Katarina and I have been visiting the mall for months, taking pictures and staring longingly at the construction, just waiting for the store to open.
On Friday our wait was finally over. We were able to visit the store the day before its grand opening. It was everything I dreamed it would be. Our friend Lee came with us to be officially introduced to all things American Girl.
There are currently eighteen American Girl stores in America, with more on the way. The Orlando location is one of their mid-sized stores, and offers a doll salon, bistro, and amazing dolls and books everywhere you look.
When you first walk in the front doors, you are greeted by the BeForever dolls and books. This is the recently released, new version of the classic historical characters that American Girl is most known for. I was happy to see them front and center, because the historical girls will always hold the biggest part of my American-Girl-loving heart.
When you walk to the right side of the store, you enter the My American Girl world. These are the "look like you" dolls. One fun thing about these dolls is that they also live in your computer when you log into Innerstar University.
Everything your real girl has or needs can be found for her doll, including matching outfits. Katarina is a big fan of the brightly colored highlights, of course, and was excited to see the doll glasses.
It was wonderful to see all the outfits and play sets in person. Even camping looks like fun when American Girl dolls are doing it. Almost every step we took, Katarina stopped, gasped, and said, "Look! They have the _____!" as she found all of her favorite items from the catalog displayed in the store.
I loved that more than one girl stopped to touch this science set while we were there, and I saw one dad buying it for his daughter.
There are no "I'm too pretty to do homework" kind of messages to be found in the world of American Girl. It is all about empowering girls to be the very best they can be.
On the left side of the store is the bistro, bookstore, and Girl Of The Year section. It is also where you will find the Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins dolls and accessories. They are so cute, and I love that they come with a book just like all of the older American Girl dolls.
We didn't visit the bistro, because it was being set up for the grand opening event, but we will definitely be making reservations to eat there soon. The menu looks super yummy, and I love that the dolls get to sit at the table with you and eat doll-sized food.
American Girl BeForeverLet's talk about BeForever. I'm a purist. I don't often like change. Especially when it comes to things I love, and I have really loved American Girl since I read my first Molly book in third grade. So when all the rumors started flying on the internet about what the BeForever series would and wouldn't be, I was concerned.
Stephanie, who has worked with American Girl for sixteen years, gave us a tour of the store, and answered many of my BeForever questions. I'm going to do a full review of the new books soon (Katarina is hard at working reading right now as I type this), but I'll tell you now that I was happy to learn BeForever does not mean the original historical stories are going away.
Even before BeForever came along, there had been changes to the historical dolls. American Girl often pulled accessories and furniture from the catalogs and stores. In recent years, some of the characters have been placed in the archives completely, their 18" dolls, accessories, and furniture no longer available, with only the books and mini dolls remaining.
With the introduction of the BeForever line, Samantha has been taken out of the archives. I did ask if we could expect to see more characters return from the archives in the future. Stephanie said it was a definite possibility, but she wasn't allowed to give me any specifics on characters or timelines.
This is Samantha's new ice cream parlor set. It is super cute and as detailed as you wold expect. Look at the tiny ice cream cone!
The BeForever dolls do have new outfits and accessories, but some of the original pieces made the cut. It was fun to see Julie's blue VW bug and car wash set in person.
Julie's story shows an important part of history for girls in America with the creation of Title IX. She is also a favorite in our family, though, because she was born the same year as Thomas. Katarina and I take great joy in reminding him he is the same age as a historical doll. We are nice like that.
We were excited to see Kit's desk, reporter set, and tyepwriter. I told Lee we had to take pictures with Kit, because I know if she were to visit 2014, Kit would immediately start a blog.
While we were visiting the store, American Girl gave Katarina a doll. She was allowed to pick any one she wanted. Do you know what a hard decision looks like when you are eleven? This is it right here. I was a little concerned she was going to melt into a puddle of happiness on their starry floor.
Although she has several of the mini dolls, Katarina did not have a full-sized historical doll, so she knew right away that was what she wanted. She looked at every single character, but she came back again and again to Samantha, who has always been one of her favorites.
American Girl Doll Hair SalonAfter Katarina chose her doll, we headed to the doll hair salon in the back of the store.
Katarina was given a book of hairstyles, separated by hair type, to go through. She chose a Half-Ponytail Flip with light pink and cream ribbons.
Besides hairstyles, you can also have your doll's ears pierced or get her the full pampering or spa treatments which will give well-loved dolls a good cleaning.
It was super fun to watch the hairstylists work. And all the tiny doll-sized hair styling tools were too cute. Katarina isn't sure whose job is more fun, the doll stylists' or Stephanie's, but she is sure that working for American Girl is the dream. They should probably be expecting an application in a few years.
It was a magical day at the American Girl Store. If you are ever near one, it is totally worth a detour to make a visit. Make sure you set aside enough time to look at everything, though. We were at the store for a couple of hours, but I know there were things we barely got to look at. Another trip will need to happen soon.
For my Orlando readers, the American Girl Grand Opening Celebration at The Florida Mall will continue through November 16th, with arts and crafts, a science experiment station, carnival games, a ballet performance, DJs, showings of American Girl movies, and other fun experiences throughout the mall. Many of the mall stores are also offering special discounts when you bring your doll, or let them know you are visiting the mall for the American Girl opening event. Make sure to pick up a full list of participating stores at the register.
While you are visiting the American Girl Store, check out Creativi-Tees, a specialty area for designing matching doll and girl T-shirts that are super cute. And if you need help shopping for the special little girl in your life, you can make an appointment with one of their four personal shoppers.
You can find out more information about American Girl on their website where they also have games and information about the historical and contemporary characters. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
For more American Girl goodness, check out the review Katarina wrote on Lee's blog, American Girl: It’s Their World, They Invite Us To Play Along and read our review of the new BeForever update to the historical stories.
*Katarina received a Samantha Doll and a gift bag with books and other goodies while we were at the American Girl Store. All love of American Girl is my own, and has filled my heart since I was seven years old. I was not required to write this post, say nice things, or dream of dancing American Girl dolls last night.