After Netflix releases its final episodes on Monday(or what some might call Independence Day), I followed my iPhone’s advice and drove two hours northeast of Charlotte, North Carolina to Durham. Recently, I wanted to see in person what I saw on my TikTok “For You” page – the approximate location of the main character Will Byers. far away from me.
I guess I should introduce myself here. Hi, I’m Meara, 23 years old and I’ve seen it all. The third season of the show is my favorite. I spent some money on Stranger Things merch. I’m a very predictable Steve Harrington fan.
You may already know– The twins who create Stranger Things and write, direct, and executive produce episodes of the show. They grew up in Durham, listening to just a few podcasts from the Stranger Things boyfriend you’re currently reading.
The Duffers sprinkled references to real Durham locations throughout all four seasons of the show. Although the fictional town of Hawkins was not filmed in North Carolina—it was actually shot in the bordering state of Georgia—real-life bodies of water, streets, and other locations in Durham were named as landmarks in the make-up town.
When I realized I could check out these spots in person, I packed my iPhone camera and my passion for Stranger Things and hit the road. My trip to Durham finally included a slice of pineapple pizza (Argyle approved!) and very friendly pizza staff. But before that I had to stop at the infamous Will-napping place, Kerley and Cornwallis.
The tour begins
So, to be clear, the intersection of Kerley and West Cornwallis roads in Durham is not actually where we see it on the show. But the Duffer brothers use the name of this very real intersection.
When it happens: In the first episode of “Stranger Things,” young friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin explain to Chief Hopper that Will was traveling down a street they call “Mirkwood” before he disappeared. Curly meets.” (If you’re having trouble picturing the path at the intersection of the two roads, check out this neat fan-made map of Hawkins.) The audience sees Will disappearing far away in the Byers’ barn.
The Will Byers encounter took place at night under the most appalling conditions, but my visit took place in the afternoon. The green street signs and traffic flow were unusual, but the giant trees surrounding the area could certainly hide a demogorgon or two. I was a little embarrassed when I raised my phone to take a selfie, but I guess the nearby residents are used to seeing their fans walking around that corner. Things we did for Stranger Things.
@molexik #strangerthings references in #Northcarolina , part one! #strangerthings4#ncfilm#nccheck#durham#netflix♬ Stranger Things – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Identical twins Matt and Ross Duffer, 38, grew up near this intersection in Durham. According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, their childhood in the 90s included bicycles, railroad expeditions and the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering. (Although they were born in the 80s, when Stranger Things famously happened, the Duffers are more children of the 90s). They made their first film in third grade with a gifted camcorder and have been working on projects as a duo ever since.
The brothers accepted the Durham references. In a 2017 interview with the Raleigh News and Observer, Matt Duffer said that in addition to “landmarks and street names,” the show also had a deeper nod to his grown-up neighbor and close childhood friend. Speaking to local news station ABC 11 about the Durham Easter Eggs, Matt said, “Stranger Things is as much an ode to our childhoods as it is an ode to the movies we grew up loving. That’s why we love doing these little shoutouts because really, more than anything, it’s just it’s about us and our friends.”
Matt also told the News and Observer that Hawkins is a mix of several things, including Georgia and Durham. (“Fictitious towns from Stephen King books” and “thriller scenes from 1980s horror movies” are also in Hawkins’ DNA, he said.)
I reached out to the Duffer brothers for this story, but did not immediately hear back.
More about the tour
After starting my casual tour at the intersection, I planned to go to the nearby neighborhood of Lochn’ora. The location appears in season 2 of the show, when Dustin, Lucas, Mike, and Will go trick-or-treating in their Ghostbusters outfits. We see the neighborhood sign and the font looks like it’s on a decorative sign marking the real neighborhood. The president of Lochnora Homeowners’ Association told the News and Observer in 2017 that “Serial font hit our mark.”
I compiled my list of Durham attractions by reading summaries published by local news sites and watching a number of TikToks created by a user named Matt. (He went to many places himself, if you’re itching for a video tour). Several of the places I visited, including Lochn’ora, are less than 10 minutes from Byers Crossing.
I made a quick stop at Bullock’s, a Durham barbecue restaurant that has been in its current location since 1970. Bullock’s gets a call in Season 3 with “Lake Jordan,” a flip-flop from the movie “Jordan Lake.” Located south of Durham (and just outside of where I wanted to ride that afternoon).
The “Eno River” that flows through Durham appears on the show as a Hawkins landmark in season 2. Bob Newby is reminded of this when he realizes that a group of drawings by Will are actually a map of Hawkins. And perhaps the last hometown nod is in season 4, when Murray works some computer magic so that Joyce’s place of call is “Durham, North Carolina” when addressing a mysterious letter writer named Enzo.
@molexik#strangerthings in #Northcarolina , part 4. #jordanlake#nccheck#durham#netflix#strangerthings4♬ Stranger Things – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
After a two-hour drive to Durham and then an Easter egg hunt around town, I worked up an appetite. Luckily I had a place in mind.
Enzo’s – a delicious Italian restaurant in seasons 3 and 4 of the show – is also the name of a random pizza shop in Durham. In season three, Joyce sets Hopper up on a date at Enzo’s, a romantic spot with mood lighting and violinists (we see her drinking wine and taking a sad bite of a breadstick). In the season 3 finale, Joyce asks her to do it again. But they don’t stand a chance when he evaporates in the explosion that follows that episode.
Enter season 4 when Enzo is mentioned everywhere – In the season 4 finale, when Hopper is stuck (alive!) in a Russian prison camp, he confesses that he craves restaurant breadsticks and lasagna and reminds Joyce of their date. to take part.
The real Enzo’s is simpler than the one we see on the show, complete with booths, a sparkling water fountain, and an extensive pizza menu. It opened in 2008, when the Duffers would have been around 24, so it’s unclear if they’re still in town. But it’s minutes from Byers Crossing and, according to the general manager, the only establishment in Durham that goes by that name. That’s proven enough for some Stranger Things fans.
At Enzo’s, Alex Salinas, a 17-year-old high school student, took my order for a 12-inch barbecue chicken pizza topped with chicken, bacon, onions, ranch and pineapple and handed me a plastic soda cup. (I can actually agree with Argyle, the pizza delivery guy in season 4 – the pineapple is a game changer). When I spoke with Salinas on July 4, he had been working at the restaurant for less than a week and said customers had talked about Stranger Things on about five different occasions. He says there was even talk of making a Stranger Things-themed pizza to serve to fans.
Salinas told me he recently watched Stranger Things for the first time and watched all four seasons in a month. He certainly saw the finale and says he got a little emotional when Eddie paid the ultimate price for the group – when he was killed by the demobats.
“The way he went, it actually made me cry,” Salinas said. “It’s a really good show.”
@molexik #strangerthings references #Northcarolina , part 8! #strangerthings4#netflix#nccheck#durham#film#tv♬ Stranger Things – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
The store’s general manager, Steve Howard, says the idea of a themed pizza is really taking off at Enzo’s, though they should consider restaurant locations in other cities. He says he can’t confirm whether the Duffer brothers have spoken to Enzo — he hasn’t heard from the Duffers — but they’re enjoying the positive impact the calls have had on their business.
Howard hasn’t seen Stranger Things, but he wants to. All three of her grown children love it, she says. “As soon as I can quit working 70 hours a week, I’ll probably sit down and eat for a day and watch it all,” Howard said. “Or at least start with a season.”