Thank you to Westfarms Mall for providing my family with a complimentary experience for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
It’s no secret – there are a lot of really fun things we get to do when we go out on our OAAM adventures – we get to check out a lot of cool places, meet great people, and (of course) share about these outings with all of you! But our most recent trip to Westfarms Mall made us feel like real VIPs! The boys and I were invited to a “Mommy and Me” day out at the mall to experience a few of the great family stores and attractions they have to offer. I know I wouldn’t normally think of the mall as a place to go and spend a couple of hours with my 3 kids, but I’ll admit (VIP experience aside) I was (pleasantly) reminded just how much fun the mall could be – even with your kids in tow!
Our first stop on our VIP mall experience was to Hanna Anderson children’s clothing store. It was super easy to find – they are located right in the center of the mall on the upper level. They have the cutest clothes, accessories and the real show stopper are their jammies! They really are the best pajamas ever! I can tell you from personal experience of owning a few pairs that have been passed down from Ace to Rex – they are so soft, so durable and they don’t shrink. And the VERY best part? You can get matching jammies for your entire family…right down to your dog. That’s right…you’re read it correctly – your dog can sport Hanna Jams too!
We don’t have any four-legged friends at our house – So we went with matching jams for the little guys.
Hanna Anderson was so kind to send all three of my boys home with a pair of matching Hanna holiday jammies (Maybe it’s just me – but I’m a sucker for matching outfits of any kind). Now, we wouldn’t normally be sporting our jammies around the mall but we thought it might be fun to wear their jammies for our pictures with the big guy (yup – Santa)!
We got to use the Hanna Anderson dressing room to get the boys changed. I have to tell you – the dressing room/bathroom was the best, most mom friendly set-up I have ever seen in a store. (Isn’t it funny how a bathroom can get you excited once you’re a mom?) Getting the three of them changed is no small task – but this dressing room made it so much easier – especially when the baby was 1/2 changed and I heard the dreaded “I gotta go to the bathroom” from one of the bigger boys. (The store employees were probably wondering what the heck we were doing in the dressing room ha!) but we finally got everyone dressed!
The boys spotted the coloring table and had to check it out. Hanna Anderson is really onto something…a nice big bathroom/dressing room AND coloring to occupy my kiddos so I can shop uninterrupted… Amazing! It was such a great first stop!
The boys were excited to hear the next stop required a ride in the elevator. They were even more excited to find out our next stop was a vist to Build A Bear Workshop located right near the center of the mall on the lower level.
If you have never been before, let me give you a little overview of how the whole thing works. When you first walk in, you will see a big wall with a bunch of stuffed animals (and their pricing) that you or your child get to “build” and make your own.
Ace went with the very predictable New England Patriots teddy bear, where Rex threw me off a little when he went with Elmo as his choice. He’s never been an Elmo guy but seeing as I’ve caught him stealing his baby brother’s clothes and bottles to dress and feed Elmo… I think he might just be an Elmo guy now. But anyway- back to the building of the bears – Once you choose which stuffed animal or character you’d like to make, you’ll notice the unfilled version of it in a bin below the wall display. There are all sorts of ways you can personalize your bear – we didn’t add any sound boxes or scents to ours this time, but if that’s something you’d like to do, you can add on as much as you would like.
Next, you can pop over to the big “Fluffy stuff” machine (as Rex calls it). He’s not that far off – it is a big box filled with lots and lots of teddy bear stuffing to fill your animal with. This part is really cute- the kids get to push the foot pedal to help stuff their animal.
The Build A Bear helper then prompted the boys to grab a heart out of a little bucket and to do all sorts of adorable things with it before placing it inside the bear and sewing it up. Don’t quote me on the exact things they say to do with the heart, but it is along the lines of “Rub it on your head so he’s smart like you, rub it on your tummy so he never goes hungry, jump up and down so he’s always happy” – like I said – I might be totally messing up the actual lines but you get the idea, right?
After your animal is stuffed and officially becomes a “stuffed animal” (sorry, I couldn’t resist haha)- they need a bath, of course! Once they have their bath you can go shopping for outfits and accessories. This is where you can really get creative (and if you’re not careful it can also really start of add up quickly!) We were really eager to get to see Santa, so this time we didn’t buy any clothes for Elmo or the Patriots bear.
The very last step at Build A Bear Workshop is officially naming your bear and preparing their birth certificate. There are computers where you scan your animals tag, it then prompts you to enter information like the child’s name, birthday, and it allows your child to give their animal a name. Ace and Rex were officially the proud owners of “Elmo” and “Tom Brady” – and the official birth certificates were printed and picked up at the front registers.
Like I mentioned before, there are lots of add-ons to personalize your animal, but if you are being budget conscious you can totally go and have a great time purchasing the bear as it is and still have the same awesome experience. Also, if you check their website or sign up for their emails you can stay up to date on special promotions. When we visited they had a “Buy one get one for $10” sale which has since ended but I did see an email that starting this weekend (12/16/17) they’ll now have Super Mario characters as part of their extensive Build A Bear collection!
For us – this visit was a real treat, we have been a couple of times over the years, but I felt Rex, who is almost 4, was the most perfect age this time around. Ace is 6 1/2 and had just as much fun – but something about the joy on Rex’s face as he rubbed the little heart on his nose just melted my heart.
It really was like fun overload by the time we finished up at Build A Bear and set off to meet up with Santa AND Mrs. Claus. Having Mrs. Claus with Santa is a first for Westfarms this year – If you visit Santa before his little break at 3pm you will get to meet and take your photo with both Santa and Mrs. Claus. (You can find the Santa and mall hours in the “Momsense” section below). Aside from having Mrs. Claus – there are a few other things that made the Westfarms Santa experience really stand out.
First, I should tell you that on your way to meet Santa – you’re going to take a little trip through “Santa’s Flight Academy.”
With the help of one of Santa’s Elves we used a computer kiosk to fill out some information including my name, email address and my children’s names – then every child gets their very own “cadet badge” to keep and bring home with them. Remember the days of waiting, and waiting, and waiting in line – the kids all dressed up, melting down while you wait for your turn with santa? While I can’t guarantee there won’t be any meltdowns I can tell you there are lots of interactive experiences for your children to try out as they wait to see Santa.
Other than Santa, our favorite part of the Santa’s Flight Academy was the interactive dancing in the virtual flight suit. Rex stood on the feet marks, put out his arms and once the screen recognized him he began to dance and move in his “flight suit.” It was very fun. The coolest part was when I got home and checked my email, the video of Rex was in my inbox! So much fun to watch it again – and get to share it with Dad.
You can learn to fly Santa’s sleigh as you continue through the line and right before meeting Santa – you get to enter the snow globe room – complete with holiday music, falling snow and enough snow accumulation on the floor for snow angels! The boys loved all of it.
But, nothing really compared to the excitement of getting to sit on Santa’s lap and share their Christmas wishes to him. As for our photo with Santa…I have realized that with each additional kid we add to the family the chances of getting a decent picture drop exponentially – haha! The photographer was awesome at trying to get all of my boys (and Elmo & Tom Brady) to look and smile – as well as letting me take a look at the pictures to make sure they got one I was happy with. We didn’t get everyone smiling, but they’re all kind of looking – you can’t win ’em all, right? If you really want to save some time you can fill out your badge information online ahead of time or to avoid the lines all together – you can reserve a time to see Santa by purchasing your photo package online ahead of time and go straight to “Santa’s Express Lane”. It wasn’t super busy when we visited but I’m guessing as we get closer to Christmas Day the lines may be longer and the express lane sounds like an awesome option!
After we got our pictures with Santa we were invited over to Pinkberry for a little treat. Sort of like wearing our PJs in the mall – we wouldn’t normally go for a frozen treat right before dinner, but who can ever pass up Pinkberry?
The boys loved getting to choose their flavor and being able to add all the toppings they wanted! It was a lot of fun to sit and talk about the boys favorite part of the day as they enjoyed their treats.
And as we were heading out to the car, the boys spotted the Lego store and we agreed on a quick walk through (Ya know, to see if there was anything they forgot to add to their Christmas lists). The associate who greeted us, sent us home with a couple of Lego catalogs, and a calendar. The kids could have stayed in there a while longer playing at the Lego tables, but I had to stay strong and remember we still needed to get home to eat and get ready for bed. I promised next time we went back to Westfarms we could hang out in the Lego store a little longer!
Like I said before – If you had asked a few weeks ago how I would feel about taking my 3 boys to the mall alone, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy! But after our visit last week, I feel totally different. There’s lots of awesome kid friendly stuff to check out and do! We had such a great time. I will admit, I also spotted quite a few stores I will be going back to check out without the kids in tow. But, we won’t hesitate to make the mall a family outing in the future!
Phone: (860) 561-3024
Since they are changing all the time for the holidays – it’s best to check their site for the most accurate information
Monday – Friday: 10am – 9pm
Saturday: 8am – 9pm
Sunday: 9am – 7pm
December 24 – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests must be in line to receive a ticket by 5 p.m. when line closes.
Stroller Friendly: YES
Coffee Mug Friendly: Yes – But if you forget yours there’s also lots of places to grab a cup of coffee while you’re there!
Restroom: YES – there’s lots! There’s also a great family restroom on the lower level right next to Gymboree
Baby Changing Station: YES
Parking: YES – Lots of free parking.
Food for Sale: YES – Lots of quick stuff and sit down restaraunts
Outside Food Allowed: I don’t see why not.
Cash Required: NO, I think just about every store and restaurant would take cards.
Dress Code: Whatever you’d like – Jammies are apparently acceptable! 🙂
Age recommendation: All ages!
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
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