Few things capture the essence of childlike happiness like visiting a theme park. Personally I love leaving my 'adult persona' at the gates and skipping inside to take ride after ride, and eat questionable 'carny' fare.
South Korea has many exciting activities to offer, a few theme parks, and a couple of water parks. Whilst all offer an entertaining experience we have done the hard work (read: had the pleasure of visiting) and compiled this list of the best.
1. Everland (에버랜드)
Everland is by far the best theme park, in my opinion, in South Korea. What makes it the best is the wide appeal of it's attractions. In addition to rides, which cater to all levels of thrill seeking, there are themed villages, including an Alpine Snow Village, and 'Animal Safari'.
For the most park the animal enclosures are well maintained and the animals seem to be happy, however the primates enclosures seem small and they seemed to be unhappy. We did visit in winter, so I am not sure if these were temporary enclosures for the colder periods. There were substantially larger enclosures outside that would have been too cold for the animals to remain in for the sub zero temperatures.
The big draw card for us was 'Panda World'. It was my first opportunity to get up close to a real life panda. These guys seemed very happy, I mean they sleep all the time and they had hammocks.There are two large black and white pandas, and one red panda. All seemed to be well kept in environments which very closely mimicked their traditional surrounds and were very large.
In addition to the above, the food was reasonably priced and there were endless themed options, including this adorable panda chicken steamed bun (*no panda filling).
For the price it was well worth it, and often you can find a discount.
Price: W52,000 (adult), when we went there was a 'foreigner discount' we paid W27,000.
Location: Yongin, Greater Seoul.
To get there: Access via subway station 'Everland Station' or shuttle bus W12,000 return from a number of stops in the Seoul area. The journey will take about 1 hour on the shuttle.
2. Gimhae (Busan) Lotte Water Park (김해롯데워터파크)
When summer hits it's time for a good 'ol water slide. Whilst there are options in Seoul, we found Lotte Water Park a great day out. Located close to the airport that services Busan, this is the perfect stop before your trip to Busan. They even have lockers big enough to cope with baggage, which is what we used.
The park is a combination of outdoor and indoor attractions, the indoor facilities catering more to younger visitors though still can be used by all. Outside you will find giant water slides, pools and a 'torrent river' which became a particular favourite of ours. It winds it's way around the park in what we would call a 'lazy river' style, the difference being at intervals large waves roll through carrying you some distance and adding the thrill.
There are a good mix of water slides including; sudden drops, boomerang racing slides, and water coaster. Food options are limited but most are on the cheaper side. There is also a 'Tiki Island Spa' located on the premises which can be accessed at an additional cost.
Price: W45,000 (adult) for this price you are issued a wrist band which you can load money onto and pay for food/drinks without having to worry about carrying money. At the end you can redeem any value remaining.
Location: Gimhae, Busan
To get there: From the airport take the purple line to Buwon station, take exit 2, board Bus #3 and get off at Gimhae Lotte Water Park stop. The walk from the bus stop will take 10 minutes. The journey will take between 30-40 minutes.
Bringing up third place is Lotte World. Whilst I will recommend this park it is because it is easy to access from Seoul and has some enjoyable rides. If you are only going to go to one park I would suggest visiting Everland over Lotte World. But if you do chose Lotte make sure you stop at the 'Trevei Fountain' on the way and throw in a coin to make a wish.
The novelty of Lotte World is an indoor themepark. It is partially indoor, including some roller coasters, the remainder of the park is a traditional outdoor fare. The park is insanely popular with school kids, as they can come straight from school in their breaks. For this reason lines can be long, we waited 3 hours for a ride and that is not uncommon.
There are some lovely themed areas, and an ice skating rink. Food options are a bit on the pricey side, but there are some interesting activities such as caricatures (for an additional cost). Lotte World is strongly themed so it is easy to get carried away with the merchandise, you have been warned!
Location: Jamsil, Seoul
To get there: The park is located just off the Jamsil Station (line #2 or #8) within easy walking distance.
Whether you are a themepark junky or looking for something fun to do with friends, a Korean themepark is a great way to experience Korean entertainment culture. Be prepared for long lines even in the middle of the week.