Party Hard, Family Style, at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras!

King Gator Float, Mardi Gras at UOR \ Image: Universal Orlando
King Gator Float, Mardi Gras at UOR \ Image: Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras is a family-friendly version of what you find in New Orleans. Complete with a parade, beads, concerts, and food from the area, it’s a fun day for everyone. During this visit, my son and I were given the opportunity to ride one of the floats and throw beads to the crowd. My son was nervous about riding a float, but I knew once he was on there and throwing beads, he would cheer up quick.

A quick history lesson. Mardi Gras happens on the last day of the Carnival season that begins January 6th and runs through the day before Ash Wednesday. Many people confuse Mardi Gras for Carnival, the celebration that leads up to Mardi Gras. In New Orleans, they not only throw beads from the floats but also other small trinkets from cups to stuffed animals.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, you have no idea what you are missing, so allow me to enlighten you.

At 9:00 am EST the park opens and everyone runs through the gates, rushing to be the first one on Escape to Gringotts or Minions. For me, Minions is a top priority followed by Transformers and Men In Black.

After hitting up the rides, we head over to Diagon Alley for Butterbeer. It’s a requirement to have two on every visit to the park—one in the morning and one before we leave. It’s a filling drink that easily holds us over till lunch time.

After a few hours of hanging out at the rides, eating at Richter’s Burger Co., and just enjoying a family day out in the wonderful 56 degree Florida weather, we finally see the beginnings of Mardi Gras starting.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

I really enjoyed checking out the various masks and specialty beads you could purchase. My husband and son were more than happy to model their favorite choices for me. The beaded tie that my husband is wearing was $12 and the mask my son is modeling was around $16.

Nothing classier than a beaded tie. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Nothing classier than a beaded tie. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The French Quarter area is a bit small in comparison to what I remember it being when I was a kid, but it’s still fun to hang around and check out. The food smelled great and the performers around the area were lively and happy to stop and chat with you for a bit.

I took the opportunity to tell a few of the performers about my son’s fear of riding the float that night. He was worried he would embarrass himself and get stage fright. They were all very welcoming and gave him words of encouragement about how much fun he was going to have. Between talking with them and the churro we bribed him with afterward, he seemed more warmed up to the idea. I also reminded him that Daddy would be spotting our float, so we were in good hands.

Did you know Mardi Gras spotter
Image: Dakster Sullivan

By the time we were checked in to ride the gator-themed float and taken backstage for our costumes, Brandon was jumping for joy. He picked out a cute gator hat to wear while I was given a parrot hat (I’m still confused on that one).

We loaded up on the float and gave one last wave to the crew backstage as we started the journey to the parade route.

The gator float is the last one on stage so the crowd was already pumped and ready for us. It was more fun than blasting stormtroopers with Nerf guns. My son yelled “fire!” every time he launched beads in the air. I tried to throw as far back as I could so the kids in the back could grab some, and, admittedly, I hit a few people in the face. One mom was lifting her two-year-old son’s shirt to “flash” us for beads.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

A special treat at the end, we were all allowed to take home all the beads that we could grab off the float. My son and I walked off like little Jawa bandits.

The only downside to riding a float is that the concert starts before you are unloaded, so you miss getting a good seat, but really… riding a float and throwing beads or getting a decent seat in a crowded concert area? Riding the float wins hands down.

At the end of the day my son was happier than I had seen him while not plugged into a computer and we had a great day spending time as a family. It was an all-around fun family experience that I highly recommend to any family coming to town during the February through April months. If you’re an annual passholder and would like a chance to ride, you can sign up online. Children must be at least 48 inches to ride and wheelchairs can be accommodated with advanced notice.

The event runs until April 18th, so if you are in the area or looking for a reason to get away, Mardi Gras at Universal is the perfect excuse. For the adult party goers, the fun doesn’t stop at Universal Studios. It carries over in to CityWalk, with Pat O’Briens, AMC Theaters, Cow Fish, and other cool hangouts.

For ticket prices and a complete list of upcoming artists, head over to Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras website.

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Disclaimer: GeekMom was given tickets into this event. 

A Geological Birthday Party

All Images: Comic Salvage
All Images: Comic Salvage

As my children get older and more in control of their own preferences, I am always on the lookout for nifty tips and tricks in planing birthday parties. So I was delighted to hear from Sue over at Comic Salvage about a Geological birthday party she thew at the request of her five year old. In addition to the most frequent Pinterest offenders; the use of cookies as fossils, stones as place holders and as much rock candy as could be bought in a tri-county area, Sue came up with some amazing ideas to indulge her sons obsession:

Panning for Gemstones

Rock 2

Miniature, personal geological sites were created with buckets & shovel/sifter kits from the Dollar Tree. Tumbled stones from Rock Tumbler were spread throughout the buckets for the most cunning geologists to uncover. Playground sand from a local hardware store and water made it so that the kids were able to pan for gemstones then put them in their own rock kit for later identification.

Rock collecting kits

Rock 3

Make your own rock collecting kit using a bead box from your nearest craft store. Each child gets their own kit, which includes stickers for decoration, a set of magnifying glasses from a local party store, and a kid-friendly rock collecting book from Store for Knowledge.

Treasure Rocks 

Rock 4

Never be afraid to swipe ideas from a holiday focused craft. Using instructions on how to make a blarney stone for St Patrick’s Day, Sue made Treasure rocks. Each of Sue’s rocks contained a bouncy ball, but there is no end to the amount of things you could store inside.

To this fun list I would probably add British rock cakes to the menu, and the old game of pass the parcel with a rock theme. Music choices? Rock Lobster and Meet the Flinstones by the BC-52s of course!

Any suggestions on how to rock this theme even more?


Eat Like a Geek: Peppermint Toads


My daughter recently had a Harry Potter themed birthday party. The festivities of the day are for another article, but part of the Honeydukes gift bags were homemade Peppermint Toads.

My husband and I are foodies. Why do something food related halfway when you can do it right? This includes candy recipes that call for those Wilton flavored discs that are used as candy coating. Why make candy if you are going to use those? Continue reading Eat Like a Geek: Peppermint Toads

Cue The Imperial March: The Death Star Pinata

We have been busy at our house preparing for the galactic event that is our kid’s birthdays. Geekette will be turning 7 and little bro will be hitting the big one, all within 6 days of each other. How we did that I will never know, but my mom and her dad were born on the same day and my husband and his dad were born a day apart. Must be genetic. At any rate, as our theme is the original Star Wars movies, I have had to make pretty much every decoration we have. This year, big sis decided she wanted a pinata. I found several good pictures of death star pinatas on the web so I set to  work.

I just saw that spot I missed. Sigh. Image Jennifer D.

Things you need to make a planet destroying space station:

I purchased a soccer ball pinata at a local craft store. It was covered in this weird tissue paper that was fluffed out so I proceeded to tear that all off. The death star is definitely NOT fluffy. Once it was pretty much denuded of tissue paper, I filled it with candy left over from Halloween. This step is very important. In my zeal to get the thing painted I nearly forgot to put the goodies in it. That would have been an epic fail.

Once the candy was inside, I pulled the area closed as best I could, put masking tape over the hole and spray painted it with a flat gray spray paint. Another important step, be sure you are standing up wind while spray painting. I let that dry for a couple of hours and then, using my illustration as a guide, I attacked it with a black sharpie. I had thought about using a paintbrush, but my hand is just not that steady and I was worried I would screw up the details. Which I would have. Remember, it doesn’t have to look perfect because it will ultimately be destroyed thus saving the galaxy. Unfortunately it is too late for Alderaan.

How To Throw A Star Wars Halloween Party


I am a Halloween Geek. It is my favorite holiday, hands down. When my daughter turned three, I decided I would throw an annual Halloween party for me… er, I mean her. Each year we pick a theme and go crazy with it. This summer, our eldest watched the three original Star Wars movies. Being the daughter of a GeekMom and a GeekDad, she was instantly in love with all things Star Wars. When asked what she wanted her theme to be for Halloween, she threw it down. A Star Wars Halloween Party.

Not one to shy from a challenge, I told her I would shop around and see what I could come up with. I warned her though, that the characters she loved would be hard to find as most party supplies available are Clone Wars related. Here is what I came up with:


The key to successful Star Wars snacks giving them creative names. For example, a bone-in ham becomes roast leg of BanthaWomp rat casserole is really a potato casserole with chunks of chicken. Here are a few other examples of re-named cuisine with a Star Wars twist:

  • Sarlac Belly Beans: baked beans
  • Tauntaun entrails with blood sauce: spaghetti and meatballs
  • Leia’s garlic buns: use the garlic bread sticks you can get at the store and roll them into a spiral.
  • Death Star Cake

You get the idea. There are literally tons of pictures and ideas on the web.


Decorating for your festivities requires a little more time.  Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Monster Mash Ups. I just got mine at Target. These are the coolest and would look amazing on your food table.
  • Carve pumpkins with Star Wars images. You can find patterns on the web.
  • This one will only work if it is still daylight out side or if you have a light outside the window. Get a black table cloth, poke holes in it, and cover a window: voila, space! Print out images of the Death Star, Millennium Falcon, X Wings, and Tie Fighters and affix them. Or if you have some laying around the house, hang them with fishing line.
  • Make your own Death Star pinata. If you can find Star Wars plates, more power to you. If not, use black plates with red and/or green plastic ware. Or you can do a Jedi table and a Sith table with corresponding color choices


  • Light saber battles: To make your own cheap light sabers, take the tube inside of wrapping paper. Tape off the bottom quarter to make the handle and spray paint the rest red or green depending on your allegiance. Paint the bottom black. The Jedi whose light saber survives the battle the most intact is the winner. Depending on the age of the party goers, you could have them decorate their own light saber. If you want to make one that is a little more involved, say for a costume, check this out.
  • Pass the Death Star:  Make a Death Star out of a large Styrofoam ball, silver spray paint, and a black sharpie. Play Star Wars music and have the kids pass the Death Star around. When the music stops, whoever is holding the Death Star gets “blown” out of the circle. The game continues until one person remains.
  • Meteor Shower:  Get some brown balloons. Put a small toy/prize inside. Blow them up, tie them off, and add fishing line. Hang them at different heights around the room. The person who can make it through the meteors without bumping one wins the game. At the end, have the kids destroy the meteors and get the prizes inside.
  • Star Wars Bocce Ball or Destroy the Death Star: Paint a pumpkin to look like the Death Star. Be as accurate as you want. Get several of the small pumpkins (enough that each guest can take one home) and paint or tape an X Wing shape on it. Each child gets a turn to fly (roll) their X Wing and blow up the Death Star. The child who gets the closest to the Death Star wins. Make sure the kids are far enough back that it is not too easy.
  • A more intricate way to play Destroy the Death Star: Use a piece of plywood and draw a Death Star on it. Before painting it, put a small hole big enough for a bean bag. Decorate the Death Star. Have the kids take turns trying to “shoot” a bean bag through the “thermal exhaust port”.

Hopefully these ideas have helped get those creative geek juices flowing! Check out the Star Wars Halloween Round Up for more ideas to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.