Everland – Korea’s Happy Place
While a trip to South Korea will doubtless be about the country’s rich history and fascinating culture, there’s still room for a bit of fun along the way. As the country continues to embrace Western ideals and adopt Western traditions, theme parks have begun to crop up all over the land of the morning calm.
Paramount amongst this ever-growing selection of theme parks are Seoul’s ‘big two’ – Everland in nearby Suwon, and Lotte World in the heart of the nation’s capital.
I’ve been to Everland twice now. Once with my friend Tash in 2008 and again a few months later with Tash, Jami, and Krystin (the Shinga crew) in the aftermath of a debauched Seoul weekend. More on that another time…
What follows is the first in what may be a regular series of theme park reviews. I’ll add to the list as I visit more parks. Let’s get the ball rolling.
Everland is South Korea’s largest theme park and in 2007 ranked as the tenth most attended theme park in the world. Just outside Yongin, and a short bus ride (or pricey taxi ride) from Seoul, Everland looks and feels a bit like a Disney Land clone. From the fairy tale castles to the bright colors, the place clearly draws its inspiration from the Disney franchise that has yet to make its presence felt on the peninsula.
Like Dream World here in Australia, Everland also boasts a sister water-park in the form of Caribbean Bay.
Like almost all things in Korea, Everland is remarkably cheap. You’re looking at only 38,000 won (approximately $32 Australian) for a day pass – which is less than half of what a day in Dream World would set you back.
The park is divided into a number of themed zones that include Aesop’s Village, Zoo-Topia, European Adventure, and Magic Land.
You can learn more about Everland through its website.
I don’t know about everybody else, but when I head to a theme park, I’m making a bee-line for their thrill rides.
I was a late bloomer when it came to falling in love with being thrown around and scared half to death – having a daring college girlfriend definitely changed my tune. I went from a kid whose biggest indulgence was the ferris wheel to somebody who wanted to ride every ride at every park he ever went to.
Everland offers a modest selection of thrill rides – including two roller coasters. A third coaster, the very cool Eagle’s Nest, was closed a few years. It will be missed. The thrill rides include:
- Rolling X Train – A standard coaster boasting two loops and two corkscrews. Nothing special.
- T Express – The world’s steepest wooden roller coaster and a bloody terrific ride. I’ve been four times and I still love it.
- Let’s Twist – 3D spinning claw ride.
- Double Rock Spin – A Waikiki Wave Super Flip similar to Dream World’s Wipeout.
As you can see, it’s pretty slim pickings if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. That said, the T-Express would rank as the best coaster I’ve had the pleasure of riding – so it’s worth a look if you can survive the 90-120 minute queues.
Thrill Factor: 5/10 (+1 for T Express) = 6/10
As a family theme park, Everland really comes into its own. The vast majority of attractions and rides are clearly geared towards catering to families both local and foreign. The park’s family friendly rides include (but are not limited to):
- The Hurricane – Standard gravity spin ride.
- Columbus Adventure – ‘Viking’ style boat ride. Quite thrilling.
- Lily Dance – Tea cup style ride.
- Racing Coaster – Kid friendly rollercoaster. I lost my glasses on this ride.
- Royal Jubilee Carousel – Typically ornate carousel.
- Amazon Express – Fun river rapid ride. Always has a long line.
- Herbivore Safari – A guided tour featuring various animals including tigers, giraffes, and lions.
- Flume Ride – A traditional (and very wet) flume ride.
- Ferris wheel – A massive Ferris wheel that would provide an amazing view if it didn’t have green tinted perspex to stop suicidal teens.
- A super creepy ‘boat ride around the world’ populated with dolls. A scary knock-off of It’s a Small World After All.
The park also boasts a small zoo that features a number of animals from around the world including kangaroos, lion cubs, and various lizards and insects. Like many Korean zoos, the standard of animal enclosures is below what you might expect in the western world. Seeing lion cubs crawling around a small cement room doesn’t exactly warm the heart.
All told though, there is plenty to keep a bunch of kids occupied for the day without boring the parents senseless. A few of the family rides are enjoyable enough for big kids, and there’s plenty of benches around for parents to rest their sore feet while kids scream gleefully.
Family Factor: 8/10
While it could possibly fall under family factor, I feel like most parks these days have areas that are entirely for the rug-rats. From Dream World’s Wiggle World to Everland’s Aesop’s Village – targeting the smaller of park visitors is a sure fire way to ensure nagging kids will prompt return business.
Aesop’s Village draws its inspiration from the fables of Aesop, and a variety of colorful statues litter the area for kids to pose with. Along with the aforementioned family rides, there are a few kid specific attractions such as:
- Pororo 3D Adventure – A 3D ride based on the popular Pororo cartoon.
- A traditional kid’s play area
- Ball House – Kids fire colorful foam balls at one another. Wish I could try it!
Rides such as the Racing Coaster and Lily Dance also cover kids well, but mostly it’s wandering the decorated streets of Aesop’s Village that will keep the little ones entertained. They’ll doubtless get a kick out of the animals on display in the Zoo-Topia area of the park too.
Kid Factor: 7/10
Much like the Disney family of parks it so obviously draws inspiration from/plagiarises blatantly; Everland is alive with brightly colored facades and various colorful characters scattered about the park. There are plenty of opportunities to snap photos and pose with random representations of classic fairy-tale characters.
An area of particular note is the truly massive rose garden that lies between the park and its on site luxury hotel. My gardening obsessed father roamed for quite a while through the red, white, and black lined paths. It’s pretty bloody impressive.
Like most areas of Korea, Everland is crowded and you’ll need to be prepared for the inevitable jostling and accidental bumps. Korea shares much of Asia’s different interpretations as to what constitutes personal space. You can also expect liberal requests for photos from over-excited teenage girls as well if you’re a foreigner.
Atmosphere Rating: 8/10
Being a theme park in Korea, Everland offers up a unique mix of traditional theme park fare (hot dogs, burgers, churros, and pizza) alongside the option to try some local food as well. There aren’t many parks in the world where you can start off your day with a traditional meal of rice, bulgogi, and kimchi and finish it with a slice of super cheesy pizza. It’s a pretty cool experience.
The drawback to all of this is that none of the food is particularly amazing. The churros are often a little hard, the burgers are generic and not particularly flavorful, and even the local food is what you’d expect from mass-produced cuisine.
Food pricing is higher than your average bite to eat in South Korea, but still more affordable than you’d expect at most theme parks.
Food Rating: 6/10
This one goes to the T Express without a shadow of a doubt. It’s one of the most heart-pumping adrenaline rides I’ve had the pleasure of riding, and it honestly feels like it’s scarier the second or third time you ride it than it was the first. That first sheer drop (it feels almost vertical) is amazing and the head-choppers (parts of the ride that create the illusion that you might be accidentally decapitated) keep your heart in your throat for much of the ride.
The drawback is the truly massive queue for the ride, which sometimes extends outside of European Adventure (where it is based) and into a neighboring zone.
Everland isn’t going to rank amongst anybody’s favorite theme parks in the world, but it’s still worth a look. The lack of thrill rides makes it a bit of a poor investment if you’re not interested in exploring the park and snapping lots of photos, but families and groups of younger visitors should find plenty to keep them occupied.
The park’s focus on being westernized does mean that foreigners wanting to see what a Korean theme park looks like are really just seeing what Koreans thing a western theme park looks like. It’s interesting enough, I guess, but not quite as exciting as it might have been to explore a park focused on Korean history or Korean characters.
It’s not worth going out of your way to visit, but Everland isn’t a bad option if you’re bored in Seoul or simply looking for a fun way to kill a day with your friends.