Insa-dong’s hidden corners of adventure : Indoor amusement parks offer visitors exciting challenges and whimsical environs to explore
With its image as a hub of traditional culture and tourist-friendly souvenir shops, some may be surprised to learn that Insa-dong is also home to many fun activities for youngsters hidden between the art galleries and calligraphy stalls. All within a 10-minute walk, there are five indoor playgrounds, each with different themes to satisfy visitors. Each of these playgrounds is run by content developer Creative Tong.
The Alive Museum is full of optical illusions that make for great photo spots, the Dynamic Maze is a fun labyrinth that requires you to use your muscles, and Play Poop is perhaps the only poop-themed playground in the country, where everything is related to the business inside your belly. At Dark Room, you must rely on all your senses other than vision, and finally at the Running Man playground, you can try out obstacle courses that combine elements of all of the other spaces.
Since all the spots offer something different, the Korea JoongAng Daily spent a day trying out each of them. The venues offer discounts when you visit two or more on the same day, and visitors are recommended to purchase discounted package tickets to have a day filled with fun.
Take a picture while being eaten by a giant Marilyn Monroe, hop on a horse pulling a chariot, or fly high above the city like Superman, all within the safety of the Alive Museum.
The museum is filled with scenes painted onto the walls as well as optical illusions waiting for visitors to jump right in and take photos in front of. The paintings may look a little awkward to the naked eye, but stand at a certain angle and you’ll quickly see their desired effect.
Don’t forget to charge your phones and cameras to record all the fun inside the museum. Entrance costs 12,000 won ($11.16) per person, but 18,000 won will get you a package ticket for both the Alive Museum and Dynamic Maze. Both venues are open from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with the last entrance at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call (02) 2034-0600.
In this maze, you will have to use all of your might to get through each mission awaiting you inside. If your body needs a good stretch, this is the place for you.
The experience starts with a maze that you must get low and crawl through - the easiest mission through the whole course. The maze is then divided into various sections that you must conquer to move ahead. After you figure your way out through a mirror maze, you must solve three puzzles to get to the Decibel Room, where you have to scream at the top of your lungs to squeeze out a sound higher than 100 decibels to open the door to the next section.
Each section tests your physical dexterity in ways you would not commonly experience in your daily life. Most of the courses involve crawling, either through obstacles or ropes, while in one section, you need to really use your arms to climb up a slippery slide.
To ensure that everyone has a safe time, only children taller than 110 centimeters (3 feet 7 inches) can enter, and those under 13 must be supervised by adults. Everyone must have a buddy so they don’t get trapped alone along the way. Safety bells are installed throughout the course to notify staff in case of an emergency. No cameras are allowed inside, and visitors are advised to leave their phones in lockers to prevent any damage.
There are many small and big theme parks in Korea, all with different themes and ideas, but “Play Poop” is perhaps the only poop-themed park in Korea, if not in the world. The indoor playground offers a never-before-seen experience of following your food from the mouth to the other end.
While some displays are quite frank and may surprise you, such as the naked bottoms making flatulence noises and blowing a puff of air when you put your hands on them, or the toilet bowl full of golden poop that look disgustingly real, other sections are designed to help you enjoy your adventure through your insides and take unique photographs while you have a good laugh.
The playground starts with the fart stairs, with a different note playing with each step you take. After you take a photograph next to the many bums and toilets, you must fight your way through giant gym balls and ropes, just as your food must fight its way through your organs and enzymes to get to the end of the dark intestinal cave. A fun slide down three floors awaits each visitor at the end.
The gift shop at the end of the course offers cute poop-inspired souvenirs, such as stuffed toys and pens. Visitors may also write a wish on a poop-shaped post-it note and hang it on, yes, the poop tree. The playground is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the final entrance is at 7 p.m. For more information, call (02) 2034-0601.
Unsurprisingly, there’s very little to see at the Dark Room, but there is an awful lot to do. While you’ve enjoyed venturing your way through mazes and intestines, your eyes suddenly become useless at this amusement space and you must rely on all of your other senses to make your way through at this place.
Unlike the other attractions, where you can compete against your friends and family to see who gets to the end first, here, you must really work together to carry out the missions given to you in the Dark Room. The course involves carrying out a number of difficult tasks, such as putting together a whole sentence using letters scattered across the walls, without using your eyes.
Each step of the way, you must use not only your senses, but your teammates as well - which makes this attraction a great place for a date or an outing with friends. Although the staff is watching the visitors with infrared cameras to jump in at any moment and help, those who are afraid of the dark are not recommended to participate.
Reservations must be made prior to your visit either online at www.darkroomepisode.com or at (02) 6959-4392. The course usually takes around 75 minutes, and visitors are recommended to arrive 15 minutes before their starting time for a warm-up session. Entrance is 25,000 won, with a 2,000 won discount if you visit Play Poop as well. It is open from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on weekends.
Based on a popular variety show “Running Man,” which features celebrities trying to catch each other while carrying out fun missions along the way, the Running Man experience playground allows you to enjoy a little bit of everything from all of the other courses.
From mazes you have to crawl through to dark labyrinths that you must feel your way out of, there is a wide variety of missions waiting for you inside the playground.
Visitors are each provided with a bracelet that tallies your points as you pass through each mission. You collect points as you traverse through the course. Each mission your complete, such as running as fast as you can, or screaming at the top of your lungs, is worth a certain number of points. If you receive more than 80 points before you leave, you can have your photo hung up on the wall of fame.
Children under 110 centimeters are not allowed in due to safety reasons, and those under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Entrance is 16,000 won, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The final entrance is at 7 p.m. For more information, call (02) 2034-0606.
BY YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]
Insa-dong is near Anguk Station, line No. 3, exit 6, and Jonggak Station, line No. 1, exit 11. Each of the playgrounds featured are within a 10-minute walk from each other, and visitors are advised to take public transportation as there is no free parking in the area.