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It is still a Mardi Gras party at Universal. Epcot’s garden festival also is continuing for a few more weeks

Posted on Friday, May 2, 2014 at 3:28 pm

By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
The calendar reads May, but you can still take in the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando — at least for a few more weeks.
The popular event still has about a month to go, but tonight (Saturday) is a great day to visit the New Orleans celebration for the first time or take it in again with award-winning rapper and songwriter Nelly taking the stage.
Nelly, best known for his singles “Just a Dream” and “Hot in Herre,” will shake up Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebration with a live performance on the Music Plaza stage at 9 p.m.
But you will want to get there hours before the show to take in the Mardi Gras parade, with its 12 floats, including three new additions celebrating Jules Verne’s novel, “Around the World in 80 Days.” It’s also a great opportunity to bring home some beads, tossed by revelers on the floats.
Guests can also visit Universal Studios Florida’s very own French Quarter Courtyard for some authentic Cajun cuisine and see performances by bands pulled straight from
Bourbon Street.
The Mardi Gras parade begins at 8:15 p.m. The French Courtyard and all that New Orleans cooking, opens at
4 p.m.
The upcoming slate of Mardi Gras acts includes: The Wanted, May 10; The Roots, May 17; Cher Lloyd, May 24; Huey Lewis and the News, May 31 and Robin Thicke, June 7. The Thicke show is a rescheduling from a cancellation during the first week of the Mardi
Gras event.
Mardi Gras is included with regular admission to Universal Orlando. For more information, visit
Garden festival
There are still a few weeks left as well for Epcot’s annual big spring event, the 21st Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, held daily through May 18 at the theme park.
This event has gotten bigger and better through the years. At first it was all about the flowers and gardens, and they still are a big part of the spring celebration. Each weekend, another celebrity from HGTV or DIY networks are festival guests on The Designers’ Stage at the Festival Center. This Saturday’s guest is Chip Wade of Elbow Room.
But the event has recently also transformed into a miniature version of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, will 11 food and beverage marketplaces.
The Outdoor Kitchens feature chefs cooking a variety of new and popular returning menu items.
Among the new selections debuting this year: Piggylicious Bacon Cupcakes; smoked turkey ribs; Ghost Pepper Dusted Tilapia; and Winter Melon Salad and Mango Chutney.
Last year’s top menu picks like the Watermelon Salad with local baby arugula, feta cheese, pickled red onions and balsamic reduction will return for an encore at the Florida Fresh
Outdoor Kitchen.
You can find the Outdoor Kitchens  throughout Epcot’s World Showcase. The kitchens include Unique Farm Eats, Jardin de Fiestas Mexico; Lotus House China;  Florida Fresh; Primavera Kitchen Italy; The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews American Adventure Courtyard; Hanami Japan;  A Taste of Marrakesh Morocco;  Fleur de Lys France;  The Buttercup Cottage United Kingdom;  Pineapple Promenade and Intermissions Café.
In addition to the numerous food selections, the kitchens also serve up a selection of vine and beer.
The festival is included with regular admission to Epcot. The event also includes the Flower Power music concerts which includes Chubby Checker and Alan Parson in the remaining weeks of the event.
The flower and garden festival comes to a close
May 18.