We recently spent the morning at Pretend City and cannot wait to go back. It is a wonderful place for kids to explore and use their imaginations. We spent 2.25 hours there, and left only because our youngest (under 1) really needed a nap and some quiet time. Next time we’ll try to take just our big kid by himself, so he can play as long as he wants!
We arrived a little early – they don’t open until 10am, but we were able to sit in the lobby for a few minutes while we waited to purchase our tickets. We could’ve spent an hour just in the lobby! There’s a neat mural on the wall to celebrate the sponsors and donors who helped make and expand Pretend City. It’s an interactive mural of Orange County with moving parts – the kids loved it!
Pretend City offers discounted tickets for military! The price is $9.50 for military and family, which is a $3 discount off of the regular price! Children under 12 months are free. There are several types of memberships offered as well. This particular MilMom is PCSing soon, otherwise we would’ve purchased a membership – this place really had too much to explore in just one visit!
There is stroller parking right after the ticket counter. There are also lockers you can rent! Bring quarters – it is $0.25 each time you lock/open the locker. We packed our lunch (you can bring in outside food as long as it’s nut-free!), so we left our lunch and diaper back in a locker, which left us hands free to walk around. You could also leave your bags in your car and get a stamp to come back into Pretend City – but for us that was too much hassle with two little ones. Since we mentioned parking – we LOVED the convenience of the parking lot right there at Pretend City. Any time we can park right next to where we’re going makes life a lot easier with kids. Also, since we mentioned food, there is a great eating area with tables (big and small just for kids!), highchairs and bumbos. Also located in this area are two family bathrooms. This is all within the play area, so you don’t have to leave. You could even let your older kids continue to play while you feed the little ones. There are several vending machines which have healthy snacks and treats, as well! We spied cheese/fruit boxes, organic milk, and sandwiches. There’s also an ice cream vending machine! Additionally, there is a microwave you can use if you’ve got a lunch that requires heating. One other feature we liked – a Keurig coffee machine and pods (available to purchase for $1.50) – thank you to Pretend City for understanding just how tired this mom was on the day we visited!
So back to the play features! There is almost too much for one post, but just to highlight a few of our favorites, you’ll find: a water area with a “stream”, boats and fishing poles to catch magnetic fish, a beach area with a giant sandbox and toys, small cars that the kids can “drive” all around the pretend village, a stage with working lights and costumes for the kids to put on their own shows, a construction site with tools to build, a STEM area with giant legos, a farm area with vegetables you can dig out of the ground and fruit you can pick off of the trees, a house with a see-through wall so you can learn how plumbing works, a post office, fire station, police station, doctor’s office, dentist office, restaurant, and a mini-version of Trader Joe’s where the kids can grocery shop!
One of the things we really loved about Pretend City is the lack of screens! This place is just pure imaginative play. We had such a great time helping our older child learn – we loved just getting down on the floor, sitting with him at the different stations, and talking about how things work. For example, there’s a police dispatch station, where he put on a police costume and we talked about how 9-1-1 works. At the Coast Guard boat station, we pretended we were boating away from a shark.
(Trader Joes – miniature version!)
(The Farm where you can dig up vegetables and pick fruit off the trees!)
(Water play area)
(Various town offices to explore!)
We also noted that there were several children in wheelchairs, who were able to navigate all of the play areas with help from an adult companion! We hope that you check out Pretend City and enjoy it as much as we did! You can find Pretend City at 29 Hubble, Irvine, CA. It’s just off the 5/405, and very close to the Irvine Spectrum Center (lots of shopping and restaurants). Check out https://www.pretendcity.org/visit/ for hours and more information!