I spent the weekend in Phoenix, which traditionally means lots of hunting for toys. In the past 5 years, the town and its neighbors have had a substantial closure of its many massive Playmobil emporiums. Hobby Bench Paradise Valley, formerly the #1 spot to find Playmobil in the state, is gone. Kidstop closed one of its two locations, and Learning Express is down to a single Arizona outpost. Daydreams & Playthings is long gone, as is Zany Brainy, FAO, and even Target's selection is down the crapper.
In short, Phoenix is no longer a great Playmobil town. Los Angeles isn't really either, but Phoenix used to be fantastic. In the off chance you're going there to look for this stuff, here's what I found.
- Kidstop (Shea & Scottsdale)-- closed both times I stopped by, but still supposedly open. No idea what's there.
- Hobby Bench (West Bell Road)-- a few 1996 items that weren't there before, but largely the same stuff they had a year ago. (No Dinosaurs, divers, etc.)
- Hobby Bench (Northern & 19th Ave)-- didn't get in, but last time, they had basically jack squat.
- Learning Express (101 & Tatum)-- best selection I found on the trip. Almost the entire Nautical Expedition line (I got the whale and the reef sets), but no Specials and pretty much nothing under $10.
- Fry's Marketplace (various)-- Nothing special
- Toys "R" Us (various)-- Nothing special
- Target (various)-- Basically nothing
I don't mean to come off as spoiled, and odds are I'd have been happier had I hit up Kidstop, but it's disappointing to see how few outlets there are for the specialty Playmobil line these days. LA has a few, but "few" is the key word-- they're quite often out of the way and hard to get to. Ah well.
I'll say, though, that the whale is pretty much as awesome as you might think. I'm quite pleased with it. The Manta Ray, Swordfish, stingrays, and the rest were all pretty slick, but it's hard to top the whale.