When the batteries run low on the latest must-have gadget, and your tots tire of the half-a-million Frozen-emblazoned finds at the mass-market toy store, check out our top picks for the best boutique toy stores that make playtime really inspiring.
This Venice toy store prides itself on carrying only smart toys that are made to provide hours of creative fun. Huzzah! may be small, but its colorful walls are packed with excitement: craft and science kits to entice investigative minds, plus old-school staples such as the red-rimmed Etch-A-Sketch. Let your kids roam, exploring it all. As the clerk will remind you, if anything falls, “It’s okay, everything in here bounces.” The same goes for you as you check out the quirky toys for fun-loving grown-ups, like the Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure. Don’t forget to save room in the kid-sized shopping cart for the bins of wind-ups and finger puppets that line the counter.
This family-owned L.A. staple has been offering a cornucopia of collectibles since opening its flagship toy store in 1993. Kids of all ages will spend hours scouring the narrow aisles, packed with hard-to-find pop-culture artifacts, for that rare and elusive find that can make or break a truly impressive collection. With new offerings stocked constantly, each visit is a unique treasure hunt for that latest Star Wars action figure. True to its name, Puzzle Zoo also carries an extensive collection of puzzles for all skill levels, as well as imports and boutique toy brands such as Hape and Green Toys.
Child’s Play Toys
Never underestimate the power of playtime experts. At Child’s Play Toys, a trained “toyoligist” will guide you through the whimsical décor and colorful aisles — filled, of course, with an array of innovative toys. Why spend hours researching the best developmental toys when you can simply let an expert do all the work and suggest the best picks to stimulate creativity. To be absolutely sure before you make that purchase, though, be sure to get a second opinion on your selection from your own personal tester: your child. When your little ones play with the train sets, musical instruments, or any of the other dozens of toys they can explore in the store, they’re sure to find a favorite in no time.
The Dinosaur Farm
Got a dinophile in the family? If so, simply visiting the Dinosaur Farm may be the greatest gift you could give. This cozy Pasadena toy store, offering everything from life-like dinosaur replicas to fossilized dino poop, isn’t just one of the best toy shops: it’s a paleontological heaven. Bright green murals depicting friendly dinosaurs line the walls of the tiny store and back play room, which filled with toys and books as well as some non-dino-themed offerings. Owner and overgrown kid, David Plenn, welcomes your ecstatic little ones to touch each and every item, and he’s more than happy to help you find the perfect toy. If it’s not in stock, he’s sure to track it down.