Epcot? Universal’s Mardi Gras? Orlando’s Best Theme Park Festival

There’s so much fun to be had at Orlando’s theme parks right now. Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras, Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, and SeaWorld Orlando’s Seven Seas Food Festival are all underway this spring. But which Orlando theme park festival is the best?

While it would be great if we could do it all and visit every festival, most of us have to prioritize how to spend our time and money.

To help you choose, we’re breaking down each festival, from Epcot’s Flower and Garden to Universal’s Mardi Gras and SeaWorld’s Seven Sea Festival. Find out which Orlando theme park festival is the best.

Disney vs. Universal vs. SeaWorld – Which festival is the best?

Determining the best festival depends on many factors. It would be easy to argue that Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is the best because it’s Disney, which generally means a better experience, overall. And while Disney’s attention to detail and service is hard to beat, we’d be remiss to overlook Universal’s offerings and SeaWorld Orlando’s festivals.

In short, Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is best for overall atmosphere and detail. No other theme park festival is so detailed, and Epcot has a sophisticated atmosphere globally.

Alternately, Universal’s Mardi Gras has the most exciting party atmosphere with an incredible parade and concerts by big names.

And SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival is the Best Valuewith the most laid back atmosphere and fantastic food selections.

Universal Mardi Gras 2022 Parade Band parades through New York City playing brass and drums
2022 Mardi Gras Universal Parade Group

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Every day from March 2 to July 4, 2022
Best for: romanticism and general quality
Official site

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is a celebration of all things spring. Spanning four months throughout the spring season, you’ll have plenty of time to celebrate beautiful flowers and fresh food. Visiting the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is Orlando’s most expensive theme park festival (unless you don’t buy food or drinks).

You can simply enjoy the beautiful flowers and enchanting topiary. And if you’re a plant parent, you’ll surely love the festival markets with fun ways to improve your garden. If you like music from the past, you can enjoy the Garden Rocks concert series. The lineup is full of oldies, but goodies. However, it should be noted that the queues at Universal and SeaWorld tend to be more modern and fun.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras

February 5 – April 24, 2022
Best for: The most adult atmosphere, the best parade and concerts
Official site

That’s how you party in a theme park! If you’re both looking for thrills, Universal’s Mardi Gras is the place for you. From Cajun and global flavors to a dazzling Mardi Gras nighttime parade and rock concerts, there’s a party everywhere you turn.

The time of the parade can vary and the concerts only take place on certain evenings. We have a complete guide for a Epic date at Universal’s Mardi Gras, with a step-by-step itinerary, timetables, and our picks for the best food and drink.

24 oz Bloody Mary with loaded Cajun toppings including a shrimp, chicken wing, pickled green beans and more at Universal Mardi Gras 2022
Bloody Mary 24 oz with loaded Cajun toppings Universal Mardi Gras 2022

SeaWorld Orlando Seven Seas Food Festival

From Thursday to Sunday February 5 to May 8, 2022
Best for: The BEST food and drinks, plus a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere
Official site

What I love most about SeaWorld Orlando is that it’s the least stressful of all the theme parks. It’s usually less crowded and the lines aren’t as long as other theme parks. On the other hand, the parking operations can be a bit difficult and the service can sometimes be slower.

Where Epcot is elegant and Universal is exciting, SeaWorld is laid back. The food and drink offerings at the Seven Seas Food Festival are accessible and not too adventurous, and they’ve improved many offerings this year. Some dishes are creative, but not overdone, making for an easy festival to enjoy together. Browse the full Seven Seas Food Festival menu.

Start at Flamecraft Bar for a wide variety of craft beers and cocktails. And next door is the Sunshine Hops festival stand with craft beer and a refreshing Frozen Watermelon Frosé. But save room for the adult juice packets washed down at Coaster Cocktails near the center of the park, each named after a different SeaWorld rollercoaster. I went with the Manta because it has Sailor Jerry Rum, and my husband likes the style of the illustrations. Be careful, these drinks are quite strong!

Manta Coaster Cocktail - SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival - served in a clear juice pouch with classic tattoo style art
Manta Coaster Cocktail – SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival

If you love tropical flavors, you must visit the Caribbean market as well as the Polynesian market. Save room for dessert or pick me up at Cafe De Mar. Unfortunately, this stall is a little misplaced as it’s near the front of the park. Specialty Cheesecake Cones would be best in the middle of the park for a midday sugar rush.

The Seven Seas Food Festival is also the best value, especially if you have a SeaWorld annual pass. Before you go, order the Seven Seas Food & Beverage 18-Item Sampler Lanyard Member Pass online. This gives you three free samples with the purchase of a 15 sample bead.

SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival Sampler Badge - Photograph
SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival Sampler Badge

Food is the same size regardless of sampler badge use (beer and drinks will be sample size). Even if you’re not a pass holder, the 15-point badge is still a bargain. At $80, you’ll get 15 items, including the ability to mix and max food and drink.

Additionally, concerts are held every weekend during the festival at the open-air Bayside Stadium. In a brilliant move, Vanilla Ice will perform on the opening weekend of the new Ice Breaker roller coaster.

Pro tip: If the concert program does not have artists that interest you, meet on a Thursday afternoon/evening if you can. You’ll avoid the crowds and can enjoy a relaxing evening enjoying delicious food and drink.

Montego Bay Shrimp and Jerk Chicken Slider - SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival
Montego Bay Shrimp and Jerk Chicken Slider – SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival

SeaWorld’s NEW Ice Breaker Coaster

I’m not a roller coaster person, for various reasons. But I saw a media preview of SeaWorld’s new roller coaster, Ice Breaker. It’s so much fun and everyone involved had great things to say. I like this coaster as a choice for couples because it’s exciting but not as dramatic as some of the other coasters at SeaWorld. And its huge amount of airtime is sure to have you talking about all the cool moments afterwards.

There are food and drink stalls near Ice Breaker, as well as the Glacier Bar. Stop by the Glacier Bar for a special cocktail and relax together. Take a break and enjoy Orlando’s most relaxing theme park.

Tips for All Orlando Theme Parks

  • Check the park’s opening hours before arriving
  • Concert nights at Universal and SeaWorld are the busiest
  • Weekends are the busiest
  • Bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated, especially between booze
  • Make a flexible plan of all the must-do activities you don’t want to miss and communicate it to each other
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