When you were a kid and you unwrapped your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice or other celebratory gifts, chances are you weren't hoping for a sweater or a pair of socks. You wanted the good stuff: toys. So when you're doing your holiday shopping this year in New York City, keep those memories in mind and hunt down something fun for the youngsters in your life. To help you in your quest to find the right gift, we've compiled a rundown of some top New York City toy stores. Enjoy.
American Girl Place
New York City is home to a large flagship store for American Girl–brand dolls. The company has found success selling figures representing young girls from various historical periods and ethnic backgrounds. Those who'd like to further indulge their children's desire to treat the dolls like real people can take advantage of a photo studio, a salon for dolls to get new 'dos and a doll hospital where damaged “girls” are admitted as patients, fixed up (the store sends the dolls out for that) and shipped back to their happy owners good as new.
This East Village store caters to serious toy collectors with its selection of rare and imported items, such as hand-painted figurines and wind-up toys from Hong Kong and Japan. Expect to find the latest Transformers, Star Wars and urban vinyl (read: designer action figures made of vinyl) toys here, along with unexpected gems.
Mini Max Toys and Cuts
Opened by a group of moms who had a hard time finding the educational, locally made and eco-friendly toys that they wanted for their tykes, this shop offers both new and classic playthings: durable wooden blocks, Lego and Fisher Price products and quirky goods like spiked Mad Pax backpacks. The shop also does children's haircuts, with special discounts available for twins.
Cited by some as a symbol of Times Square's now-long-ago transformation into a family-friendly destination, the Disney Store is exactly what it sounds like: a repository of Disney-branded products, including plenty of toys. If your kid is looking for a Buzz Lightyear action figure, a plush Pumbaa or, say, an Epcot Spaceship Earth play set, this is the place to find it. Thanks to Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars franchise, you can also find lightsabers and other Lucas-related goodies.
Toys “R” Us
We'll allow that there might be a Toys “R” Us in your hometown, but chances are that one doesn't have its own Ferris wheel or an animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex.
Video Games New York
Filled with hard-to-find items—vintage games for systems like for NES, SNES, Atari Jaguar, Dreamcast, Neo Geo, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Commodore, not to mention Japanese imports and hardware for arcade machines—this store is as much a museum as a place to shop. Parents who grew up with some of those older consoles may find themselves feeling like kids again. While the used inventory is where Video Games New York really distinguishes itself, the place also carries new machines and releases.
Park Slope is known as much for the strollers rolling down its tree-lined sidewalks as it is for adjacent Prospect Park itself, so the neighborhood is a natural home for one of the City's coziest local toy stores. This spot sorts its inventory by age group and features selections like stuffed animals, board games, Legos and an educational 3-D ant farm. Overall, the focus here is on toys that promote learning and stimulate the imagination.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company
Another Park Slope toy store, this one is a place where customers are asked at the register to affirm the superhero creed, promising to use purchases only for the forces of good. The shop offers such practical goods as capes, cloning fluid and canned intelligence. Proceeds go to 826NYC, Dave Eggers' nonprofit that teaches writing to kids.
The downtown location of this store (there's also an outpost in Grand Central Terminal) has a mom-and-pop feel, to go with some high-end, unusual gifts you might not find at a larger chain. It also sells New York City–themed toys, such as a model Staten Island Ferry.
This cool store specializes in comics, graphic novels, manga, anime and other “alternative hobbies,” like sci-fi and role-playing games. Forbidden Planet also has a huge selection of toys and statues, and its staff, described by one customer as a “fleet of cute nerds,” is extra-helpful since they're all enthusiasts themselves.
Though the 10,000-square-foot Nintendo emporium stocks the latest WiiU games, that's not where its primary charm lies. You'll find that instead in T-shirts that set characters in the real New York City (for example, Mario emerging from a sewer); in vintage consoles, games and accessories (even the Gyromite robot!) under glass displays; and in the opportunity to chat with a virtual Nintendo character.
American Museum of Natural History Gift Shop
The shop at this museum—itself a must-visit for any parent with an inquisitive child—sells a wide array of science-related fare, including toys. You might find a set of glow-in-the-dark planets, a pocket microscope, a butterfly garden kit or a plush dinosaur.