Today my daughter, Katie, turned seven. And, it was time. Time, that is, to go to the American Girl Doll Store. (Or palace or emporium, “store” just doesn’t seem to be quite the right word for what we actually experienced.)
I was a little nervous. Would I have to dip into her college savings in order to spend just a few hours there? Would she be able to take any friends along to enjoy the day? I wondered. Could it actually be affordable to have a birthday party, anywhere, let alone at a place somewhat renowned for being downright pricey?
Our adventure began one month ago when I went online to explore my options for having a party at the store. I was pleasantly surprised. The Bistro offers several different packages ranging in price from $12 per person (for afternoon tea, what we did) all the way up to $49 per child for a “tiaras- included” super-splurge birthday bash. I knew what I wanted and called their reservations phone number to get this party on the books.
The lady on the phone was extremely informative and kind. When faced with a challenge — I asked for a reservation at 2pm and she was only allowed to schedule a group of ten for 3:30pm — she called the Dallas store and got it done. I was thrilled and wondered if perhaps booking only one month in advance was somehow too late. (Other blogs I’ve read since say you need to plan at least 5 months in advance for peak days like Saturday!) She emphasized that we couldn’t bring a group larger than ten because they couldn’t fit any more. So, we obliged and restricted our friend count. (And, I wondered how there could possibly be that many little girls in Dallas free to have afternoon tea at 2pm on a Tuesday! Homeschooling must be even more popular than I thought!)
We loaded up a few friends and headed over to the Galleria about an hour and a half early in order to get a little shopping and beauty salon time in before our 2pm reservation. We turned into the parking garage ramp that said “American Girl” (the purple lot). This was a solid strategic decision. The elevators in that garage took us to just a few steps away from the store’s entrance, allowing us to leave our coats in the car (So we’d have more hands free to shop!)
And, to hold our dolls with, of course. The big part of the American Girl experience is meant to be enjoyed with one’s American Girl Doll. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. They will happily remedy that “problem” for you. The store is incredible. Katie walked in and a look of awe filled her eyes. So. Much. Stuff. She was amazed and excited to shop (with birthday money from Grandma just begging to be spent on doll clothing and accessories.)
But, I stopped my little shopper in her tracks and reminded her that we had one order of business to take care of first: a trip to the beauty salon. Not for her, but for her doll, Bella. See, Bella’s hair had a whole lot in common with the nest that the birds built under our patio roof. It needed help that I was not qualified to give it. And, because the dolls are just abit of an investment, I decided that another fifteen dollars to have her hair prettied was only slightly crazy.
We rushed through the store and headed up the escalators to the beauty salon on the second floor. There are no advance reservations for the salon so I didn’t know what kind of line to expect. To my delight, there was only one person ahead of us and they were finishing up so our wait time was minimal.
When you take a birthday girl anywhere, you have to be prepared for the inevitable bonus requests. My daughter’s add-ons included neon-colored hair clip-in extensions (I have no idea?), and pierced ears. Honestly, if we hadn’t been there, at the store, on her birthday, I likely could have accomplished both of these tasks for about one-tenth of the price. (Ear piercing costs $16. Using a thumbtack or, hey, buying stickers, is next to free). But, you only turn seven once, right?
The stylist was very professional and the doll looked beautiful. The menu of hairstyles ranged in price from about $10-$25. After Bella was beautified, they asked my daughter to “sign” for her. I think she felt very special as she carefully printed her name to confirm she
had taken possession of the doll again.
There was no line at the salon so we were through there in about 25 minutes total. Plenty of time left to shop!
There was not a clearance rack anywhere in sight, so I started to hyperventilate. But, Katie did have that Grandma money and a Nana along to help finance the splurge as well. The cash went fast. After twenty minutes we had laid down some serious coin and seen most every item downstairs. For the most part, every item you see in the catalog was there and displayed in a nearly identical way to the catalog. This made it easy for my catalog-memorizing daughter to find what she wanted quickly. You know it. I know it. Their stuff isn’t cheap. So, having a strategy ahead of time of the items she wanted to buy helped us stick to her budget and not come down with a sudden case of the “I wants.”
All that shopping worked up our appetites just in time for our reservation. The Bistro welcomed us warmly, and escorted our party of ten to a lovely table by the window. The girls chose their seats, and then the hostess helped them get their dolls seated in the special doll high chair apparatus thing that attached to the table. They sat down and giggled and giggled and giggled some more. (Honestly, the moms might have giggled a bit too.)
A waitress soon came and explained to us that with the “tea” was a set menu. We would receive one of each appetizer and treat for every person at the table, and the beverage of our choice (though smoothies and other special beverages were extra). The adult ladies chose from a delicious assortment of hot teas, while all four of the girls chose hot chocolate.
As we eagerly anticipated the arrival of our snacks, one of the girls noticed a box on the table filled with little pieces of paper bearing questions. Conversation sparked with questions like, “Would you rather take a long, hot shower or bath?” And, guess what? The girls kept giggling.
When our food arrived, my daughter’s smile broadened. It looked so fancy on those three-tiered tea trays. The adult ladies and I worked our way from the bottom plate to the top. Whereas I noticed the girls seemed to prefer starting on the plate where the delectable desserts whispered, “Try me!”
I suggested to the birthday girl that she start with her mini hamburger. But, that recommendation was shunned due to the existence of a pink cupcake. I reminded myself that you only turn seven once, and, like Elsa, just let it go.
It didn’t take us very long to devour all of that food and find ourselves, surprisingly, full! One mini appetizer reminded me of beef wellington–only with a hot dog inside. The hamburger I mentioned earlier may well have been the best one bite hamburger I’ve ever tasted. There was also a small cucumber tea sandwich, a fruit skewer, and a blueberry muffin.
And, for dessert: the pink cupcake had some stiff competition for “favorite” status. In a tiny flower pot resided some chocolate mousse with cookie crumbles with a daisy sprouting from the “dirt.” Fun with a capital “F.”
There was another special touch that the girls loved. They gave each one a craft. It was stickers and some cardboard to punch out, but still, because it said American Girl on it, they thought it was the best thing ever. The moms were able to enjoy free refills on their flavored hot teas while the girls meticulously stuck each sticker onto their punch out cardboard purses.
If you are going to the Bistro to celebrate a birthday, there’s something you need to know ahead of time. Because we didn’t get the birthday package there was no real recognition by the Bistro of her birthday. I got the impression this was because they’d prefer that the birthday celebrations happen in these special party rooms or that they, at a minimum, prefer birthday celebrations include their special (and more expensive) party package. We didn’t pay for that and thus, my expectations were low. The staff did give her (and her doll) an “It’s My Birthday” sticker so that she could be greeted with a hearty “Happy Birthday” all over the store. But, if you are looking for a place to blow out candles and sing with staff help, this may not work for you. We made do, and my spunky little gal even pretended to blow out candles after our table belted out a hearty rendition of the birthday song.
All in all, visiting the American Girl Doll Store was a really special way for us to spend my daughter’s seventh birthday. I’m glad I waited to do it, because likely it will be the first request for a birthday location for the next several years. And, I think I’d do it again. We had a peaceful, relaxing, and fun time in this pink, girly paradise.
**This post is in no way affiliated with American Girl. This post is for all the moms who are first-timers like me!