I can only imagine how incredible it must be to visit FAO Schwarz as a child, because believe me – it’s pretty freaking great when you’re in your thirties. This place isn’t just a toy store, it’s an experience and their collection of toys is beautifully curated.
And besides, it’s probably the only place you can buy an etch-a-sketch for $1500 (it’s completely encrusted in Swarovski crystals), a $30,000 3D motion simulator or a $25,000 Barbie foosball table. (If you want one of those you’ll need to be quick – only 8 of them were made and Charlie Sheen has already bought one of them!)
Of course you can’t talk about this place without mentioning the Tom Hanks film Big, especially that iconic scene with the floor piano. It was pretty great to see it in person when we were there a few months ago.
I imagine when you’re a kid this place must seem as though it never ends. You’re greeted outside by a real toy soldier, whose main job seems to be to pose for photos and get kids extra excited. When you walk through the door you find yourself in the Grand Hall, where you’re surrounded by a jungle of Steiff stuffed animals and racks of plush toys.
Upstairs is a seemingly endless maze of toy departments, all staffed by friendly people who encourage the kids to play with the stock. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I don’t remember any mess or a single bratty kid. It was probably too mesmerising for mischief!
FAO Schweetz was just as amazing as the rest of the store. Aside from having an enormous collection of candy to choose from, it also boasts a range of BIG oversized confectionary.
Some of the best brands have collaborated with FAO to reproduce their products in giant sizes, and even the packaging is in perfect proportion. If you can visit this section of the store without cracking a big, fat smile your brain is probably broken.
There was plenty of competition, but that boy right there was the most delicious thing in the store
There’s a section upstairs called the Whatnot Workshop where you can create your very own Muppet extra. You choose the parts and they’re built for you in store while you wait, or you can jump online and use the Muppet Whatnot Workshop instead! It doesn’t look like they ship internationally (boo!) but it’s still fun to play around with.
Here’s a couple I made while messing around tonight:
FAO Schwarz is the oldest toy store in the United States, and in 2012 it celebrated its 150th anniversary. These days it’s owned by Toys “R” Us and the flagship store in Fifth Avenue is now the only one standing.
Visiting the store fulfilled a wish that I’ve carried since I first watched Tom Hanks play that piano in Big, and it didn’t disappoint. If you’re ever in NYC this needs to be on your to-do list, even (especially!) if you don’t have kids!