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Making the most of our water parks

 

Cairo Racing is one of the scariest attractions at Ocean World, Hongcheon, Gangwon. Provided by Ocean World
Some feel the summer season in the hot and humid night air or at the smell of freshly cut watermelon. For others it’s the scent of chlorine and shrieks of delight emanating from water parks.

Whatever the summer season indicators, one thing is certain: Summer has arrived and Korea’s water parks are bustling with activity.

Ever since the nation’s first water park, Caribbean Bay, opened 16 years ago, the business has changed forever how Koreans cool off during the summer. Instead of simply paddling in rivers or splashing at beaches, people jump into the water from high above or float in an artificial pool with 2.5-meter (8.2-foot) waves.

After the huge instant success of Caribbean Bay, a wave of water parks swept across the nation, and paying a visit to a water park has become a summer ritual.

However, participating in the action is anything but a walk in the park. During peak season, it can take hours to find a parking spot and another hour to rent a life vest, which is mandatory for some of the attractions.

Following are some tips on how to get the most out of Korea’s water parks: from saving time to what’s new since last year.

Every minute matters

Since almost every family and most young people visit at least once during the summer, water parks are perpetually crowded.

During the peak season, you might queue for an hour to order a hamburger or wander for 40 minutes in search of an available locker. For this reason, avoid peak season, when the admission price and number of visitors are highest. Peak season at both Ocean World and Caribbean Bay, two major water parks, runs from July 7 to Aug. 26, during which an adult admission is 70,000 won ($60.80).

Apart from avoiding the peak season, there are other ways that could save time. According to water park officials, some frequent visitors wear swimsuits under their clothes to save time changing. Bringing your own life vest will save at least 30 minutes by avoiding the lines for rentals.

Arrival time is also important. Most parks limit the number of visitors for reasons of safety and to preserve water quality. For instance, Caribbean Bay doesn’t allow more than 19,000 visitors in the park at a time. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to get in, especially during the peak season.

“People who want to get into the park safely arrive here at least an hour before the opening,” said Kim Ga-young, marketing official at Caribbean Bay. “Thus, you should be there when the park opens or after 3 or 4 p.m. when morning arrivals start to leave. Otherwise, it’s hard to get into the park. Eleven o’clock is not even safe,” added Kim.

Caribbean Bay opens at 9:30 a.m. and Ocean World at 9 a.m.

Aqua Loop at Caribbean Bay, Yongin, Gyeonggi, is one place where shrieks can be heard throughout the day. Provided by Caribbean Bay

The most hair-raising rides

Every water park has signature attractions. The most popular and scary attractions at Ocean World are Monster Blaster, High-Speed Slide and Cairo Racing. “All these are designed to maximize one’s fear,” said Hwang Young-hun, an official at Daemyung Resort, which runs Ocean World.

Monster Blaster is a roller coaster type of slide that stretches up and down for about 300 meters. The High-Speed Slide is 17 meters above the ground. “You have to go down by yourself without boarding a tube. You have nothing to resort to and it makes you even more thrilled,” added Hwang. In order to enjoy the Cairo Racing, you have to lay your chin down so you are facing straight ahead for the speedy, steep drop.

It typically takes at least an hour to board one of these attractions. So if you don’t want to spend your time in line, look elsewhere.

Attractions at Caribbean Bay are more extreme, the most popular and scary being the Aqua Loop and Water Bobsleigh where there are shrieks throughout the day.

Aqua Loop is for those who were born with a brave heart. Loopers fall from 18 meters above the ground at 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour). But the speed may feel like 90 kilometers per hour.

More than water

Water parks offer a lot more than water attractions, including saunas, spas, kid pools and family pools. Shelters for families provide shade and are available at Caribbean Bay for an additional charge.

Meanwhile, over the past few years, music festivals have become an important part of water parks. Caribbean Bay organizes its Summer Wave music festival every year and attracts some top talent.

Last year, will.i.am., a member of Black Eyed Peas, was one of the guests. This year, American hip-hop musician Ludacris, who collaborated with John Legend, Usher and Justin Bieber, will perform at Summer Wave, along with Taio Cruz, a British composer and producer who’s been working for A-list pop singers, including Justin Timberlake and the Pussycat Dolls. The concert will be held July 14 and 15 at the artificial wave pool and requires tickets at an additional charge.

If the Summer Wave festival is focused on people in their 20s and 30s who love hip-hop, Mega Concert at Ocean World has a wider, more general appeal. From July through Aug. 18, K-pop singers Crying Nut, No Brain and several indie musicians will take the stage every Saturday. Beginning in August, the main plaza turns into a club in the evening, featuring well-known deejays. There is no additional charge for Mega Concert and main plaza events.

Ocean World and Caribbean Bay, the nation’s two major water parks, have updated many of its facilities for the convenience of visitors this year. Caribbean Bay said it has newly added a space where infants and toddlers could take a nap. Provided by Caribbean Bay

New this year

Caribbean Bay and Ocean World have long competed to win the hearts of summer vacationers with new attractions every year. In 2011, Ocean World drew more visitors than Caribbean Bay for the first time.

But the two water parks seem to have taken a different approach this year. Rather than adding new attractions, they say they have concentrated on upgrading facilities for the convenience of visitors.

Caribbean Bay targeted families by adding sleeping space for infants and toddlers, who – along with their parents – might need a nap during a long, hot day.

Ocean World, which is located in Hongcheon, Gangwon, added more shuttle buses to improve accessibility.

The buses leave from 21 spots in Seoul and Gyeonggi, including Gangnam, southern Seoul; Gangbuk, northern Seoul; and Ilsan, Bundang, Incheon, Suwon and Anyang, in the greater Seoul National Capital Area. The buses run until October 7 and trips to the park take about 70 minutes. Reservations should be made a day in advance on the Ocean World’s Web site.

For more information about Ocean World, go to www.daemyungresort.com or call 1588-4888.

Caribbean Bay, located in Yongin, Gyeonggi, is only about an hour ride from central Seoul. For more information about Caribbean Bay, visit www.everland.com or call (031) 320-5000.

In addition to the shuttle buses offered by the parks, private bus companies offer routes directly to the water parks departing from 33 locations in the Seoul metropolitan area, including City Hall, central Seoul and Incheon. Bus fares are between 11,000 and 14,000 won.

By Sung So-young [so@joongang.co.kr]

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