There is a new American Girl store in Palo Alto! Is it worth the drive for (510) folks? The previously used exclamation mark is your answer: a big YES!
Let's just get it out of the way: schedule your drive to avoid high-traffic times. And have snacks and entertainment options on hand in case you get caught in some unexpected gridlock.
Now on to the fun!
American Girl stores are designed to be destinations, an experience beyond shopping. This isn't the kind of place we would revisit frequently, but we will make into an annual (or semi-annual if the five-year old has her way) special Mommy-daughter date.
Let me take you on a little tour.
I grew up with the historical dolls before the “look like me” and “Girl of the Year” doll joined the American Girl family, so I was thrilled to find that when you walk in the main entrance, the first dolls you encounter are the historical dolls, all displayed in beautiful cases with their clothing and accessories — clearly designed to make you want it all.
Also on the ground floor is the Girl of the Year doll and the Bitty Baby dolls, intended for the younger set. Right nearby is the book area containing reference story books about each of the historical dolls and many craft and “self-help” books for girls.
Up a winding staircase, you will find the look-like-me dolls, many more clothes and accessories, the doll hair salon and the famous Bistro.
At the salon, girls can choose a hairstyle for their doll, as well as get tips on how to take good care of their doll's hair in the future. Oh, and they can get their dolls ears pierced too, a fact I did not tell my daughter.
The Bistro is booked out months in advance already, so do plan ahead if you intend to make that a part of your visit to the store. This cafe-within-a-store is the ultimate tea party; they provides little seats for dolls that attach to your table or the bar, and even have loaner dolls if the little one in your life hasn't yet been able to convince you to shell out the money for a doll of her or his own. Cute!
Recommendations: I definitely recommend going into the store with an agreed-upon spending limit — it is very easy to get sucked into buying more than you had in mind. For example, a doll will be displayed wearing a complete outfit with accessories, but then you find you have to buy two separate sets to recreate the entire look.
Bottom line: This sentimental mama and her five-year old both give this store and experience a big thumbs up.
(American Girl gave me a tour of the store and an awesome goody bag for my daughter. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
[Photo credit: American Girl (doorway and bistro) and Cara Crisostomo (all the rest)]