The Mardi Gras Tribute Store is now open in its new location in Universal Studios Florida. Rather than entering via the Macy’s façade in New York, guests can find the store in Hollywood. The entrance is at Studio Styles, which used to be the UOAP Lounge. The Tribute Store also occupies the spaces at The Dark Room and Williams of Hollywood.
This year’s store is themed to an international jazz celebration that leads to the traditional alleyways of New Orleans and ultimately into a speakeasy where the Mardi Gras festivities continue.
With the new space, there are only three themed rooms rather than four, and the flow is very different than it has been in previous locations. Let’s take a look inside the 2023 Mardi Gras Tribute Store.
Mardi Gras Tribute Store Façade
1st Room – Ambassador Ballroom
Guests enter the lobby for the Ambassador Ballroom, a jazz club, through the doors of what used to be the entrance to the UOAP Lounge. A gold curtain with the ballroom’s logo greets you and a check-in desk is located to the right.
There may be less space for the intricate theming and small details guests have grown accustomed to from the Tribute Stores, but that didn’t stop the design team from throwing a few things in. The Ambassador Ballroom has its own matchbooks, as was common practice in the heyday of jazz clubs.
A small business card for Brass & Brimstone is on the counter, hinting at the speakeasy that the club conceals in the store’s backstory.
A drawing of what we can assume is the ballroom’s mascot is on the table.
Very little has been changed inside the former Studio Styles/UOAP Lounge as far as the venue’s appearance. Gold paint accents and curtains have been added to the previously all-white walls.
As you turn the corner into the Ambassador Hotel, you’ll see the band is set up to the right side of the room. Unfortunately, they’re (always) on break.
The top of the wall used to feature a blue sky with painted clouds. It has now been covered by white curtains.
Posters highlighting different carnival celebrations around the world line the top of the ballroom and there is a projection of confetti on the ceiling.
A number of the ballroom’s instruments are dotted in one corner, including a trombone, cello, and of course a grand piano.
On the piano are more cards for Brass & Brimstone plus sheet music for “An Evening of Jazz at the Ambassador Ballroom,” presented by the Ambassador Ballroom Players. the music is written by a Brendan McWilliams (who incidentally shares a name with one of the prop designers).
More sheet music is on the other side of the piano, also with a note addressed to a “Mr. Earl.” We suspect this is a Mr. Earl the Squirrel.
The note reads, “Dear Mr. Earl, The honor would be entirely mine, if you could attend my little Carnaval party. Yours sincerely, G. Pavo.”
Floating merchandise stands dot the floor. The Mold-A-Rama kiosk sits off to the side of the first room and you’ll find another one in the third room. Get your own “Parrot of Mardi Gras” or “Grinning Devil” figure for $8.
A Team Member advises you to go through the alley (the second room) to find the speakeasy (the third room). They will give you the passcode you need for entry.
2nd Room – Alley
The alley features an angelic statue and a faux wisteria tree at its center. Mardi Gras beads hang from the tree and there are a few masks at the base.
It’s dimly lit, to accentuate its position as an alleyway.
A poster for Jet’s Black Cat Club is on the wall, with a familiar silhouette.
More references to past Tribute Stores can be spotted here, with a poster for Gerg “The Llama” McWilliams and the Matte Finish Orchestra and other fun nods to the designers who work on the store. We appreciate all of the effort and creativity the team puts into making these immersive experiences for us, so it’s nice to see they get to add a personal touch to their work. And of course, there’s another shout-out to the iconic Earl the Squirrel.
A conspicuously dropped document lists out the cottonseed oil mills located on a number of railways around the south and midwest. It’s likely many of these names correspond to the Universal Creative members who worked on this project.
Merchandise does of course live in the alley too. A sign on the top of one shelf declares the street’s name Comte Écureuil Avenue, which translates as Count Squirrel Avenue. Another likely reference to Earl the Squirrel.
As you make your way through the streets, we would encourage you to avoid going down any dark alleys. The sound of a screeching cat can be heard at random over here.
More faux posters hang on the wall, declaring this a part of the Mardi Gras parade route and thus forbidding parking, for example.
Posters adorn the walls of the alley for various musical acts, including one referencing the Peacock Room. A peacock is in fact the logo for NBCUniversal and there are references to peacocks hidden throughout each Tribute Store.
Purple, gold, and green garland hangs along the faux rails at the top of the merchandise displays.
A faded plaque declares this the New Orleans Historic Tribute Square, and that it is a registered National Historic Landmark.
Some locations are also listed, including the Ambassador Ballroom we already visited, the Comte Écureuil Arms, the Lafitte Hotel, Rigg Apartments, the Float Factory, presumably a reference to last year’s Tribute Store, and the Hotel Anna Marie, which has been crossed out to “Brass and Brimstone.”
A full map of the area is visible, including the alley guests are now in.
The alley is quite well-appointed.
Masks from Sweet Revenge, a scare zone at Halloween Horror Nights 31, can be spotted on this balcony.
Now it’s on to the speakeasy, but you need to know the password to get in!
3rd Room – Brass & Brimstone Speakeasy
Like any good early 20th century bar, this place also has a piano. Don’t shoot the piano player!
The speakeasy name is written on the brick above.
Compositions by the aforementioned Brendan McWilliams are on the piano ready to be played.
There’s also a Mold-A-Rama machine in here as well for the Grinning Devil.
Like any good speakeasy, there’s a grand bar full of spirits. If you purchased a bottle prop to be on display, you’ll find it around here.
This bust is already in the Mardi Gras spirit, masquerade and all!
This speakeasy sure knows how to brand, they even have custom coasters.
Off to the side, we have a lovely area full of more merchandise, as well as a chandelier and fireplace.
The fireplace doesn’t actually work of course, but the decor appointed around the room is quite spectacular.
This bust of a man with his fancy moustache in particular is quite compelling.
Another peacock in the store.
Since this is a hotel after all, luggage is stacked in the corner.
There are three registers near the hotel exit.
It can get a bit tight over here when crowds form.
Near the faux bar is the pastry case, filled to the brim with an assortment of Mardi Gras-themed treats for everyone to try!
Here’s a full menu, as well as a close-up look at everything available below. Reviews are linked if items are returning from years past.
King Cake Whoopie Pie – $7
Mardi Gras Smore – $4.50
Marshmallow Pop – $4.50
Vanilla Cookie Dough Ball – $4.50
Maple Bacon Cookie Dough Ball – $4.50
Trifle Cake – $12
Fleur De Lis Enrobed Brownie – $10
Mardi Gras Mask Brownie – $10
Chocolate Dipped Bacon – $7
Bananas Foster Macaron – $5
King Cake Macaron – $5
Maple Bourbon Macaron – $5
Chocolate Cookie Dough Ball – $4.50
There’s a coaster for Hotel Anna Marie, which, as we saw on the building directory earlier, was replaced by Brass & Brimstone.
Watch our video tour of the 2023 Mardi Gras Tribute Store below.
Are you excited to visit the new Mardi Gras Tribute Store? Let us know in the comments below!
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“Rex” is the name and symbol of one of New Orleans’ oldest and most iconic Mardi Gras parades.