Anna started carrying around a pumpkin at Halloween. She refused to carve it into a Jack-o-lantern, naming it “Pumpky” and wrapping it in a blanket. I thought, Wow. This girl needs a doll. I remembered visiting the American Girl
mothership store in Manhattan. At the time, Anna was only 2, and slept in the stroller through the whole visit. I thought at the time that it was such an amazing immersion experience, and I hoped to share it with my daughter at some point. So when this nurturing tendency started showing up, I knew it was time to introduce American Girl. You see, there are dolls, and then there is American Girl.
I was surprised to learn that there is a store just up in Seattle, only a few hours from our home in Portland, Oregon. I hatched a plan to take Anna to pick out a doll and experience the whole store. Wouldn’t that be so much more fun than just ordering one online?
But the soonest I could arrange a trip up there was after Christmas, and Anna asked Santa for an American Girl doll. So I couldn’t have her go through the whole process of picking her doll herself, unfortunately. Santa chose a doll with blue eyes and caramel-colored hair. Smart Santa. She looks just like Anna, and Anna immediately named her Alexa. I’d like to think this is the doll she would have chosen.
So we headed up to the store with Alexa already in-hand, along with Tina from Mad Hatter Mom and her daughter, and Marlynn from Urban Bliss Media and her daughter. Getting to the store proved to be harder than I expected. The store is a good 20 miles north of Seattle. Next time, we’ll just drive up from Portland and have our car to get easily to the store. More on that later, but the challenges had me wondering if it would even be worth it.
Three steps in to the store, and I knew it was all worth it.
The store is laid-out in several sections, and every section has things for the girls to touch and play with. Right at the entrance is a library with books and DVDs, and a video is always playing. Kids are welcome to hang out in the library for reading or videos for as long as they want.
The premiere section of the store is dedicated to featuring all of the historical characters and their clothes, accessories, pets, and stories. This is the heart of American Girl – each character tells a not only a story about a particular time in our nation’s history, but also about personal challenges, and the inner strength that each girl uses to overcome those challenges and be the best human she can be. It’s so inspiring!
Beyond the Historical Characters is the My American Girl section. Girls can choose a doll to meet specific physical characteristics, then give her her own personality and name. Santa had a pretty easy time picking a doll that looked like Anna, but girls who come to the store actually get to hold and touch all of the dolls before deciding. The associates who work there are all trained to help the girls make that decision in a positive and affirming way. Mary was our guide for the evening, and she was awesome. Once a doll is chosen, you can pick out clothes (and even matching clothes for the girl!) and accessories. I learned that you can register each doll online at innerstaru.com, and the girls can play games with their doll as their avatar. Through the games, the girls learn about contributing to their families, personal responsibility, and other good stuff that made me wonder why we didn’t do this years ago!
Near the back of the store is a hair boutique for the dolls – yes, a hair boutique for dolls! – and a spa for doll repair. This will be where we focus our trip next year, I’m sure, as Alexa already has a little scar from being so adventurous.
After our tour of the store, we dragged the girls away from the pretties to have dinner in the Bistro. The other two girls hadn’t had a chance to choose their dolls yet, but fortunately American Girl offers loaner dolls for kids to borrow while dining. It was so adorable to see all the girls being so sweet with their dolls at dinner!
Dinner was delicious, and our wonderful Mary brought the girls some of the crafts that had been offered earlier in the day to celebrate the new Girl of the Year, Saige.
The Bistro has a variety of food options for brunch, lunch, dinner, and tea parties, ensuring something for every taste. Anna had a mini burger, and I had a crusted tilapia over rice. Wonderful! Dinner for the six of us, including smoothies for the girls, was just under $100. Totally reasonable for six people, no?
After dinner, the other girls set about picking their dolls, while Anna narrowed down a new matching outfit for herself and Alexa. She already has matching nightgowns, so I was glad when she decided on a bathing suit. We already needed to get her a new bathing suit this year anyway, so it felt downright practical.
Mary taught all three girls all about taking care of their dolls, always speaking directly to the kids instead of the adults. I appreciate how much they geared everything to the girls and made them feel special.
I hope we can make this an annual trip for the girls. I really think the dolls will need a spa date by then, and a Mother-Daughter spa day to coincide might be just about perfect!
Ever since our trip to the store, Anna has been WAY more in to Alexa than she was previously. She was excited about getting her from Santa, but something changed after being at the store. She takes such good care of her now, and every night she falls asleep cradling Alexa in her arms. I’m so glad we took a girls weekend up to Seattle to visit the store. I can’t decide if I want to make regular trips up there with Anna (and enjoy fun girls weekends) or if I want American Girl to open a store in Portland!
We tweeted and Instagrammed our way through Seattle all weekend. You can look up #Seattle4Kids to see our whole adventure.
DISCLOSURE: Many thanks to American Girl for hosting us for dinner in the Bistro!