Paris for les petits

By on March 29, 2010

I love Paris in the springtime. Clichéd? Perhaps, but there’s no more enjoyable season to be in the City of Light than when the last of the winter chill is banished from the boulevards and the outdoor cafés spring to life with a brisk business. 


For many, Paris may be the epitome of romance, but this classy capital is also remarkably kid-friendly. If you’re first-time visitors, get a good introduction to the pavements you’ll be pounding with the flashy, multimedia Paris Story. Tech-savvy teens will appreciate the virtual reality approach to Paris’ two thousand years of history and younger visitors will love the interactive map of Paris in miniature.


Museums like the renowned Louvre and the Impressionist-packed Musée d’Orsay might be high on the grown-ups list of must-sees, but younger artistes will more likely be captivated by the room-sized canvases of Monet’s famous waterlilies at the nearby Orangerie. Or build in some time for excursions to truly kid-friendly museums like La Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie, where visitors can try their skills in a flight simulator, venture into a submarine, or step behind the desk of a TV studio. 


Climb the cobbled streets of the Montmartre neighborhood and reward yourself with some of Paris’ best ice cream and stellar views over the rest of the city. Have your portrait painted by a roving street performer or track down the haunts of Pablo Picasso and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in this former artists’ quarter. Montmartre is also a good neighborhood to grab a meal and spread out with the little ones at a terrace-side table for a bit of people-watching. Most restaurants in the area offer family-friendly options such as croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich), omelets, pommes frites (French fries) and cheese pizzas. Parents can grab an affordable plat du jour (two-course meal) or tuck into a hearty bowl of French onion soup – the quintessential Parisian dish.


As April showers give way to good weather, soak up the springtime sun in one of the city’s many parks. Just outside the Louvre, the Tuileries are a great place to stretch little legs and catch a ride on the popular carousel while the Luxembourg Gardens earn high marks for entertainment – strolling clowns, musicians, and snack food vendors make this a fun place to while away an afternoon. For another alternative, pack a frisbee and a picnic lunch and spread out your blanket on the Champs de Mars with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop. Lunch fixings can be found at the friendly food stalls on nearby Rue Clare. For a rainy day option, browse the aisles of FNAC, France’s largest music and book store. Catch up on some classic reading or pick up a disk of the latest hits topping the French charts.


If theme parks are your thing, the familiar characters of Euro Disney are only a short train trip away. The popular favorites – from Big Thunder Mountain to Space Mountain – can be found in the park, as well as old standbys like the Mad Hatter teacups. Don’t forget to bring your camera and your autograph book for special meet-and-greet sessions with the best-loved members of the Disney family. Families can even arrange a special character brunch or a princess dinner with everyone’s favorite heroines. Or, for a unique alternative, get a taste of Gaul (Old France) at Parc Asterix. This theme park, a mere shuttle ride from Charles de Gaulle airport, is based on the lovable comic books of tiny Gaulois warrior Asterix. Kids can mix up their own magic potions, try their hand at driving a Roman chariot, captain their very own Viking longboat, or catch a thrilling roller coaster ride.


Cap off your visit to Paris with a cruise down the Seine, sailing slowly past the monuments that make this city so magical. Count the three dozen bridges that link the city’s Left and Right banks, spot gargoyles on the floodlit spires of Notre Dame, or simply soak up the sights of this timeless destination. Bon voyage!



Language: French

Access: ANA and Air France offer daily service to Paris from Narita

Currency: the Euro

Time difference: -8 hours

Climate: Springtime in Paris can be a tad chilly at night. Pack a light jacket and pick up one of the ubiquitous scarves all Parisians seem to be sporting at any tourist stall or department store.

Tasty Treats: There’s a bakery or pastry shop on nearly every block in Paris. For sweet treats, try a pain au chocolat or mille feuille. Crusty baguettes and flavored breads make excellent picnic options.

About Mandy Bartok