- Insider’s guide to Mardi Gras 2020’s exclusive food and drinks
- Insider’s guide to Mardi Gras 2020’s parade
Universal’s Mardi Gras parade is an elaborate affair, providing guests with the chance to dance along with street performers and collect beads by the handful as the colorful floats wind down the streets of Universal Studios Florida. Even better than all that, there’s also the chance to ride those floats yourself and be the one to fling those beads to the adoring masses – an experience that is one of the best at Universal Orlando Resort and one of the most unique at any theme park anywhere.
There’s a lot to take in regarding the Mardi Gras parade, however, and that’s why we’re here to help. On this detailed guide page, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know, from this year’s theme and new floats to the best place(s) to take it all in to, yes, how to secure your spot to ride a float of your very own.
Mardi Gras 2020 – parade overview
Each year, Universal adds a few new floats to its reportorie, replacing some of the older ones and thereby keeping the proceedings fresh and engaging.
In 2015, for example, a “party” float was added to the lineup (and the crowd-favorite Gator and Riverboat floats were returned after a lengthy refurbishment period); 2016 saw four newcomers that celebrated different cultures and festivals from around the world (Venetian Carnival, Oktoberfest, Fourth of July, and Rio de Janeiro Carnival); in 2017, a massive six additions were trotted out, all based off of mythical creatures (Manticore’s Majesty, The Rise of the Garuda, The Dance of the Dragon, Phoenix from the Flames, Garden Sprites, and The Flight of the Pegasus); six more brand-new floats were injected into the 2018 proceedings, with each being themed to the zodiac (Taurus, Virgo the Maiden, Scorpius, Andromeda, Orion the Hunter, and Orphiuchus); and, finally, six “party animals” got introduced in 2019 (including from arctic, jungle, ocean, and swamp environs).
For 2020, we’re getting “treasures of the deep” as the 25th anniversary theme, with each of the six new “intricately detailed” floats and their “vivacious” performers taking you on an adventure: expect to see (the mystical) Creatures of the Deep, a Treasure Map, the Sunken City of Atlantis, and, of course, a treasure-filled Shipwreck Island. And, once again, the fan-favorite King Gator and Riverboat floats will be returning, replete with anniversary regalia this time.
(Yes, Universal’s parade floats are still being hand-crafted by Kern Studios, the company that has been creating Mardi Gras floats since 1947.)
Mardi Gras 2020 – parade times
Here is a list of the parade times throughout 2020’s run, for your convenience:
The parade starts at 6:00 pm on Feb. 2-7
It starts at 6:15 pm on Feb. 9-14, 17-21, 23-28, Mar. 1-6
It starts at 7:30 pm on Mar. 9-12, 16-19, 23-27, 30, 31, Apr. 1, 2
It starts at 7:45 pm on Feb. 1, 8, 15, 16, 22, 29, Mar. 7, 8, 13-15, 20-22, 28, 29
As a friendly reminder, the Mardi Gras parade is about 20 minutes in length, from beginning to end.
Mardi Gras 2020 – where is the best place to watch the parade?
The Mardi Gras parade starts at the bottom of the map seen below, right next to the Horror Make-Up Show theater, and then it follows the purple line all the way around Universal Studios Florida, ending back where it began.
So, where’s the best spot to watch the parade? For this event, it’s more about finding a strategic area based on what you’re most interested in:
I’d like to leave the park as quickly and as early as possible. Then you will want to line up along Hollywood Blvd, in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop and where the Little Jester’s parade viewing area is located. This will allow you to quickly exit Universal Studios after the parade has passed.
I’d like to have an opportunity to see the parade twice. In this case, you will want to line up in front of Mel’s Drive-In, located on Hollywood Blvd. Because the parade’s route has it beginning and ending at the same spot, anyone near Mel’s will be able to see it twice.
I’d like the best spot for taking pictures. This is somewhat a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, based on our experience, lining up in the New York backlot near Finnegan’s Bar & Grill or Louie’s Italian Restaurant will get you the best pictures. We believe this is because the building facades along Delancey Street really help the parade floats look like they’re traveling down a real city street, like you might actually see in New Orleans.
I’m going to the concert afterwards. If you want a good spot for the concert, you’ll need to skip the parade altogether (as we’ve already discussed). But if you really want to see both, then for the parade you will want to line up in Production Central, basically as close as you can get to Universal Music Plaza.
Because the Mardi Gras floats are mostly two-story, and because virtually all the street performers are on stilts, you don’t lose much not being in the very front of the crowd. Of course, wherever you choose as your viewing area, being in the front of the crowd will give you the best shot at collecting beads and taking the least-obscured photos. To do this, choose your area based on the information above and get there 45 minutes to an hour before the parade start time.
Special parade-viewing areas
The Little Jester’s viewing area for kids is located in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop, near the very front of the park.
The ADA viewing area is in front of the Macy’s facade in the New York backlot, right by Revenge of the Mummy.
The annual passholder viewing area is in front of Mel’s Drive-In, right at the start of the parade.
Mardi Gras 2020 – how do I sign up to ride a parade float?
Although, in the past, there were a few different ways that a guest could attempt to ride one of the colorful parade floats through the streets of Universal Studios Florida, tossing beads to thousands of cheering spectators, for 2020 there’s just one: you need to be an annual passholder.
There is a sign-up form that passholders can access, which formally requests a spot on one of the floats. Before we share the link with you, there are a few lines of fine print that you should be aware of first:
- Space is limited, and signing up does not guarantee a spot
- Can request spots for up to six people
- Must be 18 years of age (or accompanied by an adult)
- Must be at least 48 inches tall
- No bags or strollers
- Floats can accommodate guests in push wheelchairs with advance notice
Got all that? Good! You’re now free to sign up on Universal’s form, which you can find here.
Mardi Gras 2020 – one last thing!
Once the parade starts going, it keeps going for the next 20 (or so) minutes – if you’re on the wrong side of the route, you won’t be able to cross it in order to leave Universal Studios Florida. Families (especially those with young children) should certainly make note of what time the parade starts that night and take pains to not get stuck in the park.
That’s all we got for our Mardi Gras 2020 guide to the parade. Please keep in mind this is only one page in our Mardi Gras insider’s guide – for the most effective planning, please be sure to read through all of our pages, which you can access at any time using the navigation links at the top and bottom.