One of my favorite things about Christmas is toy shopping for my kids. No, I don’t love the crowds and I always want to cry a little when I see my bank account, but there’s something so inspiring about being in toy stores. Perhaps it’s that our imaginations open up just a little more. Or, maybe, it’s the thought of our kids’ faces on Christmas morning. Or, maybe, and I think this is the most likely, toys are simply FUN.
Whatever it is, good toy stores are rare and wonderful things. In the age of big box stores and online retailers, going to a good old fashioned brick and mortar shop with toys lining the shelves can make you feel like a kid again yourself.
So what makes a good toy store? It could be a lot of different things for a lot of different people. But as we set out to find our five favorite toy shops in Richmond to recommend for holiday shopping, here are the the things we looked for:
- Does it have a wide range of toys, including educational?
- Does is have toys that are appropriate for different age groups?
- Does it offer hard-to-find or unique toys (the kind you can’t find anywhere else)?
In our search, we came across a number of great toy stores in the Greater Richmond Area. But these are the ones that stood out. As you start your holiday shopping (or finish it if you’re ahead of me), you’ll definitely want to put these five shops at the top of your list.
Carytown Dolls and Bears / Facebook
So often these days we shop online or grab what we need at one-stop-shops like Target or Walmart where we can shop for gifts while getting our groceries. But there’s something special about traditional shopping, especially for Christmas. Nothing beats going to a store just for the sole purpose of being in the space and immersing yourself in the atmosphere. If you’re looking for specialty gifts for the younger people on your list and you know what I’m talking about, then you can’t miss Carytown Dolls and Bears. You won’t find shelves full of toys that run on batteries, spin, flash or make crazy sounds, but you will find beautiful gifts destined to become keepsakes. Carytown Dolls and Bears is special from the outside in. The building is reminiscent of an old European chalet with a timbered façade, hand-hewn timbers, leaded glass windows and hand-carved details throughout. Inside, you’ll find the walls lined with exquisitely crafted dolls and beautifully created stuffed animals, plus plenty of wooden toys from names like Melissa and Doug and a wide selection of family games, ornaments, arts and crafts, music boxes, vintage toys and much more. While you won’t find as many flashy toys as you might find elsewhere, you will find treasures that your children will cherish for a lifetime.
Why we love them: It’s true that if you’re looking for Barbie or Ninja Turtles, Carytown Dolls and Bears may not be for you. But for precious, one-of-a-kind collectibles and a shopping experience that is warm, inviting and truly unique, this specialty boutique takes the cake.
Tuesday – Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Toys That Teach / Yelp / Photo credit Casey H.
While it would seem that it’s all in the name, don’t be fooled. While Toys That Teach is chock full of educational, scientific and creatively stimulating toys, it is still a toy store at heart. In a world of dime-a-dozen toys that flash in front of our kids eyes constantly through commercials and big corporation advertising, Toys that Teach is a haven. But really, why shouldn’t learning be fun? Toys That Teach offers toys for independent play, cooperative play, motor skill development, visual learning, creative learning, language development, logical thought and musical play. With toys set out throughout the store for kids to play with while you shop, you can see firsthand how engaged children become. While Toys That Teach doesn’t offer the same range of toys as some of our other top picks (you won’t find as many items for teenagers or adults), they encompass everything that a toy store should be – fun, creative and constantly stimulating.
Why we love them: Some toys are simply meant to be toys and nothing more. But we love the fact that at Toys That Teach, you can find so many things to stimulate learning, imagination AND play – all at the same time. Oh, and free gift wrapping (for $5 purchase and above)…we LOVE free gift wrapping!
Store hours: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm
3038 Stony Point Road
Richmond, VA 23235
Tiny Tim’s Toys / website
As we’ve mentioned, when looking for toy stores, we’re looking for something beyond the ordinary. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Tiny Tim’s Toys in the heart of downtown Ashland. While this small, locally-owned toy store is best known as a destination for all things model train related, it offers much more than just trains. Of course, if it IS trains you’re looking for, then your search is over. Find all types and brands of model and wooden trains, plus scenery, repairs, special order and railroad-related gifts. There are even train tables set up in the back so the kiddos can play while you shop! But Tiny Tim’s doesn’t leave anyone out, offering classic toys, puzzles, games, bricks (i.e, Legos and more), innovative learning toys, scientific toys, slot cars, items for outside play and more. If you haven’t heard of Tiny Tim’s, its probably because they’re a relatively new shop – but the buzz is starting. One visit to this innovative toy store and you’ll see why.
Why we love them: Tiny Tim’s Toys goes above and beyond to engage customers (and their kids!) at every turn. From sample games out front, to trains that your kids can operate in the windows, all the way to train tables and Legos in the back, Tiny Tim’s is an interactive experience for everyone who walks in the door. The fact that it’s set right on the tracks in Ashland, doesn’t hurt, especially if you have train enthusiasts in your family!
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 7pm
Sunday, 11am – 4pm
The Toy Center / Facebook
What makes the Toy Center special is the thought that goes into every item that is placed on the shelves. This locally-owned shop was originally founded in 1966 as a place for collectibles and hobbies: dolls, trains and the like. But when Mary Mollen (a former pediatric nurse, mother of four and grandmother) purchased the shop in 2009, she did so with the vision of creating a place where parents could not just find amazing toys, but where they could encourage their children to think, use their imagination, interact and be educated – all the while, having fun. Today, The Toy Center specializes in arts and crafts, dolls and dollhouse, imagination and make believe, cars and trucks, books, trains, outdoor play, educational toys, and much, much more. You’ll find things for every child on your list, from newborn to teenager, but best of all, you’ll have fun while doing it!
Why we love them: We love how The Toy Center embodies everything that a good old-fashioned toy store should. No tricks or gimmicks, just a huge range of toys designed to inspire imagination, learning and play!
Store hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:30am – 5:30pm
5811 Patterson Ave
Richmond, VA 23226
(800) 205-8281 for info and hours
World of Mirth/ Yelp / Photo credit Damian L.
World of Mirth in Carytown seems to wind up on every “best of” toy stores list in Richmond, but it’s no wonder. This eclectic toy store is aptly named considering that it’s filled from top to bottom with nothing but fun. As Richmond’s only locally-owned alternative toy store, it is truly one-of-a-kind. From old-timey toys to newer, edgier collectibles, there’s something for everyone here – adults included. In fact, don’t be surprised if you find just as many grown-ups as kids browsing the aisle, reliving their childhood, or at least rediscovering their inner child. At World of Mirth, you’ll find toys, games, puzzles, collectibles, pranks, gags, stuffed animals, clothes, educational toys, and much more. With categories that range from newborn to adult, they offer everything you could possibly want in a toy store. And that means that no matter who is on you list, the young or just the young at heart, you’ll find the perfect gift at World of Mirth – time and again.
Why we love them: World of Mirth stands out for their quirkiness, range of products and, perhaps most of all, the sheer joy that you’ll find shopping here.
Monday – Thursday, 10am – 7pm
Friday and Saturday, 10am – 6pm
Sunday, 11am – 6pm
If you’ve got Christmas shopping on the brain, we hope this list will get you headed in the right direction. Let us know about your experiences at these or any other toy stores in the area. We would love to hear your comments in the section below!