The “Stranger Things” pop up store hits Chicago and Dallas this weekend just in time for fans to prep for the release of Season 4 of the Netflix
The show is set in fictional Hawkins, Indiana, but the pop up Hawkins fits squarely inside of Oakbrook Mall, located in the western Chicago suburb of Oak Brook. It’s a Netflix official, unique retail experience for the super fan that is full of exclusive merchandise, much of which is only available in stores and not online.
Upon walking into the space – for which fans can register for timed, free tickets – you are greeted with the signature Stranger Things banner and instantly know that you are welcomed into an immersive Hawkins experience complete with about five distinctly Instagrammable backdrops including a stop in Joyce’s living room, working bicycles that you can ride, a full and free Palace Arcade, Starcourt Mall, the Hawkins National Laboratory, the Snow Ball and a photo op with a demogorgon if you dare.
The experience takes you on a trip through core themes and scenes of the show, plus it delivers some Easter eggs to those who choose to take a deeper look at the clothing offered and the toys that line the walls.
“The Stranger Things Store will send guests right into the heart of Hawkins, in a truly immersive retail experience totally stokes with 80’s vibes,” says Greg Lombardo, Head of Experiences at Netflix.
Let’s take a detailed tour.
The first thing that hits you is the music. John Cougar Mellencamp. Wham. Teena Marie. Folks of a certain age will find themselves humming from the moment they arrive. Folks younger than a certain age will find themselves also humming the music they already heard on the show.
You walk in and turn the corner into Joyce’s Living Room, complete with the 80s couch, Dungeons and Dragons game sitting open on the wooden coffee table and a few boxes of Russian Cheerios lining the walls, along with an old-school black and white television, new vinyl albums (for sale) of the Stranger Things soundtrack and an assortment of things that will bring any 70s or 80s kids straight back to the memories of their nostalgic childhood.
Yes, you can sit on the couch, right under the alphabet lights, and take a picture.
After wandering around the living room, the Palace Arcade is my next step. There, I enter a blacklight party room with plenty of merch (hello desktop Pacman!) and the holy grail of 80s things: upright, authentic arcade games Gala
I check: Mad Max hasn’t been playing just yet, so the top spots are still available.
After the arcade, you can visit the Hawkins National Laboratory, where you can push buttons, take even more pictures and peruse a wall of t-shirts and demogorgon toys, including a gorgon plushie. Some higher priced things are there as well, collectible sculptures of key movie moments with a price point starting at $200.
After walking through the lab, the demogorgon appears out of a wall. Some folks will stay and take a picture, but others might skeedaddle quickly to the hallways of Hawkins High, look at a few lockers, see a few boxes of Eggos laying about and have the opportunity to buy a Hawkins gym outfit before heading to the Snow Ball, a scene stealer that was the highlight – and end – of Season two of the series.
Naturally, the Snow Ball path leads to Starcourt Mall, Scoops Ahoy and an assortment of neon items – perfectly on trend with 80s gear. And there is another photo opp with bicycles and a doomed backdrop so you can try on either your “Stranger Things” cosplay dreams or perhaps even picture yourself in “ET: The Extraterrestrial.”
Every detail was accounted for, from the Big League Chew gum and Ring Pops for sale at the counter, to the rats in the locker to the Thinking Cap and viewfinders for sale at Starcourt Mall and the arcade. If you wanted, you could suspend belief for a while and really think it was 1984.
Some Easter eggs: Hellfire Club gear was front and center, and since they figure prominently in the first episode of the season, a Netflix representative confirms that the group members have a high profile role in season four. Also, a collab between Netflix and iam8bit led to Ecuadorian artist Chogrin creating a vinyl sculptural piece on display named “Elegorgon. This Elegorgon piece offers the answer to the question: “what would a half Eggo-eatin’ tween, half teeth demogorgon look like?”
Fun fact: many of the items in Joyce’s Living Room are super glued to their surfaces to prevent sticky fingers from taking some of the Upside Down home with them.
Don’t miss this part: A customizable apparel station that allows you to place your photo alongside the key characters and print a t-shirt. Allow extra time for this customization option.
This isn’t the first Stranger Things store. The concept first came to New York City and L.A. in 2021, where lines wrapped the block as folks waited to get inside. The story is produced by Netflix and managed by Three Ten Merchandise with store design by Black Sky Creative. Licensing deals abound, including the Bandai-built Stranger Things Hawkins action figures and recreations of key board games from the 80s. Tickets are limited, but free at strangerthings-store.com
For the Chicagoans who are reading, the Stranger Things pop up store is in front of the Starbucks
Stranger Things returns to Netflix on May 27, just in time for Emmy consideration. The first half of the season will release on May 27 with the second half releasing on July 1.