Just in time for the holiday season, New York City’s famous toy store FAO Schwarz is back, with a new, 20,000-square-foot flagship in Rockefeller Center. The more than 150-year-old brand debuted its new location on November 16 to much fanfare (and fans), and we were there. Visitors can expect returning, classic favorites and fun new experiences for kids of all ages and interests. Add it to your list of things to do in New York with kids this holiday season!

photo: Cindy Ord

The New FAO Schwarz NYC

New Yorkers (and NYC visitors) were bummed, to say the least, when FAO Schwarz's iconic Fifth Avenue flagship suddenly shuttered in the summer of 2015. (It's been a rough time for famous NYC toy stores in general, with the Times Square Toys R Us location also closing its doors.) 

But just in time for the holiday season, FAO Schwarz debuted a shiny new HQ in Rockefeller Center. Spread out over two-and-a-half floors, the store is home to a wide variety of its trademark interactive toy experiences as well as so many toys—from Hatchimals to Paw Patrol to puzzles and science kits— that your kids will flip over. 

New touches include fresh uniforms designed by supermodel Gigi Hadid, who says she fondly recalls visiting the famous toy store when she was a child. (Brand ambassador "Soldiers" are stationed outside of the 49th Street exit to welcome visitors; there is also an entrance at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.) 

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A New FAO Icon

Another new element is the 27-foot tall rocketship, which shoppers encounter when they enter through the Rockefeller Center doors. The structure (which also serves as a way to get upstairs) is surrounded by stuffed animals (including teddy bear astronauts). An astronaut greets visitors at the top of the stairs/ship, as well as a cubby/control panel, which is enhanced by sound effects, including the occasional countdown to blast-off.

The Big Piano is Back

Also on the Rockefeller Plaza side of the store and at the top of the stairs, is the beloved oversized dance-on piano, famously featured in the Tom Hanks movie Big. New and improved, the piano is reflected on the ceiling overhead its “players” so that people on the plaza can see what’s happening one floor up. (The area also provides a lovely view of the Rockefeller Center ice rink below.) Piano dancers will perform shows on the big keys throughout the day, and will also be on hand to teach visitors a few songs and steps.

As Is The FAO Clock Tower

Enter via 49th Street and you’ll see FAO’s three-story, three-dimensional clock tower flanked by enormous giraffe stuffed animals. The tower serves as another way to access the upper floors, and displays bits of FAO Schwarz history on its interior walls.

Melissa & Doug FAO Mart

One of the highlights of the first floor (especially for younger kids) is the deluxe Melissa & Doug FAO Mart, where children can grab a cart and stroll the aisles shopping for groceries ranging from toy food to  faux cleaning supplies. There’s even a checkout where kids can ring each other up. So well done and lots of fun.

Baby Doll Adoption—Complete with Checkup

Don’t say you weren’t warned: the reimagined store introduces a new area, the FAO Schwarz Baby Doll Adoption Experience. Here, nurses and doctors walk children through the adoption process, teaching them how to properly care for their baby dolls. Kids fill out an adoption form and then can select their baby doll, who is then promptly taken for a checkup. Kids leave with the doll and an official FAO certificate of adoption.

For Kids With a Need for Speed: FAO Raceway

Another cool spot on the main level is the FAO Raceway, were shoppers can design their own racecar and have it assembled by uniformed trained “mechanics.

Get Scientific with Discovery #mindblown

Upstairs a “STEM Professor” conducts live demonstrations at the Discovery #mindblown 520-square-foot kiosk, which also features a giant video wall. (We saw a “volcano” be created and erupt.)

Barbie/Mattel

The Barbie/Mattel area is impressive, with a several-story Barbie townhouse front and center. The updated, more diverse collection of Barbie dolls is also on full display (although they’re all still hella skinny.)

Bunnies By the Bay: Must Stop for Baby Stuff

Move towards the rear of the second floor and enter the world of “Cricket Island”, where the Bunnies By the Bay live. Here, you’ll encounter the lovely grandma brigade (our term), FAO employees on hand to help you choose from this brand’s ultra-soft, ultra sweet handmade line of toys and gifts for babies and their parents. (The loveys are to die for.) This is definitely a place to get a special gift for the newborn in your life.  

More Than Meets the Eye

A nine-foot, two-inch Optimus Prime is in the house, thanks to Hasbro, as are the brand’s Autobots, Decepticons, collectibles, and more.

Hatchimals, Paw Patrol & More

Fans of Hatchimals and Paw Patrol will not be disappointed. “Hatchtopia” features Hatchimals from mini to super-sized, as well as a play area, and there’s a PAW Patrol Lookout Tower to play in as kids review toys dedicated to the line.

Build-A-Bear Workshop

While there is a standalone Build-A-Bear Workshop on Fifth Avenue, the FAO Build-A-Bear not only offers the Make-Your-Own Experience, shoppers can create furry friends exclusive to FAO Schwarz and outfit them accessories also only available here.

FAO  Schweetz

Also returning is FAO Schweetz, a 2,150-square-foot area of candy for sale in bulk in containers that look like a spaceship, toy train, and fire truck. Created in partnership with IT’S SUGAR, the area will also feature giant gummy bears and unicorns, make-your-own gummy work kits, and mage chocolate bars.

And So Much More

Of course there’s more. Classic Steiff stuffed animals, musical instruments from HAPE, modern dollhouses and accessories, and exclusive FAO Schwarz Swarovski crystal collectibles such as ornaments, keychains and nutcrackers.

FAO Schwarz NYC
Mon.- Sat. 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (From Dec. 9 to Jan. 5, open until 9 p.m. on Sat. and 8 p.m. on Sun.)
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Midtown
1-800-326-8636
Online: faoschwarz.com

—Mimi O’Connor

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