Honey what do we do
with the kids?
Five tried and tested ways to keep the little ones smiling.
The D Word
Mention Paris to modern kids and the first thing they think of is - Disneyland. The two massive theme parks are nowhere near central Paris, but it's still called Disneyland Resort Paris. So, no doubt you'll be pestered endlessly until you give in and take them. In fact, it's a nice easy trip from Paris, a quick 20 mile whiz in the RER to the gates of the parks. At this point, for the day visitor, it's decision time; choose either Disneyland Park with its fairytale castles, pirates and mountain railroad rides, or Walt Disney Studios parks, for adventures in motion pictures. You certainly will only have time to scratch the surface of one of them in a day. Of course, you can stay in a resort hotel overnight, but do you really want breakfast with a giant lisping duck when central Paris beckons?
Slaughter Them With Science
Well, at least take them to Parc de la Villette, a fabulous complex packed with fun and adventure on the site of the city's former slaughterhouses and livestock markets. There's an innovative and imaginative Children's Playground for the little ones, La Géode 180 degree cinema screen for wrap-around adventures for the older ones, and the Musée de la Musique for those who like to make a lot of noise. The Cité des Sciences and de L'Industrie is a stimulating museum surrounded by water, where linking walkways criss-cross the ceiling between exhibits that are very much hands-on. There are things for kids to press, push, climb on and ogle at, such as a full size Mirage fighter plane and an Ariane space rocket. The Explora zone is packed with interactive, multimedia displays and things to do, from flight simulators to making the Mona Lisa talk. The older science museum at Palais de la Decouverte is lively and fun, especially when the staff pretend to be mad inventors.
Good Old fashioned Sightseeing
Kids of all ages will probably want to see the Eiffel Tower, but younger ones may not be so keen to actually go up. Instead, they might enjoy riding the outside escalators at the Pompidou Centre, or watching the street performers outside the Centre, and both of these activities are free! Older kids with a head for heights will probably enjoy the rooftops of Notre-Dame, the view from the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower, or the platforms in the top of the glass cube of La Défense.
Older kids who like all things lavatorial might savour the somewhat crazy new tours of the Paris sewers, or the grisly contents of the Catacombs. For unique souvenirs on pocket money budgets, there are plenty of colourful and fascinating street markets full of unexpected delights to tempt those Euros out of their pockets.
Something to Do When It's Wet
The Atelier des Enfants in the Pompidou Centre holds workshops on all kinds of arts activities from mime to circus skill, and although they are held in French, most kids will get the idea quickly. Would-be clowns and acrobats can learn circus skills in a day with the Cirque de Paris, which includes lunch and a show in the afternoon, or attend a performance (with live animals) at the family-run Diana Moreno Bormann Circus. Many café-theatres also hold play performances for younger audiences.
There has been an aquarium at the Palais de la Porte Dorée since the 1931 Colonial Exhibition. Children will love searching for clown fish, amongst their collection of over 300 species of fish.
If the kids are determined to get really wet, take them to the Aquaboulevard waterpark, where they can ride no less than seven giant water slides, or make a splash in the wave pool, river, or waterfall, and get you wet with water cannons. You get the picture.
Formal green spaces in Paris are not very child-friendly, but the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne offers little ones an Enchanted River with boat rides, pony rides, and a mini railway. There's also a birdhouse, farm animals to pet, and performances and workshops by the Théâtre du Jardin and the Cirque Phenix Jr. Try to catch a performance by Théâtre Guignol, the French equivalent of the Punch and Judy, with the equivalent shout-along plots and hiss-boo baddies. Shows last for about an hour and can also be found at various times in other locations such as the Parc Floral, Buttes Chaumont or Montsouris. Alternatively, the Bois de Vincennes has a massive funfair and the largest of Paris' zoos, complete with roaring lions.