Experience My First Mardi Gras Float Ride and Dining Adventure

As a master’s student juggling a full-time internship and the responsibilities of being the accommodating eldest sibling, my weekdays are usually a blur of preparation for the next day. But a recent Tuesday was a delightful departure from this routine—it marked my first-ever experience at a Mardi Gras parade hosted by Universal Studios Florida during Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval.

Imagine spending the day enjoying roller coasters and live shows, capped off by a lavish three-course meal and bead-tossing from one of Universal’s fabulous Mardi Gras floats—truly the highlight of the season!

Universal Orlando’s annual Mardi Gras event is a celebration of diverse cultures through ambiance, cuisine, and entertainment. You can revel in the spirit of New Orleans Mardi Gras and various international Carnaval traditions. For a special treat, you can even book a Float Ride and Dine Experience (just as I did on that memorable Tuesday), and I’m here to guide you through every detail.

Let’s start with dinner—a key part of the Float Ride and Dine Experience. You have a choice of four dining locations within Universal Orlando Resort: Lombard’s Seafood Grille, Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Dining typically precedes the float ride, often starting as early as 3:00 p.m.

I opted for Lombard’s Seafood Grille (a first for me), and it exceeded expectations. The meal package includes a non-alcoholic beverage, an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert from the restaurant’s full menu. Here’s a peek at our selections, though I learned that any choice at Lombard’s is a winner.

For appetizers, we enjoyed the Tuna Poke—a refreshing blend of sushi-grade ahi tuna in soy garlic sauce with fresh vegetables, frisée, fried wontons, and a crispy nori chip. Next, the Monterey Garlic Shrimp stood out with its flavorful mix of Gulf shrimp in pan-roasted garlic, herbed butter, chili peppers, and lemon served with rosemary focaccia.

Moving on to entrées, I ventured out of my comfort zone with the Catch of the Season, opting for grilled halibut. This delicate white fish paired beautifully with celeriac purée, roasted mushrooms, crispy Brussels sprouts, chive oil, and crunchy pomegranate seeds—a delightful surprise.

Dessert was a highlight, with the Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake—a decadent treat of three layers topped with dark chocolate ganache that lived up to its heavenly reputation. We also savored the Classic Key Lime Pie, a timeless delight with a graham cracker crust and tart lime filling topped with vanilla whipped cream.

After this sumptuous meal, around 5:00 p.m., we made our way to Animal Actors on Location! where we checked in an hour before the parade. Depending on your parade time, consider arriving even earlier. We were warmly welcomed by the team, who ensured all necessary waivers were signed for the float riding experience.

Once assigned to our float, we proceeded to the wardrobe area. This was an exciting moment as my friend Nicole and I were crowned queens of the King and Queen’s Krewe, donning sparkly gold dresses and crowns. Team members helped us into our regal attire, making us feel like royalty.

As the queens, we were given beads to toss to the crowd from our throne bench on the float—a truly magical experience. Witnessing the joy of parade-goers was the highlight of the night, even surpassing that heavenly chocolate cake.

The weather was perfect—a mild Florida evening with a cool breeze—adding to the enchantment of Mardi Gras. Don’t miss your chance to join in the festivities this season!

About the author
Luisa Gallon

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