Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vacations with Kids: American Girl Boston

Red and cousin Scarlett with their dolls at American Girl Boston

It all started last year in September.  I somehow got on the American Girl mailing list and a catalog arrived at our house.  Red looked at it cover to cover and decided she wanted to buy Kanani, the 2011 Girl of the Year who was from Hawaii.  We're not the sort of family to just go out and buy something for our kids just because they say they want it.  Even if we could, a $105 doll is a bit out of budget for us even as a birthday or Christmas present.  Being the industrious little girl she is, Red started saving her money for Kanani.  As Christmas approached it was pretty clear that she wasn't going to have enough money before Kanani was discontinued at the end of the year.  I proposed a solution --- Mommy and Daddy would buy Kanani for Christmas but that would be her only gift from us.  That did not go over well.  Just one Christmas gift?!!?  Once she rejected my plan, Red decided to keep saving on her own and get a My American Girl doll (i.e. the dolls you can buy that look like you) instead of Kanani.  

Then, June arrived and with it Red's 7th birthday.  She had achieved her goal.  She had $115 in hand and was ready to go to American Girl Boston when we went out east for our Massachusetts visit.

First of all, American Girl Boston is not located in Boston.  It is located in the suburb of Natick on the perimeter of the Natick Mall wedged between Crate and Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory.  We arrived at the mall around 1:30 on a Friday, and the parking lot was PACKED!  I literally drove around in circles for 10 minutes before I gave up and decided to pay to valet the van.  The moral of the story --- don't mess around, use the valet!

When we finally entered the store, the atmosphere was simply overwhelming.  There are cases everywhere filled with dolls and all their different outfits and furniture.  Anything you've seen in the catalog is on display.  Here are a couple examples:

We went to the store on Red's actual birthday.  When the staff was notified, they immediately got her a sticker to wear on her dress that said "It's my birthday!"  After that point, every staff member who saw her wished her happy birthday.  I thought that was a nice touch.  Red went there knowing which doll she wanted to buy.  She had decided upon this doll months earlier:
Then, we got the bad news --- they didn't have one in stock!  There were some tears and the sales girl did offer to ship one to our house for free once it was back in stock, but that kind of defeats the purpose of going to the AG store to buy the doll, right?  The sales girl claimed they had one right up until that morning.  Argh!  Bottom line --- call ahead to make sure they have in stock what you want to buy.  Anyway, Red decided she'd rather purchase her second choice than not buy a doll that day so she got this doll instead who she named Velma:

And all the sadness was forgotten!

After our experience, I have a couple more recommendations if you are planning a trip to the AG store yourself.

1. See if there is an activity going on that day.  The day we went to the store they had a free craft which was making a hair scrunchie for you and your doll.  They have the crafts and the dates listed on the American Girl website.  Many of the crafts this year are related to the release of the 2012 Girl of the Year McKenna.  Here are Red and her cousin working away on their hair scrunchies...
 ...and Red and Velma with their new matching scrunchies!

2. Have afternoon tea!  Tea is only available 2-430PM during the week, and you can only make tea reservations by calling the American Girl 800 number --- 1-877-247-5223.  What's really great about dining at the American Girl Bistro is that they have a high chair for your doll and at tea Velma even got her own little tea cup and saucer to use.  Also, if you don't have your own doll, they'll provide you with one to sit with you for your meal.
For beverages, the adults got our choice of teas, while the kids could have tea, hot chocolate or lemonade.  Our girls opted for lemonade.  The menu for tea is fixed, but the food was plentiful.  Here's the menu.  Zoom in to take a look:
The food for tea was served on tiered plates.  Here's mine.
Here's the rest of the food.
 Each person got a fruit kabob with yogurt and a mini muffin.
 There were three mini sandwiches per person---
turkey, ham, and cucumber with cream cheese. Pictured here are two cucumber and two turkey sandwiches.  I thought the stars shaped sandwiches with the flags were darling.
For dessert there was a brownie pop, a cupcake with pink frosting, and a Jello smile which was red jello in an orange peel.  Cute!
Even though we didn't purchase a birthday package (we didn't feel we needed another cake since we were having one that night at Grandma's house), my sister told our waitress it was Red's birthday.  She brought out a piped blob of whipped cream with a candle for her and the staff sang happy birthday.
While prices vary from location to location, brunch, lunch or dinner at the Boston location will run you $15.50-16.50 while tea is only $10.50.  The price difference might not seem like such a big deal, but here's the way I look at it.  Would you rather pay over $15 for a standard mac and cheese/hamburger type kids' meal or eat more of a heavy snack at tea but have it be a food experience that you're not going to get at another restaurant?  Tea could be a meal for some kids.  I know our children couldn't finish it and we had to get a box!  In the end, I was really glad that we went with tea instead of a meal.

As our time at American Girl wound down, Velma got her ears pierced at the doll salon and we bought a couple outfits for Velma as Red's birthday gift.  Red opted for Rebecca's movie dress and the ballet outfit.  Overall, it was a great time at AG Boston!  

Do you embrace or hate the American Girl phenomenon?  Do you think you'll go to an AG store in the future?


Teaching Stars said...

Thanks for this post! My oldest just recently got into the AG phenomenon. She's been reading the books that I can find at our local Goodwill Bookstore. So far we have a modest collection. I told her that after she reads them all (the original girls anyway) then she can pick her favorite to be her doll. She seemed game with the plan and has been devouring AG books since.

Jenny said...

So funny! The American Girl Seattle Store is actually in Lynnwood, WA. Here are our pictures:

You can definitely see some similarities. I don't know if your husband was with you, but AG does gluten free very well. The chef comes out and talks to you every time and I have never gotten sick eating there.

Jenny said...

For you: