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Paris is an obvious choice for couples. But the city can also take on a delightful feel when you bring along the kids for a Parisian adventure. Stroll the hills of Montmartre, enjoy a sweet crepe on the banks of the Seine, consider some great works of art from a child’s perspective, sample new foods at the market and laze away a perfect day in the park just like the locals do. Kids’ lit heroines Madeline and Eloise have explored this great city -- now it’s your turn to experience kid-friendly Paris.
Numerous riverboats ply the Seine day and night with audio tours of sights along the river. On the Batobus, take in the scenery without the distraction of the overhead speakers. The Batobus offers hop-on, hop-off service at 8 key points along the Seine including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Champs-Elysées, and the botanical garden and zoo at Jardin des Plantes. Passes are available for 1, 2 or 5 days, with discounts for kids under 16 and free rides for kids under 3. All boats have an indoor seating section surrounded by glass so you can dodge any passing rainstorms and still enjoy the view.
Insider’s Tip: The Batobus stops running at 9:30 p.m. during the summer months, which is around the same time the sun sets in the summer. So don’t plan on viewing the monuments aglow at night on the Batobus because it doesn’t get dark until around 10 p.m., which may be well past bedtime for little ones.
Paris is known as a city of great museums. The true gem for kids is at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (the Science and Industry Museum), which is the biggest science museum in Europe. Hands-on opportunities abound in 2 distinct sections in the Cité des Enfants for age ranges 2 to 7 and 5 to 12. Purchase tickets in advance for timed sessions to the exhibition. Older kids may get behind the camera or play the role of newscaster and read from the teleprompter in the TV studio, experiment with water or learn how the body works. Younger guests have access to 5 thematic areas where they fine-tune their motor skills. Museum staff suggests that you make the most of your time by focusing your experience on 1 to 2 exhibitions. Your admission also includes a trip to the 3-D film and the small on-site aquarium.
Insider’s Tip: After the museum, walk over to the 12 themed gardens in the Parc de la Villette, one of the largest parks in Paris. Swoop down the 80-foot steel dragon slide in the Jardin du Dragon or explore movement in the play zone in the Jardin des Voltiges.
Located in Paris’s sixth arrondissement, the Luxembourg Gardens is a fashionable Left Bank spot to take a breather and relax with the locals. The open green space is dotted with statues (see if you can find an early model for the Statue of Liberty among the park’s 100-plus statues), fountains and family-friendly features such as a fenced-in playground and a vintage carousel. You’ll need a few euros to take advantage of the most kid-friendly attractions in the park, like the model boats that you can rent to float in the Grand Basin, the old-fashioned carousel or the enclosed playground with rope climbers, sandboxes and a zip line in the park’s southwest corner. If you’re visiting on a Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, you can take in a puppet show at the marionette theater. Even non-French speakers can follow the familiar stories and marionette antics.
Insider’s Tip: Blankets on the wide stretches of grass are not permitted; instead enjoy your baguette and cheese at any of the tables and chairs scattered throughout the park.
There’s a reason the Eiffel Tower is a must-see for travelers of all ages -- those sweeping city views. This towering steel Paris icon has become even more kid-friendly with the addition of the free and self-paced kid’s tour on the first floor, where kids can follow the yellow footsteps of mascot Gus (short for Gustave Eiffel himself) to 12 stations at which they learn about the Eiffel Tower. Booklets available at the Cineiffel, the exhibition center and cinema located on the same floor, include a quiz and games to enhance learning. Continue to the second floor for photos. You’ll need to pay more to take the lift all the way to the top. The reward is panoramic views from 590 feet above Paris. You can avoid ticket lines by purchasing a timed ticket online up to the day before you arrive -- just print tickets or transfer to your smartphone.
Insider’s Tip: Brave parents can save some cash by walking the 704 steps that lead to the second floor, but keep in mind that this option is probably best for older kids. Younger kids may appreciate the views from below instead, especially when taken from the carousel in the Parc du Champs de Mars below the tower.
Of course, there’s Disneyland Paris, but you can delve deeper into local culture with a trip to Parc Astérix just 22 miles north of Paris in the town of Plailly. The kids won’t mind if they’re not familiar with the exploits of Asterix and Obelix, of French comic book fame, when they feast their eyes on the looping roller coasters, towering log flumes and spinning rides. The fun is spread out over 32 attractions in 6 worlds that recreate Egypt, ancient Greece, Viking lands, the Roman Empire, Gallic villages and the Middle Ages. Fast-moving thrill rides like the Goudurix with its 6 inversions thrill older kids, while 10 slower-moving rides are sized perfectly for the 6 and under set. Dine around the park in the themed restaurants and snack stands. Or pack a lunch to enjoy in the designated picnic areas. There’s no need to rent a car for this excursion as park shuttle buses are available for a fee directly from Paris by the Louvre or Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Insider’s Tip: While weekends are always popular, crowds actually peak on Sunday, so plan accordingly.