It’s been about a week since the second half of Stranger Things 4 dropped on Netflix, bringing fans a climactic showdown in the Upside Down, a new appreciation for Metallica, and some major questions ahead of the show’s fifth and final season.
But we aren’t here to talk about the new episodes, or even the new round of merch that they have inspired. Because as we embrace the newest wave of Stranger Things mania, there’s something every die-hard fan should know about —Stranger Things: The Experience.
The Pop Insider team was lucky enough to check out the Brooklyn location of this immersive experience, which is officially produced by Netflix and Fever and is currently running in New York, SanFransisco, and London (with additional locations to come).
The experience, housed in a large warehouse, is divided into two parts. The first half is an interactive portion that puts participants in the role of Hawkins residents who are visiting the newly reopened Hawkins Laboratory for a sleep study. Spoiler alert: things don’t go as planned!
There are no photos or videos allowed once you enter this portion of the experience, and I don’t want to ruin any of the specific plot points, as the surprises are an integral part of the fun. I will say, however, that the experience combines special effects, a cast of in-person actors, and recorded content featuring the Stranger Things cast. A majority of the main cast appears in the experience, and all of the content is original, not taken from the show. Throughout, you move from room to room, including familiar locations like the Rainbow Room. Overall, you spend time in five different settings.
For the Hawkins Lab experience, everyone is combined into fairly large groups, including people who you don’t know. A significant portion of the plot requires you to participate in the action, which can mean standing a certain way, posing a certain way, interacting with buttons and switches, or shouting things out. This can feel a bit silly unless you decide to go all-in and, for that reason, the people in your group can definitely make or break the experience. If you can get a large group of friends to go together, I think that will make it even more enjoyable, as you can be sure that those around you will be similarly invested. (There are also ticket discounts for groups of 6 or more, so that’s a double-win!)
Overall, this half of the Stranger Things Experience was fun and interesting. The events don’t really fit in with the larger plot of Stranger Things, but if you are willing to overlook that fact, a you’ll enjoy the truly immersive nature. The highlight is certainly the final section, which uses 3D glasses and some high-res footage to make you feel like you’re really facing the many dangers of the Upside Down.
The second half of the Stranger Things Experience (called “Mix Tape”) is incredibly different, offering an large, open room that you can wander with a variety of merchandise and experiences inspired by Stranger Things. Here, photos and videos are encouraged.
Some of the sections are designed as photo opps, including a recreation of the Beyers’ living room from season 1 (complete with Christmas lights), a giant Demogorgon posed for attack, and the Hawkins Family Video store. There’s plenty of interactive opportunities, too. You can get ice cream at Scoops Ahoy, grab a slice from a Surfer Boy pizza van, play games at the arcade, and take photos in a Rink-O-Mania photo booth. There’s also a bar offering themed drinks (both alcoholic and non), and that area is decorated with real props from the show.
There is also a section dedicated to merchandise inspired by the latest season (lots of Hellfire Club products!). There are plenty of products available to shop throughout the room, too, ranging from T-shirts and phone cases to a Hawkins magnet, Stranger Things Figpins, a Stranger Thing Magic 8 Ball, and so much more.
The center of the Mix Tape area, at least in the Brooklyn location, also offered seating. To complete the vibe, there was a consistent soundtrack of ’80s bops. There were even some scan-able “Gates” to the Upside-Down hidden around the room. You can find them all, answer trivia questions about Stranger Things, and earn a special prize. (In our case, that prize was a “super-fan” sticker.)
To be honest, I didn’t do much research about Stranger Things: The Experience ahead of time, in an effort to go in judgement-free. Based on the targeted ads I’d seen on social media and the various billboards in the streets of my Brooklyn neighborhood, I had expected the entire experience to be like the Mix Tape room, with shopping opportunities and an Insta-worthy setup. I was pleasantly surprised by just how interactive and show-specific the Hawkins Lab portion was, and it added significant value.
For the New York City location, adult standard tickets cost $58, while youth standard tickets (ages 5-17) cost $44 per person. I would say that this isn’t fully unreasonable, although it is a bit steep if you are also planning to spend money on food and souvenirs in the Mix Tape portion of the experience.
We had VIP tickets for the experience, which come with one free cocktail (in a reusable, branded cup) and a free gift. Our free gift was an “I <3 NY” tote bag, with a Demogorgon head in place of the heart. These tickets also include front-of-line access for the Hawkins Lab portion, which honestly make them worth the additional $40 if that’s something your budget allows. The wait to get into the experience was, in my opinion, the only weak point in the setup. There isn’t much to do while waiting, and those with standard tickets could be looking at a 30-40 minute wait or more. A VIP ticket cuts that down to about 20 minutes or less. I also do wish there were standalone ticketing options for just Hawkins Lab or Mix Tape, as some fans may enjoy one half of the experience far more than the other half.
Overall, Stranger Things: The Experience is a great example of a licensed fan experience. There’s a lot to do and see and you’re sure to come away with some great social media content, but — as with Hawkins itself — there is an air of mystery, too.
You can get tickets to Stranger Things: The Experience by visiting strangerthings-experience.com