Remember the magic of walking into a toy store as a kid? Well, these stores throughout the globe manage to capture that special feeling with carefully selected toys, whimsical displays and a whole lot of fun within their walls.
Kiddy Land, Shibuya, Japan
There are more than 80 Kiddy Land stores throughout Japan but the five-storey flagship in Harajuku is the mecca. Each level is dedicated to a different subset of cult kids toys – on level one, you’ll find the Star Wars Galaxy and the Hello Kitty room is on floor four.
American Girl Place, Chicago, USA
This is the mothership for these iconic American dolls. As well as hundreds of the 46-centimetre characters, there’s also an in-store café and beauty salon, where kids and their inanimate companions can have their hair braided and styled, their ears pierced and leave their dolls to be pampered with a fully body scrub and faux facemask.
Hamleys London, England
Though it’s had myriad monikers, this landmark toy store in central London has existed in some form for more than 250 years – that’s a lot of teddies. These days, the store sells all manner of playthings, from towering Lego sets to movie merchandise but the array of plush creatures remains a key attraction, including the two life-size bears, Hattie and Hamley, who greet and cuddle customers several times a day.
Lark Toys, Kellogg, USA
You’re not getting out of this store until everyone has ridden on the carousel – and it’s a pretty amazing merry-go-round. Each horse, dragon, pig, flamingo, giraffe, rabbit and rooster has been hand-carved from Minnesota basswood and polished to perfection. Head spinning? There’s also an 18-hole mini golf course and a store selling freshly made buttercream fudge.
Bartolucci, Rome, Italy
The puppets might not come to life but stepping inside this wood-only toy store is like stepping into Geppetto’s workshop. Intricate, hand-painted carvings line every shelf and while they’re incredibly sweet, the toy to take home is one of the brand’s handmade Pinocchio puppets, complete with rosy cheeks and a suspiciously long nose.
Playthings Etc, Butler, USA
It claims to be the world’s coolest toy store – and since the building is shaped like a spaceship and there are regular free ice-cream giveaways, we think it stands. Within its walls are more than 3000 toys that kids are encouraged to try out in store and the enthusiastic staff is very willing to give demos.
Steiff Museum, Giengen an der Brenz, Germany
Kids around the world snuggle up to these fuzzy bears, the first teddy in the world to have jointed arms and legs. The museum is a gallery of cuteness with more than 2000 bears and other cuddly animals from different eras of the company lining the walls. There’s a store attached to the museum so kids can take home their favourite bear, too.
Lego Store, London, England
This store takes Lego building to the next level. Here, you’ll find an almost seven-metre-high replica of Big Ben made from 344,030 bricks, as well as an enormous London Underground carriage that took 3399 hours to make and has a Lego Shakespeare riding inside. When the Leicester Square store opened in 2016, it took the mantle of as world’s biggest Lego shop, covering more than 914 square metres.
World of Disney Store, Disney Springs, USA
Would this list be complete without a place to purchase all things Disney? From Disney Princesses to stuffed Mike Wazowskis, this is the largest World of Disney store on earth – though by no means the only one. Fittingly, its 12 overflowing rooms are found just outside Florida’s Walt Disney World. Rumour has it the store is about to undergo a major refurbishment but for now kids can still stand fascinated by its animatronic pirates.
Jasper Junior, Melbourne, Australia
Santa allegedly commissions this team to stock his Christmas stack and they take this responsibility very seriously. The Royal Arcade shop is stuffed with an eclectic collection of nostalgic toys, costumes and quirky creatures. Be sure to take some time to admire the front window, which feature a regularly changing, beautifully merchandised display.
FAO Schwarz, New York, USA
Best known as the spot where Tom Hanks tapped his feet on the walking piano in Big, the store sadly closed in 2015 after more than 30 years at the Fifth Avenue address. But there’s hope. Reports have revealed the toy store has leased a smaller space at Rockefeller Centre with plans to reopen in late 2018 – just in time for Christmas.
Top image: Lego Store, London