Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

Grown-ups love Trader Joe's. They may say they're just picking up some groceries, but the truth is, they love wandering the aisles, sniffing the low-priced flower arrangements, and perusing all the snacks and cheeses. They invariably pick up more than they mean to, but that's the joy of discovery at Trader Joe's. And yes, they may have to bring their kids. Trader Joe's doesn't offer child care (can you imagine?), but little ones can look for a stuffed animal and get a lollipop. Everybody wins.

But did you know there's a pint-sized Trader Joe's just for kids? One where they can smash tiny carts into one another and scoop up all the fresh produce without earning a lifted eyebrow from some judgmental shopper? This is real, people. Sort of.

Pretend City, a non-profit children's museum in Irvine, California, is a wonderland for the pint-sized set. There's a police station, a fire station, a library that only stocks kids' books, an art studio, lots of traffic lights, and little foot-pedaled cars. There's a sushi restaurant. A freaking sushi restaurant. But forget about that. Let's talk about the tiny Trader Joe's.

For more family fun and grocery news, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Pretend City Trader Joe'sPhoto credit: Myphuong L./Yelp

Before you get too excited or think that maybe your kid can pick up some Joe's O's and other Trader Joe's pantry staples while they're playing, take note: All of the surprisingly ample packaging is either empty or contains some filler to add heft. Kids don't care — and hey, they don't have money, so it seems fair enough. Also, all the produce is plastic, so don't encourage little ones to get their five-a-day.

Trader Joe's for KidsPhoto credit: Trader Joe's

Even if this is, yes, a pretend Trader Joe's, it artfully conjures the Trader Joe's attitude. All packaging is the real (albeit empty) thing donated by the chain itself, and the signage is spot-on. The entry fee to enjoy the entire museum (and not just Trader Joe's) is $20 for both kids and adults, but those who show an EBT card can get $3 passes. Want to visit even if your kid has no interest or you have no kids at all? You're not alone. It's just that darn cute.

Redditor u/DeadShark Eyes enthused, "I just took the virtual tour, I’m a 40 year old woman with no kids and I want to go to Pretend City! lol so cute." So, why not? Make it a field trip for the middle aged. Sure, you may throw out your back using the tiny carts, but you can fill up that itty bitty wagon with all the cookies — or at least the empty boxes, which may be worth it just for the imaginary indulgence. Be honest. To paraphrase Liz Lemon, you want to go to there. 

Cheapism in the News