After an overnight flight from the West Coast, USA, our family of six (with children ages 4 months to 9 years) arrived at CDG just over two weeks ago. The last days of July were the hottest of the year here, but this was to our advantage at first: the government declared journées anti-pollution and offered price-reduced tickets for public transport, so our family was able to take the RER train from the airport to our apartment for under 20 Euros. (This was a blessing after an expensive mistake three years ago.)
Our apartment, reserved through Kid & Coe, proved to be fantastic. Spacious for the price (meaning it was not simply a studio with a loft), it was in the 7th arrondissement, within walking distance of the Musée d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, and Jardin des Tuileries. Normally I prefer to stay in the Marais, but getting to know this relatively quiet quarter (near Les Invalides and the American University of Paris) was a nice change.
I discovered last spring that reserving Paris housing was definitely more difficult for our larger family. Two different owners (via Airbnb and Kid & Coe) turned down my rental requests despite initially claiming that their flats could house six people. It worked out in our favor, however, as the apartment we ultimately rented was the best choice of the three I was considering thanks to some amenities I had initially overlooked (including an elevator, a small nursery, and a partial view of the Eiffel Tower from the children's room).
Because of the excessive heat (97F/36C), we chose to take the metro to the Jardin d' Acclimatation on our first full day. The Jardin d'Acc, as we call it, is a theme park on 47 acres, but one of the nicest you can imagine, with lovely landscaping, a splash pad, aviary cages, and rides ranging from bumper cars to ziplines. If we lived in Paris, I'd only pay for admission (roughly 2.50 to 5 Euros per child), skip the rides, and head straight back to the splash pad for a day of inexpensive play, but as a rare treat we purchased the admission plus three rides (11 Euros) for each child. Though I'm not much into theme parks, the thrills (and the cooling vapor vents) made it a great way to kick off our Paris stay.
Parent tip: Check out the height requirements for select rides online before your family visit. Also, have your children wear closed-toe shoes to meet the requirements if they'd like to ride the zipline.
The following day we visited the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie with joint tickets. I don't recommend visiting the main museums at the height of summer/tourist season, but I wanted my husband to be able to see the art there. Still, I would visit as early or late as possible to cut down on the crowds. To make museums more enjoyable with children, we have them choose their favorite piece of art (and take a photo of them with it) or have them choose a postcard of a favorite piece, then hunt for that same piece in the museum. I like asking them open-ended questions about the art ("This sculpture is called 'Woman bitten by a Serpent', so where's the serpent?"). We also keep our visits short.
This was my first visit to the musée de l'Orangerie and I was awed by the beautiful natural light around Monet's Nymphéas (Water Lilies). You can enjoy a 360' view of his paintings here on Google Arts & Culture.
Another park we visited was the Parc Floral on the eastern edge of Paris. Walk past the impressive Chateau de Vincennes and pay the minimal entry fee to the park; inside the gate you'll find an amazing diversity of gardens, a puppet theater, a café, an amphitheater, ping pong tables, and a dozen incredible play structures. This is probably the most family-friendly park in Paris. We made the best memories riding in a rosalie (pedal cart) after an afternoon of play.
We spent our final day in Paris hanging out on the Eiffel Tower, staying much longer than we had initially intended. I'll share more about what made it so accomodating in my next post.
Paris is known for its incredible sights and museums, but there are so many simple experiences that make it wonderful to visit slowly as a family with young children. What do you love (or think you would love) about Paris?