As part of the Big Little’s epic London Birthday Weekend we headed to KidZania, a city run entirely by kids. This interactive city allows kids to role play in a variety of career fields throughout the city. It has activities for children ages 1-14 and is available in 19 countries. London was our closest location and had the advantage of being an English speaking facility. (They are coming soon to Dallas, New York and Chicago.)
You will need to make your reservation online as it sells out. Pricing is dynamic and increases and decreases based on interest. We chose the opening time slot on a weekday morning. This has a disadvantage of having only the first floor open for the first hour, but had the advantage of far fewer people.
We rode the Tube to the London location which is inside the Westfield Mall. You will need some time to wind your way through the mall to the KidZania entrance. You then need to go up 4 sets of escalators to reach the ticket area. There are paid lockers to store your things and a fee to store your stroller (2 GBP & 3 GBP respectively). Jeff said this was nonsense, so we opted to just keep everything with us.
Each child receives a wristband that they use to badge in and out of activities. Parents also get a wristband. You can also use these with any member of staff to find out where your children are. Even the Little Little got a wristband, although we fastened his to his ankle. You also get a hairnet for the kids to wear under their (fire, police, construction worker) helmets. This is a requirement as lice are a real issue in Europe.
Each child gets some Kidzos money when they enter Kidzania. Some activities cost money and other activities allow you to get paid money. This system motivates kids to try less popular activities. We actually found that many of the kids’ favorite activities allowed them to get paid. Each activity has a sign that tells you how much the activity costs/how much you will get paid and how long it lasts.
There is a small store at the end to spend unused Kidzos money. The store was poorly executed though and not much was available. This is the one place we really felt there could be improvement.
There are so many choices to make in terms of activities that you are best to look over everything online before you arrive or you will be overwhelmed. You only get four hours at KidZania so you will not have time for everything. Parents can watch from outside but are not allowed in any of the activity rooms.
Our kids already knew exactly what they wanted to do and ran towards the fire station upon arrival.
We were some of the first in line at the fire station. The kids were outfitted in their firefighter outfits and received training on fighting fires, types of fires and being good citizens.
Then the siren went off and they were all loaded into the fire truck.
They were driven to a building that was on fire and got to hep put it out. The police also arrived to keep everyone at bay during the fire. Then they all load up back into the truck and head back to the fire station.
The only thing my kids love more than fire fighters are policemen, so of course they went right from the fires station to the police station. You actually get paid to be a police guy! Once again they were dressed up and given a course on handling emergencies and helping people. Then they marched to the fire singing “We are police. We are here to keep the peace.”
They took a turn working at the bank. They were taught about counterfeit money. Then they had to head out into the town and pick up money from three different stores. The two littles set off on their own with a list and a bag. I was honestly worried they were going to get a bit lost so I followed behind them. The Big Little found each store and had the manager give them money and sign their checklist. Then they went back to the bank to make sure none of it was counterfeit.
They both wanted to be pilots, which is arguably the choice with the longest wait. We headed up there as soon as the upstairs was open but still ended up waiting over an hour for this experience. Why the kids were waiting Jeff popped out into the mall and picked up lunch for everyone. There are a few options inside KidZania but we found much better options by heading out into the mall. There are plenty of tables and benches to set up a little picnic.
There are several options for activities where your kids get to make a snack. These were so fun and had the added bonus of something to eat. The Innocent Smoothie Bar was a big hit. They all get a small cup of smoothie at the end and learn all about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.
The boys also really loved making their own granola bars. They were able to choose the ingredients and then select a bar to take home at the end.
The Big Little really wanted to try the radio studio. Everyone else in his group was older and was able to easily read the instructions. The staff member running the studio though made sure to help our Big Little so he could participate. He walked out with a media pass that he got to take home.
The Middle Little went grocery shopping where he got to pick out five items. There is no help from parents anywhere in KidZania so he was on his own to choose whatever he wanted. He mostly picked out chocolate bars. Then he was rung up by another kid who had chosen to run the store.
While the big kids were busy at activities we took the Little Little to the toddler play areas. There were two toddler specific rooms with things for him to touch and play with. I honestly think this area could use a bit of an update. They have a bunch of really cool looking things but they are not very functional for little ones. All they really need is some soft play cubes, blocks and balls to keep these little ones busy.
It was enough to keep him occupied though. He liked playing with the space toilet the most.
KidZania was a great opportunity to really do something just for the kids while we were in London. I loved that they could work together and got to choose what they wanted to do. While it didn’t check any of the tourist boxes on our London trip, we found it to be well worth a half day.