After much anticipation, Orlando’s American Girl store opened in the Florida Mall in mid-November, just in time for the holidays. I surprised my daughters with a visit to the store, including lunch at the Bistro, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Let me begin this post by saying that while I know American Girl products are not for everyone, we are longtime fans of American Girl dolls, books and movies. Over the years, our daughters have received dolls and accessories as gifts from their Mumsy and from Andy and me. For our family, the high quality and attention to detail of American Girl products, and the countless hours that our daughters have spent enjoying them, justify their cost.
When my girls were almost eight, we visited the American Girl store in Dallas. I loved watching the sheer delight on their faces as they wandered through the store. Our magical day included lunch with their dolls at the Bistro, a trip to the doll salon, and of course some shopping. As I planned our visit to the Orlando store, I wondered if my eleven-year-olds would think they were too grown up to enjoy the experience. I’m happy to report that I was wrong; they were thrilled when I told them our plans.
We arrived at the store about 10:30. We had no trouble parking near the store, but they do offer valet parking for $7.00. We were initially surprised at the size of the Orlando store; it is smaller than we expected. Our only point of reference is the Dallas store, which is a large, two-story stand-alone store in the Galleria mall parking lot. The Orlando store is one-story and is inside the Florida Mall. However, we quickly discovered that the store has everything that the larger stores have, just on a smaller scale, including a Bitty Baby section, a Historical Doll section, a Dolls Like Me section, a Bistro, and a salon where the dolls can get their hair done and their ears pierced.
I highly recommend having lunch at the Bistro. The elegant table setting, the food presentation, and the special attention from the servers turn lunch into a very special occasion. When you check in for your reservation, both your party of people and dolls are seated. The dolls have their own seats that attach to the table and they are treated like guests, including being served their own a cups of lemonade. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. And, be sure to order dessert!
My girls had birthday gift cards to spend at the store and were careful to budget their money. I would highly recommend setting a budget and creating a shopping list before you visit the store. That way your daughter will know what she can spend and will have a wish list to help her avoid becoming overwhelmed.
If you plan to visit the Orlando American Girl store, here are my tips:
- Make your dining reservations at the Bistro well in advance of your visit. You can make reservations on-line at the American Girl website at http://www.americangirl.com/stores/
- Set a firm budget before you go so your daughter knows what to expect. I find it helpful to spend time looking at the catalog or the website before you go so that you have a list or at least an idea of what you’ll purchase.
- Plan to arrive when the store opens. It will be easier to find parking and avoid the temptation to valet.
- If a visit to the doll salon is on your list, you will want to make that your first stop when you arrive. The salon does not take advanced reservations, and with only a few “stylists” it books up quickly.
- Use your phone to snap photos to make a “wish list” for birthdays or Christmas. This helps to avoid impulsive overspending.
- Bring your camera to capture the memories. It will be a memorable day for you and you daughter.
- In addition to the dolls and accessories, consider purchasing the books and movies. We’ve enjoyed watching both the historical movies and the “girl of the year” movies countless times. The wide variety of books includes historical stories and a series of wonderful books with age appropriate advice to girls for navigating the middle school years.