I had been planning this day since my daughter was born. This was going to be the most magical 5th birthday celebration ever! And no, I am not talking about Disney. Our trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago was one for the books! It was a little girl’s dream (and maybe her mama’s, too!)
I am not exaggerating when I say I spent a lot of time in the last 5 years learning all I could about American Girl and their in-store experience. It paid off! The trip went seamlessly. My daughter had the best time and is eager to return. I received so many helpful tips and tricks along the way that I thought I would share them here with you, as well as a few changes I may make when planning future visits.
1. Buy/Sell Facebook Pages
Since I was completely unfamiliar with the company and the dolls themselves, I decided to start by adding myself to a few of the buy/sell/trade (B/S/T) Facebook pages. I found that people would often post about their own experiences or ask questions regarding store visits. I learned so much about the Chicago store just from reading posts.
2. Book 90 Days In Advance
It’s a store, so of course you can walk right in, browse, and make your purchases. But, if you are there for an experience, book early! You can book all of your appointments up to 90 days in advance, and that is exactly what I did. Weekends are of course busier, and we did go on a Saturday. I remember arriving at the store just before 11 a.m. and thinking, “It doesn’t seem as busy as people described. Maybe I didn’t need to book so early, or even at all.” Looks can be deceiving! For every appointment we checked into, there was someone without reservations waiting at least an hour.
I highly recommend calling the toll-free number on the website to book all of your appointments. The consultants are well versed in the experience and can offer a lot of advice when booking. It was suggested to us that our first appointment of the day be the doll salon/spa, so a well played with doll is camera ready for the rest of the day.
We stayed with my in-laws the night before our trip and took the Amtrak from Princeton, Illinois into Chicago. It’s about a two hour ride, with stops along the way. We packed a few activity booklets to keep her entertained and visited the snack car on both our departure and returning trip. The train ride was an exciting way to start her birthday! Once we exited the train station, it was a 10 minute cab ride to the American Girl Store.
(Note: The Amtrak tends to get very full when the Chicago Cubs are playing a home game. So I suggest checking their schedule and plan accordingly.)
Scheduling the appointments was the most stressful part, because they only hold your reservations for up to 5 minutes. Our train was set to arrive in Chicago at 10:30 a.m., barring any unforeseen delays. I knew with traffic, a 10 minute cab ride could easily double or triple in time. So I scheduled our first appointment at 11:30.
11:30 – Doll Spa Deluxe Package (This package includes a goody bag for your doll–cucumber stickers, a robe, nail stickers, and the remaining bottle of nail polish.)
11:45 – Doll Hairstyle and Ear Piercing Package (They give you about 5 sets of other earrings to take home.) I should note they offer both a girl and doll ear piercing package, but we only experienced the doll package. The New York store just unveiled hairstyle and nail packages for girls, too. Currently they are the only store with this option, but I did hear that it may come to Chicago in the future.
12:30 – Birthday Package in the Main Dining Room I highly recommend getting the birthday package! Your doll receives a goody bag that includes a paper crown, plastic balloon, and shirt. The meal comes complete with a cake! If you do not bring a doll for your dining experience, they have some you can borrow. Many of the items on the table are complimentary, so don’t forget to take them with you–the napkin holders (hair ties), the flowers in the ice cream, and the doll cup and saucer.
Changes: Although my daughter had the most amazing birthday, there are still a few changes to the schedule I would make for future visits. Next time I would schedule our dining experience first, so there isn’t such a long stretch between breakfast and lunch. I would follow lunch with shopping, and finish with a treat from the Sweet Shop, while watching her doll receive care.
5. Personal Shopper
This is my #1 recommendation–make reservations for a personal shopper! Your personal shopper meets you in the personal shopper lounge, which is a quiet room with couches, chairs, and one cash register. They check your coat for you and explain the history of each doll while taking you through the store. She even pointed out things we missed, like a dressing room, so my daughter could try on an outfit. I was nervous she would pressure us into extra purchases, but that was NOT the case! After we went through the whole store, she took us back to the quiet lounge and left for a minutes, so we could discuss it in private. Then she rang us up right there! No need to wait in a long, noisy line with additional accessories to look at while waiting to be rung up!
6. Rewards Member
Before going to the store, be sure to become a rewards member! You earn points for all of your purchases including: salon/spa, dining, and merchandise. However, your reward certificates can only be spent on merchandise.
The American Girl Store in Chicago did not disappoint! My daughter talks about her experience frequently and hopes to go back next year. With so many fun options, it is sure to be an all day affair!