Universal Orlando’s newest Tribute Store recently debuted for Universal’s 2023 Mardi Gras season but will the New Orleans style theming compete with Walt Disney World’s upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure?
First introduced in 2015 during Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios Florida’s creative team would redesign the retail location to feature elaborate theming based on a new concept each year as a sort of bonus haunted house. Due to its popularity with Guests, the Universal Orlando Resort introduced other versions of the Tribute Store beginning in 2020, such as the Holiday Tribute Store, Sumer Tribute Store, and Mardi Gras Tribute Store.
However, this year Universal announced that it would move the highly immersive retail experience from New York to a location in its Hollywood section of the theme park, featuring multiple themed rooms inspired by Mardi Gras-style celebrations worldwide. Universal’s website describes the 2023 theme, International Flavors of Carnaval, as follows:
We’re going beyond the bayou with an awesome party inspired by Carnaval celebrations from around the world. Watch a parade (on select nights) of spectacular floats. Sample flavors from the bayou to Brazil and beyond. Enjoy live music all around and concerts (on select nights), then go ahead and get your beads and your party on!
Plus, visitors can experience the Mardi Gras parade from one of the actual floats for an additional fee and witness live concerts from artists such as WILLOW, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the iconic Patti LaBelle. Accordingly, the Tribute Store will include the Ambassador Ballroom, host to an international jazz celebration, a false second floor representing global Carnaval celebrations, and a secondary room meant to represent a back alley in New Orleans, where Guests pass through to the third room: a secret speakeasy called “Brass and Brimstone.”
Interestingly, the Mardi Gras festivities’ setup feels similar to that of the many festivals hosted throughout the year at Disney World’s EPCOT, which offers limited-time dining options, unique retail experiences, and live performances from celebrity guests. Furthermore, it seems all of Florida has New Orleans on the brain. Disney Guests are either elated or irate that Disney Parks recently shuttered Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, based around characters from 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.
In addition, changes like this and rising theme park prices have led many loyal Disney fans to become Universal Studios Passholders instead, perhaps resulting in Disney’s competitor offering similar Guest Experiences to cater to these new transferees. So, will the new Tribute Store and Universal Studios’ International Flavors of Carnaval compete with Disney’s newest attraction?
Well, that feels a little unlikely since Universal’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store overlays are temporary and only come about once every year, with Tiana’s new ride not even opening until at least 2024. However, the festival, which began serving Guests yesterday, will compete directly with EPCOT’s current International Festival of the Arts, which runs at Walt Disney World until February 20, 2023.
From a glass-half-full perspective, this means Florida locals and theme park tourists have twice as much fun to enjoy on their next visit to Orlando, whether they decide to visit one Park or both!