Tell a small child that you’re taking them shopping and at very best you’re likely to see their eyes glaze over. But reveal that you’re taking them to a toy shop and you’re likely to see a very different reaction entirely. Toy stores can come in a variety of different forms, but the common denominator is that they are invariably packed full of goodies that will captivate your children. And the toughest part will be getting them to leave without bankrupting yourself in the process.
There are a vast number of toy outlets to be found across America’s Midwest, most of which are situated in the region’s heavily urbanised cities – though you’ll find several scattered in more rural areas, too. We’ve done some research and picked out 10 of the best toy shops to be found anywhere in the Midwest.
Every toy shop exudes a magical aura – but few are quite as enchanting as this unique family-owned emporium in the sleepy Minnesota town of Kellogg. Indeed, despite its inconspicuous location, such is the store’s reputation that it draws visitors from far and wide who come to marvel at its remarkable collection of handmade, heirloom-standard wooden toys, including some classics housed in an on-site antique toy museum. Unquestionably the standout attraction is a full-sized carousel featuring seats carved into a variety of exotic animals with exquisite (and often quirky) details – including a majestic stag, a grinning boar, a playful river otter, and an albino buffalo. If that’s not enough to grab your attention, the store also features an 18-hole mini-golf course, games, puzzles, educational toys, gifts, in-house LARK-made fudge, a café, and a candy shop.
LOCATION Kellogg, Minnesota HOURS Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm
Catering to goofballs – their words, not ours! – for nearly three decades, Happy Up Inc has been one of the St. Louis metro area’s most loved purveyors of children’s toys, games, puzzles, art kits, science sets, stuffed animals, and more. With two locations – one in Clayton in St. Louis County, Missouri and another in the city of Edwardsville in Madison County, Illinois – the popular independently owned stores stock a mammoth range of toys and games for babies, toddlers, school age kids, demanding teens, and fun-loving grownups who’ve never quite left their childhoods behind. Everything from retro toys to high-tech gizmos can be found here, with many of the products imported to showcase the best toy companies on the planet. The Happy Up stores are staffed by friendly toy experts that ensure every toy and game is play tested – nice work if you can get it!
LOCATIONS Clayton, Missouri & Edwardsville, Illinois HOURS Check website for store hours
Bricks & Minifigs
With five stores located throughout the Midwest and 35 in other parts of the US and Canada, Bricks & Minifigs is a mecca for fans of the iconic interlocking bricks known as LEGO®. A one-stop-shop for all things LEGO®, each store provides the essential LEGO® experience. The brand offers a buy, sell, trade model that lets customers buy new and used LEGO® products, while also providing the option to sell and trade in old or unused sets. LEGO® enthusiasts can also search through individual minifigures, bulk bricks, components and accessories to complete any LEGO® set with a few missing pieces.
LOCATION Nebraska (Omaha), Illinois (Wheaton & Crest Hill), Wisconsin (Madison), & Michigan (Macomb)
Located in Franklin’s downtown district, this speciality toy store sells a huge variety of toys, books, games, baby gifts, and plenty more in an engaging, hands-on atmosphere. The store is staffed by real play and toy experts, and most days you’ll even find the owner sharing her expertise on the shop floor too. The venue also hosts regular events and classes covering a range of education and well-being themes.
LOCATION Franklin, Indiana HOURS Mon-Fri 10am-6pm Sat 10am-4pm Closed Sun
Family-owned and operated since opening in 1991, Snickelfritz Toys stocks an impressive collection of toys by some of the biggest toy-making brands, with babies all the way to young teenagers catered for. Nestled in the suburb of Vernon Hill, north of Chicago, the store has built up a loyal customer base who treat the shop as their go-to destination for books, dolls, accessories, action figures, fancy dress costumes, bathtub toys, cars, trains, other vehicles, and plenty more.
LOCATION Vernon Hills, Illinois HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm Sun 10am-4pm
Legacy Toys was founded in Ely, Minnesota in 2012 as a uniquely original toy store, devoted to helping kids and their families ignite their imagination through exploration and play. Featuring 6 locations in Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota for families to play. They encourage people of all ages to engage in interactive play throughout their visit. Each location provides its own unique experience, with one-of-a-kind displays like animatronic dinosaurs and unique play areas that bring a child’s imagination to life. Each store features hundreds of games, puzzles, educational toys and resources, candy, baby toys and more. Legacy Toys mission is to help nurture our future leaders, inventors and creative thinkers. They inspire the next generation to lead meaningful, happy and productive lives, encouraging all families to laugh, grow and play together in the knowledge that making the world a better place for children is the greatest legacy that can be left. Visit www.legacytoys.com for more info.
LOCATION Venues across the Midwest HOURS Vary by store
Big Fun Columbus
Situated just north of Columbus’s downtown district, this captivating store houses an amazing variety of vintage toys dating from the 1960s to the present day. Nostalgic playthings and curios include models from iconic kids’ franchises such as Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, My Little Pony, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The store also sells greeting cards, jokes & gags, and classic candy.
LOCATION Columbus, Ohio HOURS Tues-Sun 11am-7pm Closed Mon
Set within a beautiful building in the town of Chesterton, this toy store combines a fun shopping experience with a strong passion for toys, a deep sense of nostalgia, and exceptional product knowledge. Specialising in unique products that you won’t find at big box stores, from old favourites to the newest creations, most of the toys for sale here don’t require batteries or electronics, but rather fuel the imagination instead.
LOCATION Chesterton, Indiana HOURS Tues-Fri 10.30am-5pm Sat 10.30am-7pm Sun 12pm-4pm
Geppetto’s Toy Box
Named after the famous fictional character from Pinocchio, this charming European-style toy shop in the heart of historic Oak Park is a quintessential neighbourhood store, selling a diverse mix of back-to-basics wooden toys, arts & crafts, puzzles, books & music. A haven of discovery and creativity, the thoughtfully created store environment complete with hand-painted wall murals and uncluttered product displays offers a “hands-on” policy that encourages customers to play and interact with the products for sale.
LOCATION Oak Park, Illinois HOURS Mon-Weds 10am-5pm Thur-Fri 9am-8pm Sat 9am-6pm Closed Sun
Toy de Jour
With its tagline of “Vintage toys art and farts”, one might imagine that whoopie cushions feature heavily in this Chicago Store. But there’s far more than flatulence-based props to be found here, including vintage household items and clothes, as well as a wide assortment of kooky toys & collectibles, novelty items and local artists’ pieces, all designed to capture the imaginations of children while sending adults on an evocative trip down memory lane.
LOCATION Chicago, Illinois HOURS Tues-Thurs & Sat 12pm-6pm Fri 12pm-7pm Sun 12pm-5pm
The Toy Chest
Sitting in beautiful Brown County, this specialty store is said to be Indiana’s oldest toy outlet. Catering to children of all ages, the shop’s creative, high quality toys have been hand-picked for their ability to encourage the power of play. Spread across 3,000 square foot, the store is laid out to create a veritable play-based experience, with open games, play areas and experienced toy experts on hand for guidance. Products include science kits, arts & crafts, dolls, stuffed animals and other toys for everyone from newborns to teenagers.
LOCATION Nashville, Indiana HOURS Sun-Thurs 10am-5pm Fri-Sat 10am-6pm
By Paul Joseph