Tiana's Bayou Adventure Opens June 28 at Magic Kingdom Park

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is better than Splash Mountain. Here’s why…

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is better than Splash Mountain. There, I said it.

Yes, we were hosted by Disney to experience the ride for ourselves before it opens at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on June 28, but that didn’t sway my opinion. Once we dug a little deeper into the creation story and then rode the ride, we knew right away that Disney Imagineers had created something magical.

The reimagined ride inspired by Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” movie is not only a more beautiful ride than Splash Mountain — with so much more to see and music to dance along to — we love how it immerses us into Tiana’s world by engaging all of our senses as we learn more about what she has been up to since the end of the movie.

So, let’s dig a little deeper, friends…

Here’s why Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is BETTER than Splash Mountain

While some Disney fans feel a strong sense of nostalgia about Splash Mountain, the movie it is based on, “Song of the South”,  is troubling in today’s time. And y’all, we’re talking about a movie that was released in 1946. We’re willing to bet most of you haven’t even seen the movie, let alone heard of it.

It was time for Disney to close the chapter on Splash Mountain and create a story a new generation can not only recognize but connect with on a personal level. Disney Imagineers set their sights on Princess Tiana as the perfect character to help write this next chapter.

“Tiana is everybody’s princess,” said Charita Carter, executive creative producer for Walt Disney Imagineering. “She comes from a real place in America, she wasn’t born into royalty, she has a working mom, she has military ties and there is so much about her life that is relatable. Everyone can find an aspect of Tiana’s story in their own story and so many people are inspired by her.”

Friends, this is the reason why feel Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a better experience than Splash Mountain. The new ride is about connection and dreaming big and isn’t that the root of the Disney Parks experience??

Disney Imagineers spent four years developing this ride recruiting local New Orleans artists and musicians and working closely with the family of Leah Chase to help guide this next chapter of Tiana’s life and what they’ve created is simply…magical.

“Disney is all about dreams, dreaming, and this is truly a dream come true for me wanting to write songs for Disney as a kid, and on top of that, I get to represent home and New Orleans, and so I’m just over the moon,” said musician PJ Morton who helped write the music you’ll hear on the ride.

The inspiration:

Princess Tiana’s character was inspired by legendary chef, the “Queen of Creole Cuisine” Leah Chase, executive chef emeritus of Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans. She passed away in 2019 at the age of 96, but her legacy lives on, deeply ingrained in this ride.

Disney Imagineers worked closely with her family over the last four years to develop Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and there are so many intentional details added to the entire ride experience.

Leah Chase Cookbook and Dooky Chase spices at the gift shop at Tiana's Bayou Adventure
You can purchase Leah Chase’s cookbook along with spices from Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the ride’s gift shop. Photo by Laura Byrne.

Her granddaughter Maya told us some of those meaningful connections to her grandmother can be spotted along the way in the queue, from the vegetables on the shelf in the kitchen, the gumbo pots, and hand-written recipes on the wall.

“As you ride the ride—you’ll notice on the tower “Never, ever lose sight of what’s really important.” [The poignant line of Tiana’s father at the beginning of the movie.]  That’s us, that’s the people, that’s the celebration of culture, tradition, and bringing people together and for us, we do it all over a bowl of gumbo and some great food,” said Maya.

We asked her grandson Edgar Chase IV about what the experience was like when they rode Tiana’s Bayou for the first time. “This has certainly been a dream come true for our family, to celebrate on this level with Disney, not only showcases the hard work my grandparents put into their family and their community and to see it come full circle. It is certainly a dream come true. It is certainly magical.”

Leah Chase's grandchildren, Maya and Edgar Chase IV
Leah Chase’s grandchildren, Maya and Edgar Chase IV. Photo by Laura Byrne.

The Ride:

The ride is a continuation of Princess Tiana’s story, set in 1927, one year after “The Princess and Frog” movie. But rather than watch her story unfold onscreen, you get to be immersed in her world and even become a part of the story.

While it is the same track and 50-foot drop as Splash Mountain, the experience itself is completely different. It’s more colorful, and fun, and you won’t be able to resist dancing along the way! It’s truly an immersion in music and storytelling alongside the characters you’ve come to love from the movie as well as 19 new characters.

It’ll have you activating all of your senses through sight, sound, smell, and even touch—the mountain of Splash Mountain has been transformed into a salt mine and you can feel the roughness of the sparking salt deposits on the wall of the queue. And at least twice we could smell the aroma of Tiana’s beignets!

Tiana's Office on Tiana's Bayou Adventure
Tiana’s office in the queue of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. There are lots of Easter eggs here like the bear, rabbit, and fox figurines on the top shelf– a nod to Splash Mountain. Photo by Laura Byrne.

Throughout your entire queue experience and ride itself, there is something to see. From the moment you walk through the entrance and see the Children’s Garden with all of the ingredients you need for a big pot of gumbo, to stepping inside Tiana’s office where there are Easter eggs galore to look out for (and even nods to Splash Mountain).

It’s all an opportunity to learn more about Tiana’s backstory and what she’s been up to since the end of the movie.

Tiana's story Newspaper Article on wall in queue
A newspaper on the wall in Tiana’s office gives us a clue about what she’s been up to! Photo by Laura Byrne

The storyline to share with your kids before you ride:

Princess Tiana has been busy since the end of the movie—not only with her successful restaurant Tiana’s Palace, but also with building an employee-owned cooperative, Tiana’s Foods, in a former salt mine just outside of New Orleans.

As you step into the queue, you’ll notice it’s Mardi Gras season. Posters on the wall give you a clue that  Princess Tiana is hosting a party this very night and everyone is welcome! But, with all the hustle, there was a mix-up and Prince Naveen and Louis forgot to book the band.

This is the part where you come in! Listen closely to the radio program — you’ll not only hear the authentic sounds of New Orleans, but an announcement from the radio announcer that Tiana needs your help finding musicians.

Your magical and musical journey begins as you step on board the log flume and float through the gardens of Tiana’s Foods which are filled with all of the ingredients you need for a big pot of gumbo and then it’s on to the bayou. We don’t want to give too much away, but you just might get to see what frog life is like in the bayou with the help of Mama Odie’s magic!

As you are on the journey, ask the kids to count how many critter bands they spot and even some unique instruments they’re using–ask them if anything looks familiar. (Hint about the Easter eggs we’ll share in a bit.)

rabbit playing missing license plate on Tiana's Bayou Adventure
Snapshot of one of the critter musicians, Gritty the Rabbit.

The ride ends with the glamorous soiree featuring all of the musicians you found, including three critter bands from the bayou as they perform Tiana’s new theme song, “Special Spice,” voiced by Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana.

We got to hear Rose perform “Special Spice” and share her feelings about the ride finally opening, “It’s awesome…so many people for so many years were sending me messages like I had some power, asking me when this was going to happen and I couldn’t say anything. All I could do was hope with them, so to finally be in this place to be able to unveil this- which we have been hoping for for so long- is really wonderful and it keeps Tiana and her legacy way in a really different way.”

How to ride Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom

  • The ride officially opens on June 28, 2024.
  • Kids must be 40 inches or taller. (Many 4-year-olds should be able to ride based on average heights at this age.)
  • There will not be a standby line at first. It is opening with a virtual queue through the My Disney Experience app at 7 a.m. or 1 p.m. You can also purchase Genie+ through the app and reserve a Lightning Lane entry. This price can vary depending on the day. You will need a park reservation for the day you want to ride to access both of these features.
Tiana's To Do List on Tiana's Bayou Adventure
Tiana’s To Do List in her office has some special people included on it! Photo by Laura Byrne

Easter eggs on Tiana’s Bayou to look out for:

The queue is filled with intentionally placed items! In fact, there are so many, it may take a few times to ride to discover all of them. There are just a few we noticed:

  • The voice of Leah Chase’s daughter, Leah Chase-Kamata signing “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” on the radio while in the queue
  • A nod to the military: You can see family photos of Tiana’s father in uniform along with newspaper stories of his honors for service in World War I.
  • The stars on top of the water tower represent Evangeline and Ray.
  • Bear, fox, and rabbit figurines and riverboats on the top shelf in Tiana’s office pay homage to Splash Mountain.
  • You’ll spot the names of Carmen Smith (senior vice president, Creative Development – Product/Content & Inclusive Strategies) and Charita Carter (executive creative producer of Disney Imagineering and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure) on the to-do list on the chalkboard. You’ll also see Leah’s name on the list–in charge of gumbo and beignets, of course!
  • Gumbo Pot on the bottom shelf in the kitchen is similar to the one at the beginning of the movie.
  • Tiana on the cover of Cookery Magazine: She’s reading this magazine on the tram start of the movie.
  • Missing license plate: You’ll notice a license plate missing from the car parked out front along with a note about it on the bulletin board in the queue. Look for the new character Gritty the Rabbit playing it like a washboard! (Case solved!)
  • Lari the Armadillo: You’ll see his house on the outside of the Critter Co-Op gift shop, but you’ll also spot him along the way on the ride! Ask the kids how many times they can find him.
Lari the Armadillo's house.
Lari the Armadillo’s front door– you’ll find it outside of the ride, on the Critter Co-Op shop. It replaces Br’er Rabbit’s house from Splash Mountain. Photo by Laura Byrne.

Heading to New Orleans soon? Visit Dooky Chase’s Restaurant with the kids!

You MUST visit Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and dine like US presidents like George W Bush and Barack Obama, along with Ray Charles, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King and so many more. The family tells us it’s a good idea to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance.

Location: 2301 Orleans Ave. in New Orleans
Website: www.dookychaserestaurants.com

Tip: Tampa International Airport has two airlines with nonstop routes to New Orleans: Southwest (all year long) and Spirit (seasonal)

The Disney connection to New Orleans

If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, then you’ve probably walked around New Orleans Square. It was the first major expansion of the theme park. And let’s not forget about Port Orleans here in Florida at Walt Disney World.

This new ride has been called a “Love Letter to New Orleans” by Disney Imagineers and it’s a love story that dates back to 1940 when Walt Disney first visited New Orleans. He was even proclaimed an honorary citizen of New Orleans in 1957.

So, the opening of the new ride with the help of some of New Orleans’ greatest musicians, artists, and iconic families, is a full-circle moment for the company. But, the chapters will keep on coming as Tiana’s story will continue to unfold in a new Disney + TV series, Tiana which will launch this year.

Read more about all of the details that went into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in this special section of the Disney Parks Blog.

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