Paris with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
Did you know there's a climate-controlled, floating swimming pool built right on top of the river Seine? Or what about the park where kids can ride bikes, canoe, and hike? From zoos and Disneyland to pony rides and interactive science centers, this City of Lights almost any form of entertainment you can think of; terrific fodder for family vacations to Paris.
In the five years I lived in there, I discovered hundreds of great things to do in Paris with kids. Even when time is limited, that perfect day is possible. My list includes a fun combination of physical exercise, science, sightseeing, playgrounds and boat rides. Determine the energy level of your family and make your own combination; pick and choose what fits.
(Note that I give the metro stop closest to each place. That's because the stations are excellent landmarks.)
Start in Montmartre, the highest point in Paris at 425 feet above sea level, where there are plenty of things to do. Paris vacationers may find the walk up to the basilica a bit steep, at which point Le Petit Train de Montmartre, a little train that takes you on a 35-minute guided tour from the bottom of the hill to the top, becomes a lifesaver. When you get up to the famous Sacre-Coeur basilica, you can take your kids to the Place du Tertre, where French artists do pencil and pastel sketches of children and adults.
Ready for a snack? Kids love the little crepe stands that are set up around the plaza. 'Jambon et fromage' (ham and cheese) is always a favorite. Clamber down the steps or descend via the funicular, a short ride that ends near a double-decker carousel with a menagerie of animals and music. It's equally loved by parents and children, and it's a great photo op.
To get to the base of the Montmartre hill, take the metro line 2 to Blanche. The Petit Train de Montmartre operates 10AM-6PM daily and costs Û6.50 for adults and children over the age of 11, and Û3.50 for children aged 4-10. Call +33-1-4262-2400 for more details.
Luxembourg Garden so take the metro, bus, or taxi to the Jardin du Luxembourg off of Boulevard St-Michel near Luxembourg metro station. Explore the 25-hectare oasis and be sure to visit the beehive village, begun in 1856, in the southwest corner. One of the things we loved most is that they let you taste the honey!
The park is actually the garden of the French Senate, which is located inside the Luxembourg Palace adjacent to the gardens. There's a large playground for children, a lake for boats and another vintage carousel. Depending on when you're there, you might enjoy one of the free concerts. There's also a little cafe in the garden, and many crepe stands and bistros on the periphery. It is free to enter the park.
If you're looking for a larger, more pastoral park, visit the Bois de Boulogne, where there's canoeing and bicycle riding. Whichever you choose, the kids will get fresh air and running room. The Bois de Boulogne is located in the 16th arrondissement and is free to enter. Call +33-1-5392-8282 for details.
What better way to wind down than a short ride on one of the famous Bateaux Mouches that ply the waters of the River Seine? It's a very relaxing way to explore Paris with kids, partly because you don't have to worry about traffic. You'll see the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Napoleon's tomb and more. You can catch them at Pont l'Alma in the 8th arrondissement. The price for a standard trip is Û10 for adults and Û5 for children aged 4-12. Call +33-1-4225-9610 for sailing times, which vary throughout the year.
After your ride, and if it's the weekend, walk to the Jardin des Tuileries for a pleasant stroll or picnic. Or bring along a bathing suit and have a family swim at Piscine JosEphine Baker, a floating swimming pool on the Seine with a retractable roof for all weather. (Did I mention there's also a spa?) The pool is located on Quai Francois-Mauriac close to the Quai de la Gare metro station. Call +33-1-5661-9650 for opening times. Standard admission costs Û5 for two hours and Û5 for each additional hour.
If your kids have energy to spare, the zoo inside the Jardin des Plantes is another of the countless fun things to do in Paris with kids. From small animals the kids can actually pet to enormous (and occasionally ferocious) beasts, this zoo is an attraction everyone will remember. The zoo is located near metro station Austerlitz. Call +33-1-4079-5601 for details.
If your children are wild about science, you can't beat the CitE des Sciences et de l'Industrie at Parc de la Villette . They offer a host of interactive experiments which are great for kids (many are translated into English), as well as an IMAX theater and a planetarium.
To get there, take the metro to Porte de Pantin or Porte de la Villette. The Cite des Sciences is open Tue-Sat 9:30AM-6PM and Sun 9:30AM-7PM. Admission prices vary depending on the activities. Call +33-1-4005-7000 to find out about special exhibits and events.
So your day's drawing to a close and everyone's exhausted and hungry. Where to eat when in Paris with kids? Sure, you can try a bistro and hope it's kid-friendly, or you could go to Indiana Cafe and win points for being the world's best parent. There are several in Paris, but our favorite is at 130 Boulevard St-Germain, opposite metro station Odeon. Burgers, fries, nachos, sundaes, sugar highs and memories of home. It is open from early until late each day; call +33-1-4634-6631 to make a reservation.
Thus the end to a perfect day on your best family vacation in Paris. With kids to please, the city still maintains its magic. There are plenty of fun things to do in Paris that didn't make it to this list, namely Disneyland Paris. If you have a day to spare, venture outside the city and to see Minnie and Mickey en France. Kids' vacations to Paris should include at least a day trip to this famed attraction.
Victoria Zackheim has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco bay area. She is editor and contributing author of four anthologies and the author of the novel The Bone Weaver. Read her blog on Red Room.
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- Overview: Paris Travel Guide