Ride a hot air balloon? Jump on trampolines? In Paris?! Everyone knows Paris is the city for lovers, but you might be surprised to find out Paris is also a great city to explore with kids. You can always enjoy the classics: checking out the view from the Eiffel Tower, eating ice cream at Berthillon and gliding along the Seine on the Bateaux Mouches, but there are also few unique adventures that can be found in the City of Light. Here are four:
Jump to your heart’s content on trampolines in the Tuileries
If you have kids, the trampolines are one of the Tuileries best kept secrets. They are located at the end of the park closest to the Place de la Concorde entrance, Rue Rivoli side. I went to the Tuileries many times before I finally saw them. They are a fantastic place to take your kid and blow off some steam (Adult tip: cafes with wine not far away). Each five minutes on one of the six very springy trampolines costs 2.50 €. There is also a pretty fabulous playground in the park.
Look down at the Eiffel Tower from a hot air balloon in Parc André Citroën
Parc André Citroën is a public park located on the left bank of the river Seine in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. It is a bit out of the way but worth, because if the air is calm you can go for a ride in a hot air balloon. Balloon de Paris is not just any hot air balloon. It’s the biggest hot air balloon in the world! You get a unique bird’s eye view of the Eiffel Tower and all of Paris. Flights depend on weather conditions, so contact Ballon de Paris on the day of your visit. You can check out their website where they give weather conditions and let you know if you can go up in the balloon that day: www.ballondeparis.com or +33 1 44 26 20 00. Prices: Adult €12, Children (3-11) €6, Children under 3 ride free.
Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favorite gardens in Paris. Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the gardens were built in the 1620s for Marie de Médici, Henri IV’s consort, because she was homesick for the Pitti Palace in Florence, where she had spent her childhood. Beautiful states, lawns, chestnut groves and the Fontaine de Medici aside, the garden also has an amazing children’s playground–Parc de Jeux–with one of the coolest zip-lines I’ve ever seen.
They do charge an entry fee (so worth it!): 2.60 € for kids over 18 months, 1.60 € for adults. The playground has it’s own toilets and covered seating area, and you can purchase drinks and snacks at the entrance as well. Parc de Jeux is located next to the Les Marrionettes du Luxembourg puppet theater and also one of the oldest carousels in the city. Be forewarned, Parc de Jeux does close promptly at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Get creeped out looking at skulls in Les Catacombes
Want to go underground in Paris? Hang out with the bones of 6-million Parisians–now dead? If this sounds like it’s right up your kid’s creepy alley, then head over to Les Catacombes in the 14th arrondissement. Walking through the dark subterranean passages, you’ll learn fascinating–if not macabre–tidbits about the history of Paris and how this labyrinth of tunnels became the graveyard for millions of Paris’s former residents.
Kids under 18 are free but since lines can get very long, you might want to consider booking online. Make sure you print your tickets with the bar code before you go, otherwise you won’t get in. Not for young children or anyone with claustrophobia. Also no flash allowed so bring a camera with high ISO!
Pretend you’re a Roman gladiator at Arènes de Lutèce
Arènes de Lutèce is really cool. Hardly anyone, even Parisians, know about it, partly because it’s hidden in the 5th arrondissement. And I mean really hidden. The arena is semi-concealed by a few large apartment buildings situated around it. You could easily walk by the main entrance without noticing it. I did.
There are actually three different entrances but the easiest one to find is on Rue Monge. The entrance is at number 47 (on the left as you’re walking uphill on Rue Monge). You will think you’ve arrived at the entrance to one of the apartment buildings until you see the big cement gladiator helmet looming over the doorway. You found it!
Arènes de Lutèce has a long history (literally). The amphitheater was erected in the 1st century but then destroyed during invasions of the 3rd century. It was rediscovered in the mid-1800s when Rue Monge opened and the site of the site of the arena was uncovered by demolition work. But it wasn’t until 1917 that it was restored to its current state.
I’ve been to Arènes twice and it was quiet–a great place to eat your baguette and cheese while your kids run around. Occasionally you’ll find a children playing soccer, men flying kits or engrossed in a game bocce ball or a few people sitting on the stone bleachers. If you think you might enjoy a non-touristy spot with a history that dates back to the 1st century A.D., this is your place. Plus, how often do your kids get to pretend they’re gladiators in a real 2,000-year-old Roman arena?!
It’s all about the journey,