You don’t always have to look too far from home for your next big travel discovery. Proving this point is the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in the province of Pampanga—your driving-distance gateway to history, culture, and adventure.
As a Kapampangan kid who grew up in Manila, a quick trip to Clark from our provincial hometown of Candaba would always mean getting to explore new possibilities: poolside adventures, exciting sights, and other fun experiences worth remembering.
Though many of the establishments and activity areas of the past have been closed down, the present iteration of Clark offers more than enough options for newcomers and old-timers to enjoy.
Get Your Geek on at the Clark Museum
Before traversing into the 4,400-hectare freeport zone, get to know more about the history of the place by visiting the Clark Museum. The museum, which is divided into four galleries, covers many aspects of the history and culture of Clark: from its roots of being the biggest overseas American base, to becoming Central Luzon’s biggest hub for leisure, entertainment, and gaming. The museum even has a 4D Theater where you can witness the sights and history of the area. Aside from this, you may learn more about how Mount Pinatubo’s historic eruption affected the base (with it being in close proximity), and more of Pampanga’s history and culture in other parts of the gallery as well.
S. Osmena St., Clark Freeport Zone
Angeles City, Pampanga
Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 AM - 4 PM
Admission: ₱200 for adults; students (with ID): free; senior/PWD (with ID): free
Fuel Your Flight Fascination at the Air Force Park
One of the first things you may notice as you enter the inner streets of Clark is an area with a wide array of aircrafts. With Clark being a former US Air Force Base, it’s no surprise that aeronautics remain a significant part of the freeport zone’s identify through the Air Force Park. You may enjoy a small picnic here, take pictures with some planes (from both the US and Philippine Air Forces), and even play a round of golf in a course located within the park. Commercial planes also operate at the nearby Clark International Airport, and a number of flight schools have made the base their home.
Air Force City
Andres Bonifacio Ave., Clark Freeport Zone
Go Back in Time at Nayong Pilipino
Get your fill of Philippine history at Nayong Pilipino Clark. The theme park is split into two areas: Pre-Colonial and Colonial Philippines, taking you through various points in the country’s colorful history. The Pre-Colonial zone features replicas of the Banaue Rice Terraces, along with the housing and heritage of indigenous people such as the Kalinga and Aeta. The Colonial zone, on the other hand, showcases historical artifacts found in Pampanga, replicas of Barasoain Church, and the houses of historical figures such as Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, and Apolinario Mabini. More than the books, stories, and movies, Nayong Pilipino will bring all these to life and give you a deeper appreciation of how far the Philippines has come.
Nayong Pilipino Clark
Centennial Rd., Clark Field
(045) 499 3239
Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 8 AM - 5 PM
Admission: ₱150 for adults; ₱100 for kids
Make a Splash at Aqua Planet
Most of my childhood summers were spent joyfully playing and swimming at one of the most popular water parks in Clark back in the day, so hearing about the much-anticipated opening of Aqua Planet brought back so many good memories and made me excited to create new ones as well. The recently opened water theme park is one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, spanning 10 hectares of land, across 38 state-of-the-art attractions and facilities. Attractions include the Tornado, a ride which allows you to feel what it’s like to be inside the eye of a tornado, a smaller scale (and less scary) version, the Super Bowl, and the vertical-drop slide Aqua Loop, along with water park staples like the Wave Pool, Octopus Racer, and Wave River.
J.P. Rizal Ave., Clark, Pampanga
(045) 649 8500
Feel the Thrill in Dinosaurs Island
If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it’s like to visit Jurassic Park, then Dinosaurs Island is just the Clark-based adventure you’re looking for. The attraction has several dino-themed zones that guarantee a thrilling time for any enthusiast looking for a prehistoric experience. Zones include the Dino Trail, an educational trail which features over 30 animatronic dinosaurs, the Unearth Museum which displays various fossils to help you learn more about the prehistoric age, and Insectlandia, a zone that highlights the insect world through animatronic giant insects of each kind.
Clark Picnic Grounds, Gil Puyat Ave.,
(045) 499 3033
Hours: Daily, 8 AM - 6 PM
Admission: ₱350 for adults; ₱300 for kids (16 and below)
Go Shopping...and Casino Hopping
One thing that used to excite me a lot in my younger years was visiting the different stores in Clark that sold imported goods—items you couldn’t find anywhere in Manila (or anywhere else in the Philippines, for that matter). My mom used to tell me that it was even more special of an experience to find those products in the earlier days of the base, when only a select few were allowed to enter the area. Some of these shops are now closed, but Clark remains to be a place where you can get your fix of hard-to-find chocolates, sodas, chips, and toiletries from the US. One of the stores that can still be frequented for this type of shopping is the Puregold Duty Free store. From imported houseware to your favorite American snacks and drinks, this branch of Puregold offers a variety of items you can hoard. And for an even more “American” shopping experience, products are priced in USD (though you can still pay in Philippine Peso, of course).
Puregold Duty Free Clark
Claro M. Recto Hwy, Clark Freeport Zone
Hours: Daily, 10 AM - 7 PM
(045) 599 2614
Meanwhile, for the older, risk-taking crowd, Clark is also known for the variety of casino-hotels you can play and try your luck in. Plenty of customers from the Central Luzon area frequent these casinos to take their chances, flocking to the likes of Midori, Widus, Royce, and Fontana Leisure Park.
Fly High at the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Last and definitely not the least on the list of activities to do in Clark is the annual hot air balloon festival. The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta has been the longest-running sports aviation event in Asia, and is held every second week of February. For the last 22 years, the four-day festival has been the venue for viewing of hot air balloons of different shapes and sizes, aerobatic exhibitions, formation flying, skydiving, and many more activities on-ground and up in the air. If you’ve always wanted to ride a hot air balloon, this is your chance to finally check it off your bucket list!
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