Things for Kids to Do in Paris

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My four year old (not so) mini traveler and I are heading for our first trip to Paris in the very near future, and while we have an idea of some things we want to do, I’d love to hear if I am missing anything major and get a few extra pointers from other traveling families who have been before!  We will have four nights in Paris and are staying at a combo of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and the Radisson Blu Champs-Elysées (all on points, of course).

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World Traveler Ready for Paris!

I am getting around much better than a couple weeks ago, but my walking (and especially stair climbing) will still be somewhat limited due to my ski slopes knee injury (ended up being a Grade 2 ACL injury for those who were following that story – hopefully no surgery, just have to wear big brace and keep it from getting worse for a while).  Essentially I can walk pretty well, but won’t be able to go all day without my knee getting pretty tired.  I’m betting this will increase our reliance on all modes of transportation other than walking, especially as the day wears on.

Here are a few kid friendly things we already have on our radar for Paris:

  • Eiffel Tower/Seine River Cruise: This is already booked and will allow us to “skip the line” at the Eiffel Tower and then do a cruise on the Seine.  My mom and aunt will also be joining on this event.
  • Jardin du Luxembourg: This is very much somewhere I want to visit as the descriptions of the trees, picnic spots, puppet shows, model boats, slides, pony rides, and more sound perfect for us.
  • Cité des enfants is supposed to be a very good Children’s Museum, but for now it is on our list of things to do if the weather is crummy outside.
  • Jardin d’Acclimatation looks like another amazing spot for children with a “petit train” ride, boat ride, trampolines, spray park, camel rides, a small zoo/farm, and more.
  • Disneyland Paris is our calendar for one day since we are so close and we both love Disney Parks.  We will do this the day my mom and aunt are doing museums that would be a bit “slow” for my kiddo.
  • Walk around and enjoy being in Paris.  Of course, I also want to just see some of the sites of Paris and peek in the high end shops!
  • Since she is just 4 years old, and I’m hoping/assuming this won’t be our one and only visit to Paris, I plan to shelve some otherwise awesome things to do like a visit to the Louvre.  I have heard great things about the family tours of the Louvre and other attractions around Paris, but they are quite pricey, and I think my kiddo will get more out of it in a couple of years.  That said, I’m open to input on this, especially if someone has done one of their building tours for kids with a 4 or 5 year old kiddo. 
  • Eat.  I love food of almost all varieties, and am hoping for a couple enjoyable meals on this trip.  Fancy meals won’t really fit the bill with a four year old, but otherwise we are pretty open.  My mom especially loves desserts and sweet treats, so that will be on the list of “must dos”.  I know I will want a couple options close to our hotels, and this post on View From the Wing was a great starting point.

My personal style of travel is to experience cities by doing a few of the “touristy” things, but mostly just pretend you live in the city for a few days.  Enjoy the parks, eat in small shops, walk around, not over-schedule, and just soak it all in.  I don’t need to hit every big attraction, but do want to end the trip feeling like I was in Paris, and ensure my four year old has a great experience.

I’d love to hear what family friendly “must visits” are missing from our list, or if we have anything on our list that sounds like a total bust!

Comments

  1. Don’t be afraid to use the Metro to get around. Download the Paris Metro app for your phone, and it makes things so much easier.

    It won’t work out this time since C is too little and your knee is still messed up, but on a future visit, definitely rent city bikes for a day. Super cheap and a really fun, easy way to get around the city.

  2. Sorry to hear about your knee. I guess I missed your post about it. Hope you get better soon.

    As for Paris, I guess you did your homework and have the two best things to do in the City of Lights: Walk around and enjoy being in Paris and Eat!!! This is what Paris is about. As you walk around you discover Paris in every corner and will go crazy with the amazing little places selling fresh bread, pastries, cheese, etc… There are tons of patisseries in Paris and you cannot go wrong but my favorites are: Gerard Mulot, Hediard, Pierre Herme, Eric Kayser. Try the colorful macarons that are all over the place. St Germain is one of my favorite areas with lots of things to see and eat. If you like food, you should visit the Gourmet area at Galeries Lafayette and Au Bon Marche.

    Let me know if you want any recommendations for restaurants. Bon voyage!!!!

  3. Talk about timely, my family, including 3 and 5 year olds, is going to be in Paris in 2 weeks. Also at the Radisson Champs Elysees on point. We plan on visiting Versailles, I think my daughter would be interested in all the shininess there. We also plan on hitting the Eiffel tower and some of the parks/gardens you mention, but probably will skip the museums.

  4. Taking my 7 year old son to the French Open in June this year. Not sure that counts as kid friendly, but he plays tennis so we’ll see. I’ll make sure to check out some of the other options. Thanks for the post.

  5. I heartily second Gary’s Angelina recommendation. It is just around the corner from the Park Hyatt, and the hot chocolate is truly the best we have ever had – it’s like a molten chocolate bar. We got there about five or ten minutes before they opened and got in line, so we actually were seated right away (once they worked their way down the line, obviously). That’s definitely what I’d recommend to reduce wait time with a child. We (husband and I) just split a pot of chocolate and a Mont Blanc. In the future I’d try a different dessert; that one was way too sweet, and that is coming from someone who loves sugar!

  6. Right near the Place Vendome is a great “famous” french bistro, Le Regalade. This is actually the newer version (they have their first location in the left bank) and I find it even better.

    This website, which you should devour for foodies, recommends it highly. Their 35euro prix fixe is a steal:

    http://parisbymouth.com/la-regalade-st-honore/

  7. If you’re not comfortable with all the stairs in the metro stations (and the pickpockets), there’s a tramway in Paris, perhaps a good idea. I would also recommend you to make a detour to Montmartre and to see the Géode. And I’d definitely stick to the Louvre visit, to be in Paris and not to see the Mona Lisa would be a pity!

  8. I would swap Disney out for Versailles in a heartbeat, but I’m not a kid. Still, why see a fake palace when you can instead visit one of the greatest palaces in the world?

  9. Just got back from Paris with a 2 & 4 yr old. We stayed at the Hyatt Etoile and Radisson Champs Elysées. Thought the Champs Elysées was a great location and good room for European standards. Paid the extra 25k points per night for business class which came with a breakfast they were charging like 40 eur for that you took in the sit down restaurant downstairs. It was decent but not even close to what I would expect for the cosr but I am always looking to burn club carlson points. Defintely do Jardin du Luxembourg as my kids really enjoyed that but it did cost like 2-3 euro to get into the playground that also had a restroom. Also there is a Monoprix near the Radisson (10 minute walk) that is perfect for picking up snacks, tiys, and souvenirs. Think French version of a Super Target.

  10. You might want to check into renting a scooter for the day you are doing euro Disney and other days you are going to be walking a lot.

  11. There are so many playgrounds all around Paris, but my daughter’s favorite one is on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. There are actually 3 separate playgrounds with lots of slides, climbing structures, pony rides, and quite a few carousels. A fun carousel is the one where the kids try to spear a brass ring with wooden stick. Everyone is cheering for all the kids, in all languages. Most playgrounds are enclosed and there are plenty of benches for the adults to sit and watch.
    I agree about holding off on the Louvre, but I would suggest a smaller museum that wouldn’t be overwhelming for your daughter. Like the Musee de l’Oragnerie to see Monet’s Water Lillies. You can read the book “Katie and the Impressionists” to her before to peak her interest in art museums before the trip. We did that when my daughter was 4 years old and we all enjoyed the museum.
    And I second the macarons stops. Last year we made a Macaron Log so we could list the patisseries, the flavors and the ratings of each macaron that we ate. And Laduree was not always the winner!

  12. Another great park to visit is the Tuileries Garden. It’s near Park Hyatt, accross the street from Angelina’s. There a merry go round and a small trampoline area.

  13. I was there this past summer with my 3 year old. I recommend jardin d’acclimatation. My son really enjoyed it and the majority of the people there were locals so it is a good opportunity for your daughter to immerse herself with French children. Additionally, there is a branch of Angelina’s in the park so you can take care of that as well. We went to the Louvre but only saw the main attractions. In the summer, there was an amusement park that my son loved right outside of the Louvre (not sure if it will be open when you are there). We took the metro and taxis – both were fine. Cafes worked best for meals.

  14. The marionette shows featuring the hero Guignol in the Jardin du Luxembourg are really perfect for a 4 year old if she doesn’t mind sitting with other children her age (little kids are down in front). It is something I am always grateful we did when our boy was young.

    The lunch prix fixe menu at Au Pied de Cochon near Les Halles is a great value full of old world charm, and your daughter will likely be treated like a princess from the professional waitstaff.

  15. As someone who just went through a ACL surgery (Feb 2014), this resonates – stay tough Mommypoints! I traveled for a weekend in Austin (Week 5 after the injury) and was able to get around – but really taking every cab/not walking opportunity. 7 blocks? Cab! It was tough. There’s a window before surgery where it’s manageable to travel, but it is difficult. Enjoy – after the surgery I’m grounded for almost two months. Good luck to your knee and hope you get better fast. PT is important – I know everyone says it, but its true.

  16. I second the Musee de l’Oragnerie. I haven’t been to Paris with a child, but that was my favorite museum when we visited. It’s small, really just those two water lilies paintings (as far as I remember), but spectacular. My son loves HBO’s “classical baby” series and the video featuring Monet’s water lilies is one of his favorites (it’s in the Art show – may be worth seeing if your library has it to watch before the trip).

  17. Oh, and David Lebovitz’s blog has some great suggestions for food, particularly sweets. He’s an American living in Paris and was formerly Alice Water’s pastry chef, so he knows his food.

  18. Our family loved walking through the Rue Cler market street, which is a real market street closed to traffic. We ate lunch, got fruit at the green grocer and bread at the local bakery. This is not far from The Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militar. It is walking street – not long – maybe short enough for your current condition.

  19. If you go to the Île de la Cité (where the Notre Dame cathedral is), definitely check out Sainte-Chapelle as well; it has amazing stained glass. If your daughter is into music, they have classical music concerts at Sainte-Chapelle in the evening.

  20. We visited Paris last May/June and stayed at the Park Hyatt Vendome for 5 nights. Great location, but it’s like the 5th Avenue of NYC (very expensive luxury retailers and equally pricey food options). However, within walking distance was a great little area with a small grocery store and a coin laundromat next door. It doesn’t show up on Google Maps, but it’s next to the Pain Quotidien on 18 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré.

    Also, almost all the bistros look the same and are all pricey if using US dollars, so definitely get an app or some list of recommendations. It was really hit or miss just walking into random bistros (ranging from downright disgusting to not bad to amazing). And you can’t tell the difference by looking at the place or the menu.

    Also, it seemed as if the Park Hyatt’s concierge got kickbacks from recommending places (or was just lazy and recommended the same places for “Americans tourist”) so hard to say if you’ll get great recs from them. Trust independent third parties more than them, but use them for reservations.

  21. I think you should stay away from the skip the line of the Eiffel Tower, you should instead opt to have lunch/dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant on the top of the Eiffel tower. While it’s expensive due to the restaurant being a Michelin 1*, if you make a modest selection of your menu, it’s actually not too bad. The plus side of this route is that you get a free access to the top of the Eiffel tower, and you have a dedicated lift access up and down.

  22. I second the recommendation by Denise L. to visit the playground off the Champ de Mars. The carousel is old-fashioned with the brass ring and it is hand-cranked! Plus it is fun watching your kid play with other local/international kids. If you are looking at a map, it is located in the southwest corner about 2/3rds of the way down from the Eiffel Tower, about a block north of the Ecole Militaire. There is also a permanent old-time circus near the Filles du Calvaire metro stop called Cirque d’hiver Bouglione. I have passed by it many times but not visited (was on business trips). It gets great reviews on Tripadvisor so we will probably visit it when we get a chance to bring the kids to Paris. Web site is http://www.cirquedhiver.com.

  23. A day trip to Giverney (instead of the overpriced/overhyped EuroDisney) is well worth it. Very easy to book and it is magical. To see the flower lillies first hand that Monet painted is unforgettable.

  24. So this is probably of more interest to a 4-year old boy (and his dad), but the sewer tour in Paris is fun and fascinating, with a bit of history and gross factor mixed in. On a hot day in Paris, it’s also a welcome relief from the heat.

    We also went to a lovely park that had a nominal cover charge, but it was well worth it. They had some sort of kid-friendly zip-line contraption. Wish I could tell you more, but it was a chance for my son to play with local children, and it made a deep impression on him that they only spoke French and how much fun they had in spite of it. Enjoy!

  25. We had the Museum Pass, which was really nice for those times when we didn’t know if the kids could handle a museum – just leave and come back later or see something else. My 4 yo enjoyed the walk up to the Notre Dame bell tower (gargoyles!), the Museum of Music, Montmarte (ride the funicular!), and the girls loved the Palace of Versailles, just a commuter train away.

  26. Since you may have limited mobility, I forget to mention one very important tip about the Paris taxis: flag one down if you can or go to a taxi stand vs. calling a cab. If you call, they start the meter from wherever they are located and you must pay this amount as part of your total fare – which during peak hours can mean that you already have 5 or 10 euros on the meter when you get into the taxi. Another tip – it sounds like you are visiting during spring time, don’t forget that the flowers at Versailles and other parks will be blooming and quite beautiful.

  27. I took my kids to Paris 2 years ago, and we had a great time. I agree that the Louvre is perhaps a bit much for a 4 year old, however you should definitely walk around the grounds, including the pyramid entrance. The Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg would be enjoyable for a 4 year old. I think the Musee de l’Oragnerie would be a great choice. After that, check out the Pont des Arts. Walking around Saint Germain des Pres is great. Have fun

  28. I assume you are Diamond on Hyatt so the free breakfast (including room service) was amazing. My daughter loved the fresh fruit.

    Eric Kayser bakery around the corner was great and cheap.

  29. I just got back from Paris with my 8 and 5 year olds and I can definitely recommend the playground in the Tuileries and the Champs de Mars.

    As far as food goes, the nice thing about the Champs de Mars location is that you are just steps away from one of the best budget bistros in Paris. It is called Cafe Constant in Rue Saint-Dominique and it is casual enough to take the kiddos. Alternatively, La Gauloise on the other side of the Champs de Mars is excellent, too.

    While you are there, try some of the best patisseries in Paris. In 2013, 134RdT won best croissant in Paris and you can read up on this online…I visited the boulangerie des belles feuilles Lalos and it was stupendous (they came in 4th in 2013). Also, “La petite marquise” on place Victor Huge is awesome. Their croissants are not quite as good, but their baguette tradition is one of the best in the city.

    Most importantly, I hope you have good weather.

  30. We were just there last week with our kids (7,4, and 2). Highlights for them were the Eiffel Tower, Jardin de Luxembourg, and eating lots of pastries. 🙂 The Ile de St Louis behind Notre Dame has some cute kids souvenir shops and the famous ice cream store, Berthillon.
    We did do the Louvre. There is a kids Louvre bookstore on the bottom floor near the mall entrance. We bought a kids guide to the Louvre there and it was fabulous – then we only saw the things that were most interesting for them. Also, the Louvre gives out free “big kid” strollers (like a chair on wheels) at the information desk – you just have to ask. Made a huge difference for our 4 year old.

  31. I just saw your other post about putting the points game “in perspective” given the poverty in the world and now you’re talking about taking your 4-year-old daughter to Paris and stay in $600/night hotels?

    Well, whatever. And I’m not one to talk because I did once take my daughter to China when she was 4. Although it was also with the grandparents, so it was some nice “bonding” time.

    Aside from the general over-privileged silliness of it, if you are in Paris with a four-year-old, there are certainly fun things for them to do. When my kids were young, they enjoyed the Paris playgrounds, because they are different from USA playgrounds. At the time (not sure if it’s still the case), one of the best playgrounds was at the Luxembourg Gardens (small fee). Right next to it was a cool, old carousel where the kids are given sticks to catch a ring. And next to that is a puppet show (as it’s in French, I’m not sure how enjoyable the show really is for American kids, but as an American parent, you’ll feel good at providing this age-appropriate cultural immersion).

    My kids also liked sailing toy boats at the Tuileries garden pond.

    Rick Steves has the best beginner’s guide to Paris (he’s great at nuts and bolts logistics), and include child-friendly activities. I’d also recommend following Groupon Paris, as you might pick up some deals you can use.

    • Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions! Can’t wait to put some of them to good use! iahphx, that post wasn’t meant to say don’t travel, just to keep things in perspective. The $600/night hotels will cost us a big fat $0 thanks to this hobby, and for that I am grateful.

  32. I’ll say hello to you at the Radisson next month if our dates overlap (with a 4-year old, you’ll be easy to spot!). It’s funny how everyone in this game tends to stay at the same hotels. I’ve previously run into people I know checking in to fancy Parisian hotels.

    I have not stayed at that Hyatt, but I’ve put people there if they have the “2 free night” certs to use. I assuming you’re moving because the Radisson gets expensive on points after the BOGO night.

    Honestly, both hotels are ridiculous “overkill” for a Parisian stay, since you don’t spend much time in your room and you generally can’t enjoy the additional amenities at the hotels because the prices are beyond breathtaking. I’ve actually preferred staying for 8000 points at various Choice properties, but there’s no current Parisian deal. That makes the Radissons about the best bargain for a 2-night Paris hotel stay (at least if bought pre-devaluation). I personally wouldn’t burn points at the Hyatt: I’d save them for a resort or something.

  33. With a 4 year old and your knee, I would recommend the hop on-hop off bus over the metro. Much more interesting for a kid to look around – things like driving down the Champs Elysee on the top deck are fun! We found some of the walks within the Metro stations to be long and boring. Plus the bus drops you right at most of the highlights!

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