Our favorite things to do in Seoul with kids

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I got a lot of feedback on our top 10 places to visit in South Korea with kids post so I thought I would add to the series with a top 10 places to visit in Seoul. During our four years of living in Korea, we have probably spent a total of two months in Seoul and I feel like we haven’t seen everything yet!

Just a reminder that Clarissa has been five and under the entire time that we’ve lived in South Korea. So our list may be different than a family with older kids, teens, or no kids.

Neighborhoods

There are two neighborhoods in Seoul 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 last 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.

Palace

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.

Outdoors

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.

Mall and Aquarium

If you get hungry or want to walk around in some air conditioning Lotte World Mall is near Olympic Park and is our favorite mall in Seoul. This is our favorite mall because all of our favorite stores are there. Tim really likes the Hi Mart. Clarissa gets excited about the Toy Box, Lego, and Studio Ghibli. I really like Butter, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and Miniso. But there are several floors of shops and restaurants in the mall itself. Also attached to the mall is Avenue L which is a higher end mall. Avenue L also has an art museum. Inside Lotte World Mall, you can take an elevator to Lotte World Tower and look out over Seoul on floors 118-122. There is also a kid cafe inside called Teddy Bear Zoo, which is pricey but Clarissa really enjoyed her time there.

Also located on B1 of Lotte World Mall is Lotte Aquarium. This is our favorite aquarium in South Korea. There are several large tanks with whales, sting rays, and even penguins. There is a spot where you can pay 1,000 won to feed a small tank of fish. Then you can feed carp with a bottle for 2,000 won. There is also a free touch tank. There are food stands within the aquarium as well as face painting and a craft area that you can pay for as well. Aquarium admission can be pricey, but if you show your military ID or American passport, you can get a discount. It should cost us over 90,000 won to get in, but we usually only pay 61,000 won.

Temple

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 (did not make our top 10, but if you aren’t going to get to Lotte World Mall or if you need some lunch, it is an acceptable mall) which also has some shopping, good food, and a decent aquarium.

Zoo

Sometimes the zoos in South Korea make me sad. The animals don’t seem very happy in their small cages. But there are some exceptions to this. Our favorite zoo in Seoul itself (Everland Zoo is probably better but way more expensive) is Seoul Grand Park Zoo.Seoul Grand Park is a subway stop on line 4. The zoo is exit 2. But you can also get to the Science Museum at exit 5.

The parking lot brings you to the bathrooms and a place to buy tickets for the elephant train that will take you to the zoo. You can walk if you prefer. The guy said it was a 15 minutes walk. But the train was super cheap. Adults pay 1,000 won (about $1.00) and little kids like Clarissa pay 700 won. After our train ride, we bought tickets to the zoo. Adults pay 5,000 won (less than $5.00) and preschoolers are free. We thought we would also try the theme garden which also has farm animals which costs 2,000 won. A combination ticket for both was 5,600 won.

The zoo was great. We saw monkeys, giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinoceros, lions, tigers, and bears. There is also a petting zoo and insectarium. There are plenty of restaurants that sell Korean food as well.

Museums

There are a few museums worth taking your small children to. The Figure Museum was very close to the Apgujeong subway station and easy to find with the statue in front. There were six floors of exhibits with each floor having its own theme. All three of us really enjoyed the museum.

Another favorite was  Seoul Children’s Museum located in Children’s Grand Park (Please note there is a zoo here as well, but I do not recommend it…). Admission costs 4,000 won per person but children under 3 are free. It was well worth the cost. There were 4 floors of exhibits that all of us enjoyed. You could pretend to be blind and get on the subway, learn about animals or space, play dress up, build a house, or play with water. Most exhibits were explained in both Hangul and English. If we lived here, we would buy a membership. I think the museum is geared towards kids second grade and under.

 

Girls Trip to Seoul

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I have never been to a Broadway show. And I never pass up an adventure with the ladies at my church. So when we started talking about going to see Lion King Live, I knew I wanted to go.

We met up at church at 3pm and the eight of us piled into Jen’s van for our hour and a half drive to Seoul Arts Center Opera House. I was glad to be a passenger instead of the driver. I hate driving in Seoul traffic and there were many u-turns to find a parking lot that actually had spaces available.

We did make great time and decided that we would try the restaurant at the opera house because it was easy to find. The food was actually really good and reasonably priced for a venue like that. I was able to get a classic burger and french fries for 11,000 won (like $10) and the pizzas and pastas were between 20,000-30,000 won ($20-$30). Everyone enjoyed their food.

Then we had about an hour before the show so we stood in line to take pictures. It was very cold outside and they didn’t have the heat on in the hallways so we were in our jackets for all of our pictures. There were programs for sale, binoculars (which they called opera glasses) available to rent, as well as a coffee shop and a vending machine for drinks.

Photography was forbidden in the auditorium itself which was actually a very comfortable temperature. We bought the cheapest seats (60,000 won so like $50) so we were on the fourth floor in the last two rows of the theater. But we could still see and hear everything that was happening on stage. The theater wasn’t sold out either which surprised me.

I had never been to a Broadway caliber production before and I was actually very impressed from the beginning. The giraffes came out first which were dancers on stilts. They must have needed very strong abdominal muscles for that. They were all in sync with each other’s movements. There was a live orchestra and drums. The costumes were great and the sets were simple but I really liked them. I was actually very impressed with the caliber of actors, dancers, and singing in the show. The show was mostly in English with what was probably an African song or two in the mix but there were Korean subtitles on a large screen off to the side.

The story was very true to what I remember of the movie, except that Rafiki the crazy monkey was a girl in the live show. But all of the usual songs were there. There were a few Korea specific jokes in the show. For example, they talked about going to Dongdaemun Market and Zazu said “don’t send me back to Everland Zoo!” Also, Zazu sings “Let it Go” to Scar instead of “It’s a Small World.”

One of the ladies said she was going to come back with her kids. I think kids would enjoy the show and there were actually several in the theater. Lion King is in Seoul until the end of March and then it moves to Busan, so there is still time to go see the show.

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After the show, we headed back to the car so that we could go to our next location, Dongdaemun Market. I guess we didn’t really do our research on this one because the night market is closed on Sundays (which actually means Saturday night). So we went to Doota (a big department store type mall) which had cute stuff but department store prices. The better deal would have been the outdoor market, but it wasn’t there that day. There was one small section of outdoor shops in yellow tents so we went there. I had some street food (chicken kebab) and a few of the ladies found hats and things to buy. It was only about 20 degrees outside and the usual Korea wind so we didn’t last super long anyway.

We left Dongdaemun a little after midnight and went to a 24 hour McDonalds on the way home since ladies were hungry again. It was a wonderful adventure. Maybe will try Dongdaemun again in the spring when it is warmer.

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.

Because we still have not seen everything in Seoul…

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We spent Columbus Day weekend in Seoul. Though we have spent a lot of time in Seoul since we moved to Korea, we wanted to try a few things we had not tried before.

Our first stop was disappointing. We wanted to check out the Seoul Animation Museum. Apparently it is closed. I took a picture of the outside so that other people could find it before we realized that it wasn’t a museum anymore. Oops.

Our next stop redeemed the day. I had never heard of the Figure Museum before a friend mentioned it this week. It was very close to the Apgujeong subway station and easy to find with the statue in front. There were six floors of exhibits with each floor having its own theme. All three of us really enjoyed the museum.

Next we headed to Lotte World Mall for some dinner and shopping. Clarissa chose a kangaroo to paint. The staff member used a hair dryer to dry it so that we could take it home.

Since Clarissa was in an artsy mood, we decided to check out the Lotte Museum of Art  in Avenue L which is connected to the mall. It was an exhibit of Kenny Scharf. He was an animator for Hanna Barbara so we recognized some of his work. Some of it was pretty weird. But it was all very colorful.

Before leaving we decided to try Lotte World Tower. The views from the 118 – 122 floors were amazing. It was a very clear day so we could see very far.

It was 5pm by then so we headed to Itaweon for dinner. I had read about a gluten-free Cafe so we headed to Sunny Bread. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday so this was our only opportunity to go. There were a few things left in the pastry case so we bought one of each to go so we could try it all. Very tasty.

Finally we arrived at Manimal for dinner. It was very close to the pedestrian bridge from Noksapyeong, across from Buddha’s Belly. I have never been to an American style smokehouse. I expected it to smell smokier than it did. Tim and I ordered a platter to share. We chose three meats and three sides. All of it was delicious but way too much food. We could not finish it so next time we will get the platter with two meats instead.

Last beach day of the summer

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We were invited to a beach day with some friends at the end of the summer. Korea’s official beach season is pretty short. It actually starts on Tim’s birthday (July 13) and ends on Clarissa’s birthday (August 20). Some beaches are open a little later, until the end of August, so we decided to go to Eurwangni Beach in Incheon.

Eurwangni Beach is about an hour and a half drive from Camp Humphreys. Tolls cost about 11,000 won each way ($11 USD). The beach itself is pretty small. The waves are very calm and it is shallow for a good part of the beach so it is a great beach to bring small children. The sand area is clean. There is a public bathroom, shower area, and free parking right next to the beach. There is also a small playground and a path to explore the rocks along one side of the beach. There are plenty of convenience stores and restaurants for when you get hungry.

We had a wonderful day playing in the water and exploring. The water was fairly warm. Clarissa started her own shell collection.

After dinner, we looked out to see the sunset over the water and noticed that the tide had gone WAY out. I have never seen the tide go out that dramatically before. It was really cool to be able to see all the little crabs and critters out in the wet sand. The sunset was beautiful to see.

Clarissa and I really enjoyed our day with friends. We both decided that we would like to live near the beach next. This is definitely our favorite beach in Korea!