When you think of theme park attractions, the first pieces of entertainment to come to mind are most likely rides and shows. But there’s no denying that shopping can be an attraction in and of itself.
For many years, theme park shops have been themed in a more interesting style than a store you would find in a typical mall. For example, The Emporium shops found on Main Street U.S.A. in Disney castle parks are iconic and detailed. But when it comes to a themed store, few do it better than the Universal Studios Florida Tribute Stores, in my opinion.
The first Tribute Store to appear in Universal Studios Florida was in 2015, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights. It was the only year the store set up shop in what was then the Aftermath gift shop at the exit of Twister…Ride it Out before moving to its current location. This 2015 shop was admittedly not as detailed as what we’ve come to know and love, but it is what started the trend.
If you’re not familiar with any of the various tribute stores, you’d probably be shocked to discover the amount of detail inside of these shops. These aren’t simply some lightly themed stores. They are all out attractions themselves. The amount of detail, love, and care put into these shops is quite breathtaking.
What began as a Halloween tradition themed to the spooky season has gone on to present different rooms of the shop themed around individual franchises. In the past, we’ve seen full-blown “Stranger Things,” “Ghostbusters,” “Beetlejuice,” and other titles’ displays presented in unique fashion. These stores and rooms have just as much detail in them as a Halloween Horror Nights maze, minus the jump scares and with the addition of merchandise.
Although Halloween Horror Nights isn’t an event enjoyed by everybody who visits Universal Studios Florida, the nice thing about the Tribute Store is that it gives you a taste of the event even if you’re not brave enough to face your fears, since it’s open during the daytime park hours. In fact, I would suggest that if you have a young child asking you to take them to Halloween Horror Nights, perhaps take them through the Tribute Store first, simply to see how they react. It could be a decent testing space to discover whether or not they can handle the true scares.
With the success of a Halloween themed Tribute Store, Universal was smart enough to extend beyond the spooky season. We have since seen Tribute Stores for the Christmas season as well as Mardi Gras, and even a Jurassic World Tribute Store with the opening of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster over at Islands of Adventure. Given how frequently the Tribute Stores are changing, you’d think it might hinder the amount of detail and creativity put into them. Luckily, that is not the case. Every new iteration of the Tribute Store is an entirely new experience.
With the success of the Tribute Store in Universal Studios Florida, we’ve seen Universal expand this concept adding a smaller, yet equally well-themed temporary shop in The Lost Continent in Islands of Adventure. They’ve also opened the Universal Legacy Store at CityWalk, featuring a similar feel to the Tribute Store while celebrating Universal’s theme park legacy.
I wish that more theme parks would take note of Universal Studio Florida’s Tribute Store success and replicate the concept in their parks. Heck, I wish that Universal would take a tip from their own handbook and bring this concept to Universal Studios Hollywood. I would love to see this concept replace what once was the year-round “The Walking Dead” maze in the park or even a vacant storefront in CityWalk.
On a different but related note, if you are looking for well-themed spooky shops in Southern California, might I suggest Mystic Museum’s Camp Horror and Halloweentown in Burbank? They’re both a close drive from Universal Studios Hollywood, and within walking distance of each other.
Overall, what Universal Studios has created is worthy of the praise it receives. The concept isn’t anything new, but the level they take it to and the frequency in which it’s updated is unprecedented. More themed entertainment locations should take notice and replicate.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.