Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seoul-searching Day 4: Learning, Earning, Enjoying at KidZania

KidZania is a place where kids (up to age 16) get to experience real-life jobs. A theme park which allows them to have hands-on "training" in different jobs, get paid for the job they do, or pay for the experience they want to go through. No matter what type of job and skills your kids have, there is definitely something that will spark their interest at KidZania.

getting ready to get our boarding passes to Kidzania
Going through KidZania's website before our trip, I found out that there were actually 2 sessions available: Session 1 is from 10am to 3pm (weekends 930am to 230pm), Session 2 is from 330pm to 830 pm. Rates were also different for weekdays (cheaper) and weekends. Ages 3-16 need to pay 32,000 won ($37.87) and over 17s need to pay 16,000 won ($18.90). The difference in payment is due to the fact that only the ages 3-16 get to participate in the hands-on activities. Parents and above 17s are there only as chaperons and photographers (at least that's what I think we were). I knew I had to plan our day well since we would be visiting two places, and there always isn't enough time when it comes to places like this (theme parks). Since Kidzania has a limit of 1,500 people per session, I was worried we weren't guaranteed to get slots if we walked in. I've monitored the number of slots left every few days and there were about 516 a week before our departure (2 weeks before planned date of visit to the theme park) so I made reservations (no payments needed) through their website and emailed our details to info@kidzania.co.kr because we didn't have the required Korean mobile number or I-pin number. We got our confirmation and printed a copy to be presented to the ticket counter upon arrival. Our Kidzania day was officially secured (subject to payment of admission fees, of course).
We traveled far from where we stayed at Yongsan ( via Sin-yongsan Station) to Jamsil area. Fourteen stops and an hour later, we reached Jamsil Station (subway Line 2) and headed for Lotte World where KidZania was located. It can be tricky passing through this big complex, one can be side-tracked by shops and other attractions. The kids couldn't wait to see what's in store for them at Kidzania. We've shown them the website before our trip and the different professions they would be trying their hands on. They were all too excited.

After showing our email confirmation, we paid for our tickets and were given our boarding passes. We also received 50 KidZos (KidZania currency) each which we could use to pay for experiences or buy items. Like in a normal airport, we had to wait at the lounge for our class to be called at the indicated time in the boarding passes. When it was our time to "check-in", we showed our boarding passes and were each given a KidZania safety bracelet. I could see the kids' faces lit up as we made our way into the world of Kidzania, and we haven't even seen what's inside yet!

First impression, it was dark. We had several photos which were a bit blurry because there wasn't enough lighting. We wondered how we could take good photos of the kids in action if this was the case everywhere else. Good thing it was dimly lit only around that alley (Hankook driving school, Baskin Robbins, Ghana chocolate factory, etc). The kids didn't really mind. They couldn't decide which place to visit first. Would they go for driving school or ice cream serving or chocolate making? There were so many jobs to choose from and all of them were pretty interesting.

My older son and nephew went together for ice cream making/serving session at Baskin Robbins (which they had to pay for using KidZos) while my younger son and niece went to the driving school nearby. For the Baskin ice cream experience, Kelvin and Lance had to wear aprons and hats before heading into the room with a big table for the demonstrations. Few minutes after, they brought out with them their finished products - their choices of ice cream flavors. Yummy!
before and after ice cream making session
look at those serious learners faces

our little drivers have passed their driving test

Ira and Shane, on the other hand, wore drivers' vests and sat in front of simulation screens where they had to learn traffic rules and regulations. Unfortunately, they said the instructions were in Korean. Nevertheless, I guess same rules apply for the safety of motorists and pedestrians. Once they were done with their driving lessons they were each given their official driving license. They couldn't wait to drive the mini vehicles which were located in another station across the Hankook driving school.

While Kelvin was busy finishing his ice cream, the younger ones were on their way to the next station - Shane and Ira put their newly acquired skill to the rest while Lance decided to be the gasoline man. For this experience he earned a few KidZos!

It took some time before the kids were done in this station, enough time for me to go around the place and check out which jobs or experiences they can do next. Equipped my the KidZania map, I walked from station to station and noted down which ones the kids may be interested in. There were signs outside that indicate what time the next session would be. There were so many jobs to choose from and a variety of new experiences to try but in some stations the facilitators only speak Korean so they politely turned us down.

They've gone to several other stations for the next few hours, either earning KidZos for the work they did or paying for the experiences they tried. They became drivers, bakers, gasoline station attendants, customs officers, Samsung researchers and a whole lot more. 

The first time Ira earned KidZos he was so happy he said he would just choose stations where he could work and earn more.  But, of course, with the number of need-to-pay stations he had to give in.

At one time, they waited patiently outside the Samsung station to become researchers for a few minutes. They were actually turned down the first time. The facilitator explained that the instructions were in Korean (again) and it was going to be difficult for them to follow. We were disappointed but didn't give up. I talked to the facilitator and told her that they just wanted to go in and have their hands on whatever gadget there was, and that my son was a big fan of Samsung. She agreed with a bit of hesitation and the kids were sent in to the research area.

too happy to be working for Samsung even if it's just at KidZania
They did have a great time and we parents loved seeing their happy faces while we watched them go through the different jobs and hands on experiences they've chosen. 

My husband and I had to leave earlier to return to Yongsan to wait for the delivery of our delayed luggage. The last stop we went to with the kids was the Korean Air station. The boys became pilots and the girls flight attendants for the day. Kelvin got to try his hands at maneuvering the plane (although only in simulation), one step closer to being the pilot he wanted to be. Ira said this was one of his favorites, but he always crashed. At the end of the day, they couldn't stop talking about the fun they had at KidZania.

As for the rest of the afternoon and night, it was only the kids and my in-laws who went to Lotte World. We had to wait for them to get home to hear what kind of entertainment was there. Kelvin also took some photos and videos of K-pop performances which, interestingly, they also loved! Ira did say that from then on he would want to see more of K-pop videos (to sing and dance to it even though he doesn't understand what they were singing).

Travel Tip of the Day:
  • If you have more than a week in Seoul, KidZania has a Day Pass which gives visitors a full-day experience (10am-830pm weekdays / 930am-830pm weekends). Kids can try out as many jobs and activities as their energy can sustain them.

Here were some of the other photos taken at KidZania:

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