Quite why I wanted to voluntarily spend a day working at KidZania Moscow rather escaped Mama.
KidZania, as the corporate website puts it, is a kid-sized indoor city using interactive roleplay to fuel a global learning and entertainment brand and develop financial literacy in children.
Or, as Mama puts it, it is a brutal introduction to the fact that at some point we will experience the joys of choosing between getting a fun job which doesn’t pay much or a boring job that doesn’t pay much. Or fighting with 700 people to get a chance to do something that looks interesting but turns out not to be. Or failing to get the job of our dreams. All while being chased around by our parents, who keep trying to give us advice about why we shouldn’t just follow our whimsy. Or why we should.
Plus, other aspects of adult life such as trying to decide whether to spend the resulting pennies on pizza, rock climbing or a new car, and then realising that you either haven’t enough time or haven’t enough savings to do any of those.
Advertising probably explains it.
However, in the spirit of proving that Mama does not always spend our free time dragging us round such culturally improving spots as house museums of unsuitable role models, we did, in the fullness of me nagging about it for ages, go to KidZania.
And it was GLORIOUS.
Says Mama, who found the adult zone, where they do not let the kids in at all, very relaxing.
Look how adult it is! Supremely tasteful decoration. Mama particularly appreciated the attention to detail involved in the very adult giant coffee table art book.
Oh, and my Industrious Big Brother and I enjoyed ourselves a lot too.
This is not an accident. KidZania Moscow (and almost certainly everywhere) really does put the effort in to help us achieve that.
When you arrive, for example, they have amped up the impression of going on a journey to a different world by making the area where you book in and pay very much like an airport departure lounge, a theming which is carried on as you go through the portal into the town itself.
And it is a town.
There are streets. There are buildings. There are different levels. There is a race track. A construction site. A parked aeroplane. And everything. There is even the Bolshoi theatre. In KidZania Moscow anyway.
It’s pretty big, in fact. Apparently there are at least 150 different things to do there.
The first place you go is the bank, so that us new citizens can get ourselves plugged into the capitalist system and prepare to take our places as the new cogs in the industrial machine.
And then off we went. Alone. Because adults are banned from entering the offices and factories and so on, let alone taking part.
The way KidZania operates is that each workplace has a little plaque outside which explains the work options offered, how long it will last, how often you can sign up, and how much you will earn.
Now Mama’s main objection to theme parks is standing in line. But at KidZania Moscow she was pleasantly surprised that this was not a particularly big feature of the day (and it wasn’t as empty as it looks in the pictures by any means).
She did find it paid to do a bit of scouting around to see what was going on, where and at what time, especially for the options that took place less regularly, like hanging out in the TV studio. But it was relatively easy to bound from one experience to another, and the waiting turned out not to onerous. And there was seating!
She was also relieved that we got just as much, if not more, out of the easy to get into jobs as the ones that she, personally, was eyeing up with interest, such as the opportunity to parade around on stage in a play.
Particularly fun were the ones where we got to make something like yogurt or our very own teabag or trot around the city on a quest to deliver letters or put out a fire.
On top of the basic options there are some additional extras you can pay for, more extensive master classes involving things like making your own burger. Mama doesn’t think your kids will feel as through they have missed out if they don’t do them, but on the other hand, they get a burger to eat out of it.
It is, in fact, just a rather elaborate way of taking care of lunch (for the kids).
If you don’t fancy that, the town has its very own cafe, where kids can take their lunch break, and the parents can join them for an update on the busy day so far. Which looks like GUM, just to spice things up a bit.
KidZania started in south America, specifically Mexico, and is expanding slowly across the world. There’s one in London in the Westfield Centre in West London, for example. And it’s coming to the US soon!
That said, you may find that copycat ventures have already arrived. In Moscow there are two very similar venues – Kidburg in the Central Children’s Department Store at Lubyanka, and Masterslavl in Moscow City. My Industrious Big Brother has been to Kidburg, and enjoyed it, but says KidZania was bigger and so better, for what it’s worth.
Also, KidZania is in the middle of one of the more fabulous of Moscow’s shopping malls, Aviapark. I mean, if you think it’s marginally weird that people in the middle east go on about their shopping malls, and you want to know why, then you can find out in Moscow (and for much the same reason – weather conditions make indoor play areas for adults as well as kids a very sensible proposition).
Aviapark is, in fact, the largest shopping mall in Europe, and has an Ikea as well as a Marks and Spencers, and room for 35 football pitches (there isn’t a football pitch inside, but there is a huge football stadium next door). Aviapark also has the tallest cylindrical fish aquarium (repeat after Mama) IN THE WORLD.
Parents will have ample time to wander around in a happy little shopping haze, or lounge around the (in places) upmarket food court area while their kids are occupied inside KidZania. If they don’t want to lounge in the adult zone, that is. We were in KidZania ALL DAY. And I reckon there’s still enough we didn’t do, or might want to do again for at least one more epic visit.
KidZania, then, is a theme park that really lives up to the hype. It’s probably best for kids between sixish and twelveish, and it probably helps if younger ones have an older sibling on hand to boss them into shape. But there were some teenagers bounding around when we were there too and Mama found that she was quite jealous of having to sit outside and press her little nose against the window to get an illusion of participation.
And so she was entirely unsurprised that KidZania Moscow does the occasional adult only evening.
If you take your kids to KidZania, and you really should, to be honest, wherever you are, then you will be.
Mama is booking herself into the town’s museum experience, for starters.
Address: Aviapark Shopping Centre, 4 Khodynskiy Blvd, 4th floor
Admission: Kids (4 – 16) – from 1290 roubles, younger kids are cheaper or free. Adults (17+) – from 590 roubles.
Opening: 10am – 9pm Monday to Sunday.
Getting there: Metro station CSKA (western yellow and turquoise lines) is right next to Aviapark. There is, of course, ample parking, it being in a shopping mall.
Pin for later?