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Place to stay near or in Nice in July

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We are taking a three week trip to France from July 25 to August 17. We have two girls ages 9 and 11 who saw the movie "Monte Carlo" last year and want to visit Monte Carlo and the area. We are flying into Nice and staying in that area for a few days until July 28 when we go to Provence and stay in an apartment I've already booked. What city in that area should we actually stay in? Is Nice a good base? If we can avoid renting a car until we leave that area we're very happy taking trains. We like good food, scenic towns, interesting shopping, not so into beaches and definitely not beach crowds. Are there any hotel recommendations - we prefer something with some unique charm as opposed to chain hotels? As far as budget, we don't have a set one but nothing too fancy because we wouldn't know how to act (!) nor too cheap because we do like nice places. I know I should do more research but I got slammed at work so I am having to do this a bit out of order, reserve the place so we know we have it and then hopefully nail down what we're doing when I get some free time.

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