Mardi Gras follows in the footsteps of the famous New Orleans carnival season, with Universal Studios staging it’s own cavalcade of party fun on Saturdays and other select nights. It features a fully family-friendly style, with a ‘French Quarter’ of food, music and other kiosks in the New York area of the park, culminating in a grand parade (from the Hollywood area through New York) of specially-themed floats that have dozens of riders throwing fistfuls of beads to the audience, followed by a live concert. The latter takes place on the big stage in Production Central and features well-known bands like Kool &The Gang, Robin Thicke and Nelly.
- When: February to mid-May
Halloween Horror Nights
Universal Studios is the home for a stunning autumn fright-fest of haunted houses, chilling scare zones, live shows and the chance to do most of the park’s rides at night. It is a separately-ticketed event after normal park closing and piles on the frights and fear at every turn, with roaming zombies, chainsaw gangs and other horror characters from well-known film and TV series (plus their own wicked creations). The main set-piece haunted houses feature elaborately detailed mazes where visitors run the gauntlet of all manner of horror experiences (think vampires, aliens, werewolves and other grisly ghouls) while the open-air scare zones are also peopled by ghostly scare-actors who lurk in dark corners. And the signature Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure show is simply a must-see, with a wonderful parody of the year’s celebrity events.
- When: Mid September to early November.
‘The Holidays’ is another big season at Universal, and the Studios park boasts a wonderful daily Macy’s Holiday Parade, featuring an array of typically festive floats, giant balloons, marching bands, dancers and Santa Claus himself. There is a giant Christmas tree and ‘tastes of the season’ at a variety of winter-village-style kiosks. Look out also for special Christmas shows at A Day In The Park With Barney and The Blues Brothers. Rock band Mannheim Steamroller play festive concerts on select Saturday and Sunday evenings. At Islands of Adventure, Christmas means Grinchmas, when Seuss Landing becomes a wintry wonderland and a major focal point. Stroll into Who-ville for a special show telling of The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, featuring music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller, while the Seussian streets abound with Who characters and you can also meet The Grinch himself in his own holiday ‘grotto.’
- When: Early December to January 2/3.
New Year’s Eve
Both parks open until late on New year’s Eve, but only the Studios has a special midnight finale, with their Cinematic Spectacular presenting a special firework show to mark the occasion. In CityWalk, much of the area is given over to a separately-ticketed party event called EVE that includes most of the nightclubs, with live music, party events and special food and drinks.