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Today’s post is sponsored by the American Girl Store location at Tyson’s Corner in Washington, D.C.

American_Girl_McKennaIt was the best gift you gave and she received this year. No, you didn’t go to Jared’s, but you did research the heck out of this one special gift, deciding on the perfect American Girl Doll for your little American girl. Whether she resembles your daughter in looks, or matches her interests in history, it is the one she wanted. She had the biggest smile from ear to ear when she opened that big red box- it was the most memorable moment of the season. For the last few weeks, she’s been the center of your daughter’s world, taking her along on daily errands and joining your family for dinner. Well, that was easy. Hard part done, right? Haha…uh, no, sweetie, you are just getting started. Welcome to the world of the American Girl.

I’m not even going to mention how many dolls my daughter has, and how many more she plans to collect. We have Historical Characters, a Girl of the Year, and a couple My American Girl dolls. As much as I like to complain, the truth is that my daughter really loves these dolls. She dresses them every day, brushes their hair (that hair!), and takes them along on outings. She convinced my father to build a condominium out of plastic bins that take up a whole wall in her playroom. These dolls have travelled as much as she has, and been to as many fancy dinners, plays and special events. And, yes, they may be pricey, but they have replaced any other toy on the market for us. YouTube videos have showed her how to make her own furniture using recycled products like boxes, paper towel holders and socks. She asked for and received a sewing machine for Christmas and is learning how to make doll clothes and accessories. These dolls keep her busy and entertained for hours, and allows her to escape her reality of being the only girl out of 4 children, and into a world of girlfriends and sisters. We have spent endless amounts of time re-organizing her space to keep her items nice and neat and easy to find. Even still, it seems like we are adding new wardrobe pieces, furniture, and other accessories every month from friends, family and special occasions.


That all sounds like fun and games, right? Well, here comes the “hard part”. She is allowed one trip a year to the mecca- an American Girl store, and only receives new items based on grades, behavior and other realistic measures (like, eh-hem, budget). If you have not had the opportunity to visit one of these mega-stores, then continue reading. If you have, please read on, and add any of your favorite tips to the comments below. Our first store visit was to the Garden Grove location in Los Angeles, California. A skip, hop and a jump away from Las Vegas, Los Angeles seemed to be the perfect city for our first experience at an American Girl store, however, there are locations all around the country. Here are some tips on how to make your visits productive, fun and memorable, and still stick with your budget. This is how to visit an American Girl store like a RockStar!


Pre-Game Plan Yes, she’s your little girl and you want to give her the world, but let’s face it, you could literally blow her college savings in this one store with one visit. It’s worse odds than Vegas. Make sure you go in prepared and confident and know where you are willing or not willing to budge on your budget. Follow these easy steps for a fool-proof pre-game plan:

  • Order a catalog. This could take a few months to get your first one, or maybe one was sent along with the doll you just purchased. Save it. It is an integral part of the plan.
  • Decide on your budget.
  • Have a conversation with your child about the budget.
  • Determine the top priority items, then rank from there. This is key because sometimes not all items are available in the store. Make sure she has a back-up just in case.
  • Book a Personal Shopping Experience for your visit. See below.

When we know a trip is in our future, we save the latest catalog. I let my daughter devour the catalog, circling her favorite items, starring her must-haves. After my husband and I set a budget, we have this conversation with my daughter. She then goes back to her Wish List, and decides which ones she wants now, and which ones she can save for later (Christmas, birthday, special initiatives, etc.). We take that catalog directly to the Personal Shopper, and she handles the rest. If it is your first visit to the store, you may want to have a look around, but remind your little one about the items she has already selected that fit within her set budget.

American Girl doll Rebecca Rubin

Store Visit Visit the store on a Monday-Thursday if possible. If you can sneak away with your daughter during the week, the store itself will not be as crowded as it would if on a week-end or during a shared holiday like Christmas and Spring Break. This will allow you more freedom to move around the store, visit the book store and the doll museum, and book appointments for hair styles, ear piercing, or general maintenance at the doll hospital. Yes, this is all a thing.


Dining Options Decide if you are going to eat in the cafe for lunch, dinner or tea prior to your visit as sittings book up. Depending on location, each American Girl store offers either a Cafe or Bistro. Pricing is moderate and the menus offer a 3-course option with appetizer, main entree and dessert. There are specialty drinks for both mom (wine, champagne) and daughter (seasonal themed milkshakes and mocktails), and of course, the doll is treated like a super star given her own seat at the table along with place setting. If it is a special occasion, like a birthday, I would recommend considering the package options that include a cake and special gift for your daughter. We have done both- the birthday package for her first visit, and just lunch with the dolls and her friends. My honest opinion- is it world class dining at its best? No. But, the experience, at least one time, is worth it if it means that much to your daughter. It’s an adorable set-up, very girlie, and caters to the fantasy that her American Girl is her BFF. In any location I have been to, service staff has been friendly, and efficient. Rooms are clean, and food is good. Our recent trip to Washington D.C. happened to be during the holidays. We spent a Mother/Daughter Day at the American Girl Store at Tyson’s Corner, and they had the most adorable winter themed drinks for the little girls. My daughter also loved having mini-hamburgers and hot dogs and a fruit kabob. It really is like a Disneyland for dolls.


Personal Shopping This is a complimentary service provided at every American Girl store, and one I have found to be underrated. Book an appointment with a Personal Shopper for the day you plan to spend at the store. Check in at the main desk, and you will be directed to a private area with couches and tables. It is fabulous, and it is free. This is also how you will be able to stay within your budget. Once you have established your Pre-Game Plan (see above), put everything onto a list, or go through the catalog with your Personal Shopper. There are different ways the final task will be completed.

1. The Personal Shopper will go through the store and retrieve all the items for you, while you sit in the room, spending time with your little girl.

2. (my favorite option) The Personal Shopper will place your order through the computer and have everything shipped directly to you, shipping fees apply.

American Girl Personal Shopper

Of course, you could do both- let your daughter pick out a few items to bring home, and ship the rest, based on your situation. I prefer the shipping because normally we are flying or driving home with an already completely full vehicle. In addition to the easy shopping, the Personal Shopper will also escort you around the store and provide you with a tour of the store if desired. Another great component of utilizing the Personal Shopper is that you can call ahead for special things like having her set aside your daughter’s requested doll, scheduling hair appointments and suggesting additional items like books and videos. The book store is pretty impressive. Each Historical Character has her own series as well as videos of their own movies. There are also great finds in there for the ‘tween who has questions about her changing body, and fun activity books to share with her BFF or mommy (if you’re still cool like that).


OK. You can do this. You got this. Be smarter than the doll. All joking aside, a visit to an American Girl Store can really be a very enjoyable and memorable experience to share with your daughter. If you are a detailed oriented personality, you will love all the little accessories and components, and if you are a history buff, you will fall in love with the outfits and story lines. In the end, you may be the one who needs to stick to the budget! Take the time to make the experience pleasant for both of you. If you plan on incorporating more visits in the future, think of ways you can start making the visits your own and follow your inner star.

A special thank you to the American Girl Store at the Tyson’s Corner location for sponsoring today’s post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.