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FAO Schwarz Visitor's Guide

Updated: April 21, 2024

Many of us local guides are native New Yorkers and have fond memories of running through the aisles of FAO Schwarz looking for our favorite toys.

Though FAO (as we call it) is in a new location, much of the magical atmosphere remains.

Expect an unforgettable experience dancing on the big piano keyboard from the movie Big.

Hug the oversized stuffed animals, and peruse the incredible collection of Barbies from all eras.

When we wrote this guide, we gathered first-hand information from our local guides who have been to the store.

For even more insight, we asked the over 200k members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group what they thought of FAO Schwarz.

The group consists of locals, like our tour guides, regular visitors to NYC, as well as newbies.

You don't need to become a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

TIP: If you are in town for the holidays, do be sure to stop by the store if only to see the fabulous decorations! See what other places you can see amazing Christmas window displays and lights.


WHAT TO EXPECT

The fun begins when you are greeted by the life-size toy soldiers in front of the 20,000-square-foot shop.

Step inside and you'll immediately see a musical clock tower.

Wait in line to play the giant piano keyboard mat, featured in the 1988 Tom Hanks movie BIG.

The keyboard is right next to the window, guaranteeing you will have a big audience watching you dance.

As always, the shelves will be stocked with a huge array of toys like baby dolls, magic tricks kits, gadgets, games, and giant stuffed animals like gorillas, kangaroos, and giraffes.

Throughout the store, you'll find costumed employees, magicians and dancers, and toy demonstrators.

If your wallet isn't empty at the end of your shopping trip, head to FAO Schweetz.

This candy shop near the 49th Street entrance square feet serves up bulk candy containers fitted into life-sized versions of toys.


In-Store Experiences

You can purchase in-store experiences and make your visit one to remember. Here are a few of them.

FAO Schwarz Adoption Agency

Here children can adopt dolls. They'll even be interviewed by store staff dressed as doctors and nurses to make sure the babies are going to a good home. No doubt they will be!

Barbie Styled By You

Pick from more than ten Barbie and Ken dolls and style them as you want! Each doll comes with three outfits, one shoe pack that includes up to five shoe options and one accessory pack.

Elmo’s Monster Factory

Kids choose from four customizable Elmo dolls and then add on a wide range of face features like eyes, eyebrows, mustaches, and more.

FAO Raceway

Working with "mechanics" kids can design their own remote control cars.

TIP: If you are in town during the holidays, do stop by FAO to see


PLAN YOUR VISIT

Below are directions to the store and open hours. For more information, check the FAO Schwarz website.

Regular Hours

  • Open Daily: 10 am - 8 pm

Holiday Hours

  • Thanksgiving Day:November 23rd - 11am-6pm
  • November 24th: 10am-8pm
  • November 25th - Tuesday November 28th: 9am-8pm
  • November 29th: 9am-3pm
  • November 30th - December 22nd: 9am-9pm
  • December 23rd: 8am-9pm
  • Christmas Eve (12/24): 8am-4pm
  • Christmas Day (12/25): Closed
  • December 26th - December 30th: 9am-9pm 
  • December 31st: 9am-4pm
  • January 1st: 11am-7pm
  • January 2nd - January 6th: 10am-8pm

How to get here

FAO Schwarz is located in Rockefeller Plaza along 49th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue (map).

TIP: If you are here during the holiday season, you must check out the giant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree right next door.

By subway:

  • B, D, F, and M trains to the 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center stop.
  • 1 Train to the 50th Street stop and walk along 50th Street in the direction of the cars to Rockefeller Center between 5th and 6th Aves.
  • N, Q, or R trains to the 49th Street stop and walk along 49th Street against the traffic to Rockefeller Center between 5th and 6th Aves.
  • E or M to the 5th Avenue/53rd Street stop and walk south on 5th Avenue in the direction of the cars.
  • 6 train to 51 Street Station and walk in the direction of cars until 5th Avenue and make a left turn onto 5th Avenue. Walk one block down.

 By bus:

  • Take the M1, M2, M3, M4 or M5 bus to 50th Street. Buses run north and south.

If you are new to the subway system our posts may be of some use to you: Navigating the New York Subway and Which New York City Subway MetroCard to Buy?


THINGS TO DO NEARBY

Visit the Top of the Rock

Get unparalleled views of New York City at the observatory. See our post with details, prices, and how to even get concessions.

Note: Top of the Rock admission is included in several New York City tourist concession passes.

If you aren't sure that Top of the Rock is the view you want, read our post comparing NYC's five observation decks.

Tour of Radio City Music Hall

This majestic and lush theater can be viewed on a paid tour. Learn more about the tour, ticket costs, and concessions by reading Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour.

Take a walking tour

We invite you to join our pay-what-you-wish guided walking tour of Midtown Manhattan which includes Rockefeller Center.

If you can't join us, enjoy our free self-guided tour of Rockefeller Center and our self-guided Midtown Manhattan tour.

See St. Patrick's Cathedral

Located right across the street from Rockefeller Center, this historic and impressive cathedral is worth a visit. You can also take a free St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tour.

Go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Just two blocks away, this is one of the premier modern art museums in the world. Here's how you can visit it for free! Check out our MoMA post for the details.


FUN FACTS

1862: The year that Frederick August Otto Schwarz’s toy store opened its doors in Baltimore, under the name Toy Bazaar.

1870: Frederick moves to New York City and opens a store at 765 Broadway in Greenwich Village. In 1880, the store name was officially changed to FAO Schwarz.

1985: FAO Schwarz became the first U.S. retailer to sell the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985.

20,000 square feet: The size of the flagship store at Rockefeller Center.

$25,000: The price of a mini-Mercedes covered in Swarovski crystals.

Movies filmed in the old store:

Big (1988) - Tom Hanks plays a 12-year-old boy who wishes to be "big" and ends up magically transformed into a grown-up!

He and co-actor Robert Loggia dance on top of the store's large floor piano, playing "Heart & Soul" and "Chopsticks".

The Smurfs (2011) - The Smurfs are chased by the evil wizard Gargamel around the store.

For Love or Money (1993) - Michael J. Fox is the lead in this comedy. In one scene he comes out of FAO Schwarz with a giant stuffed giraffe.

Baby Boom (1987) - Leading lady Diane Keaton goes on a shopping spree in FAO Schwarz to buy toys for her brand-new daughter.

Mighty Aphrodite (1995) - Woody Allen and Mira Sorvino, the lead characters in the romantic comedy, bump into each other in the store.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a couple in a troubled marriage. In the last scene, they are browsing in FAO Schwarz with their young daughter.


About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker in love with the city’s history, culture and food. She's a world travel as well and enjoys sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined Free Tours by Foot in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She still leads tours on a part-time basis. READ MORE...
Updated: April 21st, 2024
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