Photo by Richard Liu
"Come to the black world of Sanrio Town, have your firsthand experience to the story, join the links from the interactive installations, alter your own adventure and unfold the secrets. Rescue Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel with reworded ending!" was how the "Hello Kitty Black Wonder" adventure park was described in their brochure.
But what exactly is this tented exhibition that rose up on the east gate of Gongti at the beginning of December? I decided to take my two girls – 8 and 10 – to find out.
The castle is located at the east gate of the Workers Stadium, but don’t expect towering fortresses and moats from the outside as the area is all covered by a tent which is good in this colder weather. Tickets can be purchased at the gate directly. Kids under 1.2m are free, with everyone else paying a steep RMB 120 (weekday), RMB 150 (weekend) , and RMB 180 (holiday, with holiday visitors receive a special collectors’ card to somewhat soften the blow).
Despite the high price, it was definitely a fun adventure for my two Hello Kitty-loving girls, and a nice touch was the alternate endings that made for individual adventure.
Make sure to keep your Adventure Guide (available in English) handy, and together with the cool little Kitty Lamp (which you’ll have to return at the end otherwise you’ll be docked RMB 2000), you’ll be well-guided on your way to an interactive adventure.
Signage is in English and Chinese so you and your child can enjoy the adventure even if you don’t have strong Chinese reading or listening skills. Oddly it leans more to those with English as some of the clues are in English only.
There are enough (mostly Chinese-speaking) guides in each section of the adventure to assist you in case you don’t know what’s going on, especially the confused adults in the land of Hello Kitty. The kids enjoyed themselves at each station and we got a nice certificate at the very end for "rescuing" Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel … yay!
If the adventure goes smoothly, which it did for my two kids, the trip will take approximately one hour.
Kudos to the organizers for the castle’s ability to ensure crowd control so not one section was mobbed by overly excited kids and adults, which is rare in these parts.
Despite its somewhat ominous "Black Wonder" title that almost makes it look like the Hello Kitty version of "Friday the 13th", the adventure is not scary (though most of the time it’s pretty dark inside the castle). The interactive games could be challenging for the younger ones. I’d recommend leaving the infants and toddlers home. Mature 3- to 6-year-olds will enjoy it with some parent guidance and the 7 and above set should find it a home run.
Interestingly, a lot of young adults were also lining up for tickets, and it was obvious the girls had brought their boyfriends along for the ride.
Photos and videos are not permitted inside the castle, but they do take your photo at the very beginning, and hand you a photo ticket to pick your photo up at the end for an additional RMB 50.
The castle is open from 10am to 9pm, with the last entry at 830pm, and runs daily through March 11, 2011.
All in all a nice way to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 30th birthday … and she doesn’t look a day older than 5!