Stranger Things The Experience Allows You to Unlock Your Power as a Main Character
When I was growing up in the 80’s to early 90’s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters were my favorite franchises. I owned a full Ghostbuster suit with a proton pack and, of course, I had every Ninja Turtle as an action figure. Yet, last night, when I stepped into Stranger Things The Experience, I saw the same awe and wonder on the faces of our group, ranging from young kids to even adults. They came dressed as their favorite characters, with dreams of stepping into the world, and I’ll say that this experience delivered that perfectly. Audiences had the ability to walk through Hawkins Lab, interact with the characters (and projected versions of the real actors), and even play a part in the Stranger Things Universe—that’s more than I could have ever imagined as a kid, and I’m so glad I’m able to experience it now.
Stranger Things The Experience – Unlock Your Power feels like the perfect blend of Delusion: His Crimson Queen, Cages, and the Stranger Things Store. Divided into two segments, the experience takes place in Montebello, CA (Los Angeles) and consists of a 45-minute walkthrough immersive experience and a free-roam area following, offering numerous themed merchandise shops, food and drink, and photo opportunities. Stranger Things The Experience is family friendly with only minor thrills and a few scary moments—the same you’d expect from the show—with some fog effects, loud noises, and truly incredible special effects. This is easily one that should be enjoyed with the whole family (13+ recommended) or with a good group of friends.
As residents of Hawkins, you have been invited to take part in a Hawkins Lab Sleep Study, due to the recurring nightmares and difficulty sleeping that you’ve faced following the events concluding Season 4. Yet, what is disguised as a simple sleep study, soon reveals itself to be a conduit for testing Hawkins residents for powers like Eleven—and soon, groups of thirty are split into three groups of ten, dependent on the power they have. This provides smaller group sizes to allow for some intimate engagement and recognition as you and nine others get to use your powers to stop various threats throughout the experience and save Hawkins from the Upside Down once again.
There are two options for tickets: a standard and a VIP. The VIP offers you one drink (a $10-$18 dollar value), a special Stranger Things themed tote bag and Bluetooth speaker at the end (may be different depending on time and location), and quicker access. We went on a Saturday and with minimal lines, we’d recommend going for the standard ticket and using the extra money towards purchasing a drink, some pizza, and ice cream afterwards.
Stranger Things The Immersive Experience
The first half of the experience is a 45-minute walkthrough of the labs and beyond. Groups of thirty of fully immersed in the narrative, as you are brought into the sleep study. From the moment you walk in the door, everything becomes in-world. Even if you need to use the bathroom, the researchers at the lab will write you a hall-pass and send you on your way down the long halls of the lab to find the restroom. It’s small details such as this that are impressive from the start.
Traversing six main areas across Stranger Things The Experience, each area is designed to progress the engaging narrative, test your powers, and place you at the center of the story. While other characters may assist, this is your narrative, and you and your team are responsible for doing what it takes to drive the narrative forward. This involves grabbing benches to barricade doors, using your powers to move switches, and solving puzzles to showcase your progress. The narrative is a brand new story, but feels at home in the Stranger Things universe.
While you won’t be finding the same level of interaction and engagement as something like Delusion as group sizes are larger (30 people), Stranger Things The Experience cleverly implements the powers mechanic to ensure that everyone had their moment (or three) to shine. For those who have experienced Delusion’s His Crimson Queen, the mechanics feel like an evolution from this experience. Each group (Blue, Red, and Yellow—denoted by wrist bands at the start) are given distinct powers from moving objects with your mind, to freezing enemies, to even altering the environment. Each of these powers are used in unique ways throughout the experience, and the storytelling is an epic build-up of tension up as you learn to use them, and then have to use them survive, facing larger and larger threats. Thus, don’t be afraid of larger group sizes, the experience is well designed to ensure everyone feels included and no one is ever fighting to be selected. There aren’t any 1:1’s or anything to feel FOMO over.
You aren’t alone in your battle with the Upside Down though. Your favorite characters from the show, like Dustin, Mike, Eleven, Max, Will, Lucas, Erica, and even Dr. Sam Owens and Dr. Brenner, will be there to either help in their own way. Using incredible projection technology that feels straight out of Cages, the scenes play out, making you feel like Eleven is directly in front of you. The best part of this is that the actual actors from the show play their role, so you truly feel you are in the room with Eleven and Max Mayfield as they dodge Demodogs and other monsters of the Upside Down. This is easily one of the highlights of the experience.
Another highlight is the absolutely spellbinding use of special effects in this experience. Beyond the aforementioned projection scenes, the lab areas have some fun moments where our powers are used in full force. From spiders crawling from vents (don’t worry, they aren’t real), to moving soda cans, to even freezing time—the effects are impressive. Other effects showcase the danger you’re in, as scientists are attacked from beyond glass by Demodogs and you see first-hand what destructive horror they possess. And as you progress, you’ll use those powers to stop the attacking Demodogs, rip panels from walls to unlock doors as fog pours out, and even send Demogorgons back to the Upside Down. It’s empowering to feel that powerful and I loved every moment of it.
Stranger Things The Experience – The Mix Tape
Following the 45-minute immersive experience, Stranger Things The Experience deposits guests into The Mix Tape, a massive mall food-court looking space with numerous stalls offering food, drinks, photo-opportunities, and plenty of merch. There’s no time-limit here, and audiences can spend as much time as they like partaking in the fun.
For food, Surfer Boy Pizza offers pizza slices and corndogs that looked delicious. The storefront is designed to look like Argyle’s van from the show, with a window carved in the side and some neon palm trees to truly give it that California vibe. For those missing Steve and Robin, Scoops Ahoy is present offering ice cream (complete with Eggo waffles on top), chicken and waffles (if you’re looking for a meal), and of course, candy. There’s a photo op here as well, with a half-boat and plenty of signage.
For drinks, The Upside Bar is your must see. Those with a VIP badge will get a free drink here, and for others, they range from $10 for non-alcohol offerings to $18 for a normal drink to $23 for the large versions. All drinks are served in collectible, take-home Stranger Things The Experience branded plastic glasses. Personally, as a bourbon fan, the Demogorgon was my favorite, which was their twist on an old fashion topped with a luxardo cherry and a miniature stroopwafel. The maple syrup in it was heavenly. A fan-favorite among our group was the Yuri Gunna Love It, which served up dark chocolate liqueur, peanut butter whiskey, and cold brew, topped with whipped cream and candied peanut butter bits. Trust me when I say that may be one of my new favorite drinks.
For photo-ops, there are some new ones, but most of the areas are repeats if you’ve visited the Stranger Things Store in the past. Joyce’s living room with blinking Christmas Lights allows guests to snuggle up on her couch and take a picture perfect for their Christmas Card. The Upside Down has a Demogorgon bursting forth from the wall, allowing guests to get up close and personal with one of the scariest things on Television. But new to this experience is an opportunity to take your photo with a statuesque Vecna as you trap yourself in his squelching tentacles. There’s many more—like a phone booth with Dustin’s missing cat posters taped inside, a Hellfire Club tribute area to Eddie, and a Family Video with a full Freddy Krueger life-size cut-out and VHS tapes.
For interactions, numerous areas have arcade games and pinball machines you can play for free. These are fun for kids as their parents enjoy a drink at The Upside Bar. There’s also numerous characters wandering the premises, offering small interactives. While there’s no larger narrative here or tangible outcome or reward for these engagements, they provide a nice narrative cherry on top for those truly wanting that 1:1 experience inside. We met with a reporter for The Hawkins Post, who interviewed us on our recent experiences, we saw Scoops Ahoy employees whisk a young girl in a Chrissy costume around to various photo ops and then organize a Happy Birthday song for her, and even a girl from the roller rink who looked to be confronting a crush.
Finally, for merch, there’s everything and anything you could want. From Stranger Things Ugly Christmas Sweaters to Pink 60’s style Roller Rink jackets to Eddie’s patched and stenciled jean jacket to Vecna shirts to Hellfire Club hoodies to even team yellow, team red, and team blue branded shirts from the experience. Beyond shirts, there’s bags, sleep study masks, keychains, pins and patches, and more.
The Stranger Things The Experience – Unlock Your Power immerses you in the world of Stranger Things, giving you a firsthand experience of what it feels like to have powers. You’re recognized by Eleven, Max, Will, and Mike as saviors of Hawkins. The experience is part immersive experience, part 3D projection movie, with some minor escape room elements—and all of it will leave you entranced and empowered. You won’t receive the same engagement or interactivity as small audience immersives, but you will receive production value, special effects, and brand recognition that no small scale immersive could ever pull off. With an engaging narrative and tension that permeates all participants, we love the feeling of having powers, the ability to step into the role of a Hawkins resident and being able to live in the world of Stranger Things. We just hope our powers can extend past our TV screens when Season 5 comes out so we can offer some of our power to Eleven in that final fight.
For more information about Stranger Things The Experience, check out their Facebook, Instagram, and website. For information about similar events, check out our Event Calendar.
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