We had the absolute pleasure of heading to Westfield’s new star attraction KidZania this weekend, in honour of their half term special event and Halloween. Our trip is not easy to squeeze in to a simple few paragraphs, with just so much fun to fit in, so we kept our notes in diary mode!
Prior to our trip:
Eldest is 4, so KidZania was something I had become aware of but the concept had seemed very senior and something I had questioned being value for him. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. When the review opportunity reached my inbox and I discovered the venue is designed to suit children ages 4 and up, I was absolutely delighted and couldn’t wait to get started. The process to get tickets was smooth and the staff were helpful at every encounter.
KidZania and Westfield Shopping Centre is located in Shepards Bush, London. From central Reading to Westfield’s car park took us exactly an hour, so a bit of a drive in the car but nothing to cause too many a cries from the backseats!
Parked up and we found KidZania effortlessly, despite this only being our second trip to the mammoth shopping arena. The carpark was well signed, giving us clues which area was the best to park in for KidZania. Once in the mall, up on the top floor was a gigantic entrance located right next to the lifts and our whole experience began.
3pm – Checking In
The minute you step off the escalators, the KidZania world begins. The clever entrance design is based upon an international airport and with British Airways branding, plane and uniforms all around, Eldest was a buzz with excitement. At checking in, myself and Eldest were fitted with a wristband watch style device that was set to be the key for the whole event. These ingenious wrist gadgets were tenfold with their purposes (to check in at each job, decked whether they’d done a KidZania Degree course etc) but the primary reason exists for security. As we were logged in, our wristbands were each connected and it was reassuringly clear that in no way could Eldest depart the venue without or with anyone but myself. Not only that but the watch has the ability to act as a tracking device, should I have lost him in the venue, then not to panic, dozens of self scanning screens dotted about the venue and also the staff would have been able to find him in a heart beat thanks to this whizzy little gizmo.
After our bands were fitted, the process was explained about how we could fill the next 4 hours in KidZania. Eldest was handed a wad of KidZos, the currency in KidZania, we were given a map and set on our way.
3.10pm – Finding our way
We were kindly given a tour of the new land we had just crossed in to and we began to get our heads round how this magical place worked. Eldest’s 50 KidZos was the start of his money and it was now his choice how that could go on. Around the ‘town’ are dozens of activities for children to try their hands at and experience. Some of these offer KidZos payment and others cost KidZos to participate. Set in the centre of the town square, was also the Department Store. A shop full of toys and goodies, that accepts only KidZos currency – so, the more jobs you do, the more money they earn and the more loot they can purchase in the department store! Around the tour, it became shockingly clear I’d completely underestimated KidZania, this place was incredible and my son was nothing shy of mesmerised as we walked about adding to a very long list of all the things he wanted to do.
3.15pm – Our first experience
After our tour was finished and we were left to our own devices, we ventured off to remember which one we liked the most. Eldest loved the look of the Recycling Centre and they were just about to open their doors to a new intake. (At the door of each experience i
s a handy poster. Detailing the age suitable, the amount of children allowed in each session and the session length so you know how long you could be waiting and most importantly whether you’re spending or earning those precious KidZos!) As he went to go through the door, the host explained parents wait just outside the door. However with all the noise and hubbub, Eldest became a bit tearful and retreated back outside, declining the chance the go in. As we went for a walk about to get our bearings, I spotted what could be a golden ticket of an activity. In front of us was ‘Air Conditioning Engineer’ and some soft play style climbing entrances and tunnels to climb through. Eldest completely understood I couldn’t come in and whizzed straight in to have his high viz jacket and builders hat uniform popped on. That was it for Eldest and there was no turning back, he understood the experience and leapt in with both arms open. He whizzed about the air tunnels several times and when done, joyfully collected his 6 Kidzos salary.
3.35pm – Innocent Smoothie and a pit stop
As I mentioned above, the air conditioning paved the way for our day and immediately after this Eldest was keen to head over and participate in the Smoothie making experience. Sat outside the glass room, I watched as he whipped on his lab coat and hair net and joined in as he discovered where various fruits come from and how the whole smoothie process happens. This experience came at a cost of 12 KidZos but Eldest happily pottered out holding his own carton of Innocent smoothie. We took this as a chance to grab a quick pit stop and enjoyed a delicious sandwich and cake from the coffee bar upstairs too.
4pm – Fire! Fire!
One of the star experiences is most definitely the Fire Brigade. So this is where we headed next. After queuing up and getting uniform on. The kids were treated to a quick video on fire safety and then it was all aboard the fire engine as the town’s hotel was ablaze. The children excitedly clambered on and whizzed across the venue in the truck where they had the opportunity to spray water hoses and put out the fire with much glee.
At this point my Husband and Youngest joined us. Originally with not much to gauge on how the site works with younger ones, we’d planned for them to pop around the shops and lunch whilst we were busy in the venue but after the tour I discovered there was in fact a generous area dedicated to the little ones in the early years area. So after updating my husband, they joined us in KidZania and Youngest and I left my husband to watch the last of the fire brigade whilst we went to explore the Early Years House.
This fun role play house kept Youngest amused for some time. She especially enjoyed the bathroom with it’s waterbed with sensory lights and floating fish. The kitchen however is where we spent most of our time, cooking pretend meals and jotting things down on the blackboard.
Across from the play house was another early years room, crammed with plenty of goodies including piano, colouring tables, dozens of puzzles and baby toys galore. Youngest was in her element!
4.30pm – We are the bell ringers of Kidzania!
Back with Eldest and we tried once or twice to get in to the ever so popular Cadbury’s experience but Eldest’s patience wasn’t quite up to the long queues, and so we went on an explore for another session. He was very happy to discover the Clock Tower job. After some training, he donned a beautiful red jacket and full faux fur hat, made his way out to the town square balcony and with the host’s help, announced to all with a loud bell that ‘they were the bell ringers of KidZania!’ they then played a merry tune and came back inside, another 8 KidZos earned!
5.10pm – Back where we began.
After our bell ringing and then another whizz or two around the air conditioning engineering, we found ourselves drawn back to where we began. The recycling centre. As a bin truck loon, this was a fascination for Eldest and now in full confidence he jumped straight in and happily greeted the host who kindly remembered him from before. Through the window I watched as he learned how to mulch the paper down and in the mould recreate a new sheet and set it out to dry. All smiles as he pottered out with his earnings.
5.45pm – Passports ready!
The gigantic British Airways plane looming over the entrance had also been looming on Eldest’s mind the whole way around. He was eager to get on and this was certainly a very popular activity, so the wait was long but Eldest was keen to hang it out. There are two choices one to be a pilot (costing KidZos) and one to train as cabin crew (earning KidZos). With the queue being ever so slightly shorter for Cabin Crew, that’s where Eldest popped himself in the line. The wait was definitely worth it, although this is the one place in the whole thing that I’d have a suggestion for improvement, with so many parents waiting about outside, an airport style waiting lounge for parents or even a few seats would have been really appreciated, as our feet were very weary by the end of this activity.
After Eldest had been in the activity doing his training for 10 or so minutes, families of cabin crew were called through to become passengers aboard the flight.
We were welcomed by our children crew and took our very life like seats aboard the plane. As parents, we nearly swooned as we watched our little guy lead the motions of the safety display with arm signals, belts and life jackets. He then took a seat as other adorable cabin crew came round and offered us some refreshments and collected rubbish with their hostess trolley. Youngest, also a passenger, was very much in the belief this was a real flight and was rather dismayed to find her croissant and grapes were plastic!
Due to the wait and length of the activity, it was now nearly half past 6pm when we got out and so that was to be our last one due to an exhausted pair of children. After collecting the last of Eldest’s salaries, and totalling up his kitty, we headed off to the department store for him to find his memento of the day (a wind up somersaulting monkey!)
Throughout our entire session at KidZania was also a brilliant Halloween theme. The town was suffering a zombie epidemic! Fun zombies roamed around the setting and rather than anything too terrifying, Eldest and Youngest found it hilarious as they watched as Zombies were shooed (and even swept!) out of various activities and the cafes. The zombies would scarper quick upon hearing a nursery rhyme and back when Eldest had been a bell ringer for the square, he’d taken great delight in them all shooing after hearing his bell playing a sweet tune.
The Halloween event also had a wealth of additional activities. Children could get free zombie face paints, they could undertake a fun multitasked activity around the town to help create an antidote for themselves and best of all, an hourly Thriller Zombie flash dance in the main square. We thankfully got a great view of this, when up on the balcony for the bell ringing and Eldest watched in awe as the Zombie leapt and danced about.
All said and done
This incredibly fun Halloween event is now on and running up until the 1st of November and is a real half term entertainer. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this brilliant venue to anyone. We barely covered a quarter of the jobs and activities and the full list on offer including police, surgeon, beauty salon, dentists, radio station, Gourmet Burger Kitchen Chefs and so many more, mean that we could visit again and again and Eldest still wouldn’t have had enough. I’m now trying to figure out how he could ask to have another go on his Christmas Wishlist. I also was sad to have not got a chance to poke my nose in to the parent’s lounge. A relaxing looking space that gives parents a great chance to relax as older kids run around the town.
The full guidelines of ticket prices, ages (under 8’s must be accompanied, over 8’s can be allowed in whilst you go and enjoy some peaceful shopping) and all detailed information can be found on KidZania’s website: http://london.kidzania.com/en-uk/
We are very grateful to KidZania for offering us complimentary entry for Eldest and I, in return for a honest review. We had an absolutely fantastic time and cannot wait to visit you again!