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“Stranger Things” Fans Are Flocking to the Show’s Real-Life Filming Locations

By Ciera Velarde

May 6, 2020

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Creators Matt and Ross Duffer set “Stranger Things” in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, but the Netflix show was actually filmed in Georgia.

Courtesy of Netflix

Creators Matt and Ross Duffer set “Stranger Things” in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, but the Netflix show was actually filmed in Georgia.

Since the debut of its first season, dedicated fans of the wildly popular sci-fi series have traveled to local businesses across Georgia—where the Netflix show was filmed—to visit the establishments that appear onscreen.

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Since 2016, Netflix’s Stranger Things has captivated audiences with its ’80s nostalgia, supernatural elements, and an all-star cast. It tells the story of a group of middle school–age boys who set out on an adventure in their small Indiana town to try to figure out what happened to one of their friends who goes missing. 

Creators Matt and Ross Duffer set the series in fictional Hawkins, Indiana, but filmed in Georgia, which offers tax breaks and other incentives to people filming movies and television shows. From malls to laboratories, here are the most popular filming locations Stranger Things fans are flocking to. (Just be careful not to get stuck in the Upside Down while touring these locations. You’ve been warned.)

Bradley’s Big Buy Grocery Store

Palmetto is a town of barely 5,000 people about 25 miles southwest of Atlanta, but in the past few years, it’s attracted thousands of  Stranger Things fans hoping to see their favorite onscreen locations in real life. 

When the show premiered in 2016, it became routine for cashiers at Bradley’s Big Buy grocery store to welcome dozens of fans daily from around the globe. The fans sought out the exact spot where Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown filmed a scene in the first season as the character Eleven, and they’re still coming, even after the store changed its name and became part of the Piggly Wiggly franchise, a popular grocery store chain in the southern United States.

David Johnston, the grocery store’s manager,
said he’s happy to give quick tours of Piggly Wiggly and explain where fictional events took place. He’ll point out the path Eleven took through the store when she stole a few boxes of Eggo waffles and recall how she strutted away from the refrigerator aisle, ignoring the employee chasing after her.

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Johnston said the store's Eggo waffles sales have tripled. Employees don’t require visitors to make a purchase, but most buy something anyway, including themed T-shirts with the phrase, “The strangest things happen at Bradley’s Big Buy.”

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Hawkins Laboratory

A drab, gray building of brutalist design on Emory University’s Briarcliff Campus in Atlanta served as the show's Hawkins Laboratory, where all sorts of suspicious activity occurred. 

The building was the location of the Georgia Mental Health Institute from 1965 to 1997; actual research projects were conducted there, but today it solely serves as a shooting location for film and television, including the 2017 horror film Rings.

Starcourt Mall

In season 3, Starcourt Mall serves as the primary location where the gang hangs out, and they soon discover the mall is hiding a secret Russian base. But in real life, Starcourt Mall is Gwinnet Place Mall, a normal shopping mall in Duluth, Georgia, that thankfully doesn’t have any ties to nefarious activities.

In preparation for filming the third season, part of the mall was closed down and remodeled to resemble a mall straight out of the ’80s, including recreating the interiors and facades of 40 stores.

The mall remains open to shoppers but has disappointed fans who visit for a Stranger Things experience: A guard posted outside the wing used in filming shoos away anyone who attempts to enter or take a photo. Fans can take photos of the exterior, which looks similar to the building that appears in the show.

A sign in front of Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Georgia, prohibits anyone who attempts to enter or take a photo.

Hawkins Community Pool

Season 3 is the first season that takes place over the summer, so naturally, Hawkins Community Pool, where Billy works as a lifeguard,  is featured prominently. It’s a real community pool in Atlanta called South Bend Pool that you can swim in during the sweltering summer months. In fact, it’s located only a half mile from Screen Gems Studios, where many of the interior shots of Stranger Things were filmed.

Stone Mountain Park

Spanning more than 3,200 acres, Stone Mountain Park is Georgia’s most-visited attraction. Located 15 miles east of Atlanta, it’s open all year and features activities such as ropes courses, cable cars that take you to the top of the mountain, and even theme park–like thrills such as a nightly laser and fireworks show. 

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However, you’d never know the park features all these bustling attractions from the way it’s featured in Stranger Things for some of the show’s quietest moments. Railroad tracks that run through Stone Mountain Park are shown in Season 1, as the gang walks with Eleven in the woods, and in Season 2, when Dustin and Steve bond over girl advice as they hunt for demodogs.

The Palace Arcade

One of Season 2’s first scenes takes place at the Palace Arcade, a huge 1980s wonderland with games like Dragon’s Lair, Centipede, and Pac-Man. In reality, the arcade is an old laundromat located at 6501 Church Street in Douglasville. The set designers painted the exterior to look like it’s straight out of the ’80s, and it still looks like that now if you’re looking for a good Stranger Things photo opp.

Benny’s Burgers

In Season 1, right after Eleven escapes Hawkins Lab, she breaks into Benny’s Burgers where she steals some fries. Tiffany’s Kitchen, off of I-20 a few miles west of Atlanta, served as the real-life filming location. It’s an adorable local establishment that serves your typical diner food, including huge housemade waffles. (Sorry, no Eggos here.)

Downtown Hawkins

Throughout the series, downtown Jackson (south of Atlanta) was portrayed as the town of Hawkins, where key characters played by Winona Ryder and Sean Astin worked. Businesses in Jackson are benefiting from new customers in town. 

Lucy Lu’s Coffee Cafe opened downtown in 2017, about a year after the first season’s release. Within months, the café had created a “Stranger Drinks” menu. Popular beverages include the Sheriff Hopper, a hazelnut and vanilla coffee drink, and the Demogorgon, a frappé with blood-red food coloring named after the monster that rampages through Hawkins.

If you want to glimpse some storefronts that were actually featured in the show, Melvald’s General Store is at 4 Second Street, and just down the street, the Butts County Courthouse and Probate Court Building was used for Hawkins Library.

AP contributed to the reporting of this article.

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This article originally appeared online in August 2019; it was updated on May 6, 2020, to include current information.

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