By Pete Gruenthal
Living in Orlando and having never stayed at New Orleans hotels for anything other than business meetings, I recently jumped at the unique opportunity to experience the 2010 Mardi Gras celebration at Universal’s Orlando Resort. Celebrated every Saturday night and select nights from February 6 – April 17, this is Universal Studio’s 15th year of beads, bands and authentic Cajun cuisine, and my nine-year old son Jason and I were jazzed.
For the parade, Jason and I were outfitted with very colorful costumes to blend in with the other Mardi Gras characters, including dancing stilt walkers and street performers. After getting detailed instructions on the best method for throwing beads — that is, underhand with a nice upward arc rather than overhead like pitching a fast ball — we were positioned on an elaborately decorated float.
As our float proceeded around Orlando’s Universal Studios, thousands of guest lined the streets beckoning us to throw them souvenir beads. Let me tell you, it was quite a rush to see and hear so many people yelling and waving their arms to gain our attention for beads. We felt like rock stars surrounded by screaming fans.
The parade experience was definitely one of the highlights of our evening, but we also enjoyed sampling Cajun favorites such as jambalaya, gumbo and beignets while listening to the authentic bayou sounds in Universal’s very own “French Quarter.” And the music doesn’t stop there; every week of this months-long celebration features live concert performances at the Music Plaza from top headliners like KC and the Sunshine Band, Aretha Franklin, Cool and the Gang, Blondie, Heart, Chicago and The Beach Boys.
We had a blast at Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration, but let’s not forget all the other fun that comes with visiting Universal’s two theme parks, Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure; the Universal CityWalk, its nighttime entertainment complex and home to many great restaurants; three themed hotels; and, of course, the soon-to-open Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Needless to say, Jason and I enjoyed every minute of the Mardi Gras celebration at Universal’s Orlando Resort.
Pete Gruenthal is a Strategic Account Manager for Orbitz. He and his two boys, 6 and 9, love living in Orlando with so much family fun to choose from, but they also enjoy taking short weekend getaways to see what the rest of Florida has to offer.