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Butcher, baker, candlestick maker

Wannado City, a new amusement park in Florida, gives kids a hands-on chance to experience and learn about possible future careers.

August 22, 2004|Keith Rockmael | Special to The Times

Sunrise, Fla. — Adults often ask kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now children have a chance to put that question to the test at a new amusement park near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Wannado City, which opened earlier this month, lets kids participate in grown-up jobs. (Hurricane Charley, which hit Florida's western coast Aug. 13, did not damage Wannado City.) The $40-million park, the size of three football fields, encourages children to choose from a variety of careers, including chef, firefighter, archeologist, newspaper editor and emergency-room doctor.

Children enter one of the dozens of pint-sized venues, some of which are scaled-down replicas of real-life ones.

They can play a TV anchorperson at the mini-CNN studio with working lights and cameras. Or they can explore their artistic side by trying sculpting and take home their original piece of art. Others can experience what it's like to be a miner as they dig for gems in the authentic-looking Wannado city mine.

Youngsters can participate in as many occupations as they wish. Whatever the profession, they get an opportunity to interact with their peers. News reporters may interview police officers; jewelers may collaborate with miners. At each site, a coach teaches skills and organizes games for participants.

Children also learn financial responsibility. For each profession they complete, they earn "wongas," the city's currency, which they can deposit in a bank account and use to buy snacks and other items. When they run out of money, they need to do what the rest of us do: Find another job.

While the kids explore, parents can monitor their whereabouts with an electronic security bracelet or just relax and watch TV or read in the adult lounge. The park is geared to ages 4 to 11 but offers mini-carnival rides for toddlers.

Wannado City is owned by Wannado Entertainment in Fort Lauderdale, a subsidiary of CIE, a multinational entertainment conglomerate based in Mexico City.

It's in Sunrise, 10 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, and is built into the Sawgrass Mall. It is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Admission is $24.95 for ages 3 to 14; $15.95 for ages 15 and older; free for those younger than 3. (888) 926-6236,

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