Seoul is a fantastic city that offers plenty of variety for adults and kids alike. Home to just under 10 million people, its sheer size can however be a little overwhelming! No matter which direction you look, it’s a non-stop myriad of motorways and bridges as far as the eye can see!
If, like us, you plan to visit during winter, the temperatures can make it more challenging to explore. While we had prepared for minus 2 to 3 degrees, we hadn’t quite anticipated that when we were ready to start the day exploring with kids (around 9 to 10am), it was still hovering around minus 11….!! Thankfully there were plenty of shopping options available to invest in gloves, scarves, thermals, boots and jackets!
If you’re looking for some great short escapes from Seoul during winter, here are a few options that are great for kids of all ages!
Tour to Nami Island, Gangchon Rail Bike and Petite France
I used to really dislike the idea of organised tours. But the older I get and with three kids to wrangle, organised tours can make life a lot easier! We booked a tour to visit Nami Island, Gangchon Rail Bike and Petite France in one day via Klook, a great site that offers plenty of options and discounts for foreigners visiting Korea. The tour itself is also customisable, with specific days offering slightly different packages, so you can select the options that most appeal to you.
We embarked on this tour the day after we arrived in Seoul. We set out early, meeting the group at a central location at around 7.45am. Our English speaking guide was excellent and shared plenty of information about the plan for the day.
Our first stop was the Gangchon Rail Bike, about 1 ½ hours drive from Seoul. The rail bike is basically just a pedal rail bike that takes you through the countryside with bikes available for either two or four people (or five if you add in a toddler on your lap!). It’s rather random, located in the middle of nowhere really, next to a river and beautiful countryside all around. We were actually in the first rail bike, which put the pressure on us to keep up the pace! The girls were in front, Ant and I in back with George on his knee, which made pedalling just that little bit extra challenging. Although it was freezing and snowing at the time, this was a lot of fun, and the tunnels made it even more so, featuring kooky light shows and music. The last one was like a rave party with coloured strobe lights and full-on techno!
After about half an hour of pedalling, we made it to our destination. We hopped off the bike, ducked inside a makeshift tent, grabbed coffees and hot chocolates and attempted to defrost while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Then it was finishing the rail in an open-air train before jumping back on the bus for our next stop.
We didn’t need to go far to reach the departure point for Nami Island. While you could get a zip line over to the island, we opted for the far more tame ferry ride! Before we headed over, we experienced a delicious and authentic chicken lunch of Chuncheon Dalgakbi, prepared in a spicy sauce with various vegetables. The dish is cooked on an individual hot plate right on your table.
Nami Island was a little bit kitsch, which is what we’ve come to expect in Korea! It would be stunning in spring or autumn, but it was a little stark in winter. Still, we enjoyed a few hours strolling around and taking in the sights, including various statues, a kids playground and some beautiful scenery.
After ducking into another cafe to warm up, we were back on the bus for our last stop, Petite France, which is actually a French theme park! It was created by someone in love with French culture and receives over 1 million visitors each year. Its beautiful coloured buildings and the fantastic Christmas lights and decorations made this a lovely last stop on Christmas Eve to get us into the Christmas spirit! There were numerous little buildings open for us to explore that featured different doll collections and other antique odds and ends. Just walking throughout the area was picturesque and something the kids thoroughly enjoyed, particularly when it started snowing!
We arrived back around 8pm in Seoul with three exhausted kids (and parents!). We had a thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat unexpected, day that was a lot of fun for our first day trip out of Seoul.
Easily tackled in a day is Vivaldi’s SnowyLand. Vivaldi Park is one of South Korea’s most popular ski resorts, and their recent addition targeting families offers a great alternative to hitting the slopes if your kids are too young for skiing or if you’re not a fan of the slopes!
We booked a ‘tour’ via Trazy before we arrived in Seoul, which was basically just a transportation service to get us there and back (about 1 ½ hours drive each way). The price included a bus that picked us up from a central location in Seoul, our entry tickets, gondola lift pass and our return trip. You can also choose to stay overnight at Vivaldi Ski Park Hotel if you’d prefer to stay a few days. There are also usually private transportation options from Seoul available via Trazy but at the time of our booking these weren’t running due to Covid.
Before we headed up to the slopes we organised snow gear for ourselves and the kids, which was easy to coordinate with one of the snow gear rental stores at the bottom of the mountain. The gear for all five of us was around $100US, including ski pants and jackets for the kids and pants for my husband and me.
Activities on offer
SnowyLand offers four main sledding areas with plenty of options for kids of different ages and confidence levels. Some options have height restrictions, and for little ones, you’ll need to ride with them, but that’s half the fun!
Rafting Sleigh Slope
This one was super popular and got really busy after lunch. Seating a family of five easily was a great option that all of the family could enjoy. Sitting in a big yellow inflatable boat, you head down the slope a little faster than expected! An extra bonus is friendly staff who offer to take pics at the top before you head down.
There are two Snow Racing slopes on offer. The lowest level is 20 degrees and less speedy. If you’re with older kids or an adrenaline junky, I highly recommend the 30-degree option. You sit on a blow-up tyre for this one and can connect with another, making it fun with one child and one adult. This one is height restricted for both the small and larger slides.
Kids Sleigh Slope
This one is great for kids aged 3 and up. If your kids are over 110cm-high, they can sled by themselves. Otherwise, you get to have a go too! This one saw plenty of action from my three years and husband who went up and down numerous times while I was on the Snowy Racing loop with the two girls.
Family Sleigh Slope
This is a great one for little kids. Children over 130cm are able to enjoy the slope themselves.
The Snow Village
You can spend time in the Snow Village building your own snowman or playing with the Pororo little mini house and car displays. Nearby is some outdoor seating and food vans if you’re in need of a pit stop.
Food and storage
There are only two real inside eating options available once you get to the top. Both are located in the one and only building, one upstairs, one down and offer a break from the cold and a fair bit of variety. I enjoyed a delicious hot soup while the kids tucked into hot dogs and pizza. You can also bring snacks, and there are lockers to store your items for only a few dollars.
Other day trip options
While we didn’t make it to the Garden of Morning Calm, which is supposed to be amazing and features a stunning light show in the evening. Unfortunately we just couldn’t face the freezing temperatures at night! I think this would be a great option in spring rather than winter, so maybe we’ll check it out when we’re next in Seoul.
Unfortunately, we also couldn’t make the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) tour to the North and South Korea border due to Covid restrictions. Although some tour guides recommend this for over 12’s, a few offered options for kids with slightly reduced half-day tours that we are hoping will be running next time we visit!