November 19, 2018
Willy Wonka said it best: "Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination." When I stepped inside the doors of the newly opened FAO Schwarz, those words sprang to mind. I couldn't believe my eyes, as I took in all the sights and sounds of this colorful wonderland of play.
While FAO may have moved from its former Fifth Avenue digs to a new home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, it has still retained some of the classic gems. The store is stocked with plush teddy bears, giant giraffes, and enough toys to rival Santa's Workshop. The fabled clock tower is there, as is the dance-on piano that gained fame when Tom Hanks danced atop it in the 80s classic "Big." (And yes, you can take a turn and demonstrate your own fancy footwork as you look out over Rockefeller Plaza on the second floor.)
What has changed at FAO is the level of experience. It's virtually impossible to walk through the store and not be taken by one of the many product play areas where toys come to life. In the Build-a-Bear department, you can select and stuff an animal of your choosing, while an FAO staffer patiently sews your new plush pal. Over at the Discovery #mindblown zone, a lab coat-clad chemist mixes up bubbling solutions using the Big Boom Blast Lab, much to the delight of his audience.
Take a walk downstairs where pretend play abounds. At the Melissa & Doug FAO Mart grocery store, kids can choose from among bins of play foods and fill up their mini shopping carts before heading over to a makeshift checkout. Over at the Baby Doll Adoption center, baby nurses teach prospective parents how to care for their dolls before sending them home with an adoption certificate.
If building a race car is more your speed, head over to the FAO Raceway area where auto mechanics help kids assemble remote-control cars, choosing the right body style, wheels, and other pieces. Then get your sweet tooth fix over at FAO Schweetz, where you'll truly feel like a kid in a candy store. Be it the candy sushi kits, gummy bear wall, or jumbo-sized boxes of Swedish Fish, Skittles, and more, it's impossible not to treat yourself.
Of course, no visit to FAO could be complete without feasting your eyes on the big-ticket toys the store is known for. Our pick: a ride-on convertible encrusted in Swarovski crystals with a $25,000 price tag. Watching the kids (big and small) ooh and ah over this toy made me realize that you're never too old to play. And FAO is definitely the place to do just that.