There’s no denying, KidZania is a wonderful concept. It gives children the opportunity to do the jobs they’ve played out, and experience them ‘for real’. There is lots to see and do, and generally the infrastructure of KidZania is sound. However, it’s let down by hit and miss staff, and poor dining experiences.
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Located within Westfield London (Shepherds Bush), KidZania, put simply is a city designed for children. Set across two floors this 75,000 sq.ft scaled down city is designed for 4-14 year olds with over 60 real life role play adventures. They say –
“Have your kids ever dreamt of becoming a pilot, a firefighter, or the next award-winning singer? Watch the excitement on their faces as they choose which activities they wish to try out of more than 60 real life role-play activities in the bank, on stage or fighting crime on the streets as a police officer! Each role-play experience is crafted to teach kids essential life skills including financial literacy, teamwork and independence.”
You can book tickets online, and prices are from £18.00 for a Child (4-14 Years), £8.00 for an Adult (15+ Years) and £10.00 for 1-3 years old. These vary on by date and time slot. Your ticket allows you 4 hours within KidZania after that time your child can’t partake in any more activities.
Arrival and Security at KidZania
On arrival you move through a British Airways style ‘Check In’ desk. Children are issued with wrist tags, as are the grown ups. These are ‘paired’ so the child can only leave with the adults they’ve come in with. They also are used for each activity and a child is scanned in, and out. There are roaming photographers who will take pictures in the activities and scan your child so you can buy pictures on the way out.
When you arrive your child is issued with 50 KidZos. Kidzos are the currency within KidZania. Each activity within KidZania will usually cost KidZos, however children can earn more of them by doing a ‘Job’ (more on this further down). If you’ve got 75 KidZos or more, children can open a personal savings account. Upon doing so they get a debit card that will be customised with their name and signature. You don’t really need to open an account, and the KidZos don’t ‘expire’, so you can keep them at home in between visits and save them.
If you buy a KidZania passport (approx £5), children will earn more KidZos in some of the jobs. By doing more activities with a Passport you can earn stamps. Stamps allow you fast-track access to the City once you arrive at the Airport, discounts at KidZania Shops and the chance to earn more kidZos.
What’s it like inside?
Once you’re into the ‘City’ itself, it’s pretty overwhelming, there’s lots to see and take in. You’re issued with a map (our was out of date as some activities and jobs had changed). It’s best to have a wander around and get your bearings, and let your little ones see some of the activities. We’ve elected to go at 10am on a Saturday for both visits. It’s good because it’s quieter, however, rather frustratingly – they’ve not opened the upstairs until 11am. They still charge the same! Annoyingly, a lot of the activities J likes are upstairs. For the money you pay, I’d expect it to ALL be open.
Generally the entire city is spotless – theming and effects are well maintained. Despite it being overrun with children every day it all looks great. The downstairs area has a city feel, with vehicles on the road. A lot of the jobs and activities are run with brands, so you can ‘make’ an Innocent Smoothie, or build a GBK Burger.
The jobs and activities are for kids only, Adults aren’t allowed. If your child is particularly clingy, I wouldn’t recommend taking them. You can see them at all times outside the ‘rooms’ through the glass windows. There is a slight design flaw in a lot of the activities whereby the queues often run past the windows you’re looking into. Each activity or job can last between 10-20 minutes and there are strict capacities. If you’re there in a larger group of kids, you might have to either split up, or wait for the next ‘go’ before you all go in. Don’t be a dick like some of the parents I saw and stand arguing with staff.
The design of some of the queues and viewing areas are a bit badly designed. Sometimes you find yourself standing in a queue when watching your kids (and vice-versa).
Jobs and Activities
It would be impossible to list and review every single activity and job, because there are so many of them. Kids can be Firefighters, Police, Doctors, Midwives, Cleaners, Actors, Pilots & Cabin Crew, Chocolatier… there’s a lot of choice. Most of the jobs the children will be paid for, others which are more activities where something is produce, you’ll have to pay a small amount of KidZos.
J was more drawn to the creative roles, making Innocent Smoothies, Cadbury’s Chocolate, Eat Natural Bars were favourites. He really enjoyed Paper Recycling and also learning about clothes recycling with H&M. He wasn’t immediately drawn to the ‘Emergency Services’, although he did enjoy being a Firefighter on his first trip. It’s probably a good idea before a visit to show the kids some of the things they can do and get an idea of where to head for. The emergency services and pilot jobs are the most popular and can get longish queues, however if you go first thing, it’s a lot calmer.
Not EVERYTHING is included in the ticket price…
The only activity you have to pay additional (real) money for is the Gourmet Burger Kitchen – it’s £2, and at the end your child will have their own, Beef, Chicken or Veggie Burger. You need to purchase a ‘ticket’ for this at the GBK counter before the child can go in.
Although the activities are available for those up to 14 years, I’d think twice about bringing G (13) here. I think most 12+ kids wouldn’t be overly up for getting dressed up and ‘playing’. There are a few jobs for older children, journalist and Radio DJ for example. In my opinion, however, if your child is near the older end of the age limit, perhaps leave them at home.
Whilst the staff are all DBS Checked, and ‘trained to the highest quality’. I’ve found them to be a little hit and miss, some of them are wonderful. They engage well with the children, and are all smiles. Others, aren’t. J was feeling a little overwhelmed and wanted to do a job he enjoyed (paper recycling). We went upstairs to find a staff member in there, and she barked something about ‘Not being able to do it with just one child, and he’d have to do it later’. Amazingly, we did go back later, about 30 minutes, when the staff member had gone, and J was welcomed in and did the activity on his own! It’d be good if the staff were up there with ‘Disney’ style training – ALL the smiles, and happiness.
Food and Drink
There are a few places to grab something to eat and drink within KidZania. It’s easy to grab a quick coffee while your little one is ‘working’.As you’re on a strict 4 hour time slot, it’s probably best to avoid sitting down for a meal together. When your child’s time has expired you’ll have more time to enjoy the food places –
Fire House – “The Fire House serves Neapolitan pizzas made to order in a wood oven, flame grilled hot dogs and chicken burgers along with a variety of side dishes.”
The Hut – “Grab a coffee and a snack for a little morning or afternoon boost. There’s plenty of space to sit down upstairs or take yourself away from the busy City for a while and relax in the Grown-Ups Garden Shed, our ‘adults only’ area”
Coffee Shop – “If you need a quick revival whilst your children enjoy another activity this is the perfect break spot. ”
Ice Cream Shop – “Running low on energy? Why not pick up something from our Ice Cream Shop”
Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Choose from one of their classics or something more adventurous layering the freshest ingredients with their unique homemade sauces.
We had lunch at the GBK after J had made his burger in the activity. It wasn’t overly busy, however it took nearly 15 minutes for me and Miss A to get our order. Had we ordered something overly complex? No. Just two portions of chips. Whilst the GBK chips are good, it shouldn’t take 15 minutes for someone to scoop them out.
Exit through the Gift Shop
When your 4 hours is up, your child will no longer be able to ‘check in’ to jobs and experiences, so you’ll have to leave. As you leave you can scan the wristband and see any ‘professional’ pictures taken around the City. These can be purchased at a fairly standard price, included is a digital download. Once you’ve looked at the pictures you go through ‘Immigration’. Here all the wristbands are removed and you’re free to exit – via the gift shop. There’s all many of KidZania branded stuff and dressing up outfits for the fun to continue at home.
There’s no denying, KidZania is a wonderful concept. It gives children the opportunity to do the jobs they’ve played out, and experience them ‘for real’. There is lots to see and do, and generally the infrastructure of KidZania is sound. However, it’s let down by hit and miss staff, and poor dining experiences. It has a real Disney feel to the world, and the idea, and it all looks brilliant. The experience in places leaves a lot to be desired. It would be nice to see the staff walking around to engage more with families, staff within the rooms to be that extra bit happier. KidZania is a vast, and overwhelming place and it needs the stuff to be as joyful as the concept.
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