The novelty and sense that one's entering a different world starts with the airport-themed check-in, complete with stewards and air hostesses. It's the beginning of a trip to another land, even down to walking through' the metal detector 'portal' into KidZania.
The 'airport terminal' staff were all smiles and full of helpful advice, as we were electronically tagged for entry! The children even got 50 KidZos ('local' currency) for their adventure!
For little ones, tweens and even teens, KidZania represents a totally immersive introduction to adult life in a safe-haven two thirds sized town complete with hospital, radio station, newspaper office, police and fire stations (which seemed particularly popular with the 4-7 year olds - is there a message there, one wonders???), theatre, hotel, shops, restaurants, beauty parlour, dentist and so much more! With the reassurance of having parents available to help guide them through' the town to get their bearings, the children are encouraged to 'go it alone' in the many different buildings offering tasters of everything from being a fireman, to acting, prepping burgers, operating, performing oral surgery to beauty therapy and baby care (parents strictly not allowed!). Not only is there all the fun of role-play to be experienced but the chance to make money too, guaranteed to appeal to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow!
On arrival the average age of the KidZaniacs looked to be seven(ish) but lots of 'sole trader' (without parental supervision) tweens and teens seemed to hit the streets by lunchtime. Some of them looked like pros, and obviously had a plan which would net them the most revenue from 'working' giving them the most money to spend. Like other theme parks it is definitely a good idea to pre-plan exploration to maximise what is gained from it.
There is an upstairs cafe for parents to chillax in away from the hubbub of KidZania, but the 'town' is also well equipped with seating to enable them to relax whilst keeping an eye on their offspring, but without obtruding into their role playing. Drinks and foods available to purchase all seemed reasonably priced which was a welcome positive, given that so many 'theme-park' type attractions really do charge well over the odds to 'captive families'.
The feel of the town is spacious with more than enough space for the KidZania tour bus and emergencyvehicles to manoeuvre around in. Certainly plenty for moving around with buggies and/or wheelchairs. And available lifts to enable easy of access to the 'upstairs' part of town too. Most role-play activities would be accessible to children in wheelchairs too.
KidZania very comprehensively reflected the type of services and shops that one would expect to find in an average town. The only thing that we felt was missing was a library which still very much retains its status as the hub of most communities.
The four hour time-slot was more than long enough for a visit, given that the children managed to do most of the jobs that they wanted to 'role-play'. With the children being older I'm not convinced that they'd have wanted to repeat any of the activities, although younger ones may well do!
Was it worth the entrance fees? Given that the prices are on a par with a trip to a West End show and are costed below those of theme parks, I would say yes KidZania does provide value for money for a four-hour immersive experience. To keep the older children (8+) gainfully amused/occupied and in an environment that is fun but educational, whilst one indulges in some retail therapy downstairs in Westfield has to be worth every penny. I would not recommend paying for admission as parents unless one's children are younger and/or have additional needs.
Whilst we were there some lucky child was having a party. It would be the most wonderful venue for a one-off celebration of a lifetime.
It was a special day out and one that won't be forgotten by any of us. If you're looking for something new and different to do with your children in London, KidZania is definitely at the top of your bucket list this summer (and beyond). Going when we did (10am start, at the weekend and at the beginning of the school holidays), it was quiet enough to get the full measure of the place, and for the youngsters to get the most out of it without having to queue.
Go along and see for yourselves!