WHAM! BANG! ZAP! If you’ve got a kiddo who won’t take off last Halloween’s superhero costume, now’s the time to get to Pretend City, where the newest exhibit—”Super Powers” which runs through Sept. 18—is a  training ground for aspiring Supermen and Wonder Women. Whether they’re perfecting their flying form in the wind tunnel or testing their agility in the rope maze, there’s plenty for little superheroes to do at this Orange County bastion of make-believe.

Suit up for Battle
Every superhero needs a good costume, so be sure to grab a cape or a mask (or both!) from the Superhero Headquarters wall as you enter the exhibit. (Note: The exhibit is located in the back of the museum, between the “Beach” and the “Home” areas.) There are plenty of colorful options for costumes; just be sure to hang up your gear on your way out so other soon-to-be caped crusaders can share in the fun.

Insider’s tip: A good cape is a must for authentic “flying” selfies in the wind tunnel.  So suit up! 

The Windy (Pretend) City
See what it’s like, or at least what it looks like, to fly in the wind tunnel. Kids can feel the blast of two giant fans and see themselves “flying” on a selfie-style TV monitor. Most kids can’t get enough of this neat special effect, and even grownups willing to be silly will want to get in on the simulation.Just be aware that there’s another monitor on the other side of the wall, so don’t think your family are the only ones watching the arm-flapping antics.

ZIP! ZAP! KAPOW! 
Whether they’re superhero fans or not, most little daredevils will jump at the chance to ride the zip line, which takes them from one short pedestal to another (there’s an even shorter one for toddler-sized superheroes). Serious pretenders can rock their cape and imagine they’re flying, rooftop to rooftop, over a vast Gotham City.

Try This Mission Impossible: The Maze
Kids who are light on their feet will love this three-dimensional maze that asks them to navigate a crisscrossing web of ropes without touching a single one. Over, under, in between—it takes agility to be a superhero!

Control the Weather
If the X-Men can do it so can you! Control the weather by shooting various weather elements into the sky through a giant air tube. It doesn’t quite make rain or snow (it’s called Pretend City, after all), but kiddos will love watching the tube blast bunches of paper shapes into the air like fireworks.

Learn a Secret Code
Create secret messages and learn how to decode them in the Super Powers Decoding Station.There’s also a dark lair where secret agents can decode their cryptic notes. (Want to do this right now? It’s actually a simple project that you can do at home).

Take Center Stage
Center Stage isn’t just mom’s favorite movie that repeats endlessly on Lifetime; it’s now a permanent exhibit at Pretend City, and caped crusaders already outfitted in superhero costumes have a new reason to get up on stage and make a show. If capes aren’t their thing, the backstage area has other costumes for little drama kings and queens.

pretend_city_inside 2 (1)

And…Everything Else
Admission to the Super Powers exhibit is included in the ticket price. If you haven’t been to Pretend City, it’s worth the trip, and be sure to set aside extra time to explore the rest of the space. Besides unleashing their inner superheroes, little pretenders can run wild in the replica town, which includes a grocery store, cafe, construction site, farm, post office, theater, beach, fire and police station, and bank. This exhibit is best for kids ages 2-7.

Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Mon. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.  This exhibit is open all summer through September 18.
Cost: $12.50/person; Free for kids under 12 months

Pretend City
29 Hubble
Irvine
949-428-3400
Online: pretendcity.org

Do you have a favorite museum for kids that you think is worth the drive?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

—written and photographed by Melissa Heckscher