Paris is the city of light and is often, rightfully so, a couple’s destination. But fear not traveling families, Paris brims with entertaining places to take children the entire family. Sure, there is the Eiffel Tour, the boat rides on the Seine, and Paris Disney – every tour book will tell you about these, and for first time visitors, they are musts. But if you are coming back again, or really want to discover Paris beyond the tourist path, check out these locations that will make Paris a place even your youngsters will want to come back to again and again.
Le Parc de la Villette
On the Eastern side of Paris, Villette Park is a beautiful green space on the spot that was once the site of Paris’ former central slaughterhouse and livestock market. The 136 acre park is chalk full of wide-open space for toddlers to run, and is home to some interesting sculptures and climbing apparatus.
Besides the permanent exhibits throughout the park, you can discover the temporary exhibits which talk about history and philosophy as well as science. But perhaps the biggest attraction here is La Cité des Sciences or the Science Museum. Here, visitors of any age can touch and play to their heart’s content. With its interactive computers, multimedia displays, videos, holograms, animated models and games, this is one of the few places in Paris where you won’t have to say “Don’t Touch” to your children. Click here for more info.
Canal St. Martin
If you are looking for an offbeat tour of Paris, why not explore the city’s 81 miles of canals and underground waterways, running from the Ile Saint Louis near Notre Dame to the northern tip of the city at the Canal de l’Ourq? If you’ve already made the rounds on the Bateaux Mouches, this may be the tour for you. “Canauxrama” offers two-and-a-half hour cruises of the Canal Saint Martin (built in 1802 on Napoleon’s orders) including a lively commentary on the history of northeastern Paris, one of Paris’ best-kept secrets.
The Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens may well be one of the most successful parks in the world, partly because it is so well integrated into the fabric of the city around it, which makes it easily accessible. Only a short walk from Ciao Bambino Property the Victoria Palace Hotel, the park is also a favorite of residents of Paris. All great, but what’s in it for the kids? Pack a picnic and come see for yourself.
This 60-acre park includes fountains, sculpture, ponds, flowerbeds, tennis courts, pony rides, a marionette theatre, playgrounds, food kiosks and open-air cafes. Rent a model sailboat for 2 euros for a half-hour and your kids can float them in the fountain in front of the palace while you sit on a nearby picnic blanket or bench and revel in Paris’ simple life. Click here for more info.
If you are traveling with teenagers, and are up for an adventure, try the latest in Parisian transport. In 2007, 10,000 rentable bicycles were introduced to the city. Today, the sturdy gray bikes with baskets are as ubiquitous around the city center as the tour buses. There are, approximately 1,450 automated stations around Paris with terminals that allow you to view the locations and numbers of available bicycles and free ‘parking’ spots of the neighboring Velib stations.
Be aware: the popular locations often have few ‘spots’, so plan accordingly when ending your ride. Rental rates are inexpensive. Subscriptions can be purchased by the day, week or year, at a price of, respectively, 1, 5, or 29 euros. Try it on a Sunday, when there is less traffic in Paris and remember to follow the bike lane system. Click here for more info.
Les Egouts de Paris
Strolling west along the Left Bank of the Seine near the Pont d’Alma, is the entrance to Les Ègouts de Paris, or the Paris sewer system. No ‘stinking’ way, you might be saying, but hold on! If you have taken the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or taken in Quasimodo’s bell tower view from atop Notre-Dame, why not see Paris from a different vantage? Every Parisian street sits above its own corresponding sewer, complete with its own underground street sign. It is like a city beneath the city.
Visitors can admire the tools of the trade — the flusher trolley, the two-ball traveling cleaner, the gas mask. Guides also offer a brief history of Paris’ methods of waste disposal dating from the present-the system evacuates 1.2 million cubic meters of wastewater per day. For a mere 3 euros, this underground tour can be quite interesting and let’s face it, when else will kids be allowed to ‘potty talk’ without getting in trouble?! Click here for more info.