As a mother of three girls, the American Girl brand has been part of my life for a long time. Although this product debuted in 1986, it was not a part of my childhood, and I really knew nothing about American Girl until my first daughter was about five years old. But from that point on, it has been a huge staple of every birthday and Christmas! We have a whole corner of a room in our home devoted to American Girl! Living in an average sized house with 7 people, a dog, a cat, and occasionally some fish, this dedication of space is really saying a lot about the role American Girl plays in our lives!
Living in Central Florida, we have a lot of options for entertainment and unique experiences. My Walt Disney World love is well documented, as well as our travel experiences around the country. However, for my three daughters, visiting American Girl Orlando is really among their top experiences during the year. The store is about 45 minutes from our home, which is the same as other major attractions. American Girl Orlando is located at the Florida Mall, which is also home to a huge variety of stores and other fun experiences for kids. This makes the American Girl Orlando store at the Florida Mall a perfect destination for the whole family!
When you get close to the store, your girls will be amazed at the grand entrance, complete with valet parking right in front of the store! The entrance to the store is beautiful and enchanting for girls and their moms. When you walk in, there are beautiful American Girl doll displays, complete with huge play sets and accessories. Be prepared; your daughters will want everything in sight! I have found that having a conversation BEFORE we arrive at the store about how much, if anything, they can expect to come home with, can really help with having a peaceful experience.
On our visit, all three of my girls brought American Girl dolls with them, and they loved running around the store and finding their doll’s twin in the displays. At American Girl Orlando, there is a section for historical dolls like Samantha and Kit, as well as Truly Me dolls, Bitty Baby dolls, and Welly Wishers. The Orlando location, as well as most other American Girl locations, also has a doll salon and Bistro. At the doll salon, your American Girl can get her hair done or nails painted, Bitty Babies can get cleaned and washed, and more!
We looked around the store and then made our way to the Bistro for lunch. This restaurant is designed specifically for dolls and their girls. Each doll is given a highchair and place setting, and our sweet waitress Alicia made sure to get each of my daughter’s names, as well as their doll’s names. Alicia greeted and spoke to both the dolls and the girls by name for the rest of the visit. This is such a lovely step for her to take that really makes the girls feel special. Alicia even refilled the dolls’ cups with a small pitcher, and during dessert, the dolls were given their own tiny cupcake!
The American Girl Bistro menu does not have a kid’s menu, which is a step I assume is taken to make the girls feel as if they are ordering from the adult menu. At the American Girl Bistro, there is no division between real mommies and doll mommies. They are all treated just as importantly and with just as much respect. And while they do not have a kid’s menu, they have very friendly kid food, such as macaroni and cheese, buttery pasta, and chicken fingers. All of my girls also had special drinks such as hot chocolate and milkshakes, and ended their meal with dessert. We highly recommend the decorate-your-own cupcake. My girls love doing this and it gives the adults in your group a little time to talk. My mom and I had salads, and everything we tasted was delicious!
There are so many photo opportunities during your meal with your child and their doll. The care that the girls take with their doll or baby is just precious and so wonderful to see. At the tables, they have conversation starter prompts in little boxes, and my girls love discussing these together. Some of the great questions we discussed were, “Have you ever stood up to a bully?” “If you could do any activity of your choice, what would it be?” and my favorite one to answer, “What is your dream job?” When my daughters asked me this question, I was so happy to tell them, “I’m living my dream job! Being your mom is exactly what I always wanted to do with my life.” Of course, it’s not just a job, but a calling and a purpose. And sitting around the beautiful American Girl Orlando bistro table with my mother and my three precious daughters, I couldn’t imagine a better job in the world. American Girl gives girls (and boys!), the opportunity to dream, to see themselves in the dolls, and to learn about different time periods and cultures.
When walking around the American Girl Orlando store, you will find dolls in wheelchairs, dolls with dental head gear and hearing aids, dolls of any skin color and hair type, scientist dolls, musicians, and more. They also have amazing books, which have been so helpful to me as a mom. There are books about manners, about how to be a good friend, how to navigate middle school, and all about what to expect when getting older as a girl. They are all explained in such a gentle, yet strong and confident way. My 10 year old daughter has devoured so many of their books, and really learned a lot about growing up and how to handle social situations from the books.
If you are in the Orlando area and have American Girl fans in your home, I highly recommend visiting the store and Bistro! Some of my tips for success:
1. Try to go on a weekday, and as close to store opening as possible. As with most things in life, this is the least busy time, and will make for an even more enjoyable experience. Not a necessity, but always a good idea!
2. Make reservations in advance for the Bistro. You can make these onlineand they are highly recommended!
3. If you are hoping to visit the doll salon, visit this part of the store immediately upon arrival. These reservation spots fill up for the day very quickly, and can only be made on location.
4. Discuss with your child in advance what they can expect in terms of souvenirs and products to take home. This will save a lot of headache while in the store!
5. Take lots of pictures; both of your child and of products you might want to buy in the future. With my 3 girls running around saying, “I want this for my birthday! I want this for Christmas!” I just snap pictures of anything they mention, and then figure it out later!
And my most important tip; treasure this time with your daughter! The time when a girl is willing to make believe and immerse herself in an experience like this, is sadly, so painfully short. It is a moment in time that you will want to savor forever. Even if your girls end up wanting every single thing in sight, take the time to go to the Bistro, sit with your girl, have some wonderful conversation, and stare into her eyes. Worth every penny.
*We were treated to lunch at the Bistro in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. All opinions are entirely my own and my honest and true experience.