Although originally scheduled to take place prior to the pandemic (and prior to Season Four), Netflix’s Stranger Things: The Experience attraction couldn’t have come at a better time for fans of the streaming phenomenon.
Currently housed at three locations in the United States and United Kingdom (Brooklyn, San Francisco, and London), Stranger Things: The Experience is a one hour immersive adventure, featuring a brand-new Stranger Things storyline and an 80’s-themed midway called the Mix-Tape, where guests can purchase food & drinks, merchandise, and take photos to their heart’s content.
Tickets buyers begin the evening standing in a amusement park style queue which funnels everyone into a waiting room outside of Hawkins Lab. The conceit of the experience is that everyone has been invited to take part in a sleep study, with actors in lab coats portraying dutiful and inquisitive members of the research team. The actors in this section of the experience interact with guests and stay in character, so if that’s not your thing, hang back in each individual line and let others go ahead of you.
Once inside the Lab, the fun starts with puzzles and psychic ability tests with special effects to enhance the immersive nature of the show. Stranger Things: The Experience is a cross between a pre-show at a Disney or Universal Studios theme park, with elements of an escape room/haunted house. There are no “scare actors” in the one hour journey, and if you scare easily, it is more atmospheric, with no actors dressed in Demogorgon suits jumping out at you.
The sets designed for the attraction are convincing, and all of your favorite characters make appearances on screens, played by the original cast. The finale boasts a 3-D battle that is the highlight of the experience, with monsters and psionic humans getting into it once again.
If you enjoy immersive storytelling and audience participation, you will enjoy the experience, which plays like a more adult amusement park attraction (with requisite swearing from the teenagers and a little CGI-carnage). Those who are looking for a scare-fest will be disappointed, but it appears that the designers shot for the widest audience on this one, not wanting to have traumatized kids crying as the enter the gift shop/food court hybrid at the end of the show.
Speaking of the concluding portion of the Stranger Things Experience, your night finishes in the Mix-Tape which includes a Surfer Boy Pizza van, Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor, classic arcade games, a bar, and photo op stations such as the Byers living room from Season One. The photo ops and arcade games are free (Missile Command, Dig Dug, Joust, and Centipede), but everything else will cost you (at non-1980’s prices). Prices for the pizza, drinks, and ice cream are commensurate with what you would pay at your local amusement park, and there are tables and high top seats where you can relax or get a bite to eat.
Surprisingly, there is no Hawaiian pizza or U.S.S. Butterscotch ice cream available, but the atmosphere of the Mix-Tape does put you back into the ’80s, with music, Day-Glo colors, and more actors dressed as denizens of Hawkins, like a disgruntled Scoops Ahoy employee, newspaper reporter, and roller skater. Again, you can interact with them as much as you like or stay away, and there is no time limit (other than closing time) for the Mix-Tape portion of the show, so relax and spend as much time (and money) here as you like.
There were a few exclusive merchandise items available (like an “I survived the Sleep Study” t-shirt), but most of the plentiful shirts, games, and accessories can be found elsewhere or at your local Hot Topic.
Hard core Stranger Things fans (particularly teens and pre-teens) are bound to enjoy the Stranger Things pop-up and give attendees a chance to imagine what a permanent Stranger Things attraction may look like at one of the major theme parks.
Stranger Things: The Experience is currently available through early September at the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn, through November in London at Troubadour Brent Cross Studios, and through September in San Francisco at the San Francisco Armory. Check out each city for specific pricing and hours at each location.