My family of three (2 adults and an 11-year old) had high-hopes for Villette. We made the trip up to the 19th arrondissement thinking it would be a fun alternative to all of the typical tourist stuff.
My daughter enjoyed the Jardin des Vents et des Dunes - running in the hamster wheels, going on the zip line, crawling through the tunnels, etc.
The Folie Belvédère was a BIG hit with my daughter - she spent more than an hour climbing up and down the stairs, running up and down the large circular ramp to the first level, and spinning around on the silver chairs that are lined up adjacent to the structure. (Also right next to this Folie is Claes Oldenburg's "Buried Bicycle" sculpture.)
There is a beautiful, double-decker carousel next to the canal - kids can choose to ride in a submarine, a hot air balloon, on a motorcycle, or on a variety of animals.
The Jardin des Bambous was very pretty. If you enter it via the Allee du Zenith, you walk down a flight of steps that has water cascading down on either side. At the bottom of the steps is a round room that echoes the sounds of the rushing water.
On our way back to the Metro, we got to walk across the canal via a floating bridge - it is open limited hours; check the schedule on the board.
Despite these highlights, we left Villette feeling a little let-down.
When the park was originally built back in the mid-1980's, I am sure that it was a beautiful, vibrant place. On the day we visited - 2nd Wednesday in June - it felt very run down and forlorn. The only place that really seemed to have any vibrancy to it was Prairie du Triangle, where a number of kids and adults were playing ball.
The Vent & Dunes playground was in very bad repair. The hamster wheel had no rubber runner on the inside anymore, so it was slippery, the astro-turf/carpeting on the hills and valleys was completely shot, and there was a fair amount of trash laying around.
The Jardin des Mirrors was very muddy, littered with trash, and was inhabited by a couple of transients.
The Dragon slide, which looked really cool in the pictures we had seen on-line, had been completely dismantled and the whole area was cordoned off with orange construction fencing.
As we walked around the park and checked out the various gardens, we came across at least a half dozen couples in (very) intimate situations. (Granted, this is Paris, and it is "Romantic", but these are not the type of "off the beaten track" sites I wanted my child to see.)
Perhaps on a weekend during the height of the summer, when there are a lot more families visiting, the general vibe of the park is different, but based on our experiences, my family's consensus is that Villette was not worth the special trip up to the NE side of the city.
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