The highly anticipated (and much delayed) fourth season of Netflix’s smash hit “Stranger Things” finally debuted last Friday, much to the delight of its legions of fans worldwide. Set in 1986 and told across nine mega-sized episodes (the last two of which are not dropping until July 1), the ambitious storyline takes place in three distinct locales, thereby splitting up the beloved Hawkins, Indiana denizens at the show’s center. (Please be forewarned, spoilers abound throughout this post.)
Much of the action remains in Hawkins, where Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and his fellow high school heroes are battling a new dark entity from the Upside Down known as Vecna. Meanwhile, about 5,000 miles away, former police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is alive, but not well, as he sits imprisoned in a remote jail on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. And thanks to some help from Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser), the Byers family has been relocated to Lenora Hills, a fictional California town consisting of wide, open streets and majestic mountains that looks like it was ripped right off the screen from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
The resemblance is, of course, by design. As series co-creator Matt Duffer explained during Deadline’s recent Contenders Television Panel, “We’ve always wanted to have that like ‘E.T’.-esque suburb aesthetic, which we finally got to do this year.” Instead of shooting in the Tujunga foothills, where the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic was lensed, the “Stranger Things” production team set up shop in New Mexico, utilizing Albuquerque and its environs to pose as the Sunshine State. The Land of Enchantment proved a natural home base for the show considering Netflix purchased Albuquerque Studios in 2018 and, per Deadline, committed to “spend more than $1 billion on local production over the next decade” in the southwestern city.
Some area spots utilized include El Dorado High School at 11300 Montgomery Blvd. NE, which steps in as Lenora Hills High, where Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) now attend classes. (Fun fact: the locale also appeared on “Breaking Bad.”) In episode two, El’s longtime boyfriend, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), touches down at Albuquerque International Sunport for a spring break visit. Roller King, where the couple’s disastrous skating date takes place, can be found at 400 Paisano St. NE, still donning the bright pink and blue set dressing brought in for the “Stranger Things” shoot. And the Lenora Hills police station, where El is taken following her arrest, is the Valencia County Administrative Offices at 444 Luna Ave. SE in Los Lunas, a dusty desert town situated about 25 miles south of Albuquerque.