CONTRIBUTED BY ELLEN
As a family living in Area I, sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Seoul when it comes to fun things to do. I think almost everyone has visiting the DMZ on their Korea bucket list, but upon moving here I was pleasantly surprised by another thing this part of Korea has to offer: beautiful countryside. Before we came here, after hearing about how we would live in an apartment and take the train, I had expected the urban sprawl of Seoul to just extend all the way north! Imagine my surprise to find that we most definitely live “in the country” by Korean standards. So when we had that unexpected few days of beautiful weather recently, I wanted to take my kids and find somewhere to enjoy it. It turns out that I didn’t have to go very far, the Korea National Arboretum is almost in my backyard.
The Gwangneung Forest where the Arboretum is located has been preserved in various forms since the Joseon Dynasty. The Arboretum itself first opened in 1987 and was promoted to the National Arboretum in 1999. It is considered the prime example of forest ecosystem in Korea.
The biggest attraction for our family was the lovely Children’s Garden. With many places to play, paths to walk on and even a small treehouse which delighted my toddler, we could have spent the whole afternoon just in this section.
However, a picnic lunch was on my older daughter’s mind. The recreation area is spacious and shaded with many platforms and tables to enjoy your lunch. There is a small café which was closed the day we visited; I would bring lunch with you. Be warned, however, that the resident bees are very interested in picnic lunches also! We continued on down the path to nearby Lake Yukrim to say hello to the beautiful koi.
The Arboretum also includes a small wildlife zoo including birds of prey, Asiatic black bears and Siberian tigers. Getting to the zoo proved to be an adventure, as I did not heed the sign that clearly indicated the trail was not fit for small umbrella strollers! If you have a sturdy jog stroller or backpack carrier for your child this would be the place for it. The zoo is up on the side of a mountain.
After visiting the birds of prey, the thought of walking another 200 meters uphill was causing dissension in the ranks. Even with the prospect of bears and tigers, it was declared that walking down the hill was much more appealing. Oh well, next time!
The Arboretum also boasts a forest museum, walking trails, and many different garden sections representing the various ecosystems found in Korea. If you need to escape from the city, this would be a wonderful place to get lost in the woods for a day. Bring comfortable walking shoes, lunch and lots of water!
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, closed New Year’s Day, Seollal and Chuseok
The zoo is open May to November
Admission: Adult: ₩1000 Age 13-19: ₩700 Age 6-13: ₩500 children under 6 are free
*please note* My family and I did not make any reservations and had no trouble being admitted on a Saturday. However, the visitor’s brochure I received there recommended them. I would call before driving from Seoul*
Parking: ₩3000 per day
Directions: Located about 50 km (60-70 min) from Yongsan, 17 km (35 min) from Camp Red Cloud, 30km (45 min) from Camp Casey.
415 Gwangneung Sumokweon-ro, Soheulp-eup, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do (this address is provided on the Arboretum’s website and literature, however my gps found it in Jinjeop-eup, Namyangju-si)
Additional information: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264580