Express train to the Upside Down: How to live out your ‘Stranger Things’ fantasies in Brooklyn

Express train to the Upside Down: How to live out your 'Stranger Things' fantasies in Brooklyn
The upside down awaits ….

Netflix’s hit Stranger Things is the rare show that makes you want to crawl inside it and live in that world, even if that world is full of mysterious disappearances, faceless monsters and an extra EXTRA creepy Matthew Modine. The world the show depicts is long gone, rolled up and tossed in the hamper of time with the rest of the ’80s and its bad haircuts. But we rounded up how you can do the next best thing and create your own tour of Stranger Things type experiences, right here in Brooklyn. Grab your bikes and go on an ’80s flashback ride across the borough while you search for Winona and try to find out where El (or the L, at least) disappeared to. We even found a way to access the Upside Down in Brooklyn (no, it doesn’t involve taking a lot of drugs). 

(mild spoilers below!)


Via Barcade's Flickr.
Via Barcade’s Flickr.

To time travel back to the 80s

388 Union Ave., Brooklyn

Barcade has dramatically expanded its empire to Manhattan, New Jersey and Philadelphia since the first location opened in 2004, but the OG spot stays true to its classic roots with a selection of mostly ’80s arcade games. To feel the most imbued in the Stranger Things vibe, stick to games like Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and Satan’s Hollow. And it might be haunted too (more on this below).


It's all in the Deetz-tails. Via Facebook.
It’s all in the Deetz-tails. Via Facebook.

To meet Winona

Pizza Party
254 Irving Ave., Bushwick

If the boys of Stranger Things had a sleepover, it might feel a lot like Pizza Party, the pizza restaurant/party spot that’s the brother bar to Boobie Trap across the street. The walls looks like a I Love the 80s episode exploded: they’re covered in movie posters and classic toys from the 80s and 90s; one wall is painted like a scene from the original Super Mario Bros. game, and the bar hosts regular movie nights from the era too.

And if you want to follow Winona Ryder into another unknown dimension, just knock three times: One wall has the door from Beetlejuice drawn on it.


Via the Brooklyn Strategist's Facebook.
Via the Brooklyn Strategist’s Facebook.

To hunt the Demogorgon yourself

The game once derided as solely the provenance of sweaty nerds suddenly seems quaint and intimate in our modern era of Pokemon Go and virtual reality sex apps. We expect a renewed surge in interest thanks to its starring role in the show. If you want to check it out for yourself, try one of these:

The Brooklyn Strategist
333 Court St., Cobble Hill

Brooklyn’s beloved board game store hosts regular events for playing D&D nights and other role-playing games so you can get yourself up to mechawizard level (I don’t know if that’s a thing — will someone invite me to play D&D with them already??)

Twenty Sided Store
362 Grand St., Williamsburg

The Village Voice voted this shop, named after D&D’s famous many sided die, the best game shop in the city last year, calling it perfect “even for the merely D&D-curious.” Hey, that sounds like you!

The NYC Dungeons and Dragons Meetup

You might want to be a bit more seasoned in the game to join this, but the local D&D Meetup group gets together regularly to run some campaigns of the game together. It’s a good chance to make new friends — and what is Stranger Things about except friendship?


Either the walls are reaching out to you or the condo developers are getting real pushy.
Either the walls are reaching out to you or the condo developers are getting real pushy.

To explore the supernatural

Go full Winona and keep giving yourself the creeps by checking out some of Brooklyn’s most haunted places, including a haunted house in Brooklyn Heights that was once the home of H.P. Lovecraft, the legendary Batcave. There’s even a story about Barcade being haunted — a Stranger Things twofer! Be careful who you seek out as a ghost hunting guide though. Bring lots of lights.


Barb never stood a chance. Via.
Barb never stood a chance. Via.

For when you’re missing Barb too much

376 9th St., Park Slope

Barb has become the cult hero of the show since her tragic off-screen death at the hands of the Upside Down monster left fans with a Barb-shaped hole in their hearts. Pour one out at Barbés (aka Barb-less? Just go with us here), Park Slope’s tantalizingly dark jazz and world music bar. It even has a drink called THE LAST WORD, which is something poor Barb never got on the show, made with lime juice, luxardo maraschino, green chartreuse, plymouth gin. For the record, I’m here for the anti-Barb backlash. Barb: you lame.


winona ryder stranger things christmas lights joyce byers season 1

When you’ve got the soundtrack stuck in your head

Should you stay or should you go now? Relive the era of big hair and clunky walkie-talkies at this 80s vs. 90s edition of the Freedom Party at Brooklyn Bowl on Friday ($10 in advance).


Music and outfits straight outta the 80s, plus roller skating skills that can help you escape monsters. Via Dreamland's Facebook page.
Music and outfits straight outta the 80s, plus roller skating skills that can help you escape monsters. Via Dreamland’s Facebook page.

When you want to relive the music AND the outfits

Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Disco at Prospect Park’s skating rink is frequently a homage to the hair, the spandex, the leg warmers and the tunes that made the ’80s so … ’80s. The vibe is more raucous than ominous, but you can skate around to 80s classics at several upcoming nights, including a Flashdance theme night on Aug. 26, a Pretty in Pink Prom on Sept. 16 and a Ziggy Stardust Bowie tribute night on Sept. 30.


Rent prices in the Upside Down are hitting the floor.
Rent prices in the Upside Down are hitting the floor.

When you’re ready to explore the Upside Down

Upside down Brooklyn

Two Gowanus artists earlier this created a walk-in machine that acts like a camera obscura, turning the Brooklyn sights around it upside down. This exhibit closed in March but video of it still exists here, where you can see what Brooklyn would look like if it were flipped over.

Upside down pizza at Pipitone’s
100 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene

When you’re not coughing up slugs you might eat this upside-down Sicilian slice from Pipitone’s, which Eater describes as “something of a local legend — with the copious cheese nestling next to the crust, to preserve its adamantine crispness under the onslaught of the sweet, deeply red sauce.” Onslaught? Deeply red? Adamantine? Sounds like something out of Stranger Things all right.


Stranger influences.
Stranger influences.

For appreciating its cinematic influences

The show acts like it spent its youth locked in a basement with nothing but a box of John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg VHS tapes and a stack of Stephen King books to keep busy. See a full rundown of all the ’80s film references the show uses here; but you can also seem some in real life: Aliens (which didn’t lend as much to the show as the original movie, but still) is playing for free Aug. 30 at Red Hook’s Valentino Pier; or catch Explorers and Invaders from Mars at BAM’s Joe Dante film series this month.


The L: Mysterious, often missing, loves to take you to the upside down (Manhattan).
The L: Mysterious, often missing, loves to take you to the upside down (Manhattan).

To continue the search for El

What the hell happened to El? Did she evaporate into nothingness? Did her and Matthew Modine run away to live a Walden-esque life in the woods together? Starting in January 2019, you’ll have your own search for L (train) to keep you busy for 18 months! Where did it go? What mysterious magicks are happening in those tubes underground? Will we ever get a second season of the show/a return of the train? Or will you be doomed to eat Eggos on this side of the river forever? Will everyone on the L line be forced to — gasp! — bike to work? Stranger things, indeed.

And for good measure, throw this song on your Spotify while you’re walking around too. It’s not from the show, or the 80s, but it does set the mood quite nicely.


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