Owners Carolyn and Stan Giliberto of Over the Rainbow Toys, one of CBS Connecticut's Best Toy Stores of Hartford, regale youngsters with specialty toys from trusted U.S. manufacturers and importers, as well as one of the largest selections of toys from Playmobil. A cheery sales staff stands by to help parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles discover age-appropriate gifts, while warning customers against common child-gifting flubs, such as presenting second graders harboring tightrope-walking aspirations with wire and a balancing pole. Arts-and-crafts projects, science and learning kits, and both kid and adult jigsaw puzzles fill the bright store. Young ones can sputter airplane impersonations with a Playmobil Click and Go jet ($11.99) or hone pin-toppling skills with the sunny colors of a Happy Giddy bowling set. A set of frog-shaped baseball mitts ($12.99) enables kids to impersonate their favorite major leaguer in the backyard and prevents calamities in china shops. The shop also offers creative, free gift-wrapping, sparing parents the inconvenience of hiding toys by putting them inside of other toys.
Behind Magical Child's enchanting green and gold, Main Street–esque storefront, sunlight floods shelves of educational and imagination-stimulating toys, books, and games. Towering stuffed animals peer down on train sets—the way Clifford the Dog peers down on real trains—and puzzles from Melissa and Doug, alongside packages of Legos and Hasbro board games. A cornucopia of colorful wares permeates the shop, in which eyes can turn in no direction without meeting the glare of an alluring item. Racks of gently used clothing outfit children of up to 6 years of age, and a selection of more mature gag gifts and brainteasers grants older patrons diversion from humdrum office lives and asparagus-steaming socials.
Zazzle.com is an intensely popular provider of personalized presents, stamping T-shirts, coffee mugs, postage, greeting cards, and more with a singular seal of your own idiosyncratic identity. Quickly customize a basic men’s T-shirt ($12.95–$19.95) to commemorate your stellar parking-lot rugby season, or go for a cutely stylized greeting card ($2.95 and up, discounts available for mass quantities). Other popular items include self-designed mugs ($13.95–$22.10) and absurdly cute pet clothes ($18.95 and up). Since each item is created on the spot by Zazzle’s nondenominational gift-making elves, more complicated orders and items may take longer to produce and ship.
The staff at TiddlyWinks Toys, a mom-owned-and-operated shop, handpicks a colorful collection of toys from Melissa & Doug, Little Adventures, and other whimsical brands. Scratch Art sets await a burgeoning artist's touch, and Groovy Girls dolls from Manhattan Toy flaunt colorful outfits and plush bodies, which dole out better hugs than dolls forged from hard plastic or sticky molasses. The staff assembles birthday-favor packages to match the guest of honor's favorite theme, and customers can even book soirees in the store. As their parents peruse the aisles, tykes tuckered from shopping expeditions can retreat to the store's polka-dotted play area.
The hobby pros at Gamingetc Tournament Center help visitors to shuffle through an arsenal of specialty cards, board games, and miniature figurines for games such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. Wield newfound power with Pokémon items such as a Black & White Noble Victories booster pack, filled with 10 specialty pasteboards ($3.99 each), or single cards such as a Venusaur that, like an artificial candy cane, comes in near-mint condition ($6.99). A gray dragon Dungeons & Dragons mini ($12.99) helps its owner to wage mythical battles, and a Han Solo Star Wars mini ($2.20) depicts the film icon in Stormtrooper attire. Board gamers devise battle strategies with Warhammer Necrons Sets ($33) or Dominion Hinterlands ($40). Visitors can also upgrade their decks with a selection of Magic: The Gathering booster packs ($3.99). Once equipped with gaming gear, customers can return for weekly tournaments, during which players make friends, hone skills, and swap more cards than quintuplets at their own birthday party.