This past 2020 Halloween season was quite different, to say the least. Many haunts throughout Southern California were cancelled due to COVID restrictions and I know I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be walking through haunted mazes with monsters hiding in every corner waiting to jump out at me. But there was an alternate type of haunt that would arise due to the circumstances and these were drive-thru attractions.
Last summer, I saw news of the first drive-in haunted house being produced in Tokyo, Japan. Eventually, I started hearing of similar experiences coming to Los Angeles, California, for the spooky, autumn months. One of these was Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience based on the Netflix TV series. The attraction debuted in October and sold out immediately during that time. Due to its popularity, it’s still running, and I finally had the chance to immerse myself in it!
The location is in downtown LA, but once you enter, you’re immediately transported to the town of Hawkins in 1985. High school cheerleaders and mascots greet you upon arrival, as well as signs stating, “Chemical leak detected. Face masks required.” Cars were lined up and staff were approaching vehicles (windows rolled up, of course) with placards instructing us to change the radio station to a specific channel. Eighties New Wave tunes were blaring from the speakers and spokespeople on air were playing games, allowing guests to answer questions by honking their horns.
In this first part of the attraction, you can order food and drinks to enjoy in your car. Up ahead, there was a main stage lit by a huge neon Starcourt Mall sign. Two enthusiastic “fitness instructors” were performing a high energy workout to music, encouraging visitors to sign up for their classes. As this is all happening, vehicles were being allowed to proceed further along the route in batches. It was finally my party’s turn to continue and leave the bright, joyful residents behind.
The mood suddenly shifted, and we were directed to change the radio station one more time. No more fun, danceable music was playing. The voices that came on were scared, anxious and informed us that we’ve become part of a mission to save the town of Hawkins from a sinister energy—the Upside Down. This part of the haunt took place in a huge parking structure containing several dimly lit levels.
Strobe lights and eerie sounds filled the space as we drove on. As we continued up through the lots, we had no idea what was around the corner. Threatening Russian military personnel halted all vehicles at one point, peering into cars with intimidating stares. One of the soldiers was wearing these bizarre contact lenses that gave his eyes the look of deadly spirals. This was the part where we encountered the first Demogorgon, a dangerous species held captive in a Russian prison.
We were allowed to continue our ascension, and at another point, all cars had to stop and turn off their headlights. The sound effects and voices coming through the radio the entire time were chilling. Screens were set up where pivotal scenes from the TV show were displayed. The climax happened at the very top of the lot where everyone parked and turned off their vehicles to witness a spectacular enactment of the characters battling terrifying forces.
I think the producers behind this attraction created a fantastic immersive experience. The visual and audio effects were great. The one element my group and I thought could’ve been improved was the presence of more monster creatures, the Demogorgons. This beast looked frightening, so to have seen more of them creeping up on us would have been fun. But overall, I enjoyed myself and am glad that I was able to feel a bit of the Halloween spirit early this year. I must admit, I haven’t seen Stranger Things, but have been meaning to start the show. This haunt made me realize that I need to binge-watch it now!
Photography and video recording were not allowed, so I wasn’t able to get any pictures to share. But not having my phone out allowed me to be present in the moment and soak up the environment, which I did not want to miss. If you’re in or around the Los Angeles area, definitely check out the Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience before it’s gone.
Know Before You Go:
- Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience has time slots available through April 2021. Beyond that, I’m not sure how much longer it will continue in Los Angeles.
- There are two types of admission: Standard and VIP.
- Ticket prices are based on number of people within a single car and start at $59 per vehicle.
- Duration is about one hour.
- Experience is for those ages 13 and older.
- Before exiting the attraction, there’s a merch store set up where you can buy souvenirs inspired by the show from the safety of your automobile.
- For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience official website.