PARIS WITH KIDS PART 5By Angelique Villaraza Domenici
Space To Run
Kids sleep better at night, get rid of jetlag faster and eat with more gusto if they spend part of the day running free. Sunshine and fresh air is a great cure for that 16 hours trapped in a plane, breathing recycled air.
Ride ponies at the Jardin des Tuileries. Rent a toy sailboat, ride the carousel or bounce in the trampolines. Book the kids in a gardening course at their vegetable patch. Closeby is the famed concept store Colette where you can bring home that limited-edition find. Some of the merchandise is for kids : wall stickers, home décor, toys and fashion. They might have a special event : a party for the Ken doll, a t-shirt silkscreening workshop, a cooking class series, knitting workshops, and a signing for the book Young Parisians. Across the street from Colette is Baby Tuileries, where you can take home one very French ensemble for your child.
I discovered the Parc Floral while working as exhibitor at the Playtime Paris trade show. The event was located in this spacious park beside a medieval castle, the Château de Vincennes. While I worked, my husband spent four consecutive days with my son just in this single area and they were never bored. There’s a modern botanical garden, amusement rides, playground, ping pong tables, a climbing wall, a valley of flowers, a butterfly house, theater and puppet shows, a miniature golf course and picnic grounds. If you’re tired, rent their pedal cars for four. We happened to be there during the Pestacles program (June to September) with free workshops, storytellers and clowns. On summer weekends, there’s a series of free jazz and classical concerts.
The Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Bologne has playgrounds, distorting mirrors, puppet shows, a farm and an aviary. There are boat rides around the Magic River, radio-controlled boats for rent, a Musée en Herbe with activity sheets, an Exploradôme science show and the Village des Manèges which has various rides. The Club House du Golf has a kids’ menu and high chairs.
Picnic at the Parc Monceau which has a carousel, iron-swing boats, a lake for feeding ducks, a playground and roller skating circuit. Load up on picnic food from the shops on rue de Lévis. If it rains, duck into the Musée Nissim de Camondo, a banker’s mansion filled with 18-century furniture and art.
In the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, besides the standard playgrounds, pony rides, swings and café; nearby is the Théâtre Guignol Anatole, an antique puppet theater open in summer. Shop for croissants and pains au chocolat at La Boulangerie par Véronique, an old bakery where a wood-fired oven is still used.
I used to live near the Jardins du Luxembourg where you can rent toy sailboats for the pond. If you want time to read a book or catch up on work, go for the sandboxes. Small children amuse themselves there for hours while you lounge on the many benches.
*Tip for single moms : You’ll find lots of cute single dads by these sandboxes.
There also are pony rides, a vintage carrousel, a puppet theater, playgrounds and two lawns reserved for families with children.
If the weather turns bad, take shelter in La Maison des Enfants, an indoor play space with beautiful equipment separated by age group, and artists’ workshops for children.
The Most Beautiful Walk In The World Is In Paris
Book the Enchanted Cruise tour on the Bateaux Parisiens. As you glide through the River Seine with a full panoramic view of the city’s greatest landmarks, two elves narrate the history of Paris through song and storytelling. These professional actors also do question and answer games for children. *Note : These tours only come in French, better for your child’s foreign language exposure.
If your child is a Harry Potter fan, close to the Centre Pompidou is the rue Montmorency. Nicolas Flamel in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an alchemist who lived in Paris. On this street you’ll find the Auberge Nicolas Flamel, built by Flamel in 1407. It is so old that the ground floor is at a strange angle.
In the winter, the Hôtel de Ville has an ice-skating rink and in the summer, it is covered in sand and becomes a city beach. Close by is the rue des Jardins Saint Paul with a medieval wall and turrets.
Visit the charming shops at the Île St-Louis with wooden toys and other curiosities. The Hôtel Chenizot is a 17th-century mansion with stone dragons. See the elaborate string puppets hanging at Claire de Rêve, then drop by Berthillon for their famous ice cream.
Stroll down the Champs-Elysées and stop by the Théâtres du Guignol for puppet shows because you have to break this very long walk into manageable parts. There’s too much to see from the Grand Palais to the Arc de Triomphe. Break this walk again at Ladurée which is on the same avenue. Select a fragrance from Guerlain, which has one of the greatest and longest heritage in French perfume. The flagship store of Louis Vuitton might have an ongoing art exhibit.
If you must do the classic Eiffel Tower stop, there’s a playground in the Champ de Mars gardens and a carousel near the Pont d’Ilena. Walk to the Trocadéro gardens and stop by Cineaqua, an aquarium with cartoons projected on the walls, animated films, thousands of fish swimming all around with a special scheduled shark’s feeding at 4pm.
I used to live near the Panthéon. In this mausoleum lies Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Marie Curie. After, have a snack at Crêpes à Gogo, then checkout the fish at Centre de la Mer in the Insitut Océanographique. Head over to the Studio des Ursulines which is the only movie theater in Paris dedicated to children’s films.
The Allée des Cygnes’ summer festival offers live music, treasure hunts and unusual workshops for children. Head to Parc André Citroën for its bridges, waterfalls and themed gardens. Kids tend to spash on the computer controlled fountains which change heights. Look for the silver garden with wooden stepping stones.
*Sightseeing Tip : For older athletic kids, rent Velib’ bicycles and travel through the city like locals. The street views via bike are superb.
There’s so much more to write about, with new activities cropping up each week. Entire books and blogs focus on the subject Paris with kids.
I hope this story encourages you to take your children along for a new cultural experience, and I mean beyond the confines of Disneyland Paris. Don’t be misled that this city is a snooty, overly sophisticated place meant only for adult entertainment. Kids are adventurous, and easily mix with francophones. Let them immerse in activities and interact with the French. They will return home from this holiday stimulated, full of new ideas and best of all … they did most of it with you.
January 5, 2012 by Guest Writer