By Joe Tracy, Editor of Theme Park Magazine
Do you sometimes have trouble sleeping? If so, there is some great news to share. Hawkins Lab is conducting a sleep study, and you are invited to join in! It’s a good thing you just so happened to be in Hawkins, Indiana, while this study was going on!
Rest assured, the study is completely safe. There’s nothing to worry about.
Or is there?
Stranger Things: The Experience
Stranger Things: The Experience is an immersive story-driven journey where fans play a role in a new stand-alone story based on the hit Netflix show, Stranger Things. This new storyline, by the creators of the show, brings together characters from the series, set designs, special effects, and live actors for the adventure. For this adventure, the year is 1986.
When you enter Stranger Things: The Experience, you begin with the story-based adventure which lasts about 45 minutes. No photography or video is allowed during this portion of the experience. During the adventure, you go from room to room trying to assist the cast of Stranger Things. Of course, what would an experience like this be without the Upside Down?
Upon concluding the adventure you are released into the Mix-Tape area where you’ll find:
- Scoops Ahoy, Family Video, Palace Arcade, and other iconic areas from the movie.
- Areas to take photos, perfect for social media or memories.
- Characters that you can interact with.
- Some props/outfits from Stranger Things.
- Stranger Things bar with specialty drinks and food inspired by Stranger Things.
Behind the Scenes of Stranger Things: The Experience
Amongst the 11,000 Netflix employees, there is one who, like Eleven, has special powers. The power of this employee is the ability to bring Hawkins and the Upside Down from the screen into reality. That person is Greg Lombardo, who is the Head of Experiences at Netflix.
Lombardo tells Theme Park Magazine that creating a large-scale immersive attraction that can travel is “a herculean effort.”
“There is a creative development phase where we explore all things Stranger Things, including current and previous seasons, and come up with a concept that delivers the essence of the show for fans to enjoy,” said Lombardo.
In addition to an interactive story, an important element of the experience is the role live actors play. And in Stranger Things: The Experience, there are quite a few actors bringing the experience to life.
“They add a whole other layer to the experience, inviting guests to interact live, move the storyline along, and create new moments for fans to engage with the hit series,” said Lombardo. “We have actors that we work with that support training other cast members so they can thoroughly understand the scripts and how best to interact with guests once we open doors.”
It’s the interaction of the actors with guests that make the experience so enjoyable.
Netflix’s Experiences division puts a lot of thought into the experiences they offer. As Lombardo explains:
“I lead a stellar team that includes creative, production, marketing and operations professionals focused on bringing our IP to life for fans around the world. Through innovative experiences, we want to provide our fans new ways to see themselves more in the stories they love. We’re creating a portfolio of different experiences across a range of content so we can be accessible and relevant to our members wherever they are.”
Beyond the Upside Down
As Lombardo’s title suggests, “Head of Experiences at Netflix,” there is more than Stranger Things: The Experience that Netflix is doing for fans. Some other Netflix experiences that are going on now or have completed their tours include:
• The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience
• Stranger Things Stores
• Money Heist: The Experience
• Army of The Dead VR Experience
More experiences, that Netflix can’t yet talk about yet, will be coming thanks to Netflix’s Experiences division and partnerships with companies and people like Mycotoo, Rodeo, Amy Parris, and Fever.
Where to Find Stranger Things: The Experience
As of this writing (June 2022), Stranger Things: The Experience is open in New York and San Francisco for a limited time. It will open in London in August. On the Stranger Things: The Experience Website (See Explore More: Resources below) you can nominate a city close to you for a possible future location.
Stranger Things Netflix Series
Stranger Things debuted on Netflix on July 15, 2016, and was an instant hit for the streaming service. The series follows a group of kids who seek to unravel strange mysteries that start after one of their friends goes missing. Their discovery of a parallel Upside Down universe sets a series of supernatural events in motion that could destroy everything they love.
Stranger Things attracted tens of millions of households, making it one of Netflix’s most successful original series. Stranger Things has aired four seasons with one to go.
Stranger Things: The Experience FAQ
We went through Stranger Things: The Experience in San Francisco. While our press access was free, we spent hundreds to travel to San Francisco for the experience. We felt that the acting, particularly in the Mix-Tape area, really made this experience worthwhile. They encourage you to dress from the 80s and immerse yourself in the experience. That makes it more enjoyable.
Be involved! Make it fun:
- If the phone in the phone booth rings, pick it up to see what is going on.
- If a Hawkins reporter asks you some questions, provide answers and maybe asked them some questions like what they’ve learned so far about their story.
- If you see a Hawkins Post person holding up a newspaper and saying “Hawkins Post, 25 cents,” pull out a quarter and give it to them. You will get a souvenir newspaper in return.
While we enjoyed the immersive story part of the adventure (especially the Upside Down scene), we really loved the Mix-Tape area where you see iconic sets recreated, props from the show, and get to interact with actors at your leisure. And the actors do a really impressive job. It was definitely a memorable experience and we love to see companies like Netflix making these experiences available to fans.
We strongly applaud Netflix for these “pop-up” themed experiences.
Explore More: Videos
Explore More: Resources
- Website: Stranger Things: The Experience
- 2021 Article: Stranger Things: The Experience Opens Next Year (Theme Park Magazine)
- Website: Netflix
- Website: Fever
- Website: Mycotoo
All pictures except the featured image illustration were taken by Joe Tracy for Theme Park Magazine. ©Copyright 2022, Theme Park Magazine. The illustrated cast image is ©Netflix.
About Joe Tracy
Joe Tracy is the founder and editor of Theme Park Magazine, launched on June 1, 2021. Like many others, his passion for theme parks and themed experiences started in childhood and never faded. Joe has over two decades of experience in the print and online publishing industry.