family vacations By Kathy Karlesses

You could spend an entire week at American Girl Place and most likely not experience all of the exciting activities offered. My 10-year-old daughter has been a fan of American Girl for a couple of years now and waits anxiously for the catalog to be delivered so that she can circle all of the things she wants.

This summer, I decided that we would venture beyond the catalog and take a family vacation to one of the cities that is lucky enough to have an American Girl Place. Because we live in Cleveland, the logical location was Chicago. I was excited too, because as a city, Chicago is one of the finest and offers many diversions if we actually managed to conquer American Girl Place. My daughter and I decided to spread the joy and invite my sister and niece to share in the experience. The plan was for us to fly from Cleveland and for them to fly from Denver and converge upon Chicago with two 10-year olds toting American Girl dolls in their coordinating back pack/carriers.

family vacation

Once we booked our flights, it was on to planning the visit. There are many Chicago hotels to choose from, but Starwood Hotels is the ‘official’ partner of American Girl and offers packages that include very special amenities such as special bed for your doll, cupcakes, keepsake photos and more. There are three hotels in Chicago that participate in the offer, and the package inclusions vary slightly. We selected the Westin Michigan Avenue, as it was a great location and only a couple of blocks from American Girl Place. When the girls checked in to the hotel, the concierge officially welcomed them and provided a special check-in place for their dolls. It really kicked off the visit. The girls were thrilled.

I recommend starting at the American Girl Place Web site for some advance planning before your visit. The new Water Tower Place location offers four levels of shopping, dining and services, including a doll hair salon. Both girls had their dolls' hair done, and they looked brand new! Nothing like a salon visit complete with salon chairs, capes, combs, brushes and accessories — all in miniature size, of course!

The Web site details all of the available activities, and I recommend that you make reservations in advance for dining or any of the activities that are taking place during your visit. The American Girl Café is very special, and the food is actually quite tasty. If you are trying to economize (more money for doll accessories), you could make reservations for tea, which is just as special as and less pricey than breakfast/lunch or dinner. As for atmosphere, it is what you would expect, lots of pink and flowers and special seats just for dolls!

The Web site also details the other American Girl Place locations and the various activities scheduled throughout the summer. Some of the activities are free!

My daughter and my niece absolutely loved their American Girl Place experience and declared it the best family vacation ever! Now, what could be better than that?

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Kathy Karlesses is a Director of Account Development at Orbitz. She and her husband enjoy traveling to new (and not-so-new) places and watching the experience through the eyes of their two girls, ages 12 and 10.

Tagged: Chicago Vacation, Family time, Orbitz Parent Panel, Travel Tips

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