France offers many attractions for kids. Perhaps your main concern with having children along is pacing yourself with museum time. Our suggestion is to limit Paris to 2 days and then spend a day wandering the spectacular grounds and glittering interiors of Versailles, 2 days in Disneyland Paris, and 2 days on the Riviera.
Days 1 & 2: Paris
Take the kids for a morning visit to Notre-Dame. The highlight is climbing the 387 narrow and winding steps to the top of one of the towers for a fabulously Quasimodo view of the gargoyles and Paris. After a visit, head for the Eiffel Tower. In addition to scaling this fantastic monument, you can also order lunch -- allow at least 2 hours for your visit, one just to access the elevators on levels one and two. Food is available at the Altitude 95 restaurant on the first floor, but it's a bit pricey for most families. A first-floor snack bar and a second-floor cafeteria offer the best values for the family on a budget.
After touring the tower, take the kids for a donkey ride in the nearby Champ de Mars, which also stages the best puppet shows.
In the afternoon, take the children for a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, where there are more donkey rides, ice-cream stands, and a marionette show. At the circular pond, you can rent a toy boat.
Climax your day with a ride along the Seine on the famous Bateaux-Mouche. Boats have open sun decks.
On Day 2, visit the Musée du Louvre. Even if your child is not a museum buff and bores easily, he or she will surely be intrigued by the many displays. Over the years, we've observed that, even more than the paintings, kids are fascinated by the Egyptian art and antiquities displayed in the Sully and Denon wings, a total of 7,000 items, the largest exhibition of such artifacts outside of Cairo.
After the Louvre, take the Métro to Porte de la Villette, where you can spend 2 or 3 hours at Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. The mammoth structure is home to a planetarium, a 3-D cinema, video workshops, and interactive exhibits.
Space is too tight in this book to document all activities in Paris of interest to children, but you'll want to spend a good 2 hours in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the northern part of the Bois de Boulogne. The visit starts with a ride on a narrow-gauge train through a stretch of wooded park, and attractions include a zoo, a house of mirrors, a puppet theater, a playground, and kiosks selling waffles.
As the afternoon fades, head for Butte Montmartre with its fiesta atmosphere. Take the Métro to Anvers and walk to the funicular, the cable car that carries you to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Once you arrive at "the top of Paris," follow the crowds to the place du Tertre, where a Sergeant Pepper-style band often blasts off-key, and you can have a local artist create a sketch of your kids. Finally, reward your brood with ice cream sold on the square.
Day 3: Versailles
Tear yourself away from the glories of Paris for a day spent at the Château de Versailles. Take the RER line C to the Versailles/Rive Gauche station. Kids delight in the Hall of Mirrors and in the grand apartments. Take the children for a walk through the garden, where they can visit the hamlet where the ill-fated Marie Antoinette strolled with her lambs. You can buy the makings of a picnic lunch in Paris and enjoy it on the grounds, or else you can purchase fast food at one of the stalls placed in discreet corners of the garden.
Return to Paris in time to visit Parc Zoologique de Paris, in the Bois de Vincennes on the southeastern outskirts of Paris. Quickly reachable by Métro, this is one of France's greatest zoos, complete with playful animals in natural habitats as well as lions roaming a veldt. There's even a cement mountain similar to Disneyland's Matterhorn.
Days 4 & 5: Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is the top family-vacation destination in France. Allow a full day to see the highlights of the park, plus another day to absorb its secondary adventures. Our recommendation is to visit Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, and Adventureland on the first day, saving Fantasyland, Discoveryland, the entertainment center at Village Disney, and Sleeping Beauty Castle for the second day. You can stay in the Disney hotels on-site, coming in various price ranges from very expensive to budget. The RER commuter express train A takes you from Etoile in Paris to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy in 45 minutes.
Day 6: Nice
Return to Paris and fly to Nice, capital of the French Riviera. If you flew Air France transatlantic, Nice can often be attached as a low-cost extension of your round-trip fare.
In Nice you can check into your hotel for 2 nights, as the city has the most affordable hotels on the Riviera. Set out to explore this old city. The people-watching on the Riviera alone is likely to leave your kids wide-eyed. Beware that they'll see plenty of skin, as topless bathing is rampant. There's always a lot of free entertainment in summer along the boardwalk in Nice, called the promenade des Anglais.
In the afternoon, journey to the hill town of St-Paul-de-Vence. This is the most evocative of the hill towns of Nice, and children delight in touring the ramparts and strolling along the pedestrian-only rue Grande. You can have a late lunch in the cafeteria of the Foundation Maeght, the Riviera's greatest modern-art museum.
Return to Nice for the evening and take your kids for a stroll through the Old Town, dining in a typical Niçoise bistro.
Day 7: Monaco
While still based in Nice, head for the tiny principality of Monaco, which lies only 18km (11 miles) east of Nice.
Children will enjoy the changing-of-the-guard ceremony at Les Grands Appartements du Palais, where Prince Rainier took his young bride, film star Grace Kelly, years ago. But the best part of Monaco for kids is the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, one of Europe's biggest aquariums with sharks and other exotic sea creatures. Monaco also has the Collection des Voitures Anciennes de S.A.S. le Prince de Monaco and the Musée National de Monaco, with a mammoth antique doll collection.
Return to Nice that night and prepare for your flight home in the morning.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.