There is a reason why so many people move to Irvine to raise their kids. It is a safe, family-oriented community with many great offerings for children of all ages. Those visiting Irvine may be using it as a home base to explore major attractions in Orange County such as Disneyland and our incredible beaches but I encourage visitors to spend a day around town and check out what this city has to offer its smallest guests. Here are some of my preschooler's favorite things to do in Irvine.

Play grownup at Pretend City

 Pretend City

I wish Pretend City existed when I was a kid. Located in an unassuming warehouse in the city's southwesterly reaches, Pretend City allows children to play shopkeeper, restaurateur, fisherman, Mommy, Daddy, builder, farmer, artist, doctor, and superstar in a vibrant city created just for them.  Here your child can dig up a toy carrot from the "dirt" of the vegetable patch,  drive their car over to Ralphs and sell it to the market, or use it in a tasty creation they are whipping up for Mommy at the café.  Don't be surprised if you have to drag your kids out of the building at the end of the day, it really is that fun!

Let them transform into knights and princesses at Northwood Park

 Northwood Park

Give my son a foam sword and he is a happy camper. Give my son a foam sword, take him over to Northwood Park and you will see a preschooler on Cloud 9. Northwood Community Park is known to children in the area as the "castle park" because of its large castle play structure that makes for an ideal spot for imaginative play. While Castle Northwood is enough to keep any kid entertained, there are also several play structures geared at different age groups, basketball courts, handball courts, ball fields, and shaded picnic areas with barbeques. Spend a couple hours here enjoying the beautiful Orange County weather and you may find yourself thinking about relocating into town.

Convince your little ones that shopping is fun at the Irvine Spectrum

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Normally my five-year-old would rather gauge his eyes out with plastic forks than go to the mall but when I mention I am heading to the Irvine Spectrum, he is the first one in the car.  After all, what kid wouldn't love a mall with a Ferris wheel?  Throw in a carousel, miniature train, Dave and Buster's, and plenty of places to grab sweet treats or kid-friendly grub and you have a mall that they will actually request to visit again and again. Of course, if you are anything like me and aren't about bribery you will be sure to leverage a ride on the carousel in exchange for some good behavior inside of Nordstrom!

Introduce them to the deliciousness of Strickland's Frozen Custard


I have yet to meet a preschooler who didn't like ice cream. Whether it is chocolate, vanilla, or rocky road, they always seem to have extra room in their tummy for the treat. If your child screams for ice cream, take them to Strickland's and introduce them to the heavenly world of frozen custard. Frozen custard is extremely popular in the Midwest and Stricklands, an Ohio legend, has its only shop on the West Coast located in Irvine. So what's the big deal about frozen custard? Try it for yourself and you will have your answer. Delicious!