How to Celebrate Mardi Gras in Orlando

Orlando is a city that loves any excuse for a party. It is no surprise that there are plenty of ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in Orlando, with something for people of all ages. Here are some of the best ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in the Orlando metro area.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
The biggest Mardi Gras party in Florida is held at Universal Orlando, and it is an event so large that it won't fit in a single day. On select nights between February 6 and April 16, 2016, big name artists such as Kool & The Gang, Diana Ross, Barenaked Ladies and Adam Lambert take the stage for a concert included with park admission. Universal Orlando also hosts a Mardi Gras parade on those nights with stunning floats and 1.7 million beads being tossed into the crowd. There are also special locations for children to view the parade, plus a variety of Cajun foods for sale.

Pat O'Brien's at CityWalk
Even though Pat O'Brien's at CityWalk is famous for its Mardi Gras-themed environment every day, the party really moves into overdrive during the Mardi Gras season. This 21+ party environment continues until 2 a.m. every night. Make sure to try their Hurricane specialty drink, "Fat Tuesday" nachos, N'awlins loaded gumbo, or bag o' beignets you listen to the live performances at the dueling piano bar.

Port Orleans at Walt Disney World
A much smaller and family-friendly event is held at the Port Orleans resort at Walt Disney World on Mardi Gras. In addition to a variety of New Orleans-style foods at the food courts at the Riverside Mill and Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory and the sit-down restaurant Boatwrights, there are activities for all ages, including a Mardi Gras block party, and plenty of beads and doubloons to go around. The real highlight of the afternoon is the Mardi Gras parade. Divisions of cast members who work in everything at Port Orleans from housekeeping to food and beverage to merchandising decorate golf cart-style floats and parade them around the resort. Every year the parade floats get more elaborate as each division tries to outdo the others.

Bar Crawl Nation
On Friday, February 12, 2016, from 8 pm to 2 am, downtown Orlando becomes a full-on party district with a bar crawl for thousands organized by Bar Crawl Nation. For $25 (or less for early registration), you receive a souvenir mug, Mardi Gras beads and "scorecard" that allow you to sample one beer, one shot or one mixed drink for $3 or less at eleven different bars and clubs including Wall Street Plaza, DownTown PourHouse, Saddle Up and more. Get a drink at all eleven bars and you get a commemorative t-shirt, too.

French Bakeries
If you're looking to throw your own Mardi Gras party, there are several French bakeries in the Orlando area that can help you find the perfect pastries, including king cake. While there is a Publix grocery store on almost every street corner in Orlando that offers a decent king cake, you can also get this decadent treat at Benjamin French bakery, Chez Jacqueline in Lake Mary, Croissant Gourmet Bakery in Winter Park and My French Café in Windermere.

Julia Mascardo is a freelance writer living the dream of being a neighbor to Walt Disney World. She is a frequent contributor to and has written several travel and tourism books.