Review of Kid Friendly Activities in Paris!

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A trip to Paris in the spring time sounds perfect, yes?  Amazing weather, beautiful people, blooming flowers, wonderful food…

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Picking springtime flowers in a Paris park

I wholeheartedly agree that spring is a great time for a visit to the City of Light, yet Paris in the spring time with a four-year-old requires a bit of planning in order to remain a dream, and not turn into a pouty French nightmare.  The key is planning some kid-friendly events that the adults will actually enjoy as well.  Here I will highlight a few of the cool kid activities we enjoyed on this trip, though there are tons more we still want to try out on future visits!

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Pouting in a French restaurant…mommy failed!

Before I get into the details of our favorite things for kids to do in Paris, here are the previous posts on how we made this trip a reality, where we stayed, how we paid with points, and a post dedicated solely to visiting Disneyland Paris, which was obviously a very kid-friendly activity in the Paris area!

Planning a Family Trip to Paris

United BusinessFirst in two-cabin 767-300 With a Kid

Jet Lag and Kids

Grandma’s First Business Class Flight

Review of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

Disneyland Paris in a Day

Review of the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees

The Parks:

Although mom and aunt were also in Paris when we were, for all intents and purposes I had to plan this trip as if they weren’t.  There were large chunks of time that they were doing their own adult-oriented activities, so my four year old and I would be on our own.   I also wasn’t 100% sure ahead of time how naps, jet lag, etc., would play into our schedule and I didn’t want to negatively impact their big trip to Paris because we had to spend more time sleeping in the hotel room.  So, my favorite activities to target were ones that the two of us could easily enjoy on our own without having to be on a rigid schedule that involved ticketed times, long lines, or stuffy museums.  This meant that we were the perfect candidates to take advantage of the many fabulous parks in Paris.

Jardin du Luxembourg: The flowers, green grass, trees, fountain, and palace at Jardin du Luxembourg were simply beautiful.  Apparently this is the is the second largest public park in Paris, and it was indeed large.  I’m sure we only scratched the surface on this visit.

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Enough with the flowers and pictures…let’s play!

Once we walked to the actual playground, my little one’s mood was much improved.  As you may or may not know, many playgrounds in Paris actually have entrance fees of a couple of Euros a piece.  This was different than back at home, but it served well to keep out those who really didn’t need to be on the playground.  For example, an officer of sorts came and shooed away a group of teenagers who had come over the fence to hang out in the playground area.

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This particular playground had lots of cool toys including a zip line, pretend vehicles, sand dumping contraptions, lots of climbing areas, and more.  I would say there was plenty to occupy kids up until they were at least 10 or 11 years old.  I was literally able to just sit on a bench and watch my four year old play with other kids in Paris.  It was amazing and well worth the 2-3 Euros charge.

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You can find more info about this park via this post at Le Petit Paris Guide.

Jardin d’Acclimatation: Another park we visited and loved was the Jardin d’Acclimatation.  We actually walked there from the Radisson Blu, though it was a pretty far walk for a young kid with no stroller.   For this park we needed a ticket for both the entrance fee and a ride on the “petit train” ride that we bought with a chip credit card via the green machine on the left in this picture.  From what I remember, the machine was only in French, but I was able to guess my way through what we needed pretty well without knowing French.

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The train seems to come on a regular schedule, and I would guess we waited 15 minute or so for it to arrive.

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There was an entire car just for strollers, so don’t worry if you are lugging lots of baby gear – so was half of the rest of the train!

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The train ride itself to get to the playground area was no more than five minutes long, but it was a pretty fun way to get around the park.

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Once we got to the play area there was an assortment of swings, a pretend train (that oddly has a sign saying you can’t play on it), a zip line, lots of chairs spread around, a bridge, and other really cool toys that we don’t have on many playgrounds here in Texas.

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People were having these elaborate looking picnics all over the place and it truly felt like something out of a movie or really good book.

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We very much enjoyed the portions of this park we got to experience.  We didn’t even make it to the zoo, splash pad, puppet theater, and more.  Here is a post from another family blog that highlights a few things we didn’t have time for on this visit.

Eiffel Tower Visit:

If you want to go up the tower with your young kids, buy tickets online ahead of time or don’t go.  Seriously.  In fact, buy tickets ahead of time online for anything you can to skip as many lines as possible as lines can get quite long in Paris for the museums, cathedrals, everything.  The official source for tickets was sold out for our date when I tried a few weeks in advance, so we went through a third party and had to buy a pretty expensive package that included tickets up the tower, a Seine River Cruise, and guided tour of the tower.  We bought the package through Viator and the online purchase process was easy, but finding the tour guide at the tower was just darn near impossible.  Viator just sold the packages, but the people you meet on the ground in Paris were a third party company and communication between the two did not seem stellar.

 

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There were many (expensive) phone calls back and forth, lots of unnecessary walking in circles, and frustration.  We eventually got it straightened out and found the person we were supposed to meet, but I wouldn’t do it that way again.  We didn’t have the interest or patience for the guided tour anyway, so we would have been much better served just buying tickets to ascend the Eiffel Tower directly, without the package.

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That said, the views were spectacular….for about five minutes until the very tired kid was more than done.

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To be honest, we had way more fun coming back at night on our own schedule and just watching the twinkling lights from the ground!  I think you absolutely need to see the tower at night or you are missing out.

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Seine River Cruise:

While a guided tour of the Eiffel Tower doesn’t go that great with a jet-lagged kid, a boat ride down the Seine where everyone gets to just sit and enjoy is perfect!  It was the right speed for my four year old, the two 60-somethings, and me with a recent knee injury.  I highly recommend this sort of activity as it was informative, entertaining to all four of us, and we got to sit down!

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The recorded information about the building and bridges was provided in several languages, there was a toilet on-board, and I think they sold light refreshments.  There are several similar companies all at the river right below where the Eiffel Tower is located, so it is easy to do both in one stop.

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Putting Lock on the The Pont des Arts Bridge:

On the river cruise we went under the bridges and saw the Pont des Arts Bridge where there are tons and tons of “locks of love” where folks pay a couple Euros to buy a lock (or bring their own from home), write their names on it, and throw the key into the river.  My kid thought that was awesome and wanted to do a lock for the two of us, so who was I to argue!  We bought the lock from a nearby stand, wrote our names, locked it to the bridge, and threw away the key.  We kept a couple of the keys from the set to make a neat (and cheap) souvenir necklace for her.

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There is some controversy brewing over this due to the weight on the bridges and the rusting keys in the river, but at the very least it is a cool thing to go and look at.

Walking Around Town:

We also just had fun walking around seeing the sights and buying treats to taste as we went along.  She did get pretty tired doing this thanks to lots of walking and not a whole ton of sleep, and cabs were not always the easiest thing to get outside of the designated pick-up zones, but it was still a good time.  Also note that many cabs were cash only, so plan ahead!

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We did not bring a stroller and I’m glad we didn’t, however I can see how that would be a must for anyone younger than four, and even potentially for a four year old if you just want to be able to move faster.  Our biggest nemesis in Paris was simple exhaustion and trying to keep the right balance of activities and downtime.

There is so much to do with kids in Paris, and you can find some more ideas in this post (especially the comments section!).  On the whole I enjoyed everything we did, especially our time just pretending we lived there by hanging out in parks and walking through the city.  I’d love to hear about some of your favorites, too!

 

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Comments

  1. Looks like an amazing time MP! My husband and I traveled with my sister and her family to Spain, France, and Italy a few years ago. We were on our way to the Colosseum in Rome and we were explaining to my then 4-year-old nephew that it was a huge stone arena where people used to watch animals like bears and lions fight one another! When we arrived at the Colosseum, he was very disappointed in the lack of bears and lions. I guess we should’ve explained that one a bit better, but he still had a great time running around!

  2. Nice post. It can be hard to keep kids engaged and happy when traveling. Just wait until she is a teenager 🙂

    • Amen to the difficulty when traveling with a teenager. I have a highly developed theory on this matter. When the attractiveness of the location outweighs the disgust of going with your parents the trip is a go!

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