Get tips for a great American Girl doll store trip - includes info on the bistro, the American Girl package at hotels & how to enjoy dolls in store. (Houston, TX)
When we started planning Emmie's birthday this year, we kind of wanted to go against the grain of our normal routine. Now, you guys know I love planning a birthday party as much as the next person...but, this year, we wanted to try something a little bit different to celebrate her big day.
Instead of spending a ton of money on a party that Emmie's really already experienced in past years, we wanted to give her the option of traveling somewhere new and experiencing something different this year. So, instead of doing a local birthday party, we surprised her with a trip to the American Girl Store in Houston, Texas. It was absolutely the right decision...she had the time of her life and will remember that day forever!
Now, if you've never been to an American Girl Store, trust me...it's far from just a store. It really is a full experience that can be the center of a fun mini-vacation for your family. We made this a weekend trip for Emmie and definitely didn't run out of fun things to do!
If you're planning an upcoming trip, there are a few things I'd recommend taking advantage of during your stay.
1. Have your doll's hair done at the salon.
Inside American Girl Stores, there is a full doll salon, complete with stylist chairs, styling tools, and hairdressers. You can choose your doll's hairstyle (Emmie chose the waterfall braid for her Maryellen) and watch as the hairdressers pamper your doll.
If your doll has any issues, this is also a place where you have the experts fix them! Our Maryellen had a little bit of staining on her cheek (we think from rubbing up against a shirt), so we let the stylists work their magic and remove some of the staining with a special solution they have. You can even get your doll's ears pierced at the salon if you'd like.
Plus, added bonus...if you're not great at maintaining your American Girl doll's hair (like us), they detangle it and make it look like new! (I asked, and the spray they use on the dolls' hair is just water...who would have known?!)
2. Eat at the American Girl Bistro.
Inside the American Girl Store, you'll find the American Girl Bistro, an adorable little restaurant that is just perfect for celebrating a special occasion. I'd recommend reservations for this Bistro (it books up quickly, especially on weekends)...we booked ours right at 11:00 for the store opening.
I thought the prices were incredibly reasonable for the experience you'll get in the restaurant. There is an assortment of kid and adult-friendly foods. I had the penne, Noah had the caprese sandwich, Emmie had the macaroni, and even Jackson had quesadillas...everything we had was delicious! Lots of kid-friendly flavors that provide a little extra "oomph" than just the same old kids' menu.
But, what really made the Bistro experience special is the little extras you get throughout your meal.
Upon arrival, your American Girl doll gets her own chair (they have loaner dolls if your child doesn't have one). When drinks are brought out, your doll even gets her own tea cup and saucer for you to take home!
And, at the end of Emmie's birthday meal, our waiter even brought her a complimentary mini cupcake! She got the biggest kick out of the whole Bistro singing "Happy Birthday" to her.
If you're planning your first trip to the store, the Bistro is a must. It was the sweetest, most special little meal! There are options for birthday parties at the Bistro if you live close to one as well.
3. Let your child play with dolls in the store.
This is definitely not a "hands off" kind of store!
In addition to a ton of displays throughout the store, you'll find little set-ups that feature various dolls and their accessories. They are at child-level and are meant for your little one to play and really experience the accessories!
There are also various areas throughout the store that encourage creativity and independent play in your child. Some of these include accessories that are for sale, and some are just fun "extra" areas. I had no idea how much there would be to do in the store.
4. Take two days at the store (trust me on this one).
I know it sounds weird to go to a store two days in a row, but trust me...it's necessary.
On our first day at the store, we let Emmie play in the areas mentioned above and make a short list of the things she wanted to buy with her birthday money. She had a set amount before we ever went in the store and knew that going in. We thought it would be best to let her think about the purchases before actually spending money (since I think that's the most money she's ever spent on one place!).
There are so many options, and of course your child is going to get a case of the "gimmes" upon arrival. This is a great opportunity to teach budgeting and the value of their money. There just happened to be a couple of sales going on, so this was also a great chance to teach her that she might find more value in buying things that were included in the sale.
On the second day, we did all of our fun things...ate at the Bistro, got our doll's hair done, and let Emmie do her shopping. All in all, we probably spent 2 hours there the first day and 3 hours the next day (including eating lunch). There's a lot to take in, so divide it into two days if you can swing it!
5. Order an American Girl package at your hotel.
The main reason we chose the hotel we stayed at in Houston (the Courtyard Houston I-10 West/Energy Corridor) was because they offered an American Girl Experience package.
Most cities with an American Girl Store offer this at a local hotel, and some even have clue pink/purple bedding to go along with the package. Each hotel's package is a little different, so do your research before picking your city/hotel.
And no, in case you were wondering, this post was in no way sponsored! We just loved our experience from Emmie's birthday weekend and wanted to share our favorite tips with you guys. This is such a special, fun experience...highly recommended for your American Girl doll-loving little one!
See more of my travel posts here.