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
Hunchback of Notre Dame
(Watch Disney's version with your child before you leave on your trip. It will
come in handy. Trust me!)
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.
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.
time for a little guerilla sightseeing.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
at Invalides is filled with medieval weaponry and suits of armor. For men and
horses. Fascinating for kids.
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.
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.
hands-on science museum is fun for the entire family.
Also fun for the entire family.
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.
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.
Stores. Try Galeries Lafayette. The Moulin Roty stuffed
animals are adorable and very hard to find in the U.S.
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.