Universal Studios Florida is well known for extending the Mardi Gras season far beyond its usual span. In New Orleans, the parade floats have been put into storage, and the last beads have long since been scooped up off the pavement. At Universal, a dozen floats still roll out every Saturday night, and they’ll continue until April 20. The parade means plenty of beads and doubloons to catch, and the park also has a variety of food booths with authentic Louisiana-style fare and bands straight from the Big Easy to liven up the celebration.

The French Quarter area is the epicenter of the celebration. Graze on goodies like creole gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice, topped off with beignets for dessert. Grab an outdoor table so you can listen to the soothing sounds of jazz as you enjoy your meal. The Rockin’ Jake Band plays on April 13, followed by Daddy Mack Blues Band on April 20.

Mardi Gras is family friendly, down to giving the kids their very own parade viewing area. The Little Jesters viewing spot is right next door to Terminator 2 3-D. You can stake out a spot for your family there up to one hour before the parade starts at 7:45 p.m.

Mardi Gras also means headliner concerts on the main stage. Pitbull appears on April 13, followed by The All American Rejects on April 20. The concerts are included with your regular admission tickets, but there is no reserved seating. Just crowd around the big stage in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket roller coaster tracks or watch the performance on one of the big screen TVs. If you’re planning to stay for the concerts, they start at 8:30 p.m. Feel free to stake out your spot any time.

All of the park’s regular rides, shows, and attractions run during Mardi Gras, so it’s best to come early even though the party doesn’t start until the evening. If you’re an early bird, you’ll have plenty of time to hop on the roller coaster and do other major attractions, like Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black: Alien Attack, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and the Simpsons ride.

If you visit in April, you’ll notice a lot of construction going on that might just tempt you to plan another trip. In the middle of the park, the Transformers ride is taking shape rapidly for its summer debut. While it’s the same ride you’ll find at Universal Studios Hollywood, the Florida version has its own unique building. Over on the edge, rumor says London is taking shape as part of the Harry Potter expansion. With Hogsmeade currently next door at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida is the perfect spot to expand Harry’s World.

Things calm down at Universal once Mardi Gras is over, but there’s more to look forward to later in the year. Although the performers at the park’s summer concert series haven’t been announced yet, Big Time Rush is confirmed to be appearing on June 8. That gives you plenty of time to plan a visit if you have big fans in the family.

If you’re planing to head to Orlando and want to visit Universal Studios Florida, visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 for information on some very attractive vacation packages.