Siri Mitchell


 kids in Paris




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So you want to go to Paris? With kids? Good decision -- I made the same one myself! But there are a few things to keep in mind before you go:


Consider your stroller. Much of your travel within Paris will be done by metro or bus. Many of the metro stations are not equipped with elevators or escalators. This means you will be bouncing or carrying your child's stroller up and down steps. Some of the sites you will want to visit are paved in cobblestones or are spread with gravel. If your child is too heavy for a back-pack carrier, you will want to have a lightweight, umbrella stroller. The lightest, most umbrella-like stroller you can find. A rain cover would be an added benefit. Maclaren offers a high-quality range of lightweight strollers. This is, of course, reflected in price. I would recommend the Triumph model rather than the bottom-of-the-line Volo, simply because it comes equipped with all the extras that you will end up wanting to buy anyway. Great deals can be had on e-bay for gently used strollers.

Consider rain gear. You won't want to push a stroller and hold an umbrella at the same time. Land's End has several low-cost, lightweight rain jackets that compress to about the size of a pencil eraser.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Watch Disney's version with your child before you leave on your trip. It will come in handy. Trust me!)

The favorite 'friend.' Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal that is easily portable? Talk the trip up to the animal or doll and tell it what a great time it will have seeing Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, etc. If your child balks at seeing Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, the fact that Nose the Elephant wants to go may tip the scales in your favor without going through a melt-down. Of course, that means you might have to pack Nose the Elephant around town but…

Choosing a hotel. This is not the time to scrimp on a hotel by booking a room outside the city. Toddler energy is a valuable and limited resource, which you will not want to waste on a bus, train, or metro ride into the city center. Some metro lines are more useful and convenient than others. Line 1 is very handy. So is line 8 and line RER C.

Handling Jet-lag. Your child's sleeping schedule will be destroyed no matter what you do, but you can use this to your advantage. Decide whether you want to be first in line at the major tourist sites every morning (plan to wake up early), or take advantage of later-evening hours at the big museums (keep your child up late at night). Be aware that in the summer, it will be light until 10:00. In any case, figure on at least two nights to get over the biggest change in hours. The second night may well be the most difficult. Keep a few snacks handy for grumbly stomachs, but try not to reward early morning risers by turning lights on and getting toys out. 'We get up when the sun gets up' is a good mantra. Alternatively, start training your child before the trip to wake up to an alarm.


Now it's time for a little guerilla sightseeing. Paris is filled with things for kids to do, but you aren't planning to go to Paris only for your kids' sake, are you? You won't be able to sprint from one site to another the way you did pre-child, so prioritize the things you want to see and plan to see one (1) each day. If you can squeeze in another, good for you!

So how do you see the things you want to and keep your kids happy at the same time? I'm as much an advocate of deliberate parenting as anyone, but this is one case where negotiation is recommended. i.e. if you complete the circuit of the inside of Notre Dame without yelling and screaming, then we can climb up the bell tower just like Quasimodo! Speaking of which: 

Notre Dame. The bell tower climb (not for toddlers...lots of steps) includes the added benefit of viewing gargoyles up close. The line can last 2 hours! If you walk along the river side of the Cathedral, there is a small playground. The abundance of souvenir shops in the area makes for competitive pricing. There are also several crêpe/sandwich stands along the sidewalks. Bathrooms are outside in front, toward the river, and are underground. You may have to pay to use them, but they are relatively clean.

Rive Gauche (left or south bank). There is a park along the quais of the left bank between Pont de l'Alma and Pont des Invalides. A perfect stop if you're going from the lower Champs-Elysées to the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower. Go early, very first thing in the morning, or go late at night to see the lights. Any other time of day and you're wasting time and energy standing in never-ending lines (2 hours for lines to the top). In the elevator and on the second level, make sure you take time to look down through the windows to the ground. There is a triple story carrousel across the river in front of Trocadéro. There is a single story carousel right across the street (toward the river). There are several nice park/playground areas up toward the Ecole Militaire half of the Champs de Mars, on the right side of the park (if you're facing away from the river).

Musée d'Orsay. Consider the Musée de l'Orangerie instead (in the Tuileries Gardens). The Orangerie actually has Monet's Waterlilies, in a room specially designed by artist. It is a smaller, more intimate museum which is usually less crowded. Like the Musée d'Orsay, it has paintings by each of the famous impressionists. Show your kids how confused the paintings are up close and how they make sense from a distance. If you do go to the Musée d'Orsay, then go immediately to the back of the ground floor and take the escalator to the top floor where the famous Impressionist paintings are housed. Just elbow people aside and see as many of them as possible before your kids get bored. Or go Thursday evening when it's open late.

Louvre. Enter the museum underground from the metro and not through the glass pyramid outside. Consider going Wednesday or Friday evenings after 6:00 for reduced price tickets and less crowds; check online to make sure the things you want to see will be on exhibit. You might as well check off the Big Three first, in this order: Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the Mona Lisa (La Joconde in French). After that, choose a department: the Egyptian exhibits are interesting. There's a kids' bookstore above the general bookstore. One possibility: buy a picture book beforehand and then map your route to visit those pictures. You could do the same thing with postcards: let you child choose the things they want to see and then go on a 'treasure hunt' to find them. The Carrousel mall has a food court with a variety of offerings (including McDonalds).

Assemblée Nationale. In the Assemblée Nationale/St. Germain area, there is a park in front of the Basilique Sainte-Clothilde, off rue St.-Domique; it's located between rue Casimir Périer and rue de Martignac.

Invalides. The Military Museum at Invalides is filled with medieval weaponry and suits of armor. For men and horses. Fascinating for kids.

Sacré Coeur. At the bottom of the hill is a carrousel. At the top of the hill, to the side of the basilica is Painters Square (Place du Tertre) with mimes/living statues, street performers, etc. This can be quite crowded, but it is also very colorful. There is a wide selection of souvenir booths one block back from the square.

Bateaux Mouches. Tourist boats run up and down the Seine for a river's view of the city. I would choose this route over the Canal St. Martin tour which is more technically interesting, but slower and too tedious for small children.

La Villette. This hands-on science museum is fun for the entire family.

Disneyland Paris. Also fun for the entire family.

Open Air Buses. There are several companies running double-decker tourist buses. The hop-on-hop-off ticket makes it an attractive way to tour the city.

Push Boats. At the ponds in Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens, you can rent small sail boats which you can push out into the water with a stick. A traditional French amusement for children.

Toy Stores. Try Galeries Lafayette. The Moulin Roty stuffed animals are adorable and very hard to find in the U.S.

Children's Clothes. If you want to take back French clothes for children, look at Monoprix on the Champs-Elysées before you spend a fortune in the well-known children's stores like Natalys, Le Petit Bateau, and Tartine et Chocolat.




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Last update: 03/07/2016