New England

The Best 5 Toy Stores in New England

Yes, there are still real, local toy stores in New England, for kids of all ages. Here are the five best toy stores in New England.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Oct 28 2021


Treehouse Toys adds a splash of color to Portland’s historic Old Port.

Photo Credit : courtesy of Treehouse Toys

No big-box or online store can spark wonder in a child’s eyes and reawaken an adult’s playful side the way that these independently owned toy stores do. And visiting them this holiday season will help ensure that tomorrow’s kids, too, will know the merry magic of toyland trips.

Treehouse Toys adds a splash of color to Portland’s historic Old Port.
Photo Credit : courtesy of Treehouse Toys

The Best 5 Toy Stores in New England

Barnaby’s Toy & Art Shack
Nantucket, MA

Barnaby Bear’s world expanded last spring when children’s author and illustrator Wendy Rouillard opened this cheery-bright and engaging shop on her home island. No longer confined to the pages of Rouillard’s popular books, the character inspired by her grandmother’s handed-down teddy is now guiding kids along their own creative paths. In addition to the eye-catching array of classic and STEM toys, sugary treats, and Barnaby books, kids giddily gravitate to the mini shacks that line the walls. Each has a hands-on theme—beading, beach crafts, woodwork, slime and other messy concoctions—and kids can sit down and immediately dig into one of more than 70 projects. As Nantucket takes on its festive glow, a busy calendar of make-and-take workshops will include giftable items like holiday fairy-house ornaments. And Rouillard may even fulfill grown-ups’ wishes for classes of their own.

Island Treasure Toys
Yarmouth, Freeport, Bath, and Kennebunkport, ME

These magical neighborhood toy stores will whisk you right back to your own carefree childhood. Laughter, color, and possibility surround you, and if you happen to be in the largest of the stores, in Freeport, where nearly 6,000 toys await choosy kids, you’ll feel a ripple of excitement every time you hear little feet racing up the stairs. Emily and Paul Drappi’s shops all have an encyclopedic selection of classic, current, and Maine-inspired toys selected with input from their two boys, but each has its own distinct character. Save money in Freeport by adopting from the Island of Misfit Toys. In Yarmouth or Bath, you’ll find Maine-artisan-made gifts, too. The newest shop, in Kennebunkport, is actually the oldest, as the Drappis have taken the helm of Ocean Avenue’s venerable Toys in the Attic, henceforth known as Island Treasure Toys in the Attic.

Once Upon a Time Toys
Stowe, VT

For more than four decades, this toy emporium has been on a quest to ensure that there are no adults within its whimsical walls. No, you’re not banished if you’re over 18—you’re simply one of the bigger kids, and you’ll leave with a free balloon if it’s your birthday week. Alongside beloved-brand toys, you’ll discover more than a few quirky collectibles, never-before-seen delights, and Vermont-made favorites such as Maple Landmark’s wooden name trains, plus backyard adventure gear including slack, ninja, and zip lines. Owner Nancy Teed buys from 150 companies to ensure that her selection impresses even hard-to-shop-for teens. You’ll feel a sense of warmth and ease, as Teed and her team patiently accept little shoppers’ payments in counted-out change and wrap gifts for free. Confess that you’re buying a Squishable avocado for yourself, and you’ll make their day.

Time Machine Hobby
Manchester, CT

Behind the heavy door of the 1888 brick factory where Bon Ami cleanser was manufactured for more than 50 years, the toys your parents circled in the Sears catalog keep company with the playthings you cherished and the hottest releases coveted by today’s tech-loving, DIY-ing kids. Rockets, crafts, comic book–era pranks, practically every gizmo and game ever invented, and a museum’s worth of vintage and modern model kits fill the immense space (the remote control department alone is larger than many toy stores). And there’s more: The second floor is a train lover’s dream, where you’ll find gifts for both little engineers and serious collectors. Silk City Model Railroad Club members fire up New England’s largest and most intricately detailed model train display on the first and third Sunday afternoons each month.

Treehouse Toys
Portsmouth, NH, and Portland, ME

Toys peer through storefront windows, dangle from the ceiling, leap from the floor, and parade all around you at these lovingly curated galleries of glee. Pick up a puppet and read a local author’s book in your zaniest voice. Introduce your kids to Polly Pocket, comfort-giving Care Bears, and Cabbage Patch Kids, all suddenly as hot as they were in the ’80s. Then just stand back and watch how sweetly the little ones interact and play in an environment custom-designed for them. Every toy here is selected to engage hands and minds, to be gentle on the environment (packaging included), and to be best in class, whether it’s a simple pop fidget toy or a science project. Owner Kathleen Tutone has spent 28 years observing how “toy people” become creative problem solvers with the ability to mindfully choose joy. Her wish for all kids is the elation of waking up to new toys… more than once every year.