July 18, 2011
Little Girl in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens (Ktylerconk)
I’ve always thought of Paris as the ultimate adult playground. But Paris for the under-four-foot set? I wasn’t so sure.
That’s why discovering kid-friendly Paris (yes, it exists!) has been such a happy surprise. When the kids tire of museums and medieval churches (dubiously labeled “kid-friendly” by many a travel guide) put the Luxemburg Gardens on your family game plan. Even if much of the grass is interdit, there’s more than enough here to tire out your little travelers leaving papa et maman to enjoy an evening à deux.
Here are some of my family’s favorite diversions within the gates of Paris’ most beloved jardin.
Poussin Vert: Hands down, the best playground Paris. Packed with jeux and completely enclosed, it has a sandbox, train and small slides for toddlers; a Spiderman-worthy climbing structure and rope swings for bigger kids. A snack stand at the entrance offers coffee (decent enough in a caffeine pinch) and sugary snacks. The playground draws chic locals from the 6eme, a raucous crowd of petits Parisians, plus the occasional visiting celeb (we recently spotted photographer Annie Leibowitz with her clan). On-site toilettes(pretty, they’re not) are helpful for little emergencies. The 2€ entrance fee (for kids and adults) is good for the whole day so grab a hand stamp on your way out.
Luxembourg Garden Sandbox (Ktylerconk)
Le Théâtre des Marionnettes: The original and still the best puppet show in Paris. Since, 1933 les marionnettes, headlined by Monsieur Guignol, have been delighting French children with classic tales like Les Trois Petits Cochons and Les Dernières Aventures de Pinnocchio. It’s kids-only in the first four rows so arrive early for best seating. And don’t forget a snack (preferably chocolate) for the brief intermission. You’ll be amazed at the sweet bons bons and biscuits these kids consume.
Crepes, anyone? When happy offspring turn into hungry monsters, grab a seat in the shade next to the gravel-filled pétanque piste and take in a match while enjoying a warm crepe au nutella. (Word to the wise: skip the soupe à l’oignon). You’ll feel like you’re on the set of a 1940’s Truffaut film as stooped, cap-wearing gentlemen square off on dusty pitches reminiscent of Provence.
Le Manège Garnier: As far as kids’ activities go, I tend to think carousels offer the worst bang for your buck. Two euros for three minutes of fun? But in this case, we make an exception for the chance to ride on one of the city’s most charming originals (built in 1879 by Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera de Paris). Kids love to play chevalier by hooking the carousel’s “keys” on a tiny wooden lance astride one of 22 painted horses. A delight!
Le Manège (Nmatiny)
Les Bateaux à Voiles: It’s the quintessential activity for Parisian children and a must for any child’s visit to Paris. For just 2€ for 30 minutes, hire a vintage model sailboat and push it across the fountain in the shadow of Marie de Medicis’s 17th century Palais du Luxembourg (seat of the French Senate). Drag a chaise across the dusty gravel and lézarde (literally, lie like a lizard) in the Parisian sunshine. This is family Paris at its finest. Summer afternoons also offer free outdoor music; come early to hear Chopin on Sundays on July.
Not tired yet? Vintage metal go-carts can be hired for a peddle around a make-shift race track in the shade. Take the carts for a spin on spring and summer afternoons behind the Poussin Vert. And for the icing on le gâteau, little horse-lovers can even take a leisurely ride on some (admittedly tired-looking) ponies. After all, what little Parisian doesn’t love a pony?
- Paris Mome – A great guide to Paris for kids in English and French (You can download a pdf in English)
- Worried about dining out with kids in Paris? Check out Tory’s tips on dining discreetly in Paris and on kid-friendly activities in Paris
- Need a super kid-friendly lunch spot? How about the eatery inside Bonpoint, the famous French children’s clothing store.
- Where’s Bryan has an unusual experience at the Jardin des Plantes… Another great place to bring kids in Paris!
Written by Paige Bradley Frost
Paige Bradley Frost, a Los Angeles native, moved back to Paris with her young family in 2011 after first living and getting married there in 2000. A lover of French style and cuisine, she spends her days scouting and writing about the city's gems when not chasing after her two young children. Her articles about parenting, culture and lifestyle have appeared on NYTimes.com, the Huffington Post and various other publications. She blogs about her Paris experiences at http://parisdejavu.blogspot.com.
Website: Paris Deja Vu