Traveling and learning are two of my favourite things to do so a visit to a World Expo is my absolute dream. But is it as fun for children? Over the last few events, Expos have become more and more family friendly with specific shows, presentations and even pavilions dedicated to kids. The current Expo in Dubai is no different so here is everything you need to know about visiting Expo 2020 with kids.
What is Expo?
World Expo first came into existence in the 1850’s in London as a joining together of countries to showcase their latest and greatest innovations. This has expanded ever since to become the behemoth it is now with 192 countries taking part in Dubai. Each country has a pavilion, a building they can fill with whatever they want to showcase within their given theme. This years themes. For 2020 these are Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
Best pavilions at Expo 2020 for kids
We visited the Dubai World Expo with our eleven year old daughter and she pretty much loved every single pavilion she stepped into. From the super flashy, uber expensive shows such as the Saudi Arabia Pavilion to the super friendly staffers in the relatively simple Bahamas pavilion. Having extensively picked her brains on our return – these are her absolute favourite country pavilions.
The New Zealand Pavilion was the first we entered at Expo 2020 which is perhaps why it sticks in Pipers mind so vividly. It’s also absolutely brilliant and incredibly thought provoking. You begin by walking past a simulated river into a huge multi media space where you’ll learn about the natural challenges this beautiful country is facing and how important the connectivity between people and planet is. Piper loved the message of caring for all and everything.
There is so much to learn at the Netherlands Pavilion, it’s all about sustainability, urban farming and recycling of materials. Kids will love the indoor rain shower and multimedia light show projected on white umbrellas. They will be learning without even realising it. Piper was blown away by the colours but also came away with heaps of questions about biotopes and why they are not used more often. I love that it sparked a passion in her.
Another magnificent example of urban farming and sustainable cities. The Singapore Pavilion showcases the challenges from modern cities, what they are doing counteract these and their innovative plans to drive this progress forward in the future. The outside of the pavilion is covered in plants which are kept alive via an on site solar desalination process. Piper loved the canopy walkways and water misting stations and I was blown away by the beauty of the orchid room.
I mean talk about bling! The Saudi Arabia pavilion is everything glitzy and glam from one of the Worlds richest Countries. It really did get me wanting to book a visit. The pavilion is the second largest at Expo this year and is predictably located in the opportunity district. The Pavilion celebrates the heritage and culture of the nation taking you upwards on elevators past model historical buildings to a bridge over a huge multimedia screen.
Pipers favourite part of this pavilion was the huge kaleidoscope artwork near the end. It has an interactive floor and the colours were absolutely amazing. She stayed for ages watching all the patterns and colours.
Of course we had to visit the UK during our time in Dubai. The UK pavilion is more about the actual building than what you’ll find inside. To be honest, the inside was a bit of a let down. Located in the Opportunity district the pavilion was inspired by the late Stephen Hawking. The messages on the side of the building are generated by artificial intelligence and visitors. Piper really enjoyed piecing together the words to make quirky sentences but I’m not sure any of these would have been suitable for the point of the pavilion which is what messages would we like to convey to another civilisation in space.
There’s also a British pub on site with its very own red phone box. Almost like being home!
One of the simpler pavilions we visited was Vietnam. We visited the Country a couple of years ago and both totally fell in love with it perhaps that’s why it made it into her list of the best pavilions at Expo 2020. She played authentic Vietnamese instruments and enjoyed the virtual reality set up. It was actually a lovely break from the craziness of the other glitzier pavilions.
Read all about our family trip to Vietnam and why we love it so much.
Qatar is another fun and interactive Pavilion with plenty of hands on activities to keep the little ones entertained. As you would expect from the country with the highest GDP is the world, it’s highly technical and the building is stunning. I actually learned quite a bit about the Country while we were there. There’s focus on the upcoming World Cup for any football fans and an immersive light show where kids can splash across an interactive floor.
What else is there to do with kids at Expo 2020
Whilst Piper loved the country pavilions, her favourite part of the day was a visit to Terra the Sustainability Pavilion. This is like the best Science museum you’ve ever visited, all with a huge focus on sustainability and our planet.
Another must visit if you’re at Expo 2020 with kids is the humongous water feature. An uber impressive man made waterfall with cascading waves set to a brilliant classical music score. You can stand in the water, and climb as high as you can get whilst waiting for the waves to crash on your heads. You wont get too wet and it’s a great way for the kids to cool down.
Expo is home to several play grounds, some expansive green spaces to run around in, some smaller play areas with swings and slides. Make sure you visit Latifa’s Space City at Al Forsan park where kids can enjoy the Mars themed playground, jumping around the zero gravity chamber and even explore a replica of the UAE’s Hope Probe.
Make sure you keep an eye out for the ever present robots rolling around the site. There are a total of over 150 robots on site so you’re bound to come across a few during your visit. They have robots for security, for food deliveries and some just for fun. These are totally safe and programmed to stop whenever they come across an obstacle (like a child). They were always being chased by at least one squealing, giggling kid whenever I noticed them. If your kids are particularly interested in robots then head to the China Pavilion to see a cute panda robot performing tricks or to the Monaco Pavilion for some even cuter baby penguin robots.
Rashid and Latifa are the official sibling mascots of Expo 2020. They appear on a 360 degree show at the Al Wasl dome as they attempt to save the world. Which is really the overriding theme of this years Expo.
Where to eat at Expo 2020 with kids
Family friendly food is a big part of Expo. You could easily eat your way around the world sampling something delicious from each country pavilion. There are over 200 places to eat at Expo 2020 many with kid friendly menus. You’ll find all the western favourites such as pizza and burgers alongside high end sit down restaurants.
Family friendly facilities at Expo 2020
As mentioned, Expo 2020 is very kid friendly. Organisers have invested a huge amount of effort to ensure all ages are catered to.
If your little ones get tired as you walk around the huge Expo site you can hop on a people mover to get from one district to the next. Or if they can’t face walking at all then you can hire a golf cart to take you from one pavilion to the next.
There are dedicated family toilets in each of the seven visitor centres. Breast feeding and bottle warming rooms, quiet rooms and baby changing facilities. All walkways around the site are pretty flat and plenty wide enough for buggies. If you need to you can hire a stroller when you arrive.
And the best bit? It’s absolutely free for kids to visit Expo 2020. Just make sure you book them a ticket here.
So should you take your kids to Expo 2020? I have to say that’s a big fat yes! Piper enjoyed it so much she has already made us promise to take her to the next one. So I guess we can start to get excited for Japan in 2025.