member explained that King Cake should be available the remainder of Mardi Gras. Even BBQ turkey legs and pizza were available for those who wanted a more traditional theme park meal. Prices for most dishes ranged from $7.00 to $9.00. Also available were mixed drinks, beer, wine, and jello shots, along with the Mardi Gras signature drink, Voodoo Juice, in a souvenir glass (Full Throttle, Minute Maid orange, pineapple and cranberry juice, and rum). Most alcoholic beverages were $7.00 to $10.00. At the end of the courtyard, a stage was set for a band from New Orleans to perform live music, weather permitting.
After touring the French Quarter courtyard, I took a walk around USF. Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue debuted its new show for the public on Saturday. Unfortunately, due to my late arrival time at the park, I was not able to attend the show. I will, however, cover it in my next trip report!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley construction zone continues to fascinate me. I noticed signage on a few of the buildings along the waterfront, including the words “Kings Cross” and “Leicester Square Station.” Although Orlando Informer reported on February 3 that the lettering for Wyndham’s Theater was up, and showcased it in this YouTube video, most of the letters have been removed now, with only two letters on the building on Saturday.
I’m very fond of the recently-added feature – a take-a-peek window disguised as a London phone booth – that allows guests to see what is on the other side of the construction fence. (Dan has a video of that, too, if you’d like to see more.)
In Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, new midway-style games were up and operating for the younger guests. The float-rider check-in area at the Barney Courtyard was very busy.
The best part of the night was the fabulously festive Mardi Gras parade. Excitement began to grow as guests found an open space along the parade route. This year, the route starts and ends in front of the Horror Make-Up Show on Hollywood Boulevard. My son and husband joined me for the parade, and we decided to watch it twice, so we stood in front of the Make-Up Show. The reserved section for Annual Passholders to view the parade is located across the street at Mel’s Diner. This year’s theme for the parade is based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Ornately-costumed performers walked in between floats along the parade route.
As I noted above, due to the wet ground, none of the performers were on stilts – this should change anytime Mardi Gras falls during dryer conditions.
In all, there were 12 splendorous floats in the parade, which lasted about 25 minutes. Three new floats representing travel by air, land, and sea were scattered throughout the lineup, along with the very popular Gator, Preservation Hall, Voodoo, and King & Queen floats.
The float riders tried to satisfy parade watchers’ “need for beads” by tossing multicolored beads to the delight of the crowd, who were shouting and waving for more.
We were able to catch several beads. My son’s obvious delight and excitement watching the parade was a sight to behold. In fact, one very kind lady next to us began giving our son beads because, as she said, his sheer joy and excitement watching the parade touched her.
After the parade ended, we walked over to the Universal Music Plaza and listened to Daughtry perform a few songs to a large crowd of enthusiastic and supportive fans.
The portion of the concert we heard was great. I couldn’t help but think back to Daughtry’s days on American Idol and the surprise and disappointment I felt when he was sent home. It was nice to see his continued success and to be able to hear him in concert.
The crowds this trip were moderate, but they increased dramatically right before the Mardi Gras parade began at 7:15 pm. Posted wait times for the attractions were also moderate, with 40 minutes for Despicable Me (70 minutes later in the evening), 90 minutes for Transformers, 15 minutes for Revenge of the Mummy and MEN IN BLACK, and 10 minutes for The Simpsons Ride. Rip Ride Rockit was closed due to weather conditions for most of the day.
Mardi Gras is a great time to visit USF; it’s an enjoyable experience for the entire family. There are ample photo opportunities with the extravagantly costumed characters, and the weather is typically very cooperative this time of year.
I hope that you will be able to experience Universal Studios Florida soon.
Mardi Gras 2014 at Universal Studios Florida – photo gallery
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