Have you ever wanted to be in a parade? How about trying something completely different? We recently did Universal’s Ride and Dine for their Mardi Gras parade. It was totally worth it and so much fun. Here are some facts and our thoughts on the experience.

Universal’s parade lasts about 45 minutes and circles around the central part of the park. Dancers, stilt walkers and of course the floats make up this event. The highlight for spectators is trying to catch as many beads as possible as they are thrown from the float by riders.

This is a coveted position and there are passholder virtual queue sign ups as well as the Ride and Dine Option. We decided to try the Ride and Dine and were not disappointed. The option has dynamic pricing based on the time in the season and the day of the week. Our tickets were $80.74 each (not including park admission). This includes a 3-course meal (appetizer, entrée, desert) and a non-alcoholic drink. The dining options include NBC Sports Grill, Cowfish, Finnegans or Lombards. We opted for the NBC Grill.

Let me say the food is more than enough- we were stuffed. Our appetizers were a huge pretzel and a quesadilla. Our entrees were ribs and Buffalo Mac & Cheese. Desert was cheesecake. The two of us could not finish what we ordered (keep in mind it was all included). Total check (without gratuity) was $106. If you break this down we were paying only $27 to secure a spot for the float experience.

You are given credentials and asked to report to the Stadium at least 45 minutes prior to the parade. You are given your special “Krewe” costume which corresponds to your assigned float. Ours was the Sun and Moon Float. You are assigned a station where your beads await.

Simple rules are given such as make eye-contact, throw the beads underhand or frisbee style (never overhanded) and pace yourself. The half-way point would be the Jimmy Fallon ride. Above all have fun! You are then taken back stage and led to your float by your Bead Captain.

Just some quick facts and figures. There are 12 floats each with about 25 people on each. Your station has 12 rings of beads each with 12 strands in them. That means you are starting with about 144 strands to throw. There are some extras available. On our night, our Bead Captain (shout out to Todd), told us there would be about 12K strands of beads thrown from our float and about 118K-120K strands total thrown out to the spectators.

It was a blast! The time literally flies. Those 45 minutes went so quickly as you get caught up in the fun. As fast as you can throw those beads never seems quick enough. People are screaming for the beads and jumping all around-it is crazy. We did pace ourselves well and used up all our beads and extras. As we made the way backstage, we threw the last few strands and waved goodbye. We totally recommend the Ride and Dine package. We got our bang for the buck and Universal did it right from beginning to end.

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Chuck Guth
The Main Street Mouse