Until very recently, our family had been blissfully tuned out of the American Girl mania. But marketing machines have a way of sneaking into your home (even if you don’t have a TV). It was inevitable, I suppose that during our recent mother daughter trip to New York, my nine-year-old would insist on visiting the #1 American doll store in NYC AKA American Girl Place. Here’s what dropping a mortgage payment in under an hour looks like.
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American Doll Store NYC
The premium American doll store in all of North America is found in NYC. Set on bustling 5 Avenue, just across from Rockefeller Center, American Girl Place is in a superb location. It’s super easy to get to if you’re staying in Midtown, which is important, because you’ll want to visit as close to its 10am opening as possible. It’s also two short blocks away from the Lego Store NYC.
We’re nothing if not serious shoppers, so arriving when it opened was a no brainer for us. About 15 minutes after opening, the place was packed. If you’re toting young tots, get here early, folks!
American Girl Place is like a mini department store with several floors, each catering to a different theme. We started out on the main floor, because that’s where you pick your dolls. Yep, we were such newbies, we didn’t even have a doll yet.
There are over 40 dolls to choose from and most kids go by picking a doll that resembles them the most. There’s a exhibit space to suss out all the dolls, then you take the doll’s ID card and hand that over to the cashier.
Once you’ve got your doll, good luck getting out of there without finding an appropriate outfit. Eve was pretty tempered about the whole thing, but after finding the matching outfits, I went a little crazy.
Do we go with a gorgeous navy sequinned Christmas dress or fur trimmed sweater and winter white leggings layered with a knit skirt? In the end Eve and Ava (her newly Christened doll) decided on cozy, matching PJs. Little did I know you can buy affordably priced American Girl doll outfits online. You don’t have to purchase at from the doll store itself.
Then it was upstairs to check out the rest of the store. In the Be Forever doll section, they really go into detail with period pieces, books and videos that tell girls (in a non-annoying way) what life was like during that time.
Some dolls even have interactive displays by them – like at Josefina, where you push buttons to smell mountain marigold, sagebrush and other desert scents. Just like an interactive museum, but infinitely more fun.
The store is so pretty and well staged, you’ll find lots of opps for photos, not that you need them, as there’s a photo studio on site.
Even the bathrooms were adorable. Check out the hooks in each stall specially designed to hold up dolls.
Best is the American Girl salon. I thought this was a little over the top before visiting, but you could see the relief on little girl’s faces when a well loved doll’s ratty hair got a good detangling or fancy undo. You can get matching hairstyles.
At the salon, you can also get you and your doll’s ear pierced, a mini manicure or take them into the “hospital” for mending. There’s a ton of spa packages to check out.
And then there’s the book section. This was the bomb, especially for tween girls about to go through some life changes. There are body books, feeling books, books on how to deal with bullies and addressing low self confidence. There are so many amazing American Girl books, I just can’t even!
There are quiz books, sleepover guides, a babysitters playbook and a smart girls guide to money – you know I snapped that one up. The very best book I think all tween girls (ages 8 and up) should have in their arsenal is The Keeping and Care of You.
American Girl Cafe NYC
If this is your first visit to American Girl Place like ours was, you might want to make a real outing of it. Because it gets so busy, you’ll want to reserve a head for a meal in the American Girl Cafe in NYC. Tip: do this online several weeks before your visit. One week before we were to fly out, lunch reservations were already full the day we planned on going.
For sure bring your doll with you to dine, but don’t sweat it if you don’t have one. There are dozens of dressed up dolls at the cafe that can be borrowed. This is also a good opp to test drive different kinds of doll. Dolls are set up in fixed seats attached to the table beside their owner.
The decor inside the American Girl Cafe is super cute, done up in black and white with hot pink accents. So edgy and NYC! On each table sits a conversation starter game we made good use of. (Note to self: do this at home!)
Napkin holders were actually doll scrunchies and your souvenir. Doll are given their own cup and plate, which guests can also take home.
All meals begin with warm petite cinnamon buns, which is apparently an American Girl tradition. It’s followed by an appetizer of raw veggies and spinach artichoke dip. For entrees, there’s a good mix between kid favourites (chicken fingers, burgers and pastas), while catering to adult tastes.
Save room for dessert! Flower pot chocolate mousse and mini vanilla cupcakes are a sweet ending to the experience. There’s free refills on all beverages, wine and beer are available for an additional charge. Brunch, lunch or dinner is a set fee per person, but it includes everything but alcohol.
Best hotels for kids NYC
A lot of people have asked me where I stay in New York with my daughter. I have two recs for the best hotels for kids in NYC. First is The Westin New York Grand Central. This is where we stayed when we went to American Girl Place. The rooms are really large for New York standards. You get at least 300 sq ft, which you’ll need for all your shopping bags.
Not only is this NYC hotel steps away from Grand Central Station (and the Metro), but if you’re flying into La Guardia and you take the airport shuttle bus, it drops you off right across the street.
My second fave for a family-friendly hotel in NYC is the Moxy NYC Times Square. Like Westin, it’s part of the Marriott brand, but Moxy’s are funkier, cheaper and a bit more pared down. Rooms here are small, but have everything you need (except tubs). Best is the bunk beds. You can get rooms with two bunks (sleeps four) and cram all the kiddies in. How fun is that?
The only thing to note is on weekends some rooms really hear the noise from the nightclub next door. Your kids likely will be out like a light, but it could wake you up, so contact the hotel’s reception to mitigate this.
And the location of this Moxy is also rad – just a few blocks down from Times Square and a block away from Aqui Spa, where a 20-minute foot rub will only set you back $15. I stay here when I’m flying into JFK, take the Air Train to Jamaica, then the train or Metro to Penn Station, then walk the two short blocks to the hotel. Easy peasy.
As is plainly obvious, we managed to spend several hours and way too much money at American Girl. Would I go back? Probably. Now that we have the basics it shouldn’t cost as much, right?
Do you have daughter’s into American Girl? Do you think it’s too indulgent taking kids into a store like this?