My Family’s Top Five Places to Visit in Paris with Kids
For many grownups, Paris always will be the center of the world — the art, the food, the fashion, the haunting voice of a choir at La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre.
For many kids, however, Paris is that place where they get dragged by their parents. Art? Food? Fashion? How about some fun?
Try one of these for some fun:
Playground at Jardin de Luxembourg
The sprawling park, the largest in Paris, provides plenty of space for all sorts of spirited play. But the playground by itself is worth every bit of its small admission fee. There are plenty of play equipment for children of varying ages along with a really terrific rope climbing structure. The playground’s short zip line is a particular hit. A carousel that dates from the 19th Century is close to the playground, and inexpensive food options are available through the area.
Ice skating at the Eiffel Tower
If anyone knows of a more magical ice rink than this anywhere in the world, I haven’t heard about it. The rink provides more than 2,000 square feet of skating surface on the first level of the Eiffel Tower, about 200 feet above the ground. Skates are provided free to Eiffel Tower visitors (in fact, you’re not allowed to bring your own skates), and scooters and sled-chairs are available for use by children who haven’t yet learned to skate on their own. Temperatures are cool above the city, and gloves are required for skaters. A food bar at the edge of the rink re-energizes skaters with hearty specialties such as lentil-and-bacon soup. The rink is open from roughly Dec. 1 through the end of February.
Many kids run out of patience with art galleries fairly quickly, but the sculptures of Auguste Rodin at the Musée Rodin hold their interest. Many of the sculptures are in the gardens that surround the Hôtel Biron in the Seventh Arrondisement on the Left Bank. (It’s near the Varenne stop on the Metro.) Kids love imitating sculpted poses such as “The Thinker.” A casual restaurant and a small lake behind the museum provide opportunitie
s to take a break.
Les Catacombes de Paris
Not for young children, but a guaranteed hit for elementary-aged kids and older who love creepy things. (The creep-out factor is strong enough, in fact, that you can hold a visit to the Catacombs out as a highly effective promise for a boy who is growing weary of the precious parts of Paris.) The attraction? Long, dark passages containing the remains of millions of Parisians. What’s not to love about piles of skulls, artistically arranged?
Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle
The big selling point for kids is the gallery of comparative anatomy, with a magnificent collection of dinosaur fossils along with displays of giant birds and weird insects. Some youngsters will be interested, at least for a while, in the giant crystals and royal precious stones that are among the 600,000 items in the gallery of mineralogy. Food — frankly, it provides more fuel than cuisine — is available. Worth a visit at any time, the Natural History Museum is a god-send on a rainy afternoon. If the weather is nice, consider a walk back to the heart of town along the quays of the Seine from Jardin des Plantes (the home of the museum) to Notre Dame. Even by the standards of Paris, it’s a beautiful stroll.
One of the secrets of travel with kids, as parents quickly learn, is mixing the boring old stuff that adults like with active fun for kids. Paris provides plenty of opportunities to get the mix just right.