Having recently received the heads up about a new branch of soft play centre Funzone opening in North Point, I was very keen to go and take a look, especially when I realised that the launch would coincide with Young Master T-T’s Chinese New Year holiday (Two. Whole. Weeks.). So yesterday afternoon we rounded up his buddy H, loaded up on fortifying pancakes at Oolaa and set off east to investigate.
Having never visited FunZone’s existing Kennedy Town or Ma On Shan branches, I can’t honestly say how this new addition to the family stacks up, but as a direct comparison with Discovery Bay’s Discoveryland that we also reviewed on opening, I can say that FunZone is:
a) smaller, and so easier to supervise younger kids without having to trail around after them lugging bags and coats,
c) more easily accessible if you live on Hong Kong Island,
d) best suited to younger kids (Discoveryland edges it for tween and teens with its trampolines, climbing walls and zip wires).
At 5,500 square feet, (compared to Discoveryland’s boggling 14,000), FunZone is still pretty spacious, and features all the usual soft play suspects, including slides, squishy crash mats, a ball pit, foam shapes for construction, climbing frames, foam ball shooters, ramps and swings, along with a designated under-threes area for tiny tots and even an art area. The thoughtfully-constructed and contained play structure provided plenty of great running, climbing and jumping opportunities for our kids, who would otherwise have been cooped up indoors due to this week’s air-mageddon pollution levels. It’s also worth noting that FunZone operates IQ Air filters within its branches, giving you one less thing to worry about on the really bad air days.
But the surprise hit of the day for both my boy and his buddy was the “Fun Town” area, which includes a mocked-up café, vets surgery, supermarket and garage, complete with ride-on cars and petrol pumps.
Our gruesome twosome spent probably about 80% of their time playing here, driving the vehicles up and down the rather funky rainbow carpet/speedway, ordering wooden hotdogs at the caff and — in one memorable scene — orchestrating a full-blown heist in the supermarket when they realised that the play till was actually crammed full of play money that they could rob and scarper with in their Little Tikes getaway cars. Kind of like a shorter, cuter Ronnie Biggs and Buster Edwards.
This area also ticks all the mum-boxes as, thieving aside, it’s all good educational stuff, and has pleasingly chunky wooden Hape toys for kids to use and abuse. Hats off to the FunZone staff too, who kept the various wooden bits and pieces safely in their designated areas and out of the climbing frame where they could cause any damage.
On the day of our visit, just a week after the official opening, we were surprised at just how quiet the centre was, with our gang of four, plus around ten or so kids with four helpers making up the total headcount. This gave everyone plenty of room to manoeuvre without too much fear of collision, but I can imagine once the word gets out, it will get far busier, so plan ahead.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of seating for accompanying adults in a nice central spot that makes it a doddle to keep tabs on your kids without having to be right in the thick of the action. There is also a small cafe kiosk selling drinks and limited snacks, a flip-down changing table tucked away just off the main play area (great if you’re simultaneously wrangling a baby along with their older sibling and don’t want to leave big sis or bro unsupervised), and clean, well-maintained toilets just outside the main entrance that feature a toddler loo for those in training. There are party packages available, and, as with all play centres I’ve visited, pack socks and be prepared to be doused in alcohol hand gel/have your temperature taken on entry. (It’s nothing personal).
FunZone’ prices are pretty competitive, with admission at HK$90 for kids aged 12 or under on weekdays or HK$120 at weekends and public holidays; monthly tickets for HK$700 and annual passes for HK$3,000. Better still, from now until 7th March 2015,there’s a whopping 50% off the admission fee, making this an absolute bargain day out that’s perfectly timed for this week’s school holiday. We’re already planning our next visit over the coming holiday week and will undoubtedly be back for more.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 9am – 6pm; Friday to Sunday and public holidays, 9am – 8pm
FunZone Island East, Shop 209-220, 2/F Marble 33, 33 Marble Road, North Point, Hong Kong; 3565 5601.
Please note that I was kindly offered complimentary FunZone passes, however these actually hadn’t arrived by the day of our visit so we paid general admission with the great 50% off deal (and will happily do so again!).