AG Sydney Anderson in AGStore smFrilly, fancy and oh so pretty-in-pink – it’s a girls’ world within the doors of American Girl® St. Louis. For girls from toddler to tween to early teen, a visit to this paean to all that is feminine is a fantasy come true.

“American Girl is all about celebrating girls and their potential through beautiful dolls, engaging books and unforgettable experiences,” said store manager Jennifer Petrowsky. “We are devoted to the positive wellbeing of girls, and our products and experiences inspire them to reach high and dream big.”

It is a winning formula. Since 1986 when the company was founded, over 23 million American Girl dolls – best friends to the girls who love them – and 143 million American Girl books have made their way off the shelves and into the homes of a devoted fan base.

More than 54 million visitors have enjoyed the exemplary hands-on experience offered at American Girl stores, one that includes selecting, outfitting and accessorizing dolls (often with the assistance of a personal shopper); giving their dolls a day of glam at the in-store Hair Salon; dining with them in the Bistro on chef-designed delectables; even attending a birthday party – a pull-out-all-the-stops gala for the birthday girl, her guests and their American Girl besties.

One of 15 American Girl boutiques in the country, American Girl St. Louis opened its doors last year. Like its sister locations, it is home to American Girl Historical Character dolls, the Girl of the Year, Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins, plus the dolls’ assorted clothing, furniture and accessories.

Girls can shop for matching outfits, select a souvenir or design made-to-match t-shirts for themselves and their dolls. They can thumb through scores of books – from the series built on each character doll to paper doll and activity books to titles designed to help girls navigate the challenges of early adolescence to mysteries that hook older devotees. At in-store events, girls can make crafts, meet American Girl authors, embark on a scavenger hunt.

Last month, Karen Anderson and her daughter, Sydney, visited the St. Louis store while en route to Columbia, Mo. Eight-year-old Sydney was participating in a children’s triathlon; their American Girl adventure was a combination reward for her hard work and gift for her birthday.

Girl Power

AG Hair Salon facial KW sm“Sydney won first place in her division in the triathlon,” said proud mom Karen Anderson. “We attribute half of it to her excitement about getting her American Girl doll, Caroline.

“After she ran, we had to go get the doll so Caroline could be there to hear where Sydney placed. She said it was the best weekend of her life. She was thrilled at getting Caroline and wanted her with her every second. It really pumped her up.”

For the record, Caroline Abbott, American Girl’s newest historical character, is a young girl growing up in the early 1800s as the War of 1812 gets underway. She joins a diverse group of dolls along a timeline of American history: Kaya, a member of the Nez Perce, from 1764; Josefina Montoya, growing up in New Mexico in 1824; and Marie-Grace Gardner and Cécile Rey, two friends with very different backgrounds in New Orleans of 1853.

Other characters are Addy Walker, from the Civil War-era in 1864; Rebecca Rubin from 1914 New York City; Kit Kittredge, 1934 during the Great Depression; Molly McIntire, 1944 during World War Two; and Julie Allbright, a groovy girl from 1974.

Several character dolls have a best friend who shares their adventures, like Kit’s BFF Ruthie and Molly’s English friend, Emily. Each character’s story is told in a series of books and each book concludes with “A Peek into the Past,” a nonfiction picture essay recounting details of the era in which the character lives. The dolls’ wardrobes are historically accurate and accessories – like Kaya’s tepee, bedroll and doll and cradleboard – further evoke her world and adventures.

“Caroline is Sydney’s first American Girl doll, but she definitely won’t be her last,” said Anderson, who called their visit “a whole experience.”

“It was so much more than just getting a doll. Our personal shopper absolutely made it so much fun, I was excited from the word ‘go.’

“As a parent, I love the doll because she’s beautiful and feels very quality. The St. Louis store is very intimate. They made my daughter feel like I would loved to have felt as a little girl myself. It was one of the best times of my life, too.”

“We strive to create a fun space where girls can engage in products and experiences that are designed just for them, while also making lasting memories with their family and friends,” said Petrowsky.

The ‘whole experience’

DruryPlazaHotel Chesterfield lobbyOne of four locations in the Midwest, St. Louis’ American Girl Store is tucked in the ‘burbs at Chesterfield Mall, about 30 minutes west of the city’s iconic Gateway Arch. Several area hotels, including the Drury Plaza Hotel-Chesterfield, offer an American Girl getaway package that includes the signature pink doll-size American Girl travel bed (available only through a hotel package), Welcome Letter and freshly baked cookies for child and doll.

Because it is a Drury, the Chesterfield location includes a number of freebies with any overnight stay: wireless Internet; a hot breakfast; soda and popcorn stations in the lobby; and an evening meal called the 5:30 Kickback with the foods most kids like – chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, baked potatoes, broccoli cheddar soup and more – plus soft drinks and beer and wine.

The hotel also has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool and sits in an area where there’s plenty to do to fill a weekend. Besides the American Girl Store, which is within walking distance, there is St. Louis’ Butterfly House and Education Center in Faust Park, where you can see thousands of the delicate winged creatures in free flight beneath a crystal dome. There’s also lots of glass cases filled with creepy-crawly insects and a fun gift shop called Madame Butterfly that stocks souvenirs like activity kits, jewelry and stuffed animals kids find hard to resist.AG Kaya KW sm

Also in Faust Park is the St. Louis Carousel, home to an original carousel created nearly a century ago in the 1920s. The horses and other animals have been beautifully restored and rides are just $2 – a charming stop on an American Girl getaway that little girls will want to share with their new best friend.

IF YOU GO

·American Girl, www.store.AmericanGirl.com

·Drury Plaza Hotel-Chesterfield, www.DruryHotels.com. Book the American Girl package, from $129.99, at wwws.DruryHotels.com/DruryDeals.aspx?DealId=12016115&Property=0121.

·St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, www.ExploreStLouis.com