Paris is not a particularly kid-friendly city, but it’s not kid-unfriendly, either. For one, Parisians generally like kids, as long as they are not running wild. If you visit in the summer, in addition to the suggestions below, just about any age child (including grown-up ones) will have a blast at Paris Plage or along the newly reopened banks of the Seine, Les Berges, between Musée d’Orsay and Pont d’Alma, and the Rives de Seine, between Bastille and Tuileries (see below). Here are some attractions that children may enjoy:
Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Vincennes
Château de Vincennes
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
Les Dimanches du Galop
Jardin des Plantes
Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin du Luxembourg
Musée des Arts et Métiers
Musée des Egouts de Paris
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
Palais de Tokyo
Parc de la Villette
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Parc Zoologique de Paris
La Promenade Plantée
FOR TINY TOTS (0–5 YEARS OLD): Paris has many nice playgrounds with safe equipment. For precise locations, visit http://en.parisinfo.com (search “playground”), ask at your hotel, or just follow the strollers. The Tuileries Gardens and the Jardin du Luxembourg both have a large fountain where you can rent wooden toy sailboats (for around 3€) and push them around with a long stick. Most large gardens or parks in this book have a merry-go-round; visit www.offi.fr (search “manèges à Paris”). Kids will also love the activities in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
FOR THE MIDDLE YEARS (6–9 YEARS OLD): This is when it’s time to turn to attractions like Musée Grévin, the Cité des Enfants, and the Jardin d’Acclimatation, and if you are really desperate, there’s always Disneyland Paris. The Parc Zoologique de Paris is a good bet, as is another, smaller zoo at the Jardin des Plantes (the Ménagerie). You might also consider going to one of the municipal pools, which usually include a kiddie pool. The revamped Les Halles district conceals a new adventure playground, the Jardin Nelson Mandela (1 rue Pierre Lescot), with a trampoline and swings.
FOR THE TWEENS (10–13 YEARS OLD): At this age, the scale can tip both ways, between “not another museum!” and actually getting interested in some of the cultural offerings. A few museums are particularly suited to this age, like the Musée des Arts et Metiers, the Gaîté Lyrique, and, in particular, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. Boat or bike tours also work for this crew.
Guignol, the Puppet Show Hero
Created by an itinerant merchant and tooth-puller in Lyon about 200 years ago, Guignol, the sly hero of traditional French puppet shows, is still packing houses all over the country. This valiant valet, who often finds himself in difficult situations due to his master’s mischief, has an amazing way with children, who scream, hoot, and holler according to how Guignol’s adventures unfold. The shows include lots of audience participation: The wide-eyed puppet will ask the children to help him find the robber/wolf/bad guy, and then will promptly head in the wrong direction as the kids desperately try to get him back on track. It’s noisy, but good fun—even if you don’t understand French, the stories are pretty easy to figure out. This is a great way to take part in an authentically French experience—though it might be a little overwhelming for sensitive souls under 3. Guignol puppet theaters can be found in the Jardin d’Acclimation, the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Parc Floral, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, and on the Champs-Élysées.
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.