Inside American Girl headquarters

It's a place many girls have dreamed about, but none have ever visiteduntil now. We're taking an exclusive, never-before-seen look at the American Girl headquarters!

Watch Take the all-access tour.

American Girl was started 20 years ago by Pleasant Rowland, an elementary school teacher and children's textbook author. She wanted to create something for girls that would encourage their love of reading and teach them American history in a fun and engaging way.

She began creating characters from different time periods that any girl could relate to. Every American Girl doll comes with a storybook full of details about her life, her family and the era in which she lives. "We have 10 characters that represent pivotal periods in American historyeverything from Samantha, our Victorian girl from 1904, to Addy. She's our character from the Civil War from 1864 and her story is really about freedom and the importance and responsibility that comes along with it," says Julia Prohaska, senior director of marketing.
Damaged American Girls get some TLC at the doll hospital.

More than 13 million dolls have made their way into little girls' hearts and homes. And unfortunately, a few have made their way back to the American Girl doll hospital. "This is where dolls come if they have been over-loved or they've had a little mishap," Julia says. "You won't believe some of what we see here."

From little brothers seeking revenge with a mean set of markers to a Samantha subjected to the horrors of a dryer, a staff of doll doctors are always on call to fix what's ailing these little darlings.

Once each doll has received a little TLC, they're sent home with a hospital gown, an ID bracelet and a good health certificate.
Julia discusses the philosophy behind American Girl.

Young girls are crazy about American Girls, and so are their moms! "I love the stories of inspiration and how the dolls overcame obstacles and the girls were smart and creative and resourceful and clever," one mother says. "That's really a toy I could really get behind."

In fact, that's the company philosophy. "It's really critical to [moms] that their daughters know how to read so they can engage deeply with the books and with the characters, because there are enormously powerful life lessons and stories that are embedded in these innocent little books," Julia says.
Girls make their dolls beautiful at the salon.

They're the ultimate doll houses. The American Girl Place stores in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have become destinations for girls from all over the country.

Watch Tour the American Girl Place in Chicago.

At the American Girl Place in Chicago, it's not just about buying dollsyou can take them for tea or to a brunch, too! If you'd like to take in a show, have a seat with your doll in the American Girl Theater and watch your favorite characters come to life.

If you're looking for some exposure, you can pose with your doll for a photo shoot and land the cover of your very own American Girl Magazine.

Does your doll need a makeover? Just bring her to the hair salon!

The American Girl Place is also a place for friends to come together. Recently, Calissa and her doll, Jess, met up with Mattie and her doll, Molly. They've been best friends since they were babies. "I just moved a couple weeks ago, but we wanted to see each other," Mattie says. "We came to American Girl doll store in Chicago because we missed each other and we love our American Girls. American Girl rocks!"
Ivy and Julie

American Girl Dolls Julie and Ivy
Looking for a great gift for a special little girl in your life? This holiday season, Julia says best friends Julie and Ivy are the dolls to get. "Girls in our age group, 8 to 12, are in a really pivotal point in their development and it's important for them to have positive role models," Julia says. "Their story line makes for a very emotional and powerful connection for girls."

Julie and Ivy's stories are set in 1974. After her parents get a divorce, Julie has to move away from her hometownand her best friend Ivy. Julie's journey will teach her to believe in herself and that change always brings new possibilities. Meanwhile, Ivya middle child who feels invisible in her busy Chinese-American householdlearns how to take charge of her own life and make her own luck.

Mia, American Girl Dolls' 2008 Girl of the Year
Julia also has a very special surprise in storea first glimpse at Mia, the 2008 American Girl of the Year! "Each year we have a character who is available for just one year so that she can really represent and celebrate the characteristics of girls today," Julia says.

Mia represents the seventh Girl of the Year doll, and she comes complete with red hair, freckles, a pink snowflake sweater and ice skates! "Mia is growing up in a family full of boys who are hockey players," Julia says. "So her message is really about following her dream, following her passion and practicing her heart out. It's not about being perfect. It's about doing her very best."