Day Two of our birthday trip dawned bright and early (as it always does when you have three excited children in your hotel room with you). ;) We headed out to the continental breakfast near the lobby to start our day.
A few friends came with us. ;)
One interesting thing about breakfast was that the milk was partially frozen! We decided that Elsa must have been there. ;)
After breakfast, we all got dressed and piled in the car, ready for our very first trip to an American Girl Place!! :D We went to the AG Place in Palo Alto, California, located in the Stanford Shopping Center. While it's still a really long way from where we live, it's much closer than either L.A. or Seattle, so we're not complaining! ;)
We got there about ten minutes before the store opened, but people were already lining up at the door. Getting there early actually worked out really well, though. I wanted to snap a few pictures outside of the store before we went in, and I would have had a hard time convincing the girls to pose for pictures when the AG Place was waiting! ;)
This is the outside entrance for the American Girl Place. We were able to park really close, which was nice.
Here are all of the dolls that came with us to the AG Place: Oldest Gal's Elizabeth, Mimi's Molly, Mom's Janie (#37), my Hayden, Little Gal's Bitty Baby, and Middle Gal's Kaya. :) Molly, Janie, and Hayden spent most of the time waiting in the car. We figured having three dolls to carry around would be enough. ;)
Here are the girls holding up their dolls. :)
Going at opening time ended up being a really good thing for our whole shopping experience. The store was nice and quiet. The employees were very friendly without being too "hovery", if you know what I mean. ;) (I like it when store employees are available and outgoing so I'm not afraid to ask questions, but don't follow me around everywhere I go until I feel like I'm being stalked.) ;) The workers here struck that perfect balance.
Here's the view we had when we first entered the doors. The little table in the front had a few Valentine's Day themed items, and the rest of the section directly in front of us was for the Historical dolls.
To the immediate left of the door was the little bookstore section.
The middle aisle of the store was lined with Historical displays. Here we have Caroline...
...Cecile and Marie-Grace...
I should probably insert here that while I did get some great pictures, this is by no means an exhaustive look at the displays of this store. As usual, we went "man on man" with the kiddos, and I ended up with Little Gal (the most energetic shopper of the three). To be honest, I'm amazed I got as many pictures as I did! ;) Hopefully, though, this will give you a good idea of what the store has to offer. :)
So in the center aisle, behind the Valentine's Day table and between the Historical displays I just shared, were smaller displays of all of the Historical dolls in their holiday outfits...which I did not get pictures of (see above paragraph for details). ;)
Behind Caroline and Cecile and Marie-Grace's displays were Josefina's and Kaya's. (Sadly, Kaya's display is one of the ones that I missed.) :(
Directly across from the Josefina and Kaya displays, the wall was lined with the Historicals in their nighttime attire. Here are Marie-Grace and Cecile...
There was a really sweet little display of all of the mini Historicals, and all of them were available to purchase.
On the other side of the entrance, behind Julie and Addy's displays, were Kit (and Ruthie)...
And directly across from them, on the other wall, was the display for Isabelle, the new Girl of the Year doll.
Here she is in some of her mix-n-match outfit options with some girl-sized outfits.
This is Isabelle in her meet outfit with her accessories.
Isabelle's Performance Set
A closer look at some of the mix-n-match options:
Isabelle in her Metallic Dress
After the Historical and GOTY sections was the huge Bitty Baby section.
This was my first opportunity to see the Bitty Babies in person since their face mold change, so it was nice to get a better look at them.
I think that they definitely are cuter in person than in their stock photos online, but I have to admit, I still prefer the older style of Bitties. The new eyebrows are a little too heavy for my taste on some of them. They're still sweet, though.
Here are a few pictures of some of the new hair and eye combinations:
And an overall look at the Bitty Baby section. I realized that I forgot to take any pictures of the Bitty Twin display, but if you look to the very left, you can see that they are right behind the regular Bitty Baby display.
Another part of the Bitty Baby section.
Even if you're not into the Bitty Babies themselves, it's always a good idea to browse through this section. Many of the Bitty Baby clothing will fit the regular 18" AG dolls, and the Bitty Baby clothing is always less expensive than AG clothing. My mom picked up this Dotty Coat and Hat set, and it looks adorable on her AGs. Even the boots fit! It cost her $26 instead of the $32 or so a jacket set for regular AGs would have cost.
On the other side of the store, behind the historical displays and next to the cashier, was a small section of American Girl-labeled outfits and accessories.
I ended up purchasing the red hoodie sweatshirt on the left, and was very tempted by the "American Girl Place San Francisco" shirt on the right. ;)
Actually, I was really tempted by this whole ensemble! I ended up getting just the hoodie, though. Maybe on my next trip I'll go for this outfit. ;)
A couple more AG outfits:
Little Gal bought the skirt from this set as one of her souvenirs. :)
I loved these cute little doll carriers. They're for the 18 inch dolls...to carry their mini dolls! :)
In the very center of the store is this big, beautiful staircase. This staircase and I are very well-acquainted. During the first hour of our trip, I went up and down the thing at least ten times! I think Little Gal was more interested in going up and down the stairs than anything else! ;)
Exhibit A. ;) Thankfully, I discovered that there was also an elevator to the second floor, so I was able to convince her to use the elevator a few times, too. ;)
The first thing you see as you come up the stairs is the Bistro, located directly above the outside entrance (but on the second floor).
We didn't end up going to the Bistro. My mom checked into it, and while the prices were pretty reasonable (I think we ended up spending about the same amount on our lunch in the mall), getting a reservation needed to be done far in advance, and we hadn't planned that far ahead.
To the left of the stairs was the My American Girl section:
I loved seeing all of the My AG dolls together in their displays. (I got a picture of the other display, too, but unfortunately, it was too blurry to include in the post.) :( It's amazing how seeing a doll in person can change your perspective, too. My AG #47 has been on my wishlist for a while (she's the second from the right on the top row), but I discovered that I much prefer #46, the same doll (Sonali mold, dark skin and brown eyes) with curly hair. I felt the curls just suited her better. I'd already pretty much decided on Caroline, and super curly doll hair kind of intimidates me, so #46 did not come home with me this time. However, I will not deny that she was in my shopping bag for a while. :}
The girls loved looking at all of the displays. :) Here, Little Gal and Middle Gal check out all of the different options for My AG dolls.
On the other side of the second floor was the Doll Hair Salon. This place was crazy busy the entire time we were there, but especially after lunch!
I didn't get much of a chance to watch the ladies in action, as I was following little crazy shopper for most of our stay, but I did manage to snap a few pictures. :) I loved how each doll had a salon chair and a little cape, just like at a real salon. :)
Oldest Gal (pictured here in the pink hat next to Middle Gal) decided to spend some of her money at the salon. She wanted Elizabeth's hair put back in its original style. She had a great time watching the ladies at work, and Elizabeth's hair looks amazing! :) (I'll try to get a picture of it and add it later.)
Another fun little extra was in the upstairs bathrooms. I'd heard about the doll holders in the bathroom stalls at the American Girl Place, but it was still fun to see them and try them out. :)
They fit Bitty Babies as well as AGs.
Kaya, just hangin' out. ;)
A view from the landing of the staircase...a view I saw many times as we went back and forth, back and forth, up and down between floors. ;)
By lunchtime, we hadn't finished our shopping, but we knew we needed to take a break and eat. We decided to try the California Pizza Kitchen, which was located only a few stores down from the AG Place.
The food was excellent! I got this amazing chicken garlic artichoke pizza that I couldn't finish because it was so ginormous. :)
After lunch, it was time to head back to the store and finish up our shopping! :) Making decisions about what to purchase was difficult, but we did manage to get out of there in another few hours. :} Oldest Gal ended up with Caroline's cat Inkpot, Middle Gal bought Rebecca's Kittens, Little Gal got an AG wristwatch for her dolls and a doll skirt, Mom bought the Bitty Baby outfit I mentioned earlier, Mimi bought the red American Girl Place San Francisco t-shirt for her dolls, and I bought Caroline, Addy's blue dress, and the red hoodie sweatshirt.
I didn't really get any pictures during this part of the trip (I was too busy looking at Carolines and figuring out what to get). But here are a few random sparkly pictures:
...and sparkly elevator walls. The girls and I always think that sparkles make walls and floors look a million times better. ;)
I thought that some of you might like an even better visual of the store, so I've linked to the store map, which shows its floor plan. You can see it HERE. The only difference I noticed was that the Girl of the Year display on the first floor was up next to the Historicals rather than with the Bitty Baby items.
We had such an incredible visit at the AG Place. From the moment I walked in, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I've never seen so many American Girl dolls in one place. I seriously could live there. ;)
Every single employee we spoke to was friendly and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. From the cashiers to the floating employees that walked around to offer assistance to the sweet young woman who admitted Middle Gal's Bitty Baby into the doll hospital, every one of them helped make our trip memorable and fun.
I have to share a story about a very special employee we met. :) She was super friendly from the moment we first saw her, and the two of us started talking about dolls and the trip. She said that she commuted three days a week from Sacramento just to work at an American Girl Place. Incredible! I explained a little bit about our trip and mentioned that I collected dolls as well as the girls, and I also blogged. When she found out I blogged, she asked what my blog was called. "Maybe I've read it," she said.
I told her that my blog was "Never Grow Up", and she said that it was on her favorites bar! I can't even tell you how incredible it was to meet an American Girl Place employee who had read my blog! :D We talked a little longer, and of course, I kept seeing her off and on again over the course of the next several hours. Before I left, I found her and told her we were heading out. We hugged goodbye, and I felt that I had made a friend I'd never forget. It's amazing how a love of dolls can just connect people instantly. :) So thank you, "D", for making my day. I don't know if you're reading this right now, but it was so special to meet you. I hope I'll get to come back again soon and visit with you again. ;)
After that encounter, I found myself wondering if anyone else there might have read my blog at some point. That's the weird thing about being an anonymous blogger...when you're not online, you have no way of knowing if anyone you come across have ever read your blog or not. It's kind of cool, like being Clark Kent, just waiting for a chance to put on your red cape and boots (I never understood why a pair of glasses and a suit was enough to keep his identity safe, though). And no, I'm not really comparing myself to Superman. Saving people's lives is far more significant than blogging about dolls. ;)
There are a couple of things I would like to remember for our next visit. First, we definitely want to plan on going first thing in the morning again. The first part of the day was a much more relaxing shopping experience. The store was incredibly crowded after lunch, which made it difficult to get from place to place freely, and also made purchasing decisions a bit more stressful. The employees were still great, but most of them were busy at the cash registers, keeping the line of customers with purchases moving smoothly.
The other thing I'd like to try next time, especially if any of us plan on purchasing a doll, is trying the personal shopper option. Because I wanted the trip to be about the girls, I waited until the end of our trip to select my Caroline doll. Making such a huge purchase was a bit intimidating, and I didn't really have much of a place to inspect the dolls without getting in another customer's way. Also, because things were so crowded, most of the employees were busy helping others. I was especially nervous because there are times when a doll will have a factory flaw, such as a thin wig or "wonky eyes". I wanted to make sure my Caroline was just right. Thankfully, I ended up with a very nice doll, but I think I might have been able to relax a little more with the help of a personal shopper. I've heard very good things about shopping this way from the other AGPlaythings forum members. If for some reason this didn't work out, then I'd just plan on making big purchases when we first got there and things were less busy. :)
To schedule an appointment with a personal shopper, you simply go to the AG website and select the store you will be going to. Under the "shopping" category, there is an option to schedule an appointment with a personal shopper. HERE is a link to the personal shopper page for the San Francisco store, just so you get an idea.
We definitely hope to go back again, if nothing else, for the girls' birthday trip next year. Mom, Mimi and I were thinking it would be nice to plan a "big girls trip" there sometime too. We'd enjoy a slightly more leisurely shopping experience that didn't include quite as much stair-climbing. ;)
Even though we were exhausted after our AG Place visit, we decided it would be better to go back to the Solano Mall that evening to let the girls finish their shopping, rather than try to go the next morning. We wanted to get an early start so we would be home in time to get them to bed at a decent hour. :} So, on the way back from Palo Alto, just before we headed for our hotel, we went back to the mall and let the girls finish spending their birthday money.
Oldest Gal, who had very wisely refrained from spending any money at all until we got to the AG Place, decided to make a Build-A-Bear. She bought her a sequinned skirt and named her Sequin, "Quinny" for short. :) I also got my Fluttershy at this time, but I didn't get any pictures. :}
And of course, we had to do one more Disney Store trip. ;) Middle Gal decided to get an Anna doll to go with Little Gal's Elsa.
She also got an Aurora fashion doll.
Oldest Gal had her heart set on a Disney Animator's Collection Mulan doll, but they were out of stock. One great thing about the Disney Store, though, is if something is out of stock in the store but in stock online, you can purchase it in-store and it will ship to your home for free. :) Oldest Gal decided to go for that option, so in about another week, we'll be adding a DAC Mulan to our doll family. :)
When everyone had finished their shopping, we headed back to the hotel. We swam in the pool and then went to our room and got ready for bed. Mom had the great idea to put all of our purchases together on the bed, so we did:
From left to right, we have Rebecca's Kittens, Sofia the First's light-up amulet, Toddler Anna, Twilight Sparkle, a Build-a-Bear bunny hat, and Aurora (all Middle Gal's loot); Fluttershy, another Build-a Bear bunny hat (Mimi bought one for each of the girls), Toddler Elsa, mini plush Snow White, Frozen lip gloss, an AG watch, and an AG skirt (Little Gal's stuff); Inkpot, Elizabeth's hairstyle, ;) mini plush Mulan, Quinny the bear with her skirt and extra dress, and yet another bunny hat (Oldest Gal's goodies); DAC Kristoff, Fluttershy, Caroline, an AG red hoodie, and Addy's blue dress (my loot); a Frozen Elsa mug and (not in the picture) and AG Place San Francisco shirt (Mimi's stuff), and the Bitty Baby Dotty Coat and Hat set (Mom's souvenir).
My mom and my aunt were much better than I was on this trip. However, my purchases would have been far more moderate had it not been for my dear friends "S" and "C" from the doll club, who found as many doll restringing jobs as they could for me so I could have some guilt-free spending money for the trip. :) This also allowed me to give the girls a little more to spend for their birthdays.
The next morning, we packed everything up and got ready to head for home. Here are all the dolls, ready to get in the car. ;)
I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the hotel room when we first got there, so I took a quick pic as we got ready to go.
We made a quick stop at Ross and the Sanrio Outlet (sorry, no pics!), but soon decided that the shopping part of the trip needed to be done. Middle Gal had spent all of her money, and everyone was getting tired.
We stopped at Mom and Mimi's favorite place in Vacaville, Panera, for lunch, and then it was time to head home.
We'd had a perfect weekend, but everyone was tuckered out. ;)
Our trip was just wonderful. We had a great time together and made memories that will last a lifetime. I hope you enjoyed getting to see a little glimpse of our weekend and how much fun we had. :)
Lots of reviews are coming, so be sure to stop by again soon! :)