February 20, 2012

Pretend City

Fun as soon as you walk in the door!! This kept M (and others) busy while I checked us in.
I always have too much fun at Children's Museums. I think I am still in shock and awe that these kinds of places exist, and wish I could be a kid and have so much fun playing in all the pretend setups. So today I had Presidents' Day off of work and daycare was closed, so we had a Mommy&Me day. Our first stop was Pretend City in Irvine. A little preface:

I decided to buy an annual membership this morning. This allowed us to arrive an hour earlier than the normal opening time, for members only. We got to park right in front of the door, and had the place practically to ourselves. Fortunately for us, they were running a 10% off special for the holiday so we saved a few dollars. Let me tell you, the hour was worth it. At 10:00, when they officially opened, the places started to get packed. And by the time we left, there was a line around the building and parking was street side only. Moral of the story, if you can afford it and think you'll use it (ie if you go more than 6-7 times per year) get a membership. I think it affords you discounts in the gift shop, a special story time and craft 'before hours' and some other things.

Also, since we are new to the OC, I had no idea what to expect of I-5 this time of day, so we allowed 45 minutes of drive time from Orange. It took us 15. So I mapquested a Starbucks :) Turns out there are like 3 at the Spectrum, which is less than a mile away, but, again as I am new around here, I didn't realize that you can't really get in there without parking in a deck or Valeting your vehicle. So we found another one (it took us longer to get to Starbucks than the museum), I got my 'nonfat mocha,' and we returned to the museum.

The place does look like a city when you walk in. Each building is a different station of play. There is a bank, a sushi restaurant, dentist, library, home under construction, beach, farm, etc. You just put your toddler down and follow behind him with your mocha, and occasionally remind him how to share or hold his hand for balance while climbing onto something. Voila. We can call this activity the nap-maker. For older kids, you can pick up a 'time card' that can be stamped at each location to sort of prove they worked there or act as a passport or something. They can then stick this same time card into an ATM and get cash. I am not sure what the cash is used for. I was a little disturbed that my 1.5 year old was handed a $5 bill after helping pick some tomatoes on the farm. He looked at me like, 'What do I do with this, Mommy?' He then proceeded to give it to another toddler who looked equally puzzled.

The water play area. You can catch fish with a magnetic pole, divert water flow with plastic slats ( both a little advanced for my guy) or just splash around with cups and sea creatures. The blue smocks are provided.
the stroller parking lot. you really don't need to bring one in unless one of your children is sleeping in it. baby bjorns also seemed to be in fashion for that purpose.
this is the farm. you can dig in the mulch for veggies (foreground) or pluck them from trees and bushes (background) and put them into cardboard boxes

picking fruit in the garden
making sushi, sponsored by Umami, of course.
the library. Real books you can read (there are even some giant ones). you can also color to write your own story, or use puppets to act one out. there are chairs for sitting just around the corner.
building at the construction site. I thought it was especially cool that you could hang siding on the pegs, see wiring and plumbing, and use real tools to screw nuts and bolts on the wall.
a room to really work on gross motor skills! lots of soft foam to climb on and crawl through.
the dentist's office. this was a little scary at first, but then humorous.
real live chicks at the farm. M noticed this right away and ran over to get a good look. Very cute.
a sand pit. beach chairs provided for parents!
Ralph's grocery store
mowing down the street :)
eek. the crowd waiting in line on the way out (11AM)!
... and wrapped around the building!!!

I give this two thumbs up! We will be back. Great idea for a gray day, or if you just need a little change of scenery! (don't forget the Starbucks)
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