Eight Reasons Why Paris is Awesome for Kids
by Katie Beltramo
To those of us in the United States, Paris can seem like a very grown-up place to go. We think high culture, wine, and fine dining. But what struck me on a recent trip to Paris was how many child-friendly features we found around the city. When I started to brainstorm for this article, I asked my 12-year-old why she thinks Paris is great for kids. "Well, being in a different country shows you that there's this whole world beyond our country and it makes you want to learn about it and see it all." Well, yes. Of course. But I was thinking more along the lines of plain old fun, and there's plenty.
1. Rides and Amusements
At one point my husband remarked, "Wow, the French really love merry-go-rounds." We seemed to encounter carousels everywhere, including near the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur. Click here for a big list of them. There's also a big Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde, which arrived for a temporary stay years ago and just keeps staying. My daughter was excited to find arcade-style games in the airport as we awaited our flight home.
2. Free Admission for Children to Most Museums
You won't find too many bargains in Paris, but many museums and monuments are free for anyone under 18. If navigating the Louvre with little ones feels too intimidating, there are plenty of smaller-but-fabulous choices, like my girls' favorite, Musée d'Orsay; Musée de l'Orangerie, where you can surround yourself with Monet's Water Lilies; or Musée Rodin, where you can sketch statues like The Thinker in the garden (and all of these museums can be accessed with the Paris Museum Pass).
Watching the boats or taking a boat tour on the Seine are kid-pleasers, but my favorite activity is renting a beautiful little sailboat at the friendly and lovely Jardin du Luxembourg. Click here for more ideas on fun for kids in this beautiful park.
4. Beauty Everywhere
This was my daughter's contribution. She pointed out multiple times when we were nowhere considered particularly "special," but she'd discover a lovely little fountain, an extraordinarily old tree, or some other object of wonder. Along with splendors of architecture, my daughters were thrilled to see many, many brides who show up around Paris for photo shoots. There are constant opportunities for discovery around Paris, and it's not a bad idea to slow down, look around, and observe the city with the curiosity and pace of a toddler. If walking like a toddler feels too unsophisticated, just call yourself a flâneur.
5. Great "Picky Eater" Food
Even if your children aren't up for trying escargots, you'll find plenty of simple offerings. As my 12-year-old points out, "There are crepe stands everywhere and crepes are easy for kids to love." If you visit bakeries, you'll find that many of the sandwiches include only one or two ingredients on the baguette. Our kids particularly loved saucisson sec, which is a bit like salami, but better. Visit a market, smile and say bonjour, and vendors will start handing out samples. Paris is perfect for picnicking.
6. Storybook & Fairytale Favorites
Madeline is just the most obvious: There are tons of children's books set in Paris. But, more than that, Paris can often feel like you're stepping into a storybook, whether it's encountering knights and soldiers at Les Invalides, Marie-Antoinette's idealized faux village at Versailles, or a spooky story set down in the Catacombs.
What is it that kids love so much about climbing a whole bunch of stairs? Is it the sheer height or joyfully outpacing their panting parents? Whatever it is, kids will find plenty of stairs at the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Sacré Coeur. But our family's favorite stair-climbing adventure was the Towers of Notre Dame, which was completely worth the long wait in line. Read or watch The Hunchback of Notre-Dame ahead of time and the kids will be even more thrilled.
8. Playgrounds and More Playgrounds
We found playgrounds near the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame as well as plenty of neighborhood parks just walking around. There are numerous amusements along the Seine, including funky swings, mazes painted into the pavement, and a super-cool rock-climbing-style set-up along the wall by the river. Build a bit of extra time into your schedule, because you'll stumble on many more kid-friendly attractions than you'll have read about in any guide book.
Paris isn't just terrific for a romantic getaway. It's packed with fun and simple pleasures for young people, too. Bon voyage!
Looking for more things to do? We review two kid-friendly Blue Fox Travel tours in and around Paris here.