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I spent over $2,400 taking my daughter to the American Girl store for her birthday. She had tea with the dolls, got her ears pierced, and I'd 100% do it again

Family posing at the American Girl store
The author's two sisters, mom, her four daughters, and her. Courtesy of the author
  • My mom, my two sisters, and my four daughters traveled from Michigan to Chicago.

  • It was one of my daughter's birthday and the celebrations included shopping at the American Girl store.

  • She got her ear pierced and had tea with some American Girl dolls.

This August, my four daughters, two sisters, and mom all hopped on a train from Michigan to Chicago with one special purpose in mind: to visit the American Girl store.

It was my middle daughter's upcoming 9th birthday, and I had surprised her with a special weekend trip away with an itinerary that included a day of shopping at the American Girl store, getting her ears pierced in the American Girl salon, and last but least, an extremely expensive American Girl doll birthday "tea" where we would be served delectable treats and tea alongside her doll!

I spent $2,400 for activities and hotel

Girl having tea with American Girl dolls
Courtesy of the author

The trip was extremely expensive for us and topped a total of around $2,400 for everything:

  • Train tickets: $500

  • Hotel for two nights: $827

  • American Girl Doll Tea for eight people: $600

  • Ear piercing: $100

  • Food on the trip: $300

  • Gifts (matching doll-daughter outfits and pajamas from Amazon and American Girl doll books): $100

We had a blast on our trip, and while there are some parts I would recommend other families skip if they're considering the same experience — they literally serve Wonder Bread for some of the tea sandwiches, and we all left starving — here's the real reason I don't regret spending that much money on one weekend: because it was a way to make both of our childhood dreams come true.

I loved American Girl dolls growing up

The truth is, I'm a millennial mom who had the "catalog only" experience of American Girl. It didn't even occur to me as a kid that I could even dream about owning an American Girl doll; I was perfectly content to look at those glossy pages and admire the picture-perfect setups. I can still see my favorite scene that involved the four-point poster bed because it was so cozy.

My own daughters feel similarly about American Girl dolls — they're fun to admire but not something they obsess over. So, for us, this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime. My birthday girl and her sisters had the most fun simply exploring the store. If you've never been, the American Girl store is an experience in and of itself and just visiting, at least, is totally free.

Girl playing with American Girl dolls
The author's daughter at the store.Courtesy of the author

We were in the store for 6 hours

All of us, from my mother to my sisters to my own daughters, ranging in age from 4 to 15, spent a total of six hours just in the store alone.

My daughters explored every single inch, from the hands-on displays to the ever-popular Bitty Baby toys in the back of the store to the biggest hit of all: the escalators. My daughter even requested we take a picture of her holding a bunch of bags — they were full of our leftovers, but who's to know — on the escalator like she was in her own tween movie, and it was perfection.

Ironically, my daughter doesn't even own an authentic American Girl doll. She rocked the much more budget-friendly "My Generation" doll to the tea, and shopping-wise, we spent a grand total of about $30 at the actual American Girl doll store — on books only because my daughters are, after all, girls after my own heart.

Girl reading a book at American Girl dolls store
Courtesy of the author

But the money spent on things was not the point of our trip. Yes, it was an expensive trip overall, but as a mother of daughters, the true investment was giving them the experience of traveling to a new place together and indulging in what I think makes American Girl so alluring in the first place: a place where girls are free to adventure, explore, and dream — all while delighting in the adorable details along the way.

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