As an expat and mom living in Asia with my husband and young daughter, I find traveling in South Korea with children far easier than in many countries. Family travel in South Korean can be an educational feast for all family members with its wealth of cultural traditions.
Throughout the country, you can find plentiful spaces in which kids are welcomed to play and learn. The abundance of nursing rooms available throughout Korea (Incheon Airport has several) is just one example of the South Korean acceptance of families with children.
Here are some of my favorite spots for family travel in South Korea.
Seoul and surrounding areas
There are a number of activities for parents and kids alike in South Korea’s capital city, Seoul.
Insadong, a Seoul neighborhood (or dong) once known as the largest market for antiques and artwork in Korea, is a delight and very safe. Children will enjoy looking at traditional Korean crafts here such as Buddhist sculptures and masks.
Ilsan, not too far from Seoul by train, offers incredible parks that are popular with Korean families. Our favorite is Lake Park, which offers plenty of space and nature for toddlers to explore.
About 25 miles south of Seoul is Yongin, home of one of the world’s largest theme parks, Everland. After a day of amusements, restaurants such as Han-ga-ram and Holland Village offer a fun ambience for kids as well as great food.
Perhaps one of South Korea’s most well-known family destinations is Gangwon-do province. Nature lovers will find plenty of activities here, including exploring natural caves in the national parks near the Taebaek Mountain range.
The region along Gangwon-do’s East Sea is where approximately 77% of Koreans vacation for summer holidays. Families love Mangsang Beach (in Donghae City) for its white sand and shallow water.
Lesser known Paju (about one hour from Seoul in Gyeonggi province) is known for its amazing dubu (tofu) and insam (ginseng). Paju is home to a few must see places for families, such as Honey Land (an amusement/water park) and Book City (a center dedicated to publishing and literature).
One of my favorite places in Paju is Heyri Art Village, a sister of Book City, where over 370 writers, artists, cineastes, architects, and musicians maintain artistic spaces, houses, work rooms, museums, and galleries. Stroll through Heyri’s cafes, art exhibits, book stores, antique shops, a cinema, theater, and music hall.
My family lived in Geumchon for one year and experienced first-hand the inviting nature of this region, with children welcome in every restaurant. The Gaeseong Ginseng Festival happens every October and draws families from all over the country. Kids especially love the Imjingang kite flying festival in February, where they can play traditional Korean folk games.
The second largest city in South Korea after Seoul, Busan (formerly spelled Pusan), is another fabulous family-friendly destination. Every Saturday in Yongdusan Park there is Traditional Folk Performances featuring music, dance, and elaborate costumes.
On our honeymoon in Busan, my husband and I went to a traditional dado tea ceremony at the Tea-Ceremony Museum at Pusan Women’s College. All of the staff were dressed in vibrant hanboks (ornate, traditional Korean dresses), which made me long to buy a hanbok for myself and my daughter! Many traditional tea houses in South Korea offer some caffeine-free varieties (such as sweet ginger and red ginseng) for children to enjoy.
During our stay in South Korea, the local coffee shop we frequented basically adopted our family; we even referred to the owners as our daughter’s Korean grandma and grandpa. They adored her. Children were often running around and causing chaos in their café but no one seemed to mind. This put my mind at ease since it can be a challenge to go out with toddlers (let alone travel with them!).
Truly, Korea is the most kid-friendly country I have ever visited in my extensive travels. Korea has so much to offer the world; I hope more families will bring their children to discover this amazing country.
Are there any countries or cities that you have found particularly child-friendly in your travels? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Elizabeth Kelsey is part of a British-American nomadic, unschooling family, currently residing in Phuket, Thailand. Their blog, Sattvic Family, details their lives as a homeschooling family as well as their travels throughout Europe and Asia.