I got my first Kirsten doll in elementary school. Then, a doll with dark brown hair and blue eyes with a tiny violin and concert dress — just like me. When my daughter was old enough for a doll, we started with a sturdy Bitty Baby who could endure toddler playtime. But finally the summer before kindergarten, my daughter was ready for her first real American Girl doll and so we started planing the trip I had been impatiently waiting for.
A Trip to the American Girl Doll Store in Chicago
A word to the wise: plan ahead. Depending on the time of year you are going, experiences at the store book fast as do Chicago hotels.
Where We Stayed
We got a great deal at the The Drake, just a few blocks from the store. In addition to spacious rooms, the lobby and staff made the girls feel like princesses, even bowing to them as they entered the hotel. The high tea at the Drake’s Palm Court includes a Prince & Princess Afternoon tea service, for children between 3 and 12 years of age.
There are tons of family hotels along Michigan Avenue. I would aim for anything along this one-mile stretch.
Navigating the American Girl Doll Store
This is more than a store to buy dolls and their millions of tiny accessories. This is a full experience with a doll hospital, restaurant, doll and girl beauty salon, ear piercing for both and special events.
This was our family’s highlight. Make you reservation as soon as you plan your trip! This is a price fixe menu that includes a beverage (upgraded options and cocktails for the grown ups are extra), a first course of cheese, fruits and veggies, a choice of a main course and dessert (chocolate mousse in a mini flower pot). The doll gets her own seat and meal. Be sure to check out the bathrooms!
Birthday party options are available with special cakes and surprises – just book ahead!
Your doll gets the royal treatment at teh AG Beauty Salon! Choose from hairstyles based on your doll or choose a fancy ponytail or braid. Your doll can get a spa treatment with body scrubs and facials. Add on a hearing aid, ear piercing or other accessories. Girls can also get their hair and nails done or even choose an ear piercing! See the salon menu here.
Have a doll that needs a repair? Whether its from old age or an unfortunate accident, the doll doctors can get her fixed up! Each treatment includes free round-trip shipping, plus a Certificate of Good Health, a get well card, a Doll Hospital gown, and socks. Check out the Doll Hospital FAQs.
Overwhelmed by the options? Reserve a free personal shopping appointment!
We devoted a half day to our American Girl Doll store experience including shopping, salon appointments and lunch. We came back a second day for great photo opps and for some final purchasing (after time to think overnight).
Mom Tips for the American Girl Doll Store
- There is a Lego store in Water Tower Place right next to the upstairs AG store entrance. Send the non-doll loving family members there so you can take your time (or leave them at home).
- The restaurant was one of the healthier, kid friendly meals we had. It really is worth the experience.
- Prepare your budget. You likely already know it isn’t cheap. Talk about about what you’re willing to spend before you go, because you’re going to get sucked into the teeny tiny accessories.
- Buy a doll backpack carrier for ease while navigating the airport or if say, your girl wants to carry her friend around Chicago.
Other Kid Friendly Chicago Restaurants to Check Out
There are dozens of restaurants I could put on this list (plus a whole list of just pizza) but here are our favorites within walking distance of the AG store.
An Italian two-story market with a sit down restaurant, multiple cafe and food stalls, fun Italian foods to take him and gelato, of course. You can order pizza in fun shapes or create your own (homemade) pasta. There is an extensive wine list for adults!
Look, you can’t go wrong with pizza in Chicago. I wouldn’t even attempt to direct you to the best one, but.. I am partial to Gino’s East for the super laidback atmosphere (you can write on the walls), and both thin and deep dish options. If ordering deep dish, remember your food will take longer (45 minutes+ likely) so bring some kid activities.
The breakfast here is one I still dream about. You’ll want to get on the waiting list. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available and the menu is extensive. Pair this with a day at Millennium Park.
Favorite Chicago Attractions for Kids
Again, I could list all the museums we love in Chicago (Museum of Science and Industry is not to be missed!), a baseball game at Wrigley Field or fun adventures on Lake Michigan. But if you’re just enjoy a girls weekend at the American Girl Doll Store, here are a few ideas for extra fun.
My daughter could have spent a full afternoon playing in the Crown Fountain. The interactive art exhibit includes faces of Chicago residents who spit out water and create a fun splash area. Don’t miss the Bean sculpture nearby and get super fun photos, trying out different sides for a totally different perspective!
Maggie Daley Park
Just over the pedestrian bridge, is Maggie Daley Park. This is reminiscent of the Gathering Place in Tulsa with unique playground areas, swings, a slide hill and so much more. Plus, you can’t beat swinging with skyscrapers in the background.
Architecture Boat Tour
This is a 1.5 hour tour that examines the architecture of Chicago buildings along the Chicago River. You can also find shorter river cruises or boats that go out on Lake Michigan if the weather is good.
We kept this trip simple and didn’t take in everything else that Chicago offers families. We took our time at the store, we stopped in for Shirley Temples and marveled at the tall buildings all while carrying around our new friends.
The best part for this mom was the many women who stopped us and recounted their memories of taking their daughters for their first doll. How they remembered the magic of that trip and always following with, “and now they are all grown up.”
And with that, I feel like I took an extra moment to watch her carefully put her doll to bed that night in the hotel, being sure not to mess up the fresh hair bows. I’m already counting the years until I can take her little sister on the same trip!