Hot California

Guide for Visiting Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine CA

Community is a small word for a big concept. What is a community? What does community mean to you? What roles do people play in a community? These are tough questions, but today I witnessed almost 100 kindergartners have some pretty great answers.

Kids are sponges and it is so important that we allow them the limitless opportunity to explore and learn. This is one of the reasons I love family travel so much. They are exposed to different cultures, food and landscapes; learning to adapt to changes and accept diversities. Well, today we visited an awesome place that taught kids the importance of community and how we all play a part in helping our communities flourish. Today we visited Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, California.

Pretend City

Keep the Cost in Check

Hours vary and that means ticket prices vary as well. For instance, if you arrive before 4:00pm, then adult, senior and children admissions are a base price of $12.50. However, military and family members are $9.50 and babies under 12 months of age are free.

If you arrive after 4:00pm, which only gives you an hour of play time, ticket prices are reduced to $6.25 adult/child and $4.75 military/family. There are also discounts for group tickets as well as other coupons and discounts.

Get Your Grub On

I recommend eating before your visit, but if you or your kids do get hungry there are snacks available. Over at the Real Café there are vending machines with healthy food for purchase. That is right, a vending machine that is not stocked with junk food.

Pretend City

Fun Things for kids at Pretend City

Okay, this is why the kids love Pretend City, because it is entertaining. What they don’t realize is that it is also very educational. It really is a full on pretend city with a ton of interactive exhibits for the kids to play and learn. Get your map, your time cards and let’s go!

Pretend City


Amphitheater was a hit with the kids. There are costumes hanging “backstage” that kids can try on before stepping on stage for a “performance.” What I love is that there is also an engineer booth for those kids who like to tinker with lighting and sound. I found it interesting to see which area of the theater the kids gravitated. There are even audience seats for those who prefer to observe.

Pretend City Amphitheatre

Art Studio

The Art studio really allows the kids to create art. Be sure to check the calendar of events before planning a visit as the art projects do change daily. Also, this is a very popular exhibit with limited access at one given time (20 kids) and it does fill up fast if visiting on a busy day.

Bank & ATM’s

These help teach the kids about the value of money. There are ATMs scattered throughout Pretend City for kids to withdraw pretend money. They can also visit the bank to deposit pretend money too as the earn money by performing “jobs” at various exhibits. They can then use their money to purchase goods like groceries and gas.


The beach is not only fun, but it also teaches kids the importance of preserving our oceans. There is real sand to play in, but there is also trash to clean up. The beach is closed if polluted, so kids will want to clean up in order to play.

Pretend City beach


The cafe is so cute and shows the kids the ins and outs of restaurant life from working in the kitchen, to service, to dining. As a bartender and server myself, I really like this exhibit…now if we can include the knowledge for proper tipping then we would be golden!

City Hall & Lobby

This is where kids receive their time card that they can get stamped at the various exhibits as well as learn about programs offered at Pretend City.

Construction Site

Construction site was a big hit with the kids. They love to build, play with tools and wear hard hats. Kids get to connect plumbing and build with lumber.

Kids playing at Pretend City Construction site

Emergency Services

These include the dispatch office, the police station and the fire station. Kids can handle calls and route them to the proper emergency service, they can dress up like their favorite community helper and play with the interactive equipment.


The Farm is really fun, because the kids get to pick fruit off the trees, dig in the pretend dirt and plant gardens. There are even real baby chickens to view as well as farm animal toys to play with. This was one of FireCracker’s favorite exhibits. She loves gardening and picking fresh produce. She even earned pretend money for working so hard on the Farm.

The Farm at Pretend City

Gas Station

The Gas Station teaches kids important things like checking tires, washing windshield and the pain of buying gas.

The Grocery Store

is sponsored by Ralph’s, so the kids will recognize the store. It is fun to watch the kids shop for groceries in the different departments and who jumps at the chance to be the cashier. Who likes to spend money and who likes to collect money? Kids also learn about the different food groups by having to return their play groceries to the proper isles.

Pretend City Grocery Store

Pretend City

Health Center

This was a big one for my kids. FireCracker always says she wants to be a doctor and today she got to be. There is a doctor’s office with medical tools, crutches, casts, toy organs and bones to explore. Connected to the doctor’s office is the dentist office with a dentist chair, teeth and much more. My kids really loved this exhibit.

Pretend City health center doctor office

Kids playing at Pretend City Irvine CA

Pretend City

The Marina

This is where kids can play with water and also learn about sailing, wind, water and the fresh fish market. This is a fun exhibit, but beware your kids will get a little wet.

Pretend City

Orange Plaza

Orange Plaza is a cute gathering place in the middle of the pretend city to help kids learn the pros of having a common meeting place for the community.

Orange Plaza at Pretend City Irvine

Our Home

The Home is fun with a family room, kids’ bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen to play in. On our visit the house was decorated in Dia de los Muertos décor for the holiday.

Pretend City Home

Kids having fun at Pretend City

Pretend City

Pretend City bathroom display

Post Office

At the post office, kids can sort and organize mail, they can pick up or deliver mail to and from the multiple mail boxes throughout the city. The best part is that they can actually send themselves a real postcard!

Pretend City Park

Pretend City Park is like the plaza and is a gathering place for the community to play and let off some steam.

When your trip is done hit the Mini-Mall and continue the fun at home. This is where you can really purchase souvenirs and exciting learning products.

That’s A Wrap!

I love when my kids are having fun, but when they are also learning, I love it even more! Pretend City was so exciting and as a parent I enjoyed watching what roles in the community the kids showed interest in doing. Some love to be creative, while some are critical thinkers. Some love the medical exhibits, while others loved outdoor-style exhibits like Marina, Beach and Construction. Most just love it all. If you are looking for a fun day out with the family, Pretend City is a great choice that you as a parent will feel good about supporting.


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


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