KidZania in Seoul, South Korea is an indoor, interactive city built for kids to learn and explore through realistic role-play. Kids "work" shifts and learn about different careers in this scaled-down realistic city with opportunities to work at a hospital, fire station, grocery store, beauty salon, radio station, theater, and more.
Hands down, this was one of my very favorite things we did in Korea. I don't know that I can adequately describe to you how incredibly well executed and downright adorable KidZania is. If I were a kid, I would pick KidZania over Disney World every time. Then again, I was the kid "playing office" that couldn't wait to grow up.
KidZania in Seoul, South Korea
At the South Korea location, you purchase tickets for "shifts" in four-hour increments. That means the kids you go in with will be the only kids with you during your shift; thus putting a cap on the number of kids vying for activities. (Note: The Dallas, Texas KidZania does not operate this way.) We never had to wait for the activity we wanted to do and we didn't worry about rushing to our next one.
The online website stated that some of the activities were staffed by English speakers, so we purchased our tickets and crossed our fingers hoping that play would be universal enough to get by. The actual results varied- some of the activities marked as English speaking were not but, for the most part, the kids were able to get by. Ian obviously struggled the most being only three, but Sophia was a trooper about helping him out (most of the time).
How Does KidZania Work
We all received a boarding pass before we could "fly" into the city. There were actual ticket counters, flight attendants, the whole nine. (Note: parents must also purchase tickets if they wish to go inside the city.) Inside, there is actually a scaled-down Korean Air fuselage where the kids can pretend to be pilots and flight attendants.
After arriving in KidZania, it is truly a MINIATURE CITY. The most adorable thing ever. The streets are lined with trees and lampposts, the ceiling is painted to look like a cloudy sky, there is a working fire truck with lights and sirens that shuttles the kids to an emergency, and a kid-sized version of all kinds of different shops, stores, services, etc.
The kids split up for the most part (with Isabella going off on her own and Sophia and Ian staying together) and were able to complete several different activities. Note that there are age/height requirements for some of the activities, and while at most of the "jobs" you earn money, some will cost you money (KidZos) to participate.
Here are a few of the jobs they completed:
- Fire Department - the kids report to the KidZania Fire Station, where they learn about fire safety and put on their gear. Next, a call comes in and they load up in the miniature fire truck to respond to a hotel fire. There they put out the fire using real water cannons.
- Beauty Salon - Isabella painted her nails and practiced styling hair on a mannequin.
- Veterinarian Clinic - Sophia and Ian learned about caring for animals by watching a short video (in Korean) and then cared for a stuffed animal dog using a clipboard to check off tasks like brushing, washing, feeding, etc.
- Cereal Cafe - Ian became obsessed with Frosted Flakes in Korea because it was one of the few American breakfast cereals he recognized. We all cracked up when we found the cereal cafe where the kids learned about making cereal and each got to create (and eat) their own cereal combination.
- Florist - Isabella arranged a flower box in this cute little florist shop. It might not sound all that exciting, but this was actually one of her favorite activities.
- Grocery Store - Isabella was given an apron and put to work stocking shelves and checking out customers in this miniature grocery store.
- National Archery Team Training Center - another favorite, Sophia and Isabella loved the archery games. This "job" used an interactive screen, like a video game.
- Korea Customs Service - here the kids learned about checking luggage for contraband. Again, the setup was adorable with a realistic x-ray scanner and suitcases. They had to create real ID badges and undergo training before they could be hired.
- Driving School - the girls earned their driver's licenses and drove around a track in miniature cars.
There are over 70 exhibits total (compared to the only 40 in the Dallas KidZania location). I was impressed with the wide range of careers and community service initiatives (such as a Refugee Support Office, Eco-Friendly Energy Power Plant, Environmental Health R&D Center, Sleeping Science Lab, Animal Welfare Center).
Activities that we didn't have time to try (or skipped because the language barrier) included: a Chocolate Factory, Ramen R&D Center, Cooking School, Hospital, VR Travel Lab, Mobile Phone Design Lab, Robotics Lab, Bottling Plant, Bank, Radio Studio, Dental Clinic, Vitamin Research Institute, Hotel, TV Studio, and more.
Many of the exhibits were sponsored by real, big-name brands like Korean Air, Samsung, Naver, Paris Baguette- it's clear that a great deal of planning and money went into creating KidZania. Everything about KidZania was high-quality and well-done, from the costumes to the building exteriors.
Random tidbit: as a Type 1 on the Enneagram, I am known to have high standards. I literally couldn't have designed KidZania better myself. I was beyond impressed.
My only advice would be regarding the department store where the kids spend the "KidZos" they earn from performing their jobs. The pay for each job varies, as does the time it takes to complete it. The kids ended up pooling all of their money together so that Ian could buy a dinosaur set, and then we let the girls both purchase something from the gift shop instead.
You might want to set expectations low for what your kids will be able to purchase in the department store as most of the items cost way more KidZos than even the three of mine combined were able to earn during our four-hour shift.