When I visited The American Girl Place on 5th Avenue in New York recently, I went there as a mother--a mother of a very tired 10 year old girl who loves American Girl Dolls and a 13 year old boy who would rather have been anywhere else. So, this review is from a mother's point of view, not from the point of view of a doll collector. Overall, The American Girl Place is an amazing store, with quite a bit to do and see, but only if you love American Girl Dolls.
American Girl Place: Giant American Doll Heaven
The American Girl Doll store is huge. At 42,000 square feet, it is more than 20x the size of the doll store that my family owns. There are more than three floors of doll fun. Even with all that space, when we visited you could barely move because the store was so crowded--there were little girls and their moms and grandmas everywhere (admittedly, it was during Spring Break). Every now and then you'd see a doting Dad and daughter, but for the most part all male teenagers and grown men in attendance looked like deer caught in headlights at the store. The girls, however, were for the most part delighted.
Store Layout; Shoping Experience; Big Red Bags
The first floor is devoted to modern American Girls, plus Coconut the Dog. There is also a hair styling salon. The middle floor holds the Cafe, Revue and Doll Hospital. On the third floor are the historical American Girls. My daughter, who dislikes modern American Girls but loves the historical ones was disappointed that the first floor was devoted to modern dolls.
All week at our midtown hotel my daughter saw little girls toting the very easily spotted red American Girl shopping bags. This, evidently, created a longing in my daughter to be toting those very same bags.
My daughter selected a Kaya doll (her third American Girl doll in five years) and two outfits for her birthday. This would have set me back over $150 except that the gift was split between me and her grandmother. Despite the crowds, we were able to walk right up to a register with no waiting. My daughter then insisted in carrying her own big red American Girl bags around, and was especially excited when one of the hotel employees noticed and commented on how lucky she was. Earlier in the day, we saw a family that, we think, purchased the entire line for one of the dolls. They were carrying about 20 bags and taking photos in front of the store.
Cafe, Hair Salon, Doll Hospital and Musical Revue
If you wish to experience the American Girl Cafe (which will set a place for your American Girl doll, complete with silverware) or the musical Revue, you need to reserve a time in advance of your trip. We tried to book the cafe and the revue a week before our trip, but by then it was too late. For the Hair Salon, a busy day can mean a wait of several hours (American Girl doll hair is styled here for a fee; advance reservations are not accepted). You may also bring you doll to the American Girl Hospital if she is broken. No advanced reservations are needed, and your doll is returned to you in about two weeks after she is dropped off there.
If You Need To Bring Young Boys Or Non-Doll People To The American Girl Place
If you need to bring young boys or teenagers (or girls who don't like American Girl Dolls) to the American Girl Place, you can reward them with a visit to Nintendo World or Build a Bear Workshop, which are both only a block away. My son got a special Pokemon for one of his Pokemon Game Boy Games at Nintendo World (no charge) and then an outfit for a Bear he had made a few years back at Build a Bear Workshop. This enabled me to tell him to be quiet and patient several times when he just couldn't stand being at the American Girl Place one more minute.
American Girl Place: A Great Experience
A visit to the American Girl Place is a fun experience for anyone who loves the American Girl dolls. I think that the store might be overwhelming for a very little girl because of the crowds and the overabundance of things to choose from. Also, I would like to see the American Girl Place offer some historical exclusive items for the dolls that cannot be purchased through the web sites or catalogs--they have modern exclusive items, as well as souvenirs. If you are not a devotee of the dolls, there isn't any reason to visit, unless you are curious about their retailing concept. Other American Girl stores are located in Chicago and Los Angeles.