April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The One Where We Visited ‘The Friends Experience’

If you’re a fan of sitcoms or grew up in the ‘90s, chances are you have seen at least one episode of the widely acclaimed “Friends,” considered one of the most popular TV shows of all time. While the show aired its final episode in 2004, it’s not too late to relive the magic at the Friends Experience in New York. This exhibit showcases props, costumes and memorabilia from the hit show, as well as recreated set designs that allow visitors to step into the world of “Friends.” My wife Ahuva and I, being big fans of the show, visited this one-of-a-kind attraction to immerse ourselves in the world of the show.

Premiering in 1994, “Friends” went on to air for 10 seasons and became the number one most-watched show globally by its eighth season. The show follows the lives of six friends, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey, who reside in close proximity to each other in New York City. Throughout the show, we witness their relationships, romances, life events, careers, and personal growth. Each character brings a unique sense of humor that complements one another well. To many viewers, as they grew to love the ensemble cast of characters, the “Friends” group felt like their own set of friends.

From Teaneck, it’s easy to reach the exhibit. Ahuva and I decided to take a bus to Port Authority and then walk the remaining 30 minutes. After scanning our tickets, we were each given a card with a QR code to use for taking photos. The staff warned us not to lose the card, encouraging us to take a picture of it just in case. We were then directed to wait in a room where we watched a special presentation introducing the exhibit and stating the general rules. The video is shown on a giant TV screen, surrounded by a yellow frame, reminiscent of the peephole frame on the door of Monica and Rachel’s apartment. The staff members wore shirts that said, “How you doin’?” in reference to Joey’s catchphrase, greeting each guest with that phrase, as well.

Once the video ended, the wall in front of us unexpectedly slid open, revealing the iconic fountain seen in the show’s intro. The red couch and lamp were arranged just as they were in the theme song video, immersing us fully into the world of the show. The uplifting melody of “I’ll Be There for You” filled the air, heightening the experience of being transported into the show.

Our tour progressed to the next room, which was filled with an array of items, facts and videos about the show’s production. We discovered that the executive producers had hoped for the show to last for a minimum of seven episodes, given that their previous show had been canceled after just six. This is especially ironic considering the show went on to run for 10 seasons and become a timeless classic. The room was adorned with signed scripts from the cast, intricate paper models of the apartments and the coffee shop, and mannequins of the six main characters dressed in their iconic outfits, each with their most famous quote displayed beneath. Debra McGuire, one of the costume designers, was featured in a behind-the-scenes video that delved into the unique looks of the characters and the meticulous care put into their outfits’ creations. McGuire explained that the high speed filming schedule, which necessitated shooting multiple episodes in one week, meant that she frequently had to create up to 70 unique costumes all at once.

As we continued on the tour, we made our way downstairs and were greeted by a treasure trove of authentic props and memorabilia from the show. From the iconic Turkey Head donned by Monica and Joey, to Ross’s dinosaur fossil collection, Emma’s sonogram, and the divorce document between Ross and Rachel, we came across many familiar items. There was even Rachel’s famous 18-page letter to Ross regarding their relationship, and Joey’s soap opera props, such as his stethoscope, magazine and the coveted Soapie Award that he stole. To make the experience more immersive, vintage Panasonic box televisions played scenes related to the props on display, providing guests with a reminder of the context of each item.

A highlight of the tour was the unique photo opportunities that allowed guests to feel like they were a part of the show. One of the setups was the apartment stairwell with a couch tilted at an angle. Guests could stand on either end of the couch and pretend to carry it up the stairs, while a camera hanging from the ceiling snapped a picture. In the background, we could hear “Pivot!” being yelled at by Ross, adding to the hilarious experience. Another setup was the wedding hall in Las Vegas, where Ross and Rachel accidentally got married after having too many drinks. There was an altar set up with a white wedding arch, and after scanning our card on a nearby scanner, a camera snapped a picture of us after a three-second delay.

One of the more unique areas was the creepy yellow room devoted to Hugsy, Joey’s favorite doll. The entire room was decorated in yellow, with patterns of Hugsy on the wallpaper. Overhead, we could hear voices of the “Friends” gang talking to a baby. Another fun display was a newspaper that congratulated Monica and Chandler on their upcoming wedding. The catch, however, was that since Chandler took bad photos, Joey filled in for him instead. There was also a replica costume of the Hanukkah Armadillo, Ross’s fabricated counterpart to Santa Claus. The section ended with a light-up sign that read “Oh my gawd,” as Janice, Chandler’s former girlfriend, shouted the famous catchphrase.

After completing the downstairs exhibits, we returned upstairs to check out the more immersive experiences. On the stairwell, the “Friends” theme song lyrics were laid out on each stair. At the top, they had a wall devoted to photos of celebrities who had made a guest appearance on the show, including Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and George Clooney. Taking a turn, we stumbled upon a hallway designed to look like a subway station, with the iconic “Friends” logo painted on the wall in a beautiful mosaic font. And finally, the highlight of the tour: a stunning replica of the “Friends” apartments that transported us right into the heart of the beloved TV show.

First, we visited Monica and Rachel’s apartment, which was an exact replica of its depiction in the show. The living room was set up with a long couch and a comfortable armchair surrounding a brown coffee table and facing a classic ‘90s box television that was playing an episode of “Friends.” The walls and doors were painted bright purple, and the kitchen was a spot-on recreation of its depiction in the show. Behind a glass window, there was a makeshift balcony that offered a view of a nighttime New York skyline. On one of the walls, there was a “Who’s Dated Who” timeline of every relationship among all of the characters.

Having explored and taken photos in the girls’ apartment, we stepped out into the hallway, designed to mimic the layout of the show. The door to the apartment, which was painted purple on the inside, was dark green on the outside and bore the number 20. A makeshift stairwell was even built on the side. Across the hall was Joey and Chandler’s apartment, number 19, which we headed toward next. Upon entering, we found the apartment complete with a foosball table, a kitchen bar, and the well-known double black pull-out comfy chairs. The hype here was much more chaotic than for Monica’s with a large line of guests all eager to recline in the chairs.

Much of the rest of the exhibit displayed cool facts, such as the number of cups of coffee each character drank, the number of times “Oh My Gawd” was said in the show (1,027), and the number of lines each of the prominent group members spoke. There were also fun photo opportunities, such as putting one’s head in a cutout figure clad with all of Joey’s clothes — AT ONCE! In one room, multiple screens offered you the chance to play “Friends” trivia contests in which each person answered five multiple choice questions.

To conclude our visit, we went to the famous Central Perk coffee shop, which sold “Friends”-themed food, drinks, coffee and merchandise. There were tables and the celebrated red couch where we lounged and took pictures. We concluded our visit by stopping at the gift shop that offered Hugsy Dolls, “Friends” experience T-shirts, sweatshirts, and tees featuring classic scenes from the show. Going full circle, I found it cool that when we exited the world of “Friends,” which is portrayed as taking place in New York, we stepped onto the sidewalks of the real downtown Manhattan.

Personally, I enjoyed the Friends Experience as it provided a mix of behind-the-scenes information and stories about the show, as well as its real props and the opportunity to pose in famous scenes. It reminded me of the Tilt Museum at the American Dream Mall (see Issue #461) with numerous photo spots; however, the Friends Experience had cameras and photographers to help capture the perfect shot. If you are a fan of the “Friends” show, this is a must visit destination. Even if you are not familiar with the show, you will gain insight into the classic sitcom and have a fun time. Make sure to bookmark your calendar and reserve your tickets because Joey won’t share his!

Zachary is currently a consultant at Semler Brossy as well as the TABC track coach. In 2019, Zachary came in 29th place in the NFL Playoff Challenge out of over 200,000 people. Additionally, he recently enjoyed watching the Chiefs win Super Bowl LVII. If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, email him at [email protected].

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