Paris may not look kid-friendly at first glance. Those tiresome metro tunnels and stairs; the endless list of cultural attractions that seem a bit daunting, especially for younger children. The city seems built primarily for culturally savvy adults. But visiting Paris with the young ones in tow doesn't need to be a headache, since there are plenty of great things to do with young visitors: it's just a matter of planning your vacation around a few attractions that you're likely to enjoy (and in most cases learn from) too.
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Let's face it: a day or two at Disneyland Paris is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The resort facilities, including a golf course, Disney Village, and Davy Crockett Ranch camping grounds, can provide adults an amusing excursion too. The Disneyland Paris hotels also offer a fun, laid-back environment for the whole family.
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It may be a little old-fashioned, but that's the point. The Musée Grevin is one of Europe's oldest wax museums (it was inaugurated in 1882) and today boasts around 300 life-sized wax figures, from Leonardo da Vinci to Marilyn Monroe and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. This is a fun and sufficiently odd outing for kids and parents to enjoy, and the museum's "Kid's Discovery" tour will allow younger ones to learn about how wax artists bring famous personalities to (near) life.
©2006 Courtney Traub.
Parisian parks are known for their stately, impeccably groomed and presented lanes, lawns, and flora, but they are also wonderful places to play and discover. From old-world pasttimes like sailing toy boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg, riding ponies and enjoying vintage puppet shows, to fun and games on sleek, mentally stimulating new playgrounds, the city's parks and gardens can provide an ideal opportunity for parents to relax a bit while the kids let loose.
Nestled in Paris's ultramodern Parc de la Villette
in the northern tip of the city is a vast museum dedicated to learning about science-- the fun way. The Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Museum of Science and Industry) regularly curates exhibits designed to captures children's imaginations and pique adults' secret curiosities-- shows like "Snot", which explored common human body functions in a comical, matter-of-fact manner. Special exhibitions for younger children and young adults guarantee no one in the family will be bored.
©2008 Ashley Byock.
The Menagerie, which was founded as a public zoo after the French Revolution, hosts dozens of species of rare animals, in a format that is decidedly out of date. The zoo still has its charm, somehow, though, and can provide a welcome outing for parents looking for kid-friendly activities in Paris.
Also see: Vincennes Zoo
©2007 Courtney Traub.
Inaugurated in 2002, Paris Beach (or "Paris Plage" in French) is a free summer event that transforms several spots in Paris into full-fledged beaches, each with a distinct theme. The beach has become a permanent fixture in the Parisian summertime scene. From sunning in the sand to swimming in pools suspended over the Seine, kayaking, or enjoying an evening concert, Paris Plage offers activities that both kids and adults will enjoy.
Entering via a narrow-gauge train through a wooden stretch of the leafy Bois de Boulogne
park, this 49-acre amusement park and garden hosts a house of mirrors, an archery range, a miniature golf course, zoo animals, a puppet theater, shooting galleries, and La Prévention Routiere, a miniature roadway operated by the Paris police. If all the attractions wear you out, the garden is full of beautiful flowers and grassy areas to picnic, as well as a mill-stirred lagoon where boats can be rented. The kids will love it-- and parents will perhaps appreciate that it's a far cry from the corporate sameness of Disneyland.
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This large communal art space and recreation center hosts an array of activities, both indoor and out. From the children's play area inside to the vintage pizza truck and lending library outside, parents can bask in the sunlight on a brightly colored lounge chair, while the kids are fully occupied. Through a series of changing exhibitions, concerts, and outdoor film events, this idiosyncratic space boasts plenty of evening activities as well. For parents (and kids) looking to enjoy Paris off the beaten track.
Opened in March 2011 to much fanfare, this modern cultural institution is devoted to exploring mixed-media and digital art forms. Located within a beautifully restored 19th century theater in the ultratrendy Marais neighborhood
, the Gaite Lyrique
hosts a rotating calendar of events that range from music and multimedia performances to design, fashion, and architecture exhibitions. There is even an interactive room dedicated to video games. Older kids will enjoy the interactive, colorful and stimulating exhibits often focused on aspects of play.
Made famous by Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the sewers of Paris truly resemble an underground city-- they even feature clearly labelled "street" names. Touring through the maze at the Musee des Egouts
, visitors are met with various vintage equipment and clothing used throughout the sewers' history. In the summer, rising temperatures can make the smell of the tunnels quite tough for adults, but even more enjoyable for the children.