Family Vacation in Paris: What to See and Do with Kids in the Capital of France?
Learn the secrets of great magicians and direct airplanes in the world’s oldest aviation museum, enjoy the attractions at Disneyland, and explore the Pampas of Patagonia, meet the Phantom of the Opera and Quasimodo in a dark and gloomy mansion, go visit Asterix and Obelisk, stroll through all regions of France in one day, and visit a knights jousting tournament - for information about all this and more entertainment in Paris for the whole family read our review.
Kids-friendly Attractions, Theme Parks and Entertainment in and around Paris
Disneyland is located in 32 kilometers away from Paris. Guests can ride on the ship of Jack Sparrow at Adventureland, at Frontierland - shoot at a range of the wild west and ride the roller coaster Big Thunder Mountain. In Fantasyland - Mickey Mouse and the Disney Princesses are waiting for visitors, and it is possible to ride a train or a horse-drawn carriage along the Main Street USA. At Walt Disney Studios Park visitors are invited to peek behind the scenes of filming, and see the most spectacular special effects. Toddlers can ride a carousel in vehicles from the Cars movie or on Aladdin's magic carpet.
The waterpark attractions and roller coasters of Parc Asterix are open from April to November. The park is divided into zones: in the Gallic village visitors try on Obelix shoes, in the Druid forest they are served with a magical potion, on Vikings territory - ride in drakkar boats, and in the Roman Empire - participate in chariot races. Magical secrets of the Druids are uncovered in theatrical shows, Gauls and Romans have competitions against one another in strength and agility, and dolphins and sea lions perform at the Poseidon's Water Park.
The Futurescope Park can be reached from Paris by a high speed train within an hour and a half. Most of the virtual attractions here are suitable for children of at least 4 years of age; visitors go on a journey in a time machine with the Raving Rabbids, and end up on the other side of the screen together with the characters from the animated films Rio, Ice Age, and Arthur and the Invisibles. Guests can also descend to the bottom of the ocean in a 108 meter cinema-capsule and ascend back up to the top in the Aerobar. They can also participate in the “Formula 1” races and dance with the robots. Kids become firefighters on the playground and drivers in the car town. And the Arena outdoor game is great for the entire family.
A two hour train ride from Paris will take visitors to the Puy du Fou Theme Park. Every settlement here represents a historical era: blacksmiths work in a fortress from the year 1000, stained glass windows are made in a medieval town, fine china - in a XVIII century village, and in a settlement from the 1900’s - there is a big fair with a carousel, souvenirs, and pastry shops. Every zone has musical performances with special effects; jousting tournaments are held here as well as royal balls, viking conquests, and battles between the Romans and the Gauls. And in the evenings - the park runs light and fire shows. Children can play on a castle-like playground and inside a green labyrinth, and fountain fireworks spout off near the stage.
The France Miniature Park (France Miniature) is in the suburbs, not far from Versailles. There are over a hundred sites and attractions presented here region by region. The park’s Eiffel Tower is 10 meters tall, there are also such landmarks as the Notre Dame, Roman viaducts and medieval castles, the Jura Mountains and the Port of St. Tropez. Many of the layouts come alive with action: fountains run in front of palaces, ships sail along rivers, carousels spin, and even the railroad (which runs around the entire territory of the park) sometimes has accidents. Kids can also jump on trampolines, conduct archeological excavations in a sandbox, and go on rides. The park is open to visitors from April to October, but it does not operate during unpleasant weather.
The Thoiry Safari Park is located in 40 kilometers away from Paris. Elephants and hippos, giraffes and zebras, antelopes and rhinos walk around near cars and tour busses. Lions and tigers can be viewed from a glass encased hallway. “The Ark” is a home to pygmy monkeys, along with some frogs and insects. There is entertainment for children, for example a large playground and green labyrinth with giant statues of animals and fictional creatures, such as dragon, unicorn, bee, and spider.
The Pampas of Patagonia and the Amazon Rainforest, the African Desert and European Mountains are recreated in the thematic zones of the Vincennes Zoo (Parc zoologique de Paris). The sidewalks are laid out in such a way, so that visitors walk through every enclosure and see rhinos, lions, baboons, giraffes, zebras, seals, penguins, and other animals. Under a glass dome - there are birds of madagascar, they fly and walk near people. And on top of a rock inhabited by mountain goats and gazelles - there is an observation deck.
Hammerhead sharks, clownfish, eels, starfish and octopuses live in the Parisian Aquarium CinéAqua. Feeding shows and Triton or mermaid shows are put on at the aquarium, and French language documentaries about rivers and seas are played at the cinema. In the petting pool area, visitors are allowed to pet ide, goldfish, and carp. Kids aged 6 and older can participate in free shark or jellyfish mask-making workshops (according to week-long schedule).
The Aquaboulevard Waterpark in Paris invites the guests to swim in a wave pool and slide down waterslides. Out in the fresh air, it is possible to drift on rafts, and take rides down many slides, extreme ones as well as water slides for families. Indoors, there is a jacuzzi and a hammam, a Lazy River and a waterfall, a few geyser and slides. There is also a big beach with recliners, a set of giant chess and water cannons.
It might not be such a good idea to go swimming in the Seine River itself, but above it, in the floating Pool of Josephine Baker (Piscine Josephine Baker) - just fine. The pool is open all year round, and in good weather the glass roof above the 25 meter pool opens, and visitors can sunbathe in recliners on the terrace. In the spa area there is a hammam and a jacuzzi, and for visitors with small children there is a paddling pool.
Classical music productions can be seen at the Paris Opera (Opéra de Paris). Actually, this is exactly the place, where Phantom of the Opera musical is set. The City of Music (Cite de la Musique) is a complex made up of concert halls, where are classical and jazz concerts take place, as well as family weekends with programs for parents on vacation together with children.
Classical performances with a modern edge can be seen at the Winter Circus (Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione). Clowns and jugglers, acrobats and tightrope walkers, riders and trainers perform on this old arena, and the show program changes every season.
To take selfies with Louis de Funès in a French police costume, or between Putin and Obama is possible at the Grevin Wax Museum (Musée Grevin). Besides posing next to artists, top models and politicians, visitors familiarize themselves with episodes of French history: they attend the grand opening of the Suez Canal and witness the murder of the revolutionary Marat, sit down in a bar next to Hemingway, and next to Charles Aznavour in a theater. For kids, there are Fabulous Tours, on which visitors get to dress up in costumes as barons and countesses and go on a journey back in time or observe how wax figures are created.
Anyone who is at least 10 years old can test their courage at the House of Fear in the Le manoir de Paris. The creepy mansion is haunted by characters of urban legends, fictional stories as well as those of real life, the Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo and the man in the iron mask, vampires and cannibals, crocodiles from the sewers and skeletons from the catacombs. For Christmas, there are special shows with the Christmasy legends and tales. At Halloween a chilling bloody masquerade is set up, and every Friday the 13th the mansion holds the Dark Night - a mission-quest for guests, who struggle to find their way out of the dark hallways (only for visitors aged 16 and older).
Museums and Exhibits for Children in Paris
See how a star collapses into a black hole, find earthquake prone zones on a world map, and listen to the meowing of Schrodinger's cat at the City of Science and Industry (Cité des sciences et de l'industrie). La Cité des Enfants is open to children ages 2 to 12, with mazes and obstacle courses, a garage for the assembly and disassembly of an engine, and an area for learning about the capacity of the human body. The Argonaut (L'Argonaute) submarine is set under the open sky, and visitors can board it, walk through the living compartments, the captain's bridge, try on headphones of a radio operator, and peak through the periscope. Families can watch movies about space, nature and history in the spherical La Géode cinema, which is built in the form of a huge mirror dome of steel.
In the very center of Paris is the Palace of Discoveries (Palais de la découverte) with a dinosaur collection, a lightning generator and a planetarium. In scientific workshops, geared towards children aged 8 and up, it is possible to see experiments with phenomena of physics and chemistry, experiments with different flavors, math riddles, and even a laboratory of forensic expertise with an investigation of a crime scene.
Several exhibitions are part of The Museum of Natural History (Le Museum national d'Histoire Naturelle). Visitors of the gallery of evolution can trace the development of life on Earth, with a large collection of stuffed animals and animal skeletons. There is also an interactive Children’s Gallery here (Galerie des enfants), where kids are allowed to touch more than 400 exhibits in a “river”, a “rainforest”, and an urban setting. In the Museum of Man (Musée de l'Homme) it is possible to see faces of people from different nationalities, to understand the structure of organs and skeleton, and look around inside a room full of rarities and eerie ancient exhibits. Royal jewels and a collection of giant crystals are on display at the Gallery of Minerals and Geology (Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie), and skeletons of dinosaurs and other extinct animals are at the Museum of Paleontology (Galeries d'Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie). The Garden of Plants (Jardin des plantes) invites families to stroll among roses, an Alpine garden, and greenhouses with exotic flowers, and visit a small zoo.
The Air and Space Museum (Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace) is free for all, this very first air and space museum in the world is located in the Bourget Airport (Le Bourget). There are models and real aircrafts, both vintage and modern: airplanes, helicopters, missiles and other technology. There are also interactive exhibits, like a flight simulator. Visitors can climb in the Boeing and Concord lounges and peak through a transparent partition in the cockpit. The museum’s observation gallery offers a way to explore the exhibits from above. Also, in June, the Le Bourget hosts an annual international air show.
Miniature models of ships, frigates, sailboats, aircraft carriers, transatlantic airlines, and submarines are displayed in the Marine Musem (Musée National de la Marine). They have unusual exhibits, for example an old metal scuba suit, and a diorama of how ancient obelisks were transported from Egypt to Paris, and visitors can look through windows and see models of ships being constructed in the museum’s workshop.
The Army Museum (Musée de l'Armée) shares its location with the Home of the Disabled (L'hôtel des Invalides) and a military necropolis which holds the tomb of Napoleon. Visitors can see here an array of weapons, armor, and other military equipment. It is explained here what the Sparrow’s Beak knight helmet and the Enigma portable cryptographic machine looked like, how trenches were dug during WWI, and which guns were fired by Napoleon. For children of at least age 6, classes are available, as well as detective game quests, (sign up required), and the whole family can go to a classical music concert or a free movie screening.
Medieval calculators, clocks, and various measuring devices are gathered in a collection at the Museum of Arts and Crafts (Musée des Arts et Métiers). The Lavoisier Laboratory is reconstructed in the hall dedicated to chemistry, and in the cinema and television hall - the Lumière Brothers camera can be seen, and in the hall of mathematics - Pascal’s calculator. The first steam plane hangs directly under the dome, and in the lobby visitors can see some prototypes of cars, for example, a steam cart and a car powered by a propeller.
The Museum of Dolls (Musée de la Poupée) features more than 800 toy princesses and dolls made of wood, rubber, porcelain, and cardboard. It’s explained here, how in the old days the dolls were used as decoration, and sometimes even in magic rituals, and how over time they they looked more and more realistic (there are dolls with moveable parts and ones that cry). The museum has a room for drawing and playing games, and children of at least 4 years old are invited to take hands-on toy making classes, or design doll outfits.
In the art museums of Paris there are programs for visitors with children. The Louvre (Le Louvre), Museum of Orsay (Musée d’Orsay) and Museum of the Orangerie (Orangerie) hold creative workshops for children and adults, with classes in drawing, sculpting, and recreating artistic depictions. The Small Palace (Petit Palais) offers to see a collection of classical artwork for free, and in the art gallery of the Grand Palace (Grand Palais) - temporary exhibitions are held, and in winter, ice skating takes place here in an indoor rink. Classical artwork connoisseurs should take a walk through the sculpture garden at the Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin), look at the vintage interior design and sit in the tea salon at The Museum of Romantic Life (Musée de la Vie Romantique).
To begin to get acquainted with modern art in Paris - Centre Pompidou (Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou) is advised. In addition to the large exposition of modern art, they have a cinema hall, a library, a creative studio for adolescents, and a children's gallery with classes for children aged 2 to 12. Interactive installations and workshops on street art, painting, and street art are available for children from 3 to 10 at the Tokyo Palace (Palais de Tokyo). At The Picasso Museum (Musée national Picasso) family excursions are held, while at The Dali Museum (Espace Dalí) there are guidebooks for children aged 4 to 12 and children’s audio guides, both in the French language.
A collection of ritual masks, statues, guns and costumes from Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Oceans is displayed in the Quai Branly Museum (Musée du quai Branly) on which a vertical garden grows right along the building’s facade. In the creative studio 3-12 year olds are introduced to the rituals of people from different nationalities: they make protective amulets and ritual masks, cause it to rain, draw with dots, and play unusual musical instruments.
Listen to the sound of a Stradivarius violin or a medieval lute at the Music Museum (Musée de la Musique). Those who do not attend any of the museum’s concerts are recommended to take an audio guide to be able to listen to the sounds while wandering the halls on their own. There are play programs for children of age 4 and older, musical classes - for school age and adult students, and on Sundays - visitors with children aged 4 to 8 can play with different instruments. The Music Museum offers free admission to visitors under the age of 26.
Models of historical buildings of the XII-XVII centuries as well as their facades in pieces and fragments are fully represented in the Museum of Architecture (Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine). The exhibition has interactive screens, visitors construct their own stained glass windows and entire buildings, and in the hall of modern architecture they can watch and see how buildings are built today.
Medieval France is described in detail at the Cluny Museum (Musée de Cluny). A gothic mansion was built in place, where ancient thermal baths used to be. Some of the baths are partially preserved today, and to see them, visitors need to descend underground. Under the chapel arches it is possible to see a collection of tapestries, stained glass, sculptures, dishes and church utensils. And in classes for children, kids can learn to make models of baths or stained glass, learn medieval calligraphy, and create their own manuscript.
Unusual Museums in Paris to Visit with Children
Children older than 3 years can attend creative classes at the Museum in Grass (Musée en Herbe). Here young visitors can draw pictures, dress up in costumes of different characters, and recreate the landscapes from canvasses of great masters. Interactive tours and workshops are organized for children which run for a duration of 30 minutes (for children between the ages of 2.5 and 4.5) and a full hour (for children between the ages of 5 and 12). Separate programs take place for parents with young and adolescent children.
In one of the halls of the Museum of Fairground Arts (Musée des Arts Forains) visitors ride an old wooden carousel, in the other - they find themselves in 19th century Venice and see an opera performed by mechanical dolls. In the Theater of Marvels, visitors get to see a video projection performance with moving shadows, and the flowery Green Theater is situated under the open sky. In September and December the museum is open to everyone, the rest of the year it is only accessible by prior appointment.
Biographies of great illusionists, props for doing magic tricks, posters and optical illusions are exhibited at the Magic Museum (Musée de la Magie), where even the souvenir shop salespersons can perform tricks. In a cellar with stone vaults a magic show is put on for visitors, and right after the show all of its secrets are revealed. Various magical wands and orbs, a table for splitting in half, and a chair for disappearing into thin air are on exhibit here. One floor up - is the location of the Museum of Automatons (Musée des Automates), where by pushing buttons and levers visitors can activate old windup toys, mechanical figures and carnival attractions.
The most fearless will dare to descend into the Catacombs of Paris (Catacombes de Paris). Corridors with halls and crypts are laid out 20 meters underground: at the end of the 18th century a ban was placed on cemeteries within the city lines, and the remains of millions of deceased parisians were reburied in a former quarry. It is impossible to get lost here: there are signs posted for tourists, and the street names (which run above the tunnels) are written on the walls. Still, children under the age of 14 are not admitted without adult supervision.
The Museum of Sewers (Musée des égouts de Paris) is located underground as well. In the corridors of the currently existing sewer system, visitors can learn about the Roman aqueducts, medieval drainage canals, and the first closed purification system. It is also possible to see an old pumping station and a trolley for street cleaning, mannequins in the uniforms of workers from different times, and an active model that shows the water cycle in Paris. There is no elevator, and in order to reach the museum, visitors need to go down 42 steps.
Every language in the world is represented in the Museum of World Languages (Mundolingua). In the language lab, visitors can listen to over 4,000 languages. And in the interactive hall - decipher secret codes, find out how a lie detector works, listen to a catalog of invented languages and play giant Scrabble, as well as video games and board games from different countries.
Find out what the first letters looked like and what uniforms were worn by the postmen of different eras - at the Museum of Postal Service (Musée de la Poste). Here, a collection of mailboxes is on display, and of stamps from different countries around the world, as well as models of carriages, wagons, ships and airplanes, which were formerly used to deliver mail. And at the Telegraph exhibit, visitors can learn the Morse Code alphabet. The Museum is temporarily closed, until the end of 2017 for renovation.
At the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum (Musée du Chocolat Choco-Story) “tasty stories” are told about how ancient indians grew cocoa beans and why they added corn flour, pepper and vanilla to the delicacy, why chocolate was unsweetened before the arrival of the conquistadors, and in what wrappers candies were sold in Europe. At the end of the tour, it is possible to see the the process of chocolate making and even taste some (with various fillings). And at the very end - there is a candy shop for the sweet-toothed visitors.
Paris from a Bird’s Eye View: Observation Decks in Paris
At the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) observation decks are open on several levels. On the first one - visitors are invited to walk on transparent floor at the height of 57 meters, and children aged 6-10 receive a booklet with quests about the construction of the tower and sights which can be observed from it. Ascending to the second level at the height of 115 meters is possible by elevator or via 704 steps, and the third level (containing the reconstructed office of Gustav Eiffel) can only be reached by a glass elevator (the height of this deck-276 meters).
It is possible to admire Paris without windows and bars from the white as snow gallery of Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur). The square in front of the temple at the height of 130 meters is accessible by stairs or funicular. From there, it is possible to get a nice view of the hill and the Montmartre District. And those who want to see Paris from the highest point in the city (under the dome of the basilica) will have to take another 300 steps - there is no elevator.
At the height of 200 meters is the location of the observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower (Montparnasse). The high speed elevator takes visitors up 56 floors in 38 seconds, but to reach the open terrace on the roof they still need to climb on foot. On touch screens and in different languages it is possible to read about all the major landmarks and play some brain teasers.
A view of the Seine Embankment and the heart of Paris (the City Island) opens from the South Tower of Notre Dame (Notre-Dame de Paris) at the height of 45 meters. It is possible to see why the Star Square (Place de l’Étoile) got its name from a 50 meter high observation deck at the Arch of Triumph (Arc de Triomphe). Champs Elysees and the new quarters in West Paris is worth seeing from a height of 100 meters at the observation deck of the Grande Arche (La Grande Arche de la Défense). The best view of the Latin Quarter opens from the colonnades of the Pantheon (Panthéon). The Pompidou Center offers a view of both Notre Dame and Montmartre from a height of 45 meters, and in the Park of Andre Citroen (Parc André Citroёn) it is possible to ascend to the height of 150 meters in the Ballon de Paris balloon.
A free observation deck with a view of Notre Dame is open at the Institute of the Arab World (Institut du Monde Arabe). And at the top floors of Gallery Lafayette (Galeries Lafayette) and the Le Printemps shopping centers - there are panoramic restaurants offering views of Paris’s historic center.
Where to Go for a Walk with Kids in Paris? Parisian Gardens and Parks for Children
One of the largest city parks - La Villette (Parc de La Villette) has entertainment for all ages: open scenes and fields for sports, children’s villages and attractions, museum and concert halls. There are thematic gardens that visitors can wander in: bamboo and equilibrist, the Garden of Children's Fears, and the Garden with a Dragon, and from the pier - ships set out on river tours.
Look at the sights, wander through shops, and sit in a restaurant is all possible at Champs Elysee (Champs-Élysées). It is worth walking along the avenue to visit the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) with playgrounds for children and adolescents.
On the left bank of the Seine River it is possible to walk in the Field of Mars (Champ de Mars) with its puppet theater, children’s playgrounds, and picnic spots. The Beaches of Paris festivals take place in the summer on the banks of the Seine with sandy beaches, pontoon pools, sports fields and entertainment programs for children and adults.
The Luxembourg Garden (Jardin de Luxembourg) has fountains, playgrounds, sports fields, and offers rides in an old carousel. For leisurely strolls, a park with a small landscape is perfect for example the Monceau Park (Parc Monceau), the Bercy Park (Parc de Bercy), the Belleville Park (Parc de Belleville), the Montsouris Park (Parc Montsouris), and the Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont).
At the Bois de Boulogne the Garden of Acclimatation (Jardin d’acclimatation) is appropriate for a family time out, it has a bird aviary, offers pony, camel, donkeys or boat rides. The garden also has attractions and playgrounds for children. And Bois de Vincennes is worth a trip to for its zoo, tropical garden, Buddhist pagoda, and the possibility to have a picnic by the lake.
The Coulée Verte René-Dumont Park with bicycle trails and flower beds is situated along a closed railroad. At the Isle of Swans (Île aux Cygnes) it is possible to see a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty. And at at the Arenes de Lutece (Arènes de Lutèce), an amphitheater from the time of the Roman Empire is used for skateboarding and playing soccer.
A residence of the French kings is open to visitors in Versailles (Parc et château de Versailles). There are terraces with sculptures, fountains, ponds, flowerbeds and greenhouses around the palace. In the summer, Versaille hosts festivals with musical performances and fireworks.
Family festivals, exhibits, and spectacles in Europe and around the world are collected in our What’s On section.
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