One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends has somehow managed to transcend multiple generations of viewers since it first aired on NBC in 1994. The 10-season series, which ended in 2004, has become a hot comodity for streaming networks—Netflix payed $100 million for the rights to the series in 2015, and HBO Max, where it currently resides, paid more than $400 million for the show’s rights in 2019. This spring’s reunion special only further ignited interest in the sitcom, and now fans, new and old, casual and diehard, can visit a pop-up experience in metro Atlanta that promises a chance to step inside the world of Friends’ ludicrously large apartments.
The Friends Experience, which is produced by Warner Brothers and entertainment experience company Superfly X, is a photo-friendly, Instagrammable experience in the same vein as Candytopia, Slime City, Santa’s Fantastical, and other pop-ups that have come through Atlanta in the past several years. (It’s actually located next to the latter event, in a mostly-empty stretch of strip mall on Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs.) Part photo op and part mini Friends museum, the experience is filled with nostalgia, favorite quotes and jokes, props and costumes, and detailed replicas of Chandler and Joey’s living room, Monica and Rachel’s kitchen, Central Perk, and a few other small locations (think various hallways and the windowsill of Monica’s apartment, complete with a “giant poking device”).
While the Experience is fairly quick—you can get through in about 45 minutes if you stop to take photos and examine all the items—for diehard Friends fans, seeing the various artifacts and playing on the replica sets will likely be a delight. As someone who grew up watching the show as a teenager and can still recite countless lines of dialogue, the nostalgia blast was exactly what I wanted it to be. Here’s what I learned when I went to a media preview of the Atlanta experience just before opening day on July 15.
There’s more than just selfie opportunities
Usually, in these types of Instagrammable experiences, I caution folks that the main draw is the opportunity to get cute photos. And while that’s still likely the biggest draw for Friends fans here, there were more things to see than I expected. Genuine outfits from the show adorn mannequins near the start of the experience, a wall of MagnaDoodles shows off the designs you may or may not have noticed on Joey and Chandler’s door, and the massive letter Rachel wrote to Ross (“18 pages, front-and-back!”) as they attempted to get back together during the season four premiere is blown up on the wall for fans to read in all its glory.
Yes, the best joke in the show is here
“Pivot!” Arguably one of the funniest moments in all 236 episodes of Friends was Ross’s ill-fated attempt to get his new couch up the stairs to his apartment, something he opted to do on his own (with some help from Rachel and Chandler) rather than pay the furniture store’s steep delivery fee. A replica of that scene is ready for you and a buddy to pretend to struggle with. The replica set is from before the couch rips in half—but you’ll see a reference to the broken one on a wall of posters later on in the Experience. (More on that below.)
The replica sets do feel pretty immersive
Some are more detailed than others and ironically, perhaps the least impressive set is the very first one you encounter—the couch and fountain from the opening credits. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it felt more like a photo opp, whereas sitting in Joey’s recliner, opening the door to Monica and Rachel’s apartment, and holding a massive coffee mug inside Central Perk allowed you to really suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend to actually be on a Friends soundstage. Even the hallway between the two main apartments felt pretty real—the only thing missing was a dropped cheesecake.
Keep an eye out for Easter eggs
The Experience is filled with little details that diehard Friends fans will likely pick up. The foosball table in Joey and Chandler’s apartment, for example, makes chirping noises, a nod to the season finale when Chick Jr. and Duck Jr. get stuck inside. And outside the Central Perk set is a wall of fake posters, filled with references to various episodes—an ad for Allesandro’s restaurant, a poster for Joey’s play Boxing Day with the tagline, “Escape to Blargon 7”, a flyer for Rachel’s genuine sphinx show cat, and an ad for Monkeyshine Beer, among others. Some of the Experience’s references are deep cuts—do you remember which episode Science Boy is from? (Hint: It’s in season nine.)
The gift shop is worth it
There is absolutely no shortage of Friends merchandise these days; you can easily find a logo T-shirt at your nearest Target, and Central Perk coffee mugs are abundant. But the Friends Experience shop is filled with several exclusive items and many of them are quite quite tempting. You can buy your very own Hugsy, Joey’s “bedtime penguin pal,” but his cute goggles-clad face also adorns slippers, tote bags, mugs, and keychains. A variety of enamel pins illustrate favorite characters and moments, or you can buy plush Christmas ornaments of Monica’s turkey head or the iconic yellow picture frame. (Pro tip: If you find yourself pining for something after you leave, there is an online shop.)
How to visit:
Address: 1155 Mount Vernon Highway Northeast, Suite 150, Sandy Springs (In the Perimeter Pointe shopping center, not far from the Chick-fil-A)
Dates: July 15 through September 7
Hours: Thursdays 12-9 p.m., Fridays 12-10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (It’s also open Labor Day and Tuesday, September 7 from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.)
Cost: Peak pricing (Thursday-Friday after 5 p.m., all day Saturday, and Sunday before 5 p.m.) is $39.50 per person plus fees; non-peak pricing is $32.50 per person plus fees. With taxes and fees, a peak ticket is about $48 and a non-peak ticket is about $41.
Where to buy tickets: Online here—like most of these pop-up experiences, you purchase tickets for a designated arrival time slot, then go through the exhibit at your own pace. Some limited standby tickets will be available at the door for an additional $2 fee. Do not buy resale tickets through the secondary market—tickets must have your name and you must present a matching photo ID.
Covid-19 precautions: Masks are required except when taking photos, and “Monica Clean” hand sanitizer stations are located around the Experience.
Parking: Free and abundant. You can also walk from the Sandy Springs MARTA station.