I Love Going To Universal Orlando At Mardi Gras More Than Going During The Christmas Holidays, And I'm Not Just Being A Grinch

 A parade float at Universal Mardi Gras at Orlando resort.
A parade float at Universal Mardi Gras at Orlando resort.

On a random day in Universal Studios, the sun is dappled, the light is warm on my skin, but it's still chilly enough that I have on a light sweatshirt. I order a Birria beef-forward Quesabirria at the Mexico walk-up station and I sit down in the shaded seating to take in the view. Unlike most theme park experiences that are frenetic and go-go-go, this is a moment to just take to myself and relax. The crowd’s in a good mood. There’s no hurry. I’m just here, breathing in the moment. Mardi Gras is my favorite theme park experience, and I’m so sad it’s about to wrap for the year.

One absolutely epic addition to the theme park scene over the last several decades has been the addition of food festivals in the parks. For Universal Orlando, this has meant adding on a popular Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios. While the Florida-based theme park has fun holiday food offerings at Christmas and exclusive food events at Halloween as well, it’s Mardi Gras that has my heart – and I swear I’m not just being a Grinch.

Though there is something quite satisfying to seeing a green Grinch heart explode into a nice, warm cup of hot cocoa during the holiday season, the best time of year to celebrate at Universal Orlando, in my personal opinion, is the time between February and April in which the theme parks deck themselves out in bright colors and food items meant to whet the palate.

Now, my esteemed CinemaBlend colleague Mike Reyes has already run down all of the great stuff you can do at Universal Studios Florida during Mardi Gras. So, I don’t want to spend a ton of time talking about the food and beverage cards that make trying a lot of different items easy, or the fact that beads on the parade route are a nice touch, because the main reason I prefer Mardi Gras– particularly in the early weeks of the event, are the crowds.

The Christmas holiday season is among the most popular times of the year at Universal Orlando. Yes, Halloween Horror Nights is known for getting extremely crowded, and Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day Weekend can be a doozy (and hot), but trying to go to see the holiday decorations and be a part of the holiday festivities around the end of the year and into early January can be an uphill battle.

The rides have lines. The butterbeer lines, as an example, can be insane. Getting in to see the Grinch is a notorious challenge. While I would never say these things are not worth it, Mardi Gras, particularly in February, is a much better option for major theme park fans. The parks are usually at least somewhat crowded, but they’ve settled down quite a bit from the holiday rush. It’s an easier time to relax, enjoy the sites, and slow down a little.

A pic of some of the offerings at Universal Orlando's popular Mardi Gras event.
A pic of some of the offerings at Universal Orlando's popular Mardi Gras event.

So, if you’re trying to figure out when to plan your family’s next vacation to the parks, let me just say: Mardi Gras is a more unique experience. I love the free live music, and I especially love the change-up in food options. I love that you can participate in different ways, and I find the food cards very convenient. The weather in February can occasionally be challenging in Florida, but it’s also a great time of year to get away from the cold in most places and get to warmer climes.

Mardi gras officially wraps on April 7th this year, but if you’re already thinking about a trip for 2025, I’d definitely recommend it among some of Universal’s best attractions.