Paris with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Paris with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Although famous for its romantic image, Paris, France is also an ideal place to take tweens on a vacation to remember. Iconic images are everywhere and include Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Tweens have seen these images hundreds of times in movies, books and on television shows and will be absolutely thrilled to be able to see them in person.


So what is the best way to start off a day with tweens in Paris? How about taking a lovely stroll from your hotel room to one of the many small bakeries that can be found on just about any Parisian street for a yummy croissant or other irresistible pastry. Everything is baked fresh daily and tastes so much better than the mass produced grocery store goods that American tweens are used to eating. While you're at it, pick up a loaf of crusty bread to bring back to your room for later.

After you're done brushing off the crumbs and licking your fingers, what next? How about a scenic and informative boat ride down the Seine River, which cuts through Paris? You won't find a better way to view the many magnificent bridges that span the Seine -- such as the stunning gold-embellished Le Pont Alexandre III bridge -- than from one of the glass-enclosed boats known as Les Bateaux-Mouches. These boats offer a variety of services, including one-hour tours starting at 10 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children under 12, and also a river-boat shuttle that allows passengers to get on and off at eight different stops, including the ones for the Eiffel Tower, the Orsay and Louvre museums, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Jardin des Plantes, Hôtel de Ville and the Champs-Elysées. Tween water lovers will definitely enjoy this unique view of Paris.

If, however, you or your tween has a tendency to get sea sick or the weather isn't boat friendly, hop on the Open Top buses that circulate through Paris ($34/adults and $17/children 4 to 12). Most tweens will love these funky buses, especially riding out in the open on top. Like the Seine River boats, these buses stop at most of the popular tourist stops, although they can also go to ones farther away from the river than the boats can take you. Earphones and audio information about the sights you will pass and stop at are a great additional bonus.

Whether you decide to take the bus or boat, it doesn't really matter, but make sure to get off at the Notre Dame (6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris; 33 (0)1 42 34 56 10) and stop and walk through it. Any tween who has seen Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as a child will be completely fascinated by this enormous and impressive structure. In fact, tweens should watch the movie before going to Paris, so they can see how well Disney interpreted the cathedral in its animation. Although the long lines of people waiting to get into Notre Dame may appear daunting, they move quickly. Even tweens who aren't into stuff like old buildings will find the dark and moody Notre Dame, with its many intricate carvings and gargoyles, a fascinating stop.


After your visit to Notre Dame and a quick stroll of the surrounding streets for a little souvenir shopping, tweens will probably be ready for lunch. You could always just stop at any number of lovely Parisian sidewalk cafes -- this is, of course, a city famed for its epicurean delights -- but why not go somewhere that will give your tweens a little bragging rights and a shortcut through one of the longest tourist-site lines? Go have lunch inside the Eiffel Tower (Champ de Mars 75007 Paris; tickets to top floor are 13.10 Euros for adults, 11.50 Euros for youths 12-24 and 9.00 Euros for children 4 to 11.

Located on the first level of the tower, 58 Tour Eiffel (formerly known as Altitude 95) not only offers dining with a view, but your tweens will also love telling their peers how they not only saw the tower, but got to eat in it as well. You can reserve ahead of time at the tower's online booking site or call or fax the phone numbers available on the Eiffel Tower's website. This should be done at least 10 days in advance, as the restaurant books up quickly. The prices for lunch in this restaurant are comparable to most other moderately priced French eateries in the area. An added bonus to eating at 58 Tour Eiffel is that having reservations allows you to whisk ahead of the massive crowds waiting to go up the tower. There is also another restaurant, Le Jules Verne, located on the second level of the tower, but the prices here are very expensive -- not ideal for Paris with tweens.

After your meal and some possible souvenir shopping around the Eiffel Tower, hop back on either Les Bateaux Mouches or the open-air bus, both of which have stops at the tower, and head to the beautiful Champs-Elysées. The French translation for this world famous and beautiful street's name is Elysian Fields. The Champs-Elysees is lined with some of the most famous designer name stores in the world, but its crowning glory is the 162-foot-tall Arc de Triomphe (Place de l'Étoile 75008 Paris, France). Most teens will recognize this famous monument, which was built to honor those who had fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier of World War I is under the arc and Western Europe's first eternal flame also burns here. The Arc de Triomphe is also famous for being the end of the famous and grueling Tour de France bicycle race each July.


If you are not completely exhausted, you and your tweens may want to take the Metro or taxi back to the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up at night, as the open-top buses and/or Seine boats will probably be closed by now. Seeing the tower in all its colorful and glittering glory at night is a definite must. If you want a little dessert, find one of the crepe stands that fill the air with their delicious aroma and order a Nutella crepe or, if you're really hungry, ask the vendor to make you a ham-and-cheese crepe. Yum! At this point, it is time to head back to your hotel, absolutely exhausted, but having seen and enjoyed some of the absolute best that Paris has to offer for a family vacation.

As a side note: you can always substitute half of the itinerary and try to do the Louvre, but you do need approximately half a day to do this large museum justice. (9.5 Euros for full-day access).

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