Wednesday, January 29th saw a new, immersive shopping experience unveiled at Universal Studios Florida. In celebration of the park’s 25th Mardi Gras event, the first-ever Mardi Gras Tribute Store opened its doors.
This two-room shopping experience exudes an eerie, yet exciting ambiance. Of course, Mardi Gras beads, t-shirts, glassware join skulls and collectibles in a pair of dark New Orleans themed environments.
25 years ago, Universal Orlando theme park hosted its first Mardi Gras celebration. Festive floats, beads, beignets and multiple concerts highlight this New Orleans inspired party. For the silver anniversary of this epic event, Universal Studios Orlando adds more floats, delicious new dining options and a first-ever Tribute Store for this event.
Enter the Mardi Gras Tribute Store and step into New Orleans darker side
Located across from the New Orleans food court, itself filled with flavor fun for Mardi Gras, and next door to the Mummy roller coaster, something ominous lurks. Attached to a large purple top hat, giant letters announce “Tribute Store.” Beneath, bright, hypnotic eyes of a giant skull summons shoppers to enter.
At first, nothing seems too ominous. Walk past the piano and assorted instruments and find an old Victrola. Distant and slightly spooky, the music hints of things to come. Continue past a wall of foliage and a large cemetery gate marks the entrance to the first of two dimly lit rooms of this eerie experience. Crickets and crows announce their presence in this nocturnal realm. In the center, a large fountain, surrounded by candles, partially hides what appears to be a centuries-old crypt.
Mardi Gras merchandise hides among the stone monuments and small statues. Tucked within the back corner of this Lafayette No. 1, New Orleans (Garden District) cemetery, a trio of small signs point the way to a second, surreal shopping environment.
Upon emerging from the leaf-lined connecting crypt, distinct sounds of the swamp confirm arrival in the bayou. Peppered with small magical trinkets, moss lines the ceiling, while the waters of swamp gently churn across the floor. Perched quietly on the porch, a Voodoo witch doctor rocks in his chair, awaiting visitors. Could this be Papa Legba?
Tucked among the vines and shelves, more Mardi Gras beads, shirts, and collectibles tempt shoppers to take them home.
Instagram ready Mardi Gras Tribute Store scenes
Both rooms of this over-the-top, shopping environment host a diverse collection of commemorative shirts, glassware, beads and much more. Additionally, a pair of Instagram walls offer unique photo opportunities for additional Mardi Gras memories.
Tribute Store’s Cryptic images
Upon entering the Universal Studios cemetery, steer to the right. There, just past the candle covered fountain, a floor to ceiling crypt awaits guests. Ready to be the backdrop of countless social media memories, the names* of those whose magical touch made this immersive experience adorn the front of this commemorative crypt. *Of note, look closely, these pseudonyms have a particular French flair to them.
Mask wall and attic cutaway
Just to the right of the exit and cash wrap, this brilliant bayou boasts a second somewhat sinister snapshot section. Masks adorn the wall of this cutaway room. Look closely at attic above for a vexing voodoo creature, ready to photobomb each shot.
A Perfect Silver Anniversary Tribute
While the location and even ambiance of this new Mardi Gras Tribute Store might be familiar to many guests, the shopping experience is a first for Universal Studios’ Mardi Gras party. As such the venue provides the perfect tribute to a quarter-century of New Orleans inspired excitement. Fitting that what was once a location only used for Halloween Horror Nights themed souvenirs, this Tribute Store keeps the same creepy-cool ambiance. Universal’s tremendously talented team crafted an iconic cemetery and backwaters bayou for the perfect New Orleans experience.
Mardi Gras Magic
Mardi Gras celebrations at Universal Studios Florida begins on February 1st and runs well beyond Fat Tuesday (through April 2). Concerts and parades (with TONS of beads) join taste bud tempting treats to celebrate 25 years of party adventures. Stay tuned to Inside the Magic for details.
Source and images: Melissa Allebach, Universal Orlando Resort, Michael Gavin