If, like us, you’ve been starved of Stranger Things intrigue since the release of Season 4 a few months ago, then there’s no doubt about it: you’re going to want to make a beeline for the Stranger Things Experience in Brent Cross, London. We recently had the opportunity to visit before it opened to the public, and found a winning combination of creepily thrilling adventure, amazing special effects, and an array of neon-lit Stranger Things locations recreated from the show. It’s an absolute must-try for fans that promises thrills, chills, and plenty of cracking photo opps, so let’s dive into what you can expect from Stranger Things: The Experience in London.
Your journey into the Upside Down begins a tad inauspiciously, as the imposing warehouse in which Stranger Things: The Experience is housed doesn’t give too much away – although admittedly there’s an excellent first selfie opportunity to be had with the Stranger Things sign out here. Once you’re inside though, the intrigue ramps up pretty quickly. The official party line – one that a nifty cameo appearance from Paul Reiser’s Dr Owens explains – is that Hawkins Lab has reopened, inviting you inside to take part in a sleep study that’ll help improve the lives of Hawkins residents.
Of course, once you’re inside the lab, it becomes pretty swiftly apparent that the likes of Dr Brenner have ulterior motives for bringing you here. Now who would have guessed that? As the experience progresses, you’ll discover the secrets of the lab, form new alliances with familiar faces, and use skills you didn’t even know you had. You’ll need them, because a brand new adventure into the Upside Down to save a beloved member of the gang awaits you here.
We’re no spoilsports so we won’t share too much of the plot here, but let’s just say that it’s an entirely original storyline you won’t have seen on the Netflix show. Oh, and whilst the practical effects and cameos from everyone’s favourite Demogorgon-hunters are fun, it’s the special effects that really add the wow factor. One jump scare in particular had our group gasping with excitement, and leaving you in no doubt that a trip into the Upside Down isn’t a walk in the park. Especially with a very threatening villain on the loose…
Having escaped the clutches of the Demogorgons, we were then let loose in the ‘Mix-Tape Area’, which is a glorious neon-drenched playground of Stranger Things locations and 80s nostalgia. The gamers in our group made a beeline for the Palace Arcade, for a bit of button-bashing on the likes of Space Invaders and Joust (there’s no Dig Dug here, but it’s not like we had a chance of beating MADMAX’s score anyway). Elsewhere, you’ll be able to explore the Family Video store where Steve and Robin spend their day, or head to Rink-O-Mania to lush after the merchandise. Speaking of merchandise, you may want to save your pocket money for a visit here, because there’s an entire wardrobe of Stranger Things apparel up for grabs. For starters, I absolutely need one of those hot pink Rink-O-Mania jackets!
The photoshoot opportunities here in the Mix-Tape are particularly plentiful; fans are absolutely going to want to snap a selfie in the Byers’ living room with that infamous wall of Christmas lights behind them. One member of our party was found worshipping a giant mural of Season 4 sweetheart Eddie Munson, and we’re sure she won’t be the last. Meanwhile, take a little hunt around the area and you’ll find costumes and props from the show, including Steve Harrington’s infamous baseball bat.
For me, one of the standouts at Stranger Things: The Experience has to be the food spots. Maybe it was our rumbling stomachs after our time in the lab (sue me, escaping demons is hungry work), but to be confronted with the sight of Surfer Boy Pizza serving up giant slices was heavenly. Even sweeter was the trip to Scoops Ahoy, where we set sail on an ocean of flavour: pecan caramel, in case you’re wondering. Oh, and The Upside cocktail bar is a must-visit for their range of themed cocktails. After a brief flirtation with the tequila-infused Friends Don’t Lie, my pick was the bourbon & peanut flavoured Yuri Gonna Love This, a certain hit for anyone with a sweet tooth.
You could happily spend a couple of hours (and with all that merch, plenty of money) in the Mix-Tape, and so it proved for our team. Flushed with a success escape from Hawkins lab, and waddling a little from all that pizza and ice-cream, we headed home with plenty of pictures and memories as keepsakes from our trip to Hawkins. Remember: friends don’t lie, so trust us when we say that it’s a spectacular thrill-ride that fans of the show need to visit!
Also published on Medium.