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Sightseeing with kids in Paris and Northern France

Sightseeing with kids in Paris and Northern France

Jan 11th, 2006, 08:13 PM
Original Poster
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Sightseeing with kids in Paris and Northern France

We are planning a trip to France in June 2006. We have 3 days in Paris (staying at Jardin L'Odeon near Luxembourg Garden) and then 5 days outside Paris (Northwest)but are Paris accessible. Our girls are 9 & 12. WE are looking for sights and adventures that we can enjoy together in Paris and this part of France. We are all good travelers but can only take 1/2 day of museum type excursion a day then we need more activity. Euro Disney has already been promised.
Anyway, any ideas on excursions, particular tours or tour operators would be greatly appreciated. Also, we love good restaurants so pass those recommendations along as well!

Thank you so much, Liz
lizkn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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Dear Liz:

I think it depends what your girls are into. My daughter is 12 and enjoys art museums, so the Louvre or Orsay would be great. Other possibilities: Monet's Garden at Giverny and Versailles. Also check out the book store for guides on sightseeing with kids. Of course, there is always shopping, which is very popular in our house!!

Have a great trip,

MichelleY is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 10:28 AM
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I would suggest having your daughters read "Kidding Around Paris" or another children's book about Paris and pick out places that interest them. My daughter picked out several items at the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay (e.g. Degas' Little Dancer) to see. She enjoyed the Luxembourg Gardens, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame. She did not like Versailles - she did not appreciate the history and the empty rooms did not interest her. Your girls might like the gardens (we were there in March and we didn't go into the gardens). If you do go, chose your tour carefully - our tour was not really for kids.
If you go to Normandy, the girls would enjoy the WWII sites on the beaches. The Caen Peace Museum is excellent, but you must decide if your girls are up to graphic war images and information.
Marsha is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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We can also recommend a private guide when touring Paris with kids. We did not have Michael Osman personally but his friend was our all day guide and was worth every penny!!! We started at the Louvre and I'm convinced we'd still be in line without his leading us around...he made sure to see highlights which interested the kids. My daughter wanted to buy French perfume (I think she was 9) and he took her shopping for that. My son, 11 at the time, would go back to Paris in a minute for the street side crepe our guide got for him. We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, toured Les Invalides and the Rodin Museum, much of which is outside. My kids followed him for hours and did what he suggested and they would have NEVER done that with Mom in charge!!! He also took ME to buy an Hermes scarf. I just think a guide is THE way to go in Paris with kids. Also, showing them movies in advance is a good plan too. Should also comment that we were comfortable in our hotel ordering pizza delivery for them and then mom and dad went nearby for dinner to a restaurant.
peggionthego is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 06:21 PM
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Thanks all for responses so far - much appreciated! We can't wait for our trip to Paris but we have erred on the side of too much historical touring with the kids, misery being the result.

Hopefully we're being more proactive this time!
lizkn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 07:19 PM
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See the catacombs! (bring a flashlight for the kids)
treble is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:00 PM
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It's so hard to say when you don't know exactly what your kids are like, but when we were in Paris w/ our kids about the ages of yours(about 10 yrs ago) this is what they enjoyed, and you can most likely find more about these spots in fodors book or on the web:

1. Versailles: I honestly can't remember if we paid for them or they were just available but we got bikes on site, and biked all around the roads -Versailles, down the road to the Petite Trianon, etc and my kids liked that - I think it took the sting out of walking through the buildings. We had stopped on way at an outdoor stall and bought some baguettes, apples, etc and ate them at stops along the way.

2. Pompidou Center and the wild fountains

3. The boat ride on the Seine just as it got dark and the lights were all on (I think Bateaux Mouche?)

4. Sacre Coeur: we got there before dark, took the funicular up, they had their hair braided on the steps, we walked thru Sacre Coeur, saw the lights of the city go on all around us as darkness fell, walked down and had early dinner in a local cafe.

5. We were staying near the Cafe Deux Magots and even though my kids were same ages as yours, they loved eating there and other outdoor cafes and people watching and sipping huge hot chocolates or having dessert.

6. The sewer tour: I kid you not. It's a tour of the sewer system underground, weird and fascinating and just something different. We did this after doing Musee D'Orsay in the morning and having lunch.

7. I can't remember the name of the chocolate place (annaebelle's?) I'm sure it was in the fodors book on paris. I think it was near the walk we did towards the Tulliere Garden (spelling likely wrong here) but if you probably search Paris chocolate or look in fodors it might still be there.

Of course, they liked walking Champs Elysee and seeing L'arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

I'll ask them tomorrow what highlights they remember. It will be intersting to see what they say ten years later.
escargot is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:05 PM
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I believe the hot chocolate place is Angelina's.
francophile03 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2006, 08:06 PM
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Escargot, thanks so much for your detailed reply. I'd be interested in your kid's memories.

Thanks again, Liz
lizkn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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Hi liz,

Also the Parc Monceau.

The shops and markets on Rue Montorgueil.

You could buy tickets for the Batobus and take a hop on/off tour.


ira is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 07:57 AM
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Thank you Francophile03, yes Angelina's, it came to be while I was lying in bed last night, oh well, at least I had an A name !!
escargot is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 08:30 AM
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Dear lizkn:
We have also learned the hard way about "historical touring." I find that the best tourist activities with kids are outdoor stuff: castles, parks, fairs, gardens and local kids activities where they can "run around." (Escargot's list is perfect!) This is true even for teenagers. I even found a wild animal park outside of Paris called "Thoiry" (I think) that had "ligers" on the grounds of a beautiful chateau. If you do a few museums, just swallow hard, be patient, and take the Louvre at a dead run!
Marsha is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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We took our kids when they were 13, 11 and 8. They liked:

1. Anything that could be climbed to the top of and looked out of...Notre Dame tower, Eiffel Tower, top of Sacre Coure, top of the Arche de Triomphe...they never complained about the climb.

2. We took them to the Picasso Museum and the Pompidou Center. It was quite a bit of fun to look at the Picassos and try to guess what he was depicting, before looking at the name of the painting.

3. At the Louvre, we did the "tour" from the Rick Steves book. Sure, we zipped through, but they saw the high points. If anyone is "into" Egypt, the Egyptian section is a must.

4. After the Louvre, play at the Tuilleries. The playground is less "safe" than American playgrounds, thus more fun. They can even jump on trampolines for one euro. The Luxemborg Gardens has a nice playground, too.

5. Crepes and other treats off the street are always popular.

6. As I child, I always loved decorated historical houses. For whatever reason, all my kids think that sort of thing is a big yawn...so we skipped Versailles.

7. Let the girls shop for jewlery and accessories at Monoprix. Very affordable and cool stuff.

8. I LOVE churches and cathedrals. I probably shouldn't admit this, but each child had a gameboy that they would whip out when Mom just HAD to step into one more church...it bought us 10-15 minutes at the church and everyone was happy.

9. Glad you aren't skipping Disneyland Paris. Every European City should have Disneyland...it's like taking a vacation from your vacation.

10. As for "family" restaurants, Hippopotamus (mentioned in all the books for families) has cool decor and gives out really neat balloons, but is so not worth the money. Imagine paying $90 for your family to eat at Denny's and you get the picture. I can't think of the place that we did like. Click on my name and look around April 2004 and you will see my reviews.

11. Make sure the kids know a few French phrases. Even the most impatient French waiter warmed up when my youngest said "Je voudrais le poulet."

Have a great trip!
missypie is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 10:19 AM
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Just visited and we had a very friendly young woman serving us at Angelina's. All 7 of us had lunch and tried lots of the deserts...great treats after our long morning walk! Get anything with pistachio in it - very unique creme ! We had a great time and the younger kids loved the special tea sets and cafe au lait containers!!
MelMarena1 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 12:32 PM
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Your girls might like the Jacquemart-Andree museum at 156 Blvd Haussman. Huge 19th Century, mostly furnished house with the family's Italian Renaissance Art collection (think Frick Collection in NYC). Audio tour in English, beautiful dining room (Tiepolo ceiling) with prix fixe quiche lunch or tea & pastries in afternoon. Take them for lunch or tea after something active and see if they want to see the museum after that. The house was used in some of the opening scenes in the movie "Gigi", so rent the movie & see if there is any interest. We have traveled in Paris many times with kids (boys) and they loved Les Invalides and the attached Army museum. We are the same, though - only 1 museum a day, with frequent stops for drinks! Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf is also great - 1 hour ride on the Seine. Print a discount coupon at www.lesvedettesdupontneuf.fr
mllecolline is offline  
Jan 13th, 2006, 12:47 PM
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We took our 10-year-old son to Paris (and the Loire Valley) last fall.

He liked the Louvre quite a bit. We visited the statues/sculptures and Greek/Roman stuff, then left the museum for a crepe lunch (sit-down). Then we spent another 2 hours or so back at the Louvre. He enjoyed, especially, the Italian masterpieces, then led us on a "Ninja Turtles" tour, which was fun for all of us. The Donatellos, by the way, are in the basement - we had to ask a museum guard where they were.

He also liked the Impressionists at the Museu d'Orsay. I though he would really like the Rodin museum, but he hated it, even the outdoors part. Go figure.

We didn't use a tour guide, just relied on a combination of our Michelin green guide and Rick Steves museum guides.

We read the Hunchback of Notre Dame together before the trip; it made the whole trip more interesting, but especially, of course, Notre Dame and going up the towers.

We visited the Pantheon because my son wanted to see where Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and the Curies were buried, and then went to the rue Mouffetard. I loved the market, but my son had about as much interest in the market as my husband did (nil).

We walked down the Champs Elysses, which impressed us all as being crowded and touristy, and a lot like London or New York.

We didn't go to Versailles, merely because we visited so many castles in the Loire (albeit different in style, time, etc.) We also skipped the catacombs and sewer and that kind of stuff; a little too creepy for my son.

Crepes from a cart are good; and he loved the croque madames, which you can get at many cafes. We made a quest of trying out macaroons - yum!! We decided that Lauderee is our favorite, but we'll have to go back to decided which was the best flavor.

The boat down the Seine at night was a big highlight; I intentionally scheduled that for the first day, so his first sight of the Eiffel Tower would be lit up at night. (Of course we went up the Eiffel Tower.)

Surprisingly enough, he also really liked the Opera Garnier. He hadn't seen the Phantom of the Opera, but this fall, when it toured here at home, he very much wanted to go, having visited the "real thing."

Sacre Coeur was nice, but we were there in early October, when the crowds were lighter; and all the people, basically, were outside the church and in the square. We enjoyed following (more or less) Rick Steves suggestions on a walking tour through the area. Given my son's interest in Impressionism, he really wanted to see the sites of the Impressionists' studios, etc. It's a pretty neighborhood, and area makes for a nice walk.

We went to Angelina's, and he thought the hot chocolate was too rich (so did I, but I'm a grownup). We had croissants and cafe or hot chocolate at an outdoor cafe every morning.

Our favorite restaurant was Le Moulin a Vent “Chez Henri”, which was picked primarily because they serve frogs legs, which my son really wanted to eat in France. It was an arch-typical French bistro, and I didn't hear any other English voices in there.

Have a wonderful trip!
Lexma90 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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lizkn: checked in w/ my kids. their favs were the things I previously mentioned, plus Les Invalids, the drive out to Chartres, and hanging out in Luxembourg Gardens and eating crepes off the street with lots of nutella. We then drove to Brittany, Normandy with a stop at Mont St Michel, which were all also favorites spots. Have fun!
escargot is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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We took the family for Christmas and the youngest who is 12 could not do a long museum time. Once after morning "culture" we walked to all the outside vendors at Les Halles and went onto 'pretend exploring' near the gardens and gates, finishing up with a short walk to Rue Montorgueil for crepes and italian ice cream. You may want to switch this for weather reasons to afternoon/morning.
MelMarena1 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 08:42 AM
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We stayed near the Luxembourg Garden with our son, and he enjoyed the large enclosed adventure playground - at least as a change from too many cultural activities! I think it cost 1 or 2 euro for entry.
Ruth is offline  
Feb 24th, 2006, 10:05 AM
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Excellent suggestions already mentioned - you won't have time to take them all up though! Disneyland Paris will take up a full day.

The best thing I did in Paris with my children was an evening bicycle tour


Fantastic Fun!
julia_t is offline  

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