Our top 10 places to visit in South Korea (with kids)

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We’ve lived in South Korea just shy of four years and have been on countless adventures (apparently I have 80 posts about Korea on this blog…) People always ask our favorite places to visit. Here is our top 10. Keep in mind that our entire time in South Korea, Clarissa has been five and under so a couple with no kids or teenagers may have a different list.

Please note that I am putting these in order based on location so that you could feasibly plan a trip from this list. Tim and I do think that if you did a trip to South Korea, this would give you a decent idea of cultural things though.

Seoul

There will be a post at some point about our favorite things in Seoul itself. But for now, these are our favorite places in South Korea that just happen to be in Seoul.

There are two neighborhoods that we really like and for different reasons. Hongdae (Hongik University Station exit 6) is very artsy and modern. You can buy lots of cute jewelry, art supplies, and gundam here in modern stores. On a visit there this fall, I got my ears pierced and we visited a bunny cafe.

My other favorite neighborhood is Insadong (Anguk Station or Junggak Station). It is another artsy area but very different. Here you can buy traditional pottery, silk scarves, wall paintings, and plenty of other Korean knick knacks. Some are in carts that only accept won and others are in stores that will take your credit card. While visiting this area, you can also let fish nibble the dead skin on your feet or visit a temple.

There are several different palaces in Seoul. Our favorite (and close to Insadong) is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Gyeongbokgung Station or Anguk Station). The palace grounds are huge and lovely. They even have a changing of the guard ceremony several times per day. The entrance fee is 3,000 won (less than $3 USD). If you want a different experience and to get in free, there are several shops nearby that will let you rent a traditional hanbok and walk around a few hours looking like a Korean princess.

Another cool place is visit is Olympic Park (Olympic Park Station or Mongchontoseong Station). You get to see all four seasons at this park so you may want to go more than once. There are several miles of walking trails, cool trees, monuments and sculptures, flags form all over the world, buildings from the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and even some playgrounds for the kids. If you get hungry or want to walk around in some air conditioning Lotte World Mall (didn’t make our top 10 but we do like it) is nearby and has plenty of options for eating, shopping, and a decent aquarium.

Korea has a large Buddhist population so there are temples all over the place. Many of them look similar and have architecture much like the palaces you may also visit. But, if you are going to visit a temple while visiting Seoul, we recommend Bongeunsa Temple (Bongeunsa Temple Station or Samseong Station). It is one of the largest temples that we have seen as it is a complex instead of just one building. It is pretty much across the street from Coex Mall (again not our top 10 but we like it) which also has some shopping, good food, and a decent aquarium.

Suwon and surrounding area

Clarissa refers to Hwaseong Fortress as the Great Wall of Korea. We were impressed that she did the three mile plus hike. There are several places to rest as you walk. I wouldn’t bring a stroller as you need to go up several flights of stairs, but a carrier would be fine. It isn’t a dangerous hike at all. There is a palace inside the wall, but it is not better than Gyeongbokgung that is listed above. There are several monuments and bells. There is a place to learn archery at certain times of day. You can get snacks at a convenience store. It is very pretty during certain times of year. At certain places on the wall you can see most of Suwon.

I went to several different folk villages in Korea and the best one is the Korean Folk Village in Yongin. We have been twice. There are several different houses and shops set up so that you can see how peasants and rich people and governors have lived in Korea over the years. Several times per day there are shows with horses, acrobats, or folk dancers. I grew up going to Jamestown and this was the closest thing I experienced to this. There is also a great Folk Museum that has exhibits from many countries around the world to see how indigenous peoples live. A small amusement park is attached. There is admission for the folk village and museum, and you can also add on rides at the amusement park or different experiences like pottery making for an additional cost. There is plenty of Korean food available for purchase as well.

On our first trip to the Folk Village, we went to Everland the next day. Everland is an amusement park with the same caliber rides as a Busch Gardens. There are different countries represented as well as food. Clarissa was only 2.5 so she was too small for all of the rides except Thomas the Train. But the real reason that we went there was the zoo! Admission to Everland will cover the zoo and the rides. But the zoo alone is worth the admission. It is the best zoo in South Korea because of the size and quality of the exhibits. It is also the only zoo in Korea that has pandas. There is a safari ride that takes you over land and water to see animals close up. You can also pay extra for a pony or camel ride.

If Clarissa was making this list, she would add Anseong Farmland to the Suwon and surrounding area. However, this would not be easily accessible by public transportation so it would really only be worth going if you already live in Korea and are planning to be in the Pyeongtaek area (Camp Humphreys or Osan).

Busan

People head to Busan for the beach. The water in South Korea is pretty cold in my opinion, but Busan has some very pretty beaches. Our favorite is Haeundae Beach. It is a very nice beach, but also very crowded during tourist season (July and August). You can see some pretty parks nearby or a sand castle festival in May. I like the contrast of the water with the tall buildings. There is an aquarium right on the beach, but you can skip it unless you have really young kids who need something to do.

Another cool temple is check out is Haedong Yonggungsa. You can take a bus near Haeundae Beach or you can take a taxi. It is a beautiful temple, on the side of a mountain and right on the water. There are plenty of statues and shrines inside it to see. We happened to go the week of Buddha’s birthday so it had special lanterns.

If you’re going to be in Busan and are looking for a fun park to go to with your kids, I would recommend Busan Citizen’s Park. There are so many beautiful plants and different playgrounds. Your kids will love it! It’s not super easy to get to with public transportation, so again, this would be great if you have a car.

A quick trip for our favorite things in Daegu

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We’re about four months from DEROS (Date of Estimated Return from Overseas). No, we don’t know where we’re moving yet in the United States. But we know we’re leaving relatively soon so we decided to go back to some of our favorite places in Daegu this weekend.

Most military families are in South Korea for two years, though some may extend for three years. Since we are a two months shy of the four year mark, most of our Daegu friends don’t live there anymore so we mostly went for the food.

Saturday morning we drove down to Daegu. The traffic wasn’t bad until we got to Daegu, which is normal. Thankfully Daegu traffic is not as bad as Seoul traffic. When we arrived at Camp Walker, our first order of business was lunch at Awesome Burger, which is near gate 4. We were able to meet up with one of Tim’s friends for lunch. Tim got his usual hellgate burger. I got a regular burger with no bun. Clarissa just ate french fries. We were all very satisfied with our meal.

The next stop was the library. While we lived in Daegu, the Camp Walker Library was pretty much Clarissa and my favorite place. We were there at least once per week. They ordered a bunch of books from my wishlist so I know that I like the selection there. I was disappointed that none of our friends were there. It looks like they may have moved as well. But Clarissa and I still found several books to borrow (you can borrow books from any army library in Korea while stationed on peninsula).

At 3:00, we headed downtown to our hotel, Novotel. We stayed there when we were moving in and out of Daegu so we knew we liked the location. We did forget however, that the temperature is always awful. It was set to about 80 degrees but they did give us a fan for our room. But the view is always great.

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After settling in, we did some shopping. We hit up Daiso (like a Family Dollar), Mango Case (cellphone accessory store- the place to go if you need a screen protector or case for a phone or tablet. They apply it perfectly!), and S Dot (like a Michaels- located next to the Play Station Store). Then we headed to our favorite Korean Barbecue right as they opened at 5:00. If you wait until 6pm or later Kyung Sung Market is packed! (Kyung Sung Market is in Banwoldong a few doors down from Mir Dental)

The food was delicious as usual. Our usual Dunkin Donuts wasn’t there anymore. So we decided on Auntie Anne’s for dessert and walked backed to our hotel. There were some pretty Christmas lights and some people singing Christmas Carols in Hangul on our way.

We did something unusual for us, and just relaxed in the hotel room (we usually run around for hours until we come back to the hotel room and crash when on vacation). Sunday morning, we had McDonald’s for breakfast since it was across the street from the hotel. On our way back to the hotel, it started snowing. Clarissa enjoyed catching snow on her tongue. It was fun to watch the snow from 21 floors up, but you can’t see it as well in the pictures.

After checking out of the hotel we went to our favorite emart (like a Target) in Wolbae. It was a great emart when we left a year and a half ago. It has since been renovated and is even better. It includes a kid cafe and an electromart now so we were happy.

We headed back to Camp Walker for Tim’s favorite pizza. Italy and Italy is right outside gate 4. It was snowing really well by the time we got there. We like it because you can customize your pizza or pasta. The food was great, as always. Tim’s friend came back to see us for lunch.

The snow let up about the time we got out of Daegu. The traffic was only bad in Daegu as well. Since it was primarily a food vacation, we had to go to Tim’s favorite Thai restaurant when we got back into town. Sawatdee (in Osan’s ville) is our favorite.

That time we were the only people at Anseong Farmland

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The last time we went to Anseong Farmland was for a birthday party. It was a Saturday at the beginning of September so it was pretty crowded. We had a great time and Clarissa has been asking to go back for two months. Today I decided the air was clean enough and it was still warm enough to go. I am so glad I did.

We went arrived on a Wednesday afternoon about 3pm. The website said that they were open every day from 10-6 so I figured we would be okay. There were only four cars in the parking lot so I was a little concerned that the place was closed. We walked up to the ticket counter and purchased a farm horse ticket (12,000 won for children and 17,000 for adults gets you general admission to Anseong Farmland plus a horse riding experience).

We walked over to where the horses were and realized that it was time for people to get horseback riding lessons. Either that or there was a school there on a field trip. We were willing to wait. A man came out and said, “Uh. We’re full right now.” I asked if we should come back later and he said, “Um. No. Come with me.” He proceeded to take Clarissa and I to a different barn where the ponies are kept. He took out a pony on a leash, showed Clarissa what to do, and let her walk around with the pony. Meanwhile there were at least 10 other kids with a Korean teacher having a class.

 

He then took us back to the barn and told us to wait while someone warmed up a different horse for Clarissa to ride. So we watched as a tall horse and a smaller horse warmed up and trotted around the arena. Then it was our turn. Clarissa went first. The trainer walked Clarissa around the circle five times. During her ride, Clarissa learned that her horse was actually also a five year old girl. She was thrilled. I had my five laps around the circle too but there aren’t great pictures from my ride.

During my ride the trainer asked where we traveled from. I am pretty sure that they assumed we were on a trip from America and not Americans who live in Pyeongtaek. I don’t know if everyone else will get the same experience. But we had a wonderful visit!

Our next objective was to feed some animals. Last time we were there on a Saturday so there were people selling animal feed everywhere we went. On a Wednesday afternoon we were the only ones walking around and that was not the case. We got to pet bunnies, but there was no one selling carrots today.

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Thankfully there was actually an attendant selling food with the farm animals. Usually, you pay 1,000 won for a small basket of food. He gave us a heaping bowl for the pigs and then when we asked for food for the sheep, he gave us 3 baskets for the price of one and said, “service” (that means free). Clarissa had a great time feeding sheep, goats, pigs, deer, and cows.

Then we went up the hill to see the donkeys. The man came out of his shack and gave us four carrots for free when he saw us looking at the donkeys. We walked around a bit and then saw the horses. So we went back to the man and I was prepared to pay for more carrots. Last time, we paid 1,000 won for two carrots. This time I gave him 1,000 won and he gave us 8 carrots!

On the way out, I noticed there were two houses for birds. In the first house, we went in and birds kept landing on me. At one point I had one on my head, one on either shoulder, and two on my arm. None would go near Clarissa. There was a machine to buy bird food, but you needed to have 500 won coins. So we only bought one container of food.

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Then we went to the other house. There was an attendant there cleaning. Clarissa wanted to look at the birds more closely. He said, “Do you want to feed them?” and proceeded to pour birdfeed in Clarissa’s hand. When the birds didn’t come, he put some in his hand, whistled, and brought her closer. They came to him and then he moved his hand next to hers and they started eating from her hand.

Clarissa and I had a wonderful afternoon. We were at Anseong Farmland about two hours. I highly recommend going on a weekday. There wasn’t a tractor ride though so if you want that you probably need to go on the weekend. But we so enjoyed having the place to ourselves. Clarissa loved our first trip but kept saying this was so much better.

Our first apple picking experience

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I don’t think they have apple picking where I grew up. I know they do a few hours away but we never went. Obviously, if I haven’t been, Clarissa yet to go apple picking either. So we were excited when the homeschool group decided to go apple picking together.

We went to Yesan Apple Wine (in Waze), about an hour away from Camp Humphreys. Waze made it pretty easy most of the way. The last mile or so, you just follow the big red apple signs.

If you make reservations, you can do an apple making experience at 2:00pm. They had a really great system in place. Everyone signs in and pays for the number of personal pies you are making (7,000 won each). Then there is a classroom set up. The teacher comes in and demonstrates all of the steps. Find your name on a table and follow the steps. The teacher walks around during the process to remind you things like to put the egg wash on your pie.

While you wait for everyone in your group to finish, there are sliced apples to eat. They were delicious. Sweet and juicy. Then, we went downstairs to tour the winery (in English). The process to make the wine takes three years. The brandy takes longer. They make a few different apple wines, blueberry wine, and apple brandy. The adults got a taste test at the end.

Next, we went outside to pick apples (5 for 10,000 won). We were instructed to pick a basket. Then our tour guide showed us “a good apple.” The apple should be red with no yellow on it if it is fully ripe. Clarissa had a great time picking the apples off the trees. She picked a few for me too and wants to go back again.

By the time we finished picking apples, our pies were ready. So we sat down to eat them. They don’t offer utensils though so we ate one almost like a big cookie and then brought the other one home for Tim.

The whole process was about 90 minutes. Our entire group enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for families. In the parking area there are also chickens to see. There is a “gift shop” near the entrance as well if you want to buy additional apples, apple wine, or apple jam.

Korean Folk Village take 2

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We did a family trip to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin when Clarissa was two. There was a homeschool field trip there last week and Clarissa and I decided to go since she didn’t remember the first trip. There were actually several things that we did this trip that we didn’t get to do the first time so I was happy about that.

We decided to pay for the full admission which includes the Folk Village and the Amusement Park as well. Full admission is 27,000 won (about $25) for adults and 20,000 won ($18) for children. If you plan to skip the rides, adults pay 18,000 won for admission to the folk village itself. Children pay only 13,000. There is parking available for 2,000 won per car or you can take public transportation available. I saw several buses that said they came from Suwon station or Incheon Airport.

We started our beautiful fall day at the amusement park. Clarissa really liked the boat ride and the train ride. She was too afraid to go on anything else but the teenagers we were with loved all of the rides available.

If you look at the boat ride, to your right is a World Folk Village Museum. Clarissa and I kind of stumbled upon it while we were looking for a bathroom. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. There were nine different buildings with 2-3 different countries inside. Each country showed clothes, weapons, jewelry, or housing for an indigenous people of that particular country. The signs were in Korean and English. There were longer descriptions in Korean as well but we learned plenty without being able to read the longer writings.

Clarissa and I had some great discussions about all of these countries. She recognized some of the names like United States, Japan, China, Peru, and Australia. Some were new to her: Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Iran. There were maps on the wall so we could see where each country was on the map. I think we have a lot of books to read now so we can continue learning about these places and cultures.

We met back up with our friends for some gelato and then headed to the Equestrian Feats show. It was great! The performers basically did gymnastics on horses. It was only about twenty minutes and our attention was focused the entire time.

After the show, Clarissa and I wondered a bit and saw some different types of houses you would find in Korea at different points in history. There were government buildings, mansions, and farm houses. There were several additional experiences that you could pay for like making a clay pot or woodworking, but they close earlier in the day so you need to do those first. Clarissa really enjoyed walking through the jail and seeing the governor’s house, sitting in the governor’s chair, and pretending to be a prisoner on trial.

I was surprised that five year old Clarissa was interested in all of the buildings and houses. She actually walked the whole day without complaining. She kept saying, “What’s that? Let’s go over there…”

The Folk Village is open 8 hours each day. You can easily spend the entire day there and not see everything. I recommend it for children and adults.

When can we go back to Awesome Farmland?

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In September, Clarissa was invited to ride horses at a birthday party at Anseong Farmland. I had been planning to take Clarissa there anyway, so we were really excited to go.

General admission to Anseong Farmland costs 10,000 won (about $10 USD). If you want to ride horses, it is an additional 8,000 won ($8 USD). That price pays for one 3-5 minute ride around the ring. They have riding helmets available and a staff person leads the horse around the ring.

Clarissa was a little nervous at first since she is generally afraid of heights and things that go fast. But with each lap, she seemed to relax a bit more. She was disappointed when she only got one turn. I think if we go back, I will have to pay for more than one turn…

General admission gives you access to the petting zoo. You can pay additional money at each station if you want to feed animals so bring won. One thousand won (about $1 USD) will pay for two carrots to feed rabbits, horses, or donkeys. You can also buy hay for goats, sheep, cows, and alpacas. They had food for pigs as well but they were performing when we were feeding animals so I don’t know what they eat.

There were plenty of animals to see, even if you were not feeding them.

There are several different buildings at Anseong Farmland. Some are restaurants and others are experiences. You can make pizza in the dairy experience. I should note that is Korean pizza, so some of the topics may be different than what some Americans are used to. But you can just add what you like.

There is also a building to do art. One of the restaurant buildings also has a mini trick eye museum.

The kids all enjoyed climbing and taking pictures with some statues. There was a playground on the grounds as well. Clarissa also enjoyed the carnival area. Most rides cost 3,000 won ($3 USD). Sometimes there was a discount if you paid for multiple rides at once. Clarissa’s favorite ride was the bumper boats that we did together. She also enjoyed “diving the train.”

Certain times of year they also have tractor rides but it was still considered summer when we went so we didn’t get to try that. Clarissa keeps asking when we will go back to “Awesome Farmland.” She can’t say it correctly and doesn’t hear the difference between Anseong and Awesome. I think we will try again now that the weather is cooler.

I think Hongdae is my favorite

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We have planned to go to Hongdae a few times on a Saturday, but rain has canceled our plans. I was excited to go today, even though it was a Tuesday so I would miss the art market.

I think Hongdae is my new favorite place in Seoul. It feels different than most other sections of the city. Actually it doesn’t feel like you are in a big city at all. It feels more suburban with a bunch of cafes and artsy things.

Very close to the Hongik University Station exit 6 is a store called Object. It was really cute. Four floors (three for shopping) with coffee, books, stationary, and jewelry. I found several things that I liked there.

The next stop was Gundam Base. We all had fun looking at the different models and figures. Tim and Clarissa found one to work on together.

We found a very small, but still fun Xiaomi store. It wasn’t on our list for the day but we randomly passed it. We loved it in Hong Kong so we definitely had to check it out.

Then we saw a very large ArtBox. This is the best one we have visited so far. Clarissa and I found several art kits to work on together.

The next planned stop was Crow Piercing. I had my ears pierced twice growing up. One of my ears always got infected so I let them close up. I have been talking about getting my ears pierced again for at least a year so I did my research to see the best place to go. Crow Piercing was highly recommended so I chose to go there. I was not disappointed. I got to choose my earrings and he pierced my ears very quickly since part of the holes were still there anyway. It only cost 8,000 won (like $8 USD). I found a few other earrings for after my ears heal as well. It was very clean. My guy spoke great English. They are open from 1240 – 11 PM everyday.

Our last stop in Hongdae was Clarissa’s favorite. We went to Bunny Cafe. We all enjoyed feeding and petting the bunnies. It was a very clean place and the owner and bunnies were friendly for the most part. One bunny did bite Tim though.

We headed to I Park Mall for lunch. They have finally finished all of the renovations there. It looks great, but some of our favorite stores are gone. We could have skipped it.

The highlight was definitely the Studio Ghibli Store. We went to one yesterday at Lotte World Mall but this one was way cooler because it had the house from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Totoro‘s tree.

The Gundam Base was fine too but we had already been to the one in Hongdae. They were comparable so you only really need to go to one.