Every year, 47 days before Easter, people around the world gather for colorful celebrations. Many cultures call their celebration “Carnival.” Others call it “Shrove Tuesday.”
Here in the U.S., we call it Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday.”
When the French settled along the Gulf Coast, they brought their Mardi Gras traditions with them. Over time, cities like Mobile, Galveston, and New Orleans developed their own customs. Soon, the rest of the country realized that they, too, wanted to let the good times roll. Today, you can find Mardi Gras celebrations across the U.S.
For some, Mardi Gras is a time to let loose before a period of reflection and sacrifice. For all, it’s a chance to enjoy traditions like parades, zydeco music, and king cake.
No matter what Mardi Gras means to you, you’ll find many ways to celebrate in Orlando. So, grab your krewe and live it up at one of these five Fat Tuesday festivities.
1. Fun Spot’s HUGE Mardi Gras
If you’re looking to do Mardi Gras with the whole family, go marching into Fun Spot.
The affordable and kid-friendly theme park has a location off International Drive and another in Kissimmee.
Every year in late winter, both spots come alive with festive music and purple and gold décor. Fun Spot’s HUGE Mardi Gras features a fun parade, themed photo backdrops, and mouthwatering Louisiana cuisine. Last year, attendees got a taste of the bayou through exclusive menu items like gator nuggets, Cajun fries, and king cake sundaes. Drink offerings included classic NOLA cocktails like the hurricane.
When we say that Fun Spot is fun for the whole family, we mean it.
At this Orlando theme park, parking and admission are free. Guests can pay per attraction or buy an all-day wristband. So if you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t like rides, they only need to spring for food and arcade credits.
And since Fun Spot is Orlando’s only pet-friendly theme park, even fido can join the fais do-do (Cajun slang for a party).
2. Mardi Gras at SeaWorld Orlando
Every year, SeaWorld Orlando throws a jazzy Fat Tuesday celebration full of fun flavors and colorful beads.
After spending the morning riding coasters and hanging out with amazing marine life, geaux to Wild Artic Plaza for an epic dance afternoon dance party. Next, take your Mardi Gras celebration to new heights with a parade featuring stilt walkers and zydeco tunes. And because SeaWorld’s Mardi Gras party coincides with the fan-favorite Seven Seas Food Festival, tasty treats abound.
Last year’s food options included bourbon barbecue po’boys and airy beignets.
3. Universal’s Mardi Gras
As we mentioned before, the Big Easy isn’t the only place that parties it up in the late winter. From Brazil’s Carnival to Italy’s masquerade balls, cultures all over the world come together for lavish celebrations.
And at Universal Studios, you can experience it all.
Universal’s Mardi Gras will return to the Orlando theme park from February 4 through April 16, 2023. This year’s theme is “International Flavors from Carnaval.” So while the festival will have plenty of NOLA flair (think parades and seafood boils), you can also enjoy Brazilian caipirinhas, Belgian snacks, and Italian gelato. On select nights, big names in music will take the stage for unforgettable concerts.
Last year’s headliners included Sugar Ray, Diana Ross, Marshmello, and Jimmie Allen.
Can’t make it to Universal during Mardi Gras season? There’s another way to celebrate Mardi Gras year-round.
Head to CityWalk, where you can enjoy a frozen delight at the Fat Tuesday daiquiri stand. Or go all out with a visit to Pat O’Brien’s. This CityWalk restaurant is a replica of the classic dueling piano bar in NOLA. Any time of year, enjoy a night on the bayou full of rollicking music, refreshing cocktails, and Creole cuisine like po’boys and etouffee.
4. Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen
Like Pat O’Brien’s at CityWalk, Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen celebrates NOLA culture all year.
The award-winning restaurant serves authentic Louisiana cuisine in the Orlando suburbs of Winter Park and Altamonte Springs. You’ll find delightful dishes like muffuletta sandwiches with a savory olive spread, blackened seafood platters, and andouille gumbo. Wash it down with a Sazerac, daiquiri, or frosty glass of Abita beer.
Save room for classic Crescent City desserts, including praline bread pudding and freshly fried beignets.
While Tibby’s delights diners year-round, those visiting on or around Mardi Gras are in for a real treat. The restaurant typically hosts a month-long celebration with live jazz music and event-exclusive food and drink options. Tibby’s Mardi Gras celebration also includes fresh-baked king cakes, plastic baby and all.
5. Sanford Mardi Gras Street Party
Gorgeous historic architecture. Friendly locals. The chance to sip an ice-cold cocktail while strolling through town. These are just some of the things that have made NOLA’s Mardi Gras so iconic.
But if a trip to the French Quarter isn’t in the cards for you in 2023, there’s another way to experience Mardi Gras with an extra helping of Southern charm. And it’s right here in Central Florida.
Every year, the city of Sanford, Florida, hosts a très amusant Mardi Gras party. It starts with a parade complete with brass bands, stilt walkers, and golf carts decked out in baubles and beads. Join the procession wearing your Mardi Gras finest. Or find a spot on the street and watch it all go down.
The 2023 parade’s date will be announced soon.
After the parade, stick around historic downtown Sanford to enjoy authentic eats, live music, and unique vendors. Guests 21+ can purchase cocktails from stands around town. Or stop in one of Sanford’s award-winning craft breweries for a local brewski.
As a lagniappe, or bonus, proceeds from this Mardi Gras celebration benefit local charities.
Find Joie de Vivre at Rosen Plaza
After a day spent celebrating NOLA style, head back to your cozy guestroom at Rosen Plaza.
Our Orlando hotel is located on International Drive, close to major highways, making it easy to get to your Fat Tuesday party of choice. And if Universal’s Mardi Gras is the fais do-do for you, you can get there on our free theme park shuttle.