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Stranger Things experience turns Seattle upside down

caption: Stranger Things: The Experience is an immersive fandom event in Seattle over the summer of 2023.
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Stranger Things: The Experience is an immersive fandom event in Seattle over the summer of 2023.
Dyer Oxley / KUOW

Turns out, I have super powers. You might have them, too. That's what "Stranger Things: The Experience" aims to find out while in Seattle over the summer of 2023 ... or is it 1986?

"Stranger Things: The Experience" is Netflix's in-person, immersive event for fans of its popular show. It has set up in a SoDo warehouse to offer part live-action-role-play, part theater, part photo op, and part 1980s mall complete with a Scoops Ahoy and a Surfer Boy Pizza (there is a full menu).

"'Stranger Things: The Experience' is interactive, it’s immersive theater, there are actors, there are characters, there is 3D," said Isis Arias, marketing for live experiences at Netflix.

“We developed this story line with the Duffer brothers, unique to this experience," Arias said. "If you walk through it, you’ll notice there are aspects from every single season, but with the release of this around season 4, we worked with the Duffer brothers to develop something that would put fans at the center of the adventure and allow them to feel like they have walked into an episode.”

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Pop culture fans may be familiar with other experiences that tour from city-to-city, such as the recent FRIENDS exhibit that offered countless nostalgic photo ops. "Stranger Things: The Experience" is similar, but with an added, interactive feature. It's generally family friendly — I wouldn't lie to you about this, because friends don't lie. But read further information around this at the bottom of this article.

The experience is full of curiosity. Once you open up that curiosity door, anything is possible. Fans first walk through an interactive portion, with live actors, cameos, and effects. They essentially take part in a "Stranger Things" episode where they learn that science is neat ... but I’m afraid it’s not very forgiving. Then they get to hang out in a themed lounge called "Mix Tape.”

“They will be adventuring through Hawkins Lab and meeting up with their favorite characters to help fight the terrors that are threatening Hawkins. And then you get to hang out here in the Mix Tape area, this is where you get to immerse yourself in iconic environments," Arias said. "We have a very unique Upside Bar, which is our ’80s themed bar, and people can hang here a long as they like.”

caption: Trinity Clark and Lauren Duncan travel to the 1980s to work at Scoops Ahoy at "Stranger Things: The Experience," live in Seattle over the summer of 2023.
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1 of 9 Trinity Clark and Lauren Duncan travel to the 1980s to work at Scoops Ahoy at "Stranger Things: The Experience," live in Seattle over the summer of 2023.
Dyer Oxley / KUOW

Mix Tape is best described as a mini mall, with familiar storefronts from the show, an arcade, and a photobooth. Fans will find it ... bitchin’. There are also plenty of shirts, mugs, and other merch for memories. Scattered throughout this area are photo opportunities. Snap a shot with Vecna as he torments you. Try to communicate with Will on his mom’s couch surrounded by string lights. Sit in a Scoops Ahoy boat while enjoying a USS Butterscotch sundae. Try to make a call in a phone booth.

“People do get dressed up,” Arias said. “Not required, but it is so much fun. You can see our best-dressed wall. People come in with their ’80s gear, and their 'Stranger Things' costumes. We welcome it all.”

My personal advice for attendees is to first wash their hair with Faberge Organics, the shampoo and conditioner. When your hair is damp, not wet, damp, use four puffs of Farrah Fawcett spray. That should get you ready for the event.

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This experience is the product of a little known branch of Netflix, which designs in-person events, based on its properties. It's previously designed "Money Heist" and "Bridgerton" experiences. Also, a drive-in "Stranger Things" event in Los Angeles. Currently, "Stranger Things: The Experience" is also showing in Paris and Toronto.

“We’ve done a variety of things, some are more adult," Arias said. "This one is more family friendly because of 'Stranger Things.' It allows more multigenerational viewing. There are people who see the ’80s show and go, ‘that’s so nostalgic,’ and then you have a whole new set of fans growing up thinking it’s so cool — these are really cool friends fighting monsters, I love that. Those themes of friends and adventure, that thrilling nature lends itself to something like this where we can bring the world to life.”

Stranger Things: The Experience

  • Location: 1750 Occidental Avenue, Seattle.
  • Open through August. Wednesdays through Fridays: 4-9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Tickets: $45 adults / $34 ages 5-17 / $85 for VIP tickets that come with swag bag and a drink.
  • Family friendly. Not for children under five. Kids 13 and younger need to be accompanied by an adult. There are some horror elements, bright lights, loud noises, and a gesture some parents may find offensive. I'd rate this event as bordering PG and PG-13.
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