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With its attractions, heritage and things to do, Paris is an admirable detination for family travel. It is important to plan the activities of your holiday. Paris is a bustling city and can be a crowded place, full of tourists and the people who live there. How will you maneuver your family in a crowd so that no one gets separated? How will you ensure that your toddler who is learning to walk has walking time...but not in the midst of a crowded city sidewalk? How well do your children tolerate waiting in line for 30 - 90 minutes? Is your child a baby? toddler? pre-schooler? Does your child have a good imagination, entertaining herself with a spiral notebook and a crayon? Will he read a book or do a maze/crossword puzzle while waiting? Will a matchbox car or tiny stuffed animal spell relief for him (and you) when waiting? If you have a child who is "on the go" all the time, and could not wait even if Santa Claus was at the end of the line, perhaps waiting in a line for an hour to go up in the Eiffel Tower's elevator is not a good idea---instead pack a frisbee and enjoy it at the large grass park at the base of the Eiffel Tower and let him take lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower from below.
Paris has many crowded areas with people in a hurry, so maneuvering any type of stroller, even a small umbrella stroller, can be challenging. Park paths may be gravel, streets may be bumpy. Much of Paris is very much a city atmosphere: you need to walk---quickly---as it is crowded and you need to expect no elevators or escalators and many stairs. If you have a toddler who wants his independence in the middle of a sidewalk in Paris---think New York City---things can be challenging. Even the metro (subway) has few if any escalators, requiring you to go up at least 2 flights of stairs, carrying a child or a stroller. At many of the metro stops, there is a crowd of people behind you also going up...or down...the same flight of stairs and if you have a child in the midst of the want-to-walk-myself stage, this is not the time to do it. You should not assume that any location of any kind has an elevator. Most world famous landmarks, museums, department stores, hotels, etc have no elevators or escalators. Some buses do have a space reserved for strollers. Unlike the USA, department stores and train stations are not all equipped for nursing and changing babies.
This may sound obvious, but prior to your trip, think of things that your children will be seeing and give them some information about those things. Show them a map, perhaps print one out so they can bring it with them. You can print out images of things or places you will see via Google images. The more involved your child is, at any age, the more the location will hold their interest.
Paris can be a fun city for kids or teenagers who are history lovers. Walking tours offer a fun, engaging way of learning about the sites while taking in the lay of the land and burn off that extra, pastry-fueled energy, especially for Notre-Dame where fans of Quasimodo or Les Misérables will love to see the Cathedral; it is really impressive and funny for children with all the gargoyles and kings, and there are plenty of family walks for them. If you want to discover it with your children, you should see the outside of Notre Dame; it's more beautiful than the inside and you don't have to queue... which is good when kids are tired!. They may enjoy visiting Versailles, and Les Invalides military museum where they will see cannons, mortars, armor, swords, daggers, and other items from Napoleon’s time, including his hat and sword, and even the Egyptian section of the Louvre, where children flock to see mummified cats. Fans of Quasimodo or Les Misérables will love to see the Cathedral; it is really impressive and funny for children with all the gargoyles and kings, and there are plenty of family walks for them. If you want to discover it with your children, you should see the outside of Notre Dame; it's more beautiful than the inside and you don't have to queue... which is good when kids are tired!
Science lovers can’t miss the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie at La Villette which has so many special events and exhibitions for kids. A top attraction is L'Argonaute, a decomissioned military submarine that young and old will love.They will also be thrilled by the Palais de la Découverte’s planetarium. Another fascinating museum, especially for teens, is the Pasteur Museum. Intimately set in his former home, the museum boasts an impressive display of Pasteur’s most famous experiments.
The Seine River flows through Paris and many of the most famous tourist sights can either be seen or are close to the River. Everyone who goes to Paris wants to see Paris from Seine sightseeing boats, seeing all the famous sights while on glass enclosed boats. Children may like the novelty of being on the river, there is plenty to look at, and they can roam around the boat on their own (you can see them wherever they go and the ride is smooth). The traditional choice is from Bateaux Mouches: a one hour, round trip (no stops) Seine River sight-seeing tour of Paris (daytime and at night), and they also offer romantic dinner cruises. A more child-friendly alternative is offered by Batobus: a day ticket for the same type of glass enclosed boat, the same path on the Seine and a sight seeing announcements, but the ticket allows you to jump on/jump off at 8 or so different stops along the Seine, close to sight-seeing spots. You get a similar sight-seeing journey with the option of using it as a water taxi to different locations, giving you flexibility and keeping your children moving. You can take the boat to your destination, using it as a water taxi, or you can stay on the whole tour, see where things are, and get off on the 2nd time around, if you wish. You could take the batobus to one tourist destination (Eiffel Tower), then walk around Paris, and then take the batobus back to your hotel from another batobus "stop" especially if your children are tired. If you have an intrepid "sailor" you could ride the boat around all day! Investigate the different type of tickets. But note: no evening/dinner cruises on Batobus. Whichever option you take, give your child a map of the route (on the websites) and perhaps a sentence about each place (possibly done before leaving home via the internet) so your child is interested in the "sights"...or else to them, the "sights" could look just like old, boring buildings! The Batobus stops at the Jardin des Plantes where the oldest most charming zoo in Paris is located. Small fee to get in.
Also check out the Bois de Boulogne, a huge park at the West border of Paris also called the “main lung” of Paris. The Jardin d’Acclimatation, at the northern edge of the park, is for children, with a zoo, an amusement park, and a narrow-gauge railway.
Behind the Louvre Museum is the famous Tuilerie Gardens or Jardins des Tuileries. On the Rue de Rivoli side of the gardens, there is a low-profile, outdoor, year round trampoline place. For a few Euros, you will see big grins from your children as they jump on the trampolines, which are set into the ground (no falling). It is really fun for them, fun for parents to watch, a great opportunity for children of all ages to burn off boundless energy--and a good photo op.
Auguste Rodin was a famous sculptor of marble ( "The Kiss") and bronze ( "The Thinker"). The Rodin Museum and Gardens ( Musee Rodin ) is located very near the Metropolitan metro stop in a mansion that has good-sized "grounds" around it that children 6 and older might enjoy wandering around in (not running). Large sculptures are sprinkled among shrubs and garden areas in the side yards, there are paths, a formal garden in the back, and a snack bar & tables in the very back of the grounds. Many families opt to purchase a ticket to enjoy the grounds only (not the museum), seeing some of the more famous sculptures scattered around outside while keeping their children in a comfortable environment---perhaps an easier more subtle way to introduce the children to sculpture than being indoors. A ticket to enter the grounds only of the Musee Rodin gardens is one of Paris' bargains: only 1 Euro per person, under 18 free! Also, one parent could go into the museum (6 Euro per person, family 10 Euro) while the other was in the garden with the children.