Visiting Paris With Kids

Travelling with children anywhere is a challenge, but travelling overseas and changing time zones presents its own special problems.

Consider the ages of your children, and their ability to adapt to the different environment, timing of meals and sleep periods.

If you are taking the whole family to Paris, it is wise to remember that everyone, adults included, can get cranky from lack of sleep and overexcitement.

After all, Paris is one of the most exciting cities in Europe, and you all want to enjoy it!

Start out by planning your itinerary carefully, avoiding too intense a program of activity or sightseeing for the first couple of days. Allowing everyone to catch up on their rest, and savor the sights, will pay off with less stress and more smiles all around.

When you do set off, take into account the distances you'll be travelling, the time that tours or trips to certain areas will take, and try to provide "break time" that will restore your energies for the next attraction.

Older children will appreciate some of the same historical sites that may interest their parents, but for the younger set, there's plenty of entertainment just for them!

Jardin d'Acclimatation

Napoléon III gave 37.5 acres to three scientists who then proceeded to create a centre to breed certain animals for educational, scientific, and agricultural purposes.

It quickly became a major attraction, at one time holding as many as 100,000 animals, including the first giraffe ever seen in France. The park was denuded of animals in the late 1800s, but one of the first water ride attractions was built next to it in 1909.

In 1952 the two became part of France's first family entertainment facility, combining cultural, educational, and recreational pastimes. There are new animals to see, the mysterious enchanted river, whose level rises and falls; and an extensive display of natural flowers, vegetables, trees and birds.

The park also offers such conveniences as babysitting, sports activities, and a museum for the art education of children.

Parc Floral de Paris

One of the four stunning botanical gardens of Paris, this park incorporates features for the younger visitors as well, including the charming butterfly garden.

Little legs tired of walking can enjoy a train ride around the grounds, or take a turn on one of their special quadricycles.

Along with a theatre that presents special children's programs several times a week, there are more than 60 games for young ones, and educational displays to delight the most curious members of the family.

Circuses

The entire family can enjoy a day at one of the several circuses to be found in Paris. For children, the most attractive might be Cirque de Paris, 115 boulevard Charles de Gaulle, where they can not only attend workshops on performing in the morning, but have lunch with the stars, and then watch the afternoon show.

The Cirque Alexis Gruss, allée de la reine Marguerite, is an old-fashioned circus with traditional acts, and specializing in showy displays of horsemanship.

Cirque Diana Moreno Bormann, 112 rue de la Haie-Coq, has a wonderfully entertaining assortment of animals, dog acts, and clowns, with performances on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione, 110 rue Amelot, is a joint venture combining the historic Cirque d'Hiver hall, constructed in 1852, and a modern troupe of entertainers, the Bougliones, with an amazing array of acrobats, clowns, jugglers, contortionists, snakes, and trapeze artists.

Theme and Entertainment Parks

If the youngsters want something more homelike, there is also an abundance of theme and entertainment parks.

La Mer de Sable in Ermenonville, just north of Paris, is built on a sand deposit that has the appearance of a natural desert. The theme is cowboys and Indians, with a ranch show at 2 PM; an attack by the Indians at 4 PM; and a display of horsemanship at 5:15 PM. There are also pony rides, a steam train, water rides, the usual fairground attractions, and plenty of food and opportunities to sit down and enjoy it.

France Miniature, also just outside Paris, is a fascinating display of France's historic building in miniature, replicated at 1/30th the size of the originals. Recent additions include Le Moulin Rouge (meaning "the red windmill"), Montmartre, and Sacré Coeur Cathedral. There is a free audio-visual show, and plenty of regional eateries.

Futuroscope in Poitiers (a 350 km trip from Paris, but well worth it, and good as a weekend excursion), totally devotes itself to audiovisual techniques and special effects in its cinemas. The incredible, three dimensional hemispheric theatre will have your kids on the edge of their seats.

"The Challenge of Atlantis" virtually propels the young viewer through the streets of the mythical city. They can experience the space station in 3-D. Or get the chills as high tech filming and surround cinema jumps off a cliff and replicates the sensations of skydiving and base-jumping. A whopping 2.9 million visitors pass through the park every year.

Parc Astérix, 8.3 km north of Paris, is for the thrill seekers. Climb aboard for an 80 km/h ride over 1.3km of track on wooden roller coaster with seven loops! Grab a seat on the Menhir Express where the treetop ride, 20 metres above ground, ends at a 13 metre water slide. Or take a ride on a rubber tire down a replica of the river Styx, complete with geysers, waterfalls and plenty of surprises.

And of course, if all else fails to entertain your offspring, there is always Disneyland Paris!