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Universal Orlando Resort gets ready for its 17th annual Mardi Gras celebration

Universal Orlando Resort gets ready for its 17th annual Mardi Gras celebration

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There must have been a few confused tourists at Universal Orlando earlier today. Given the whales ...

... and polar bears that were parked right outside of the entrance of Universal Studios Florida this morning ...

... you have to wonder how many tourists thought (at least for a moment) that they had accidentally arrived at SeaWorld Orlando instead of USF.

But the whales & bears were outside of that studio theme park not because Universal likes confusing tourists. But -- rather -- because Universal Orlando officials wanted to show off the four new floats that they'd had Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World create for their 17th annual Mardi Gras celebration. Which officially gets underway tomorrow and will then be presented on Saturdays & select nights through April 14th.

And given that the theme for this year's Mardi Gras parade at USF is the wonder & the whimsy of Planet Earth, the "Blue Planet" ... Well, that's why these four new floats attempt to take theme park visitors from the Polar Regions all the way to the Rainforests.

Mind you, this year's Mardi Gras parade will also celebrate the sillier side of the Sunshine State with a brand-new float that shows an alligator piloting an air boat through the Everglades.

But it wasn't just floats that were parked outside the entrance of Universal Studios Florida this morning. Steven Jayson, the Executive Chef & Vice President of the Universal Orlando Resort was also on hand there  to offer samples of the authentic Cajun cuisine that will be served up over the course of this eight-week-long celebration.

We're talking Jambalaya ...

... savory Shrimp Gumbo ...

... even King Cake. Though -- in an effort to make this traditional Mardi Gras dessert that much easier / safer for theme park guests to consume -- Jayson insisted that the chefs who were making the Universal Orlando version of King Cake not toss in a plastic Baby Jesus into the batter (to explain: In New Orleans, the person who's "lucky" enough to find the plastic Baby Jesus in their slice of King Cake then has to host next year's Mardi Gras party).

Speaking of which ... The party at USF officially gets underway tomorrow afternoon in this theme park's French Quarter Courtyard, where New Orleans favorite Daddy Mack Blues Band will be performing live. Then -- at 7:30 p.m. -- Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras parade will enter this theme park between the Horror Make-Up Show and Café La Bamba. It'll then veer right around Mel's Drive-In and head towards New York. After turning left at the Plaza of the Stars, the floats will pass in front of Music Plaza before then looping back to its starting point via Hollywood Boulevard.

And if you've got little ones who'd love to go home with a big collection of beads ... Well, you may want to consider taking them over to the Little Jester's Parade Viewing Area. Which will be located next to the Terminator 2:3-D attraction. There, your children are virtually guaranteed to have a more kid-friendly parade experience.

And then -- once the Mardi Gras parade has exited the theme park -- you should probably make your way over to the Universal Music Plaza stage.Where the B-52s close out the day's entertainment with a live concert starting at 8:30 p.m.

And the B-52s are just the start of the top name talent that will be performing as the Universal Music Plaza stage as part of USF's annual Mardi Gras celebration. In the weeks head, Kelly Clarkson, Boyz II Men, Diana Ross and the Goo Goo Dolls will be making appearances at this theme park. And don't forget about the French Quarter Courtyard. Which is where Big Easy favorites like Lil Malcolm & The House Rockers and John Lisi & Delta Funk will be performing live on Saturdays & select nights.

"Which select nights?," you ask. Well, here's the official schedule for Universal Orlando's 2012 Mardi Gras celebration:

February 11, 18, 19 & 25
March 3, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 & 31
April 7 & 14

So come by plane, by car, by air boat if you have to. But don't miss out on the biggest Mardi Gras celebration outside of New Orleans. Make a date to head out for USF to catch the beads, catch the music and the spirit of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras.

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