New York City, New York
Opened in 1862 and immortalized on the silver screen, FAO Schwarz is officially the oldest (and arguably the most iconic) toy store in the US. Housed in its flagship Fifth Avenue location since 1986, this vast emporium of family-friendly experiences is just the place to make magical memories—or bask in some straight up childhood nostalgia—thanks to hands-on activities such as the Elmo Monster Factory, Barbie styling counter, and Baby Doll Adoption Agency. Of course, before you leave, getting a snap alongside the famed toy soldier doormen is a must.
Beloved Belgian toy store Serneels is the high-end answer to all your baby, toddler, and children needs, although don’t go expecting to find all of the big name products and well-known brands. Instead, expect retro wooden toys in bright colors, natural materials, and classic designs that are built to stand the test of time. From classic Steiff teddy bears and handcrafted music boxes to delicate dolls and impressive steam trains, this is the ideal spot to pick up a childhood souvenir when you’re next in the Belgian capital.
A full century older than its across-the-Atlantic equivalent, FAO Schwarz, Hamleys originally opened in 1760 and relocated to Regent Street in 1881. And, although there are now branches around the world, that massive London location remains the biggest and best. Across seven vast floors organized by theme, kids will be able to find exactly what they’re looking for while parents enjoy a nostalgia trip all of their own. And make sure to ask the staff about top toys during your visit—they might even do a demonstration for you.
Tucked into the 19th-century Passage Jouffroy, away from the crowds of downtown Paris, Pain d’épices (or, “gingerbread” to give it its English translation) is an old-school toy store that oozes charm. Dollhouse enthusiasts and miniaturists will be enthralled by the store’s collection of teeny tiny household items, painstakingly crafted to scale, while children will be kept plenty busy by squishy teddy bears, wooden cars, and other playthings in this throwback Parisian toy emporium.
Mind your step in Tokyo’s overstuffed Kiddy Land store, which is filled floor to rafter with all manner, iteration, and model of stuffies, toys, and gadgets. Although especially known for its abundance of all things Hello Kitty and Peanuts (not to mention Miffy and Studio Ghibli), you’ll also find plenty of premier limited edition products here that you can’t get elsewhere, making it a must for Tokyo travelers with kids. Look out for all things kawaii and don’t skip the Pokemon Center and its Pikachu plushies.
Steiff Museum and Shop
Giengen an der Brenz, Germany
Even if you’ve never owned a Steiff bear, chances are you know what the “classic” version looks like—think: tufty fur, jointed arms and legs, and that trademarked tag in their ear. Although creators in the US were making teddies at around the same time as seamstress Margarete Steiff, many believe the Steiff bear to be the original (and the best) version of these popular childhood playthings. So, when in Giengen an der Brenz, make for the museum opened in Margarete’s honor where you’ll find a collection of Steiff bears, a plushie petting zoo, and—of course—a toy store.
Minnesota’s beloved and long-standing LARK Toys—a 20,000 square foot (1,860 square meter) family-run favorite—has been described as a Willy Wonka-esque destination for toy enthusiasts. Whether you just want to admire the displays of vintage toys, take a spin (literally) on the handcrafted carousel, or shop for souvenirs in the candy store, there’s no shortage of things to keep you entertained here. No, really; there’s even a mini golf course and a huge model train table, as well as a bevy of traditional wooden toys to take home.
Not to be outdone by its European neighbors, Italy also boasts one of the world’s best toy stores in the form of Bartolucci. Just a stone’s throw from the Pantheon, this is the OG home of the eponymous wood-carving Bartolucci family who’ve been in the business since 1936, and it’s here that you can find your very own version of Pinocchio, the famed wooden puppet. All carved from Italian wood and crafted by hand, you can find these marionettes across Italy, but why not stop at the place where it all began?
For many adults, playing with LEGO® bricks and building out fantasy creations from the colorful plastic blocks remains a cherished childhood memory. And the magic continues to this day for kids across the globe, who look to LEGO for creative inspiration and hands-on fun. If your kid is one such crafter, make for the largest LEGO store in the world, right in the heart of London. Decked out in impressive LEGO models of Big Ben, Shakespeare, and even a tube map, this store has all your LEGO brick needs and will surely keep big and little kids alike entertained for hours.
Charles Ro Supply Company
There are few toys that have stood the test of time quite like trains and there are few toy stores in the US where you can browse such a vast range of train-related paraphernalia. In fact, there are arguably no other places in the US quite like the Charles Ro Supply Company. This family-owned, 3-floor store is a favorite for model train enthusiasts looking for Lionel trains, American Flyer products, and even Thomas the Tank Engine bits and pieces. Did we mention that it’s the largest of its kind in the US?
American Girl Place
Founded back in the 80s, American Girl is one of the US’s most popular doll brands, known for its 18-inch-tall (0.45-meter-tall) dolls of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. While you can shop online for an American Girl doll all of your very own, it’s never a bad idea to head to the shop in person and Chicago’s flagship American Girl Place is a favorite of many. After picking your doll, get their ears pierced, shop for outfits, and have lunch alongside them at the on-site café.
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