5 Tips For an Amazing American Girl Doll Store Trip

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)

5 tips for an amazing american girl store trip.

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.

little girl at counter at american girl store.

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.

american girl having her hair styled.
american girl hair braided with a ribbon.

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.

table with pink menus, napkins, and flowers at 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.

cover of american girl bistro menu. american girl bistro design how you dine menu. american girl bistro birthday celebration menu. american girl bistro specials menu. american girl bistro menu. american girl bistro menu.

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.

bowl of penne pasta with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. sandwich, French fries, glass of coke. bowl of macaroni and cheese with fruit on the side.

But, what really made the Bistro experience special is the little extras you get throughout your meal.

little girl and american girl at a table. american girl in a high chair.

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!

child sipping pink drink, father holding a card.

There are dinner conversation starters on the table for your family to play while they wait.
little girl with cupcake and candle.

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!

doll in a bed in american girl 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!

child playing with toy washer and dryer.

child playing with tea party toys.

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.

child in american girl store.
If you're headed to a store soon, definitely budget some time for your child to just explore. There is so much more to do than to just browse for your dolls.

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.

child in american girl store, in front of mary ann doll.

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!).

child in american girl store, in front of dolls.

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.

american girl bed, folded, with a paper bag.
When we arrived at our hotel, Emmie was surprised with a bed for her doll (that she got to keep!) and a little bag of treats. This was our birthday present to her - if you look at the price of the hotel package vs. buying an actual bed from the American girl store, there's no question what the better deal is. The package also included breakfast for 1 parent and 1 child for each morning of your stay. I thought it was an incredible value!
pink and purple american girl doll bed.

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.

xo, Leslie - signature at the end of blog post.

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  1. Thank you so much for including all of the photos and details in your post! We are thinking about taking our daughter to the AG store about an hour from us for her 4th birthday, and haven't been able to find many photos online as to what to expect. They were super helpful, especially the photos of them menu! Thanks again!!

    1. You are so welcome! 🙂