If you’re stationed OCONUS in the Pacific, Seoul is on your short list. If it’s not, it should be. Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world, and — as someone who is directionally challenged — it’s surprisingly easy to navigate, both in the left-and-right and in the holy-cow-that-sign-is-in-English sense. As globe-trotting military spouses, our trigger response when booking lodging is to look for the military discount or — we’ll do you one better — to look for military-exclusive lodging. When you visit Seoul, this lodging gift from the military gods is Dragon Hill Lodge.
Introducing Dragon Hill Lodge
Dragon Hill Lodge is in Seoul. It’s not in the ‘burbs or a train-ride away. It’s all up in Seoul. The lodge is housed on Army Garrison Yongsan, but from the parking lot (and maybe your room, if you’re lucky), you can see the tip-top of the city, including North Seoul Tower.
Popular destinations, like the War Memorial of Korea (a free museum) in Yongsan-dong, Itaewon-dong (a popular ex-pat neighborhood), and city bus stops to get you anywhere else on your must-see Seoul list are all within walking distance.
The lobby will take your breath away. It’s grand. It’s also where you can find advertisements for their upcoming events, and they happen often — for many of the major U.S. holidays (fun celebrations to attend, even if you’re stationed there). From the lobby, you can also access Dragon Hill Lodge’s many restaurants. For eats, Dragon Hill Lodge offers:
- Sables — This is fine dining dinner option — steak, seafood, cloth napkins.
- Greenstreet — Get your American food fix at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Oasis — When in Seoul, eat Tex-Mex. If you need a margarita upon arrival and your kids have sucked the life out of you during the commute to Seoul, this is your — ba-dum-psshh — Oasis. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner with a buffet option.
- A bakery and deli — Need something to throw in your bag the day you check out or before a full day of sightseeing? This quick stop opens at 6 a.m.
- Sun Dae’s — Satisfy your sweet tooth with pastries, ice cream, and chocolate until 8 p.m.
- Bentley’s — Night owls, you can have a drink here in the lobby.
- Pizza Hut and Subway — What U.S. base would be complete without the OCONUS dining starter set? These are both in the lower lobby and offer the usual familiar meal you can eat in your room when your kids are no longer socially acceptable.
There are 394 rooms and suites at the lodge, and you have three options when booking. All rooms are American style, non-smoking, include free Wi-Fi, a mini-fridge, an in-room coffee maker, a desk, an in-room safe, and an iron and ironing board.
- Standard room — Sleep up to four in this room in either two queen beds or one king. You will have room for a crib if your littlest traveler needs one.
- Family suite — This room is slightly larger than a standard room and all family suites have two queen beds.
- Deluxe suite — This suite, again, is slightly larger, but — unlike the family suite — has a single king bed.
Adjoining rooms are available based on availability. Just mention your needs when making reservations, and they will accommodate if possible.
If you’re traveling with kids, you need to know two things.
- Dragon Hill Lodge has a 2,000 square-foot playground.
- Kids under 4 years eat free at some restaurants on-site, and kids 5-11 get discounted rates at the restaurant buffets.
Aside from the family-friendly features, Dragon Hill Lodge has free parking. They also have an in-house health club called POiNT with cardio and strength equipment, an indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna. You can request a personal trainer if you don’t trust yourself to your own fitness while you’re on vacation, or you can attend a yoga class. If you live in the area, you can use POiNT any time by purchasing a membership.
Even the fanciest military lodging facilities on the map still hook you up with a shoppette. You can find snacks and common travel necessities (sewing kit, shoelaces to fashion a belt for your son when you pack him the wrong jeans, Motrin, wine, wine opener, beer, etc.). There is also a full-size PX on the garrison.
Also on-site is Market Square with a few specialty shops you could need while you’re there — a florist, dry cleaner, bank, and ATM among other things.
Just around the corner from the front desk is the tour desk. There you can book everything from a DMZ tour (although the USO’s option is hard to beat) to a shopping day. If you’ve gotten to Seoul, but haven’t planned a darn thing — maybe you space-A’d yourself on a whim — start here.
You can also do your own thing with the Seoul City Bus tour. You can pick up the tour in Itaewon across the street from McDonald’s and right in front of the Original Pancake House (you’ll be there anyway because eating breakfast at the Original Pancake House is mandatory on a Seoul visit — we just decided). Get a Dutch baby, apple pancake, or veggie omelet the size of your head. Alternately, you can pick up the bus outside the Korean War Memorial (another free must-see) and end your day in Itaewon for tacos and drinks at Vatos Tacos.
The Seoul City Tour Bus is $15 per adult for an all-day, hop-on and hop-off route. The buses run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., so you can take your time at each stop and just catch the next bus when it comes around. Also, if you don’t want to get off at every site, you don’t have to! Check the Downtown Palace Course for all the stops you can squeeze into one day on the cheap.
Once you have your Dragon Hill Lodge reservations booked, stalk space-A flights or book a flight into Seoul Incheon. From Incheon, you can wait on a free shuttle or take a 30-minute AAFES taxi ride for about $65 (depending on traffic). Have your military ID and passports ready to get through the gate. Either way, find the U.S. Forces Korea desk after baggage claim. There, you can get on the shuttle list or request a taxi that will get you on base.
Once you’re settled, you can easily walk on and off the base (with your military ID and passport — which was frequently requested in addition to military ID). Use the pedestrian gate across the Dragon Hill Lodge parking lot.
Enjoy a quick trip, a long vacation, or the most luxurious PCS of your life while you’re at Dragon Hill Lodge. To borrow from their website, it’s the perfect place for Seoul searching.
Photo Credits: Janna Lau