No matter the season, there’s nothing more magical or soul-warming than a good old-fashioned toy store. Whether you’re searching for a last-minute birthday gift, locking down Christmas presents, giving in to the kids’ relentless pleas or seeking nostalgia, these timeless shops provide hours of carefree wonder for the entire family. Take a break from online shopping and check out these curated playtime palaces—the kids will thank you. We took a closer look at some of Chicago’s very best toy purveyors to help you find the right fit.
Top toy stores in Chicago
Go for: The curated collection and stellar book section. “We really try to pick exactly what we think our customers would enjoy,” says owner Ann Kienzle. “You don’t need 12 stacking toys. We picked the best two or three for you to choose from, to keep it manageable.”
Who’s it for? You don’t need a little one to frequent this precious Logan Square storefront. “We definitely have groups of twentysomethings coming in after brunch and spending a good hour looking around and touching everything and playing with stuff and remembering their childhood,” says Kienzle.
Look for: Fun gadgets and gizmos at the counter. “We just got this tiny piano that rolls into a little cube and plays like a regular piano,” says Kienzle.
Go for: A thoughtful mix of educational playthings and the essential toys of the moment.
Who’s it for? Shoppers who crave guidance (and extra effort) from a knowledgeable staff: “We really are so in the shoes of our customers [that we] can anticipate what they want and what they need before they even tell us,” says owner Katherine McHenry. “We take pride in jumping through all the hoops to make sure needs are met.”
Look for: The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. “100 bedtime stories about 100 extraordinary women. My daughter’s favorite story in there is [about] Coy Mathis,” says McHenry.
Go for: Designer toys, pop-culture collectibles, and local and national art.
Who’s it for? Parents may enjoy this modern play mecca more than their kiddos—but rest assured, there’s something here for the youngsters too. Stocking vinyl figurines, blind boxes, Mermicorno backpacks and plush toys, Rotofugi has garnered attention for its expansive inventory.
Look for: Vinyl Artist Gacha. “They are small toys that are either in capsules or mystery boxes and they’re all based on bigger toys by well-known artists, usually from Japan,” says owner Kirby Kerr. “It’s a great little series and they’re really inexpensive at $7 to $8 apiece.”
Go for: Quality pieces for the younger set. “We really focus on ages 8 and under,” says shopkeeper Scott Friedland. “We’re known for having toys that you can’t find in your big-box stores, things that will last you a long time.”
Who’s it for? Parents and kiddos who love super personalized service: “Our staff knows all the kids that come in here by name—and most of the parents by name as well.”
Look for: Lux Blox. “You can click them together to make these sheets that flex and bend, or you can make solid structures as well. There are so many possibilities,” says Friedland.
More toy stores to check out
Don’t go looking for any Barbie Dolls in this classic, European-inspired toy shop. Head to Geppetto’s for its collection of wooden toys from responsible manufacturers. The shop stocks puzzles, building toys, craft sets, books and more to please parents and kids of all ages.
Nothing may be better than 4,000 square feet of toys. This well-curated shop has it all—the latest and greatest "it" toys, retro toys, European toys, puzzles, magic kits, baby products and more. (Parents of Thomas the Tank Engine–crazed kiddos will also be highly impressed with the train selection.) Better still, you won't pay more than the big-box stores.
With three Chicagoland locations and a robust e-commerce website, Toys Et Cetera puts more th an 10,000 toys at your fingertips. Shopping local has never been more convenient—we're talking complimentary gift wrapping, free shipping when you spend over $199 and pickup at any store location.
This veritable palace of playtime locomotives lures regular customers to suburban Berwyn not just from Cook County but from northern Indiana and southern Wisconsin, too. (Toy-train enthusiasts from around the world have also been known to visit this family-owned shop, which has been operating for two decades.) The colorful displays of train sets you can play with will entertain your kid (and you) for hours. From Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine to Playmobil toys, Legos, Carrera, Breyer horses, puzzles and crafts, you can easily spend the day in this store.
Heading to a baby shower? GALT Toys & Baby is your new best friend. You’ll find a range of infant and toddler toys like plush books and rattles. Moms and moms-to-be can find specialty strollers and nursery furniture. The store has certified technicians on-hand to help answer questions or do car installations.
You might bring your kid along to Quake Collectibles, but you're secretly going to relive your childhood. While the shop also carries modern toys, its real bread and butter is the best of the glory days: old-school Transformers, GI Joe, throwback Star Wars action figures, Strawberry Shortcake, Pez dispensers, vintage lunch boxes and so much more. You can't not find something you want here.
Toy de Jour is a trip back to the 1980s, with vintage toys, clothing, knickknacks and art from the era. Pick up your nostalgia here with figurines from classic franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, Star Wars and My Little Pony, or get your fill of it from the selection of equally nostalgic home decor and apparel.
What ever happened to good, clean, fun? It took up residence in Oak Park, at this funky shop. Expect to find an eclectic selection of favorites like retro robot toys, 1980s postcards and vintage-inspired tchotchkes. From Betty Boop to Dr. Who, the gang's all here—at affordable prices.
After six years of business in Bucktown, the toy store has moved to a bigger West Loop location. To stock the shop, owner Linda Schmidt did her research, filling it with familiar childhood favorites to puzzles galore and new games imported from Europe. There’s plenty of options for every age group, and the store even hosts family game nights and tournaments.