It’s no secret that a toy shop is a kid’s favourite place to be, but what about those of us grown-ups that still want to experience a bit of that wonder and delight?
Your average toy or game shop might not excite you like it used to, but what about a shop where you can customise your own lightsaber, get a Lego version of your face or play 18 holes of miniature golf? Here are some of the world’s best toy shops that will wow big kids and little kids alike. And yes: most of the stock puzzles, too!
Hamley’s – London, England
Not only can Hamley’s stake the claim to being the biggest toy shop in the world, it’s also the oldest. Starting out as ‘Noah’s Ark’ in 1760, it would have been a modest affair with toys of the day like rag dolls and tin solders.
Fast forward to today and the Regent Street flagship store covers a spectacular seven stories (each with its own theme) with more than 50,000 lines of toys for sale. It’s become a tourist attraction in its own right, with around 5 million visitors each year checking out the giant stuffed toys, the instore puppet shows and, of course, the jigsaw puzzles.
FAO Schwarz – New York, USA
While FAO Schwarz has been well-loved by New Yorkers since 1862, this giant toy shop became known worldwide with the release of the 1988 film Big, and the famous scene that has Tom Hanks sliding across the floor piano. It’s since relocated, but from the moment the toy soldiers welcome you through the doors, you’ll find it’s all about interactive experiences, including live magic shows, a DIY race car station and the Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Kiddy Land – Tokyo, Japan
Don’t let the name put you off – this store is a worth a pitstop for toy fans of any age. It’s all about the characters goods at Kiddy Land, from Marvel and Star Wars to the big Japanese stars like Totoro and Sailor Moon.
These famous faces have been applied to all kinds of kawaii merchandise, with plenty of exclusives not sold outside Japan. Apart from the usual plushies you’ll find everything from keyrings to clothing, and yes, jigsaw puzzles. But if you’re more about challenging than cute, you can also find a good range of 3D puzzles.
Lego Store – London, England
The first Lego store might have been opened in the toy brand’s home country of Denmark, but their biggest can be found in London. Making your way through the two-story, 9,800 square feet store in Leicester Square, you’ll find all kinds of marvels built with a mind-boggling number of bricks – a working 6.5m model of Big Ben, a classic red telephone box and a life-size London Underground train car that took 3,399 hours to build. If the sight of all those bricks leaves you itching for something to assemble, you can use the Lego Mosaic Maker to create a puzzle of your own face.
Lark Toys – Kellogg, USA
Despite covering more than 20,000 square feet, Lark Toys has managed to retain the independent, family-owned feel that makes it so special. More than just a toy store, it’s got activities that all ages can enjoy – a mini-golf course, a handcrafted wooden carousel and, somewhat surprisingly, three llamas ready for petting. For the older visitor, there’s Memory Lane, a gallery of vintage and antique toys and games.
Hakuhinkan Toy Park – Tokyo, Japan
Once upon a time this was the biggest toy store in Tokyo, and while it may have lost the title, it still covers an impressive four floors in the Ginza district. You’ll find everything from party costumes to plushies and old-fashioned wooden toys here, but one of the coolest features has to be the giant slot circuit on the fourth floor. Puzzle nerds will also be pleased to hear there’s a whole section dedicated to jigsaws, appropriately named Jigsaw Puzzle Park.
Once Upon a Toy – Orlando, USA
It’s hard to talk about toys without a mention of Disney, and this store at their Disney Springs location is one of their best. As you’d expect there are all of the classic Disney characters in every form imaginable, as well as more recent additions to the family including Star Wars. What kids of all ages love abut this store in particular is the option to customise so many of the toys. There’s a build-your-own Mr Potato Head station, the option to create your own My Little Pony, or to customise your very own Lightsaber.
Charles Ro Supply Company – Malden, USA
There might not be a jigsaw puzzle in sight in this toy store, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look – Charles Ro is the world’s biggest model train store. For the true afficionado there’s of course any train set, locomotive or accessory you could ever need, but for the kid at heart the biggest drawcard will be the model train display that chugs its way around a three-level garden.
Playthings Etc – Butler, USA
With a claim of being ‘the world’s coolest toy store’, Playthings Etc has got some pretty serious hype to live up to. It might not be the biggest, but what it lacks for in size it makes up for in style, housed in a building shaped like a stealth bomber. Inside you’ll find toys from the traditional to the modern – but the best part? The staff will let you try out a lot of the products, and even join you for a game.
Forbidden Planet – London
Yes, this counts as a toy store, but not one that’s aimed at children. Starting life in 1978 as a small comic book store, Forbidden Planet has grown into the worlds biggest chain of sci-fi, fantasy and cult entertainment retailers. Their London Megastore is your one-stop shop for anything from X-Men action figures to Harry Potter stationery and Pokémon cards.
Have we missed any amazing toy stores or places where you can stock up on puzzles? Let us know and we’ll add them to this guide!
Get playful with some of our favourite jigsaw puzzles!
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