You’re totally missing out if you haven’t experienced this overlooked Universal Studios Orlando event


Universal Orlando has many memorable activities, immersive events and huge thrills. But one event is an opportunity you might have overlooked.

A visit to Universal Orlando is filled with many unique and immersive guest experiences.

Harry Potter fans can spend days discovering every nuanced aspect of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thrill seekers will ride roller coasters like Rip Rocket, Hulk and the Mummy over and over. Even kids will belly-laugh at everything those adorable Minions do.

But, one Universal Orlando guest experience can easily be overlooked. Have you done it?

In seven years, the Orlando resort area has added 25 new experiences. The expansion includes themed areas like Diagon Alley, attractions like Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, new restaurants like Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and hotels like the soon to be opened Aventura. While these memorable experiences are well-known, one unique experience can be overlooked. Have you guessed what it is yet?

During the spring, Universal Studios Orlando hosts its annual Mardi Gras event. The big celebration is filled with concerts, New Orleans-style food and nightly parades. Guests line the parade route to watch these authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras floats travel through Universal Studios. While watching the parade and catching beads is fun, did you know that you can also ride on those floats?

Have you ever wondered who are those people throwing beads from the Mardi Gras floats? Do you think that they are team members or special guests? Well, often those people riding the Mardi Gras floats are regular guests just like you.

Universal Orlando Resort is home to the biggest, best Mardi Gras party in the country straight from New Orleans to you this year on Saturdays and select nights through April 23. Nationally renowned musical acts combine with an authentic Mardi Gras parade, dozens of colorfully costumed performers, authentic Cajun cooking and hand-picked New Orleans bands to capture the look, feel and fun of The Big Easy  all inside Universal Studios Florida. Photo Universal Orlando, Kevin Kolczynski © 2011 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

Last week, I had the opportunity to ride on the Virgo float during the nightly Mardi Gras parade. Every night before the parade, Universal Orlando Resort opens a standby line for float riders. Many of the float guests have secured their float place a while in advance, a few spots are often available the night of the parade.

Around 5:30 p.m., I went to take my place in the standby line. I was about the thirtieth person in line. Since it was toward the end of the Mardi Gras celebration and it wasn’t too crowded in the standby line, I was able to get a spot. If you think catching beads during the parade is fun, throwing beads into the crowd is infinitely more entertaining.

After getting a wristband and signing a waiver, I was ready to follow my float captain to the backstage area. While I would have loved to take pictures, cameras were forbidden. (Side note: Universal’s backstage area is huge). After getting dressed in our special outfits, we were told the “throwing beads” rules. Once the music started and the trucks got moving, we were ready to throw.

Having watched a few Mardi Gras parades this season, it was a whole new experience throwing the beads. Watching everyone who was so excited to see the parade pass by was an invigorating feeling. While I’m sure that I looked goofy throwing beads (sorry to people who were videotaping), I had a blast. Being on the Virgo float has to be one of my favorite Universal Orlando experiences.

This particular opportunity goes to show that theme parks are about creating memories. Sure, people look for the extreme thrill or the connection to their favorite character. At the end of the day, the moment etched into your recollection and the feeling that it produced will stay with you.

I might not have the perfect Instagram shot looking out from the float, but I do vividly remember how I felt for that evening on the Virgo float. That feeling means more to me than all the likes on Instagram.

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While the Mardi Gras event may be over at Universal Orlando, I will mark my calendar for next year’s event. Hopefully, I can get a bunch of friends to join me on a float. Anyone want to join me next year?