When you walk in to the brand-new Friends New York City Pop-Up, a sold-out fan experience designed to commemorate the show’s 25th anniversary, the first thing you’ll see is a massive, ceiling-high photograph of the whole gang: Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Ross.
As you would probably expect, these six characters — and the spaces they lived in — are the primary focus of the pop-up experience, which is open through Oct. 6.
The Pop Insider team got a sneak peek at the space, which officially opens today, and there’s a whole lot for fans to love. The whole thing feels half like a museum, and half like a tailor-made social-media backdrop.
Throughout, there are glass cases filled with dozens of real props and costumes from the series, including Ross’ “Science Boy” comic, the Buffay the Vampire Layer VHS, Monica and Chandler’s wedding invitation, and the infamous list that says Julie is just “not Rachem.”
The pop-up features areas dedicated to each of the main six characters, with recreations of key set pieces throughout. (To be clear, these don’t appear to be the actual sets in most cases, but they are still awesome and make for the perfect selfies.) Fans will find the orange couch in front of the fountain, the door to Monica’s apartment, the iconic “PIVOT” stairwell (the couch is set and ready for reenactments), the boys’ living room, and Central Perk. All of these are clearly there to serve one purpose: taking great photos for Instagram.
The mix of props and photo spots is great, giving fans a bit of a behind-the-scenes look while also immersing them in the world of the show. Some of the props are also mixed into the set recreations, and there are display cases dedicated to the show’s primary couples (Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler).
At the end of the experience, there is a shop full of merch, including a lot of products exclusive to the pop-up. Fans can snag Friends branded T-shirts, canvas bags, water bottles, mugs, socks, and more. The best value is probably the enamel pins, which have anniversary designs fans will appreciate and only cost $10.
Near the shop, there is a “Central Perk” coffee counter where you can actually order food and drinks inspired by the show. Although the pop-up tickets are sold out, fans can access both the merch store and this coffee shop (but not the recreated Central Perk set) without a ticket. There is a separate entrance for just this portion of the experience.
Overall, the pop-up is full of fun details and call-outs that fans of the iconic sit-com will enjoy. Plus, fans will walk away with plenty of pics to share — even one with a turkey on their heads.
James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on the show, joined Maggie Wheeler (Janice) at previews for the pop-up. Having visited other Friends-themed fan experiences over the years, he says this one took things to another level.
“This is literally like a museum,” he says. “It’s immense, and it’s laid out kind of like the Guggenheim or something. They lead you through organically, and it follows the history of the show.”
Although that history began two and a half decades ago, Friends is still one of the most popular shows in pop culture — popular enough to sell out this fan experience before it even opened. Wheeler says this is because many fans view the show as a source of comfort.
“Friends has kept people company at such a deep level, through good times and bad times, through heartbreak and sickness, and through all kinds of life chapters,” she says. “People have so many points at which they return to this show. and so it’s no surprise that everybody wants to come see this in real life.”
Photos: Madeleine Buckley, the Pop Insider