Summer Fun with the kids in Paris
The jury is out as to whether August is the ideal time to holiday with kids in Paris. Frequent Paris travellers will know that the city kinda shuts down during the 8th month of the year. Native dwellers in Paris, take the opportunity to escape their familiar urban landscape, preferring to recline on a sunbed in a French coastal resort, usually in the south of the country where the temperatures reach boiling point.
The commercial potential that could be gained from tourists flocking to the city of light, in the height of the summer, seems unable to compete with the appeal of fours weeks of sunshine on the Cote d’Azur or any other destination. It’s just the way it is in this town and it can sometimes be a little shocking for those arriving here, hoping to soak up the usual hustle and bustle of the French capital!
Paris essentially becomes a ghost town in August and if you live here, the sudden lack of vibrancy in the city can give you a stunning reality check. Paris without its people can be sobering. Although one may generally complain about the intensity of the city, brimming with people going about their daily lives, opening up shop in the morning or setting our chairs for the alfresco diners; plus the endless smell of baguettes being baked and the constant stream of cars and motorbikes whizzing through town, not to mention the soundtrack of French chatter and clinking wine glasses…when that is all missing, it feels like an entirely different place.
At first, MLP wasn’t really feeling it! The first year here, we decided to stay throughout the summer but we vowed not to do it again as the extreme difference was too much to bear. But as the years passed and we tried it a few more times, we came to appreciate it. Yes, it wasn’t the same – along some streets you could hear a pin drop. But it meant we could explore the city at a slower, more chilled pace and take in its beauty. We rarely queued for anything and although many of our favourite spaces – including restaurants- were closed it forced us to find new places; and we uncovered many ways we could still have fun with the kids in Paris.
So with that in mind, here are just some of our ideas, of how you and your family can get the most out of Paris in August, despite the odd peacefulness that envelops the city over this summer month. With these tips, we guarantee the summer with your kids in Paris will be wonderful.
The Paris Plages initiative is an effort to bring a coastal resort spirit to the city. Deckchairs, palm trees, fake grass, decking and sand – in some places – suddenly start appearing on the banks of the River Seine and various canals around the capital. While the heat of the sun warms le ville, tourists and the locals head down to the ‘Paris plage for a little rest and relaxation. Kids run wild as the installed water canisters spray them as they play. Strategically placed bars provide sustenance, and sun umbrellas protect you from the rays. It’s a great way, to while away a morning or afternoon or perhaps a day, especially as it only happens once a year. So, take full advantage.
Head to the Rives de Seine Parc, from the Solferino bridge to the Alexandre III bridge on the left bank, and from the Sully bridge to the Neuf bridge on the right bank. The Rives de Seine Parc offers exceptional views of historic monuments of Paris, like as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay. Also, head to the Bassin de Villette for a great outdoor experience wit the kids.
Summer on the Canal
We just love summer by the canal! This year will be the 12th L’été du Canal, and we advise you to head to the Canal de l’Ourcq in the 19th arrondissement for boat trips, dance events, walks, bars, beach play and so much more.
It’s fun for all the family and this festival is a summer classic, running until August 25. We love the sound of the brunch-on-a-boat experience, taking place until August 24 and tickets are still available. Getting the family onto a rented electric boat is also a must, the view from the water is magical on a beautiful day and kids really enjoy it! You get a good hour so it’s definitely worth it. To see why L’été du Canal is always so popular, check out this video.
Lazy boating days
There is something idyllic about messing about in boats on a sunny Paris day. There are quite a few places where you can rent a boat for a lazy, sunny time. We love the Lac Inférieur in the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of the city where you can boat among the ducks and admire the woodland and Eiffel Tower views. For those further east, the Bois de Vincennes offers a similar experience on the Lac Daumesnil, a massive lake bordered by willows, poplars, and tall grass where you can rent a rowboat from a wooden shed on the lakeshore.
Don’t fancy rowing? Well, how about captaining your own electric boat? Small wing? Small electric canal boats are available for hire at Bassin de la Villette and are the perfect way to take yourselves on a mini-cruise of the Canal de L’Ourcq area. No boat licence required!
If you want something a little different for a family excursion, the Fairground Museum could be for you. This unique museum in Bercy is packed with a collection depicting the history of Fun Fairs. It’s a very special place that can only be explored as part of a tour but it is also extremely interactive. The children get to play games from the 1800’s and ride the carousels. The tour is about 90 minutes long and lots of fun. You should reserve your spot in advance.
One of the happiest sights possible is watching the kids running with wild abandon through the water sprinklers at the Jardin d’Acclimatation on a hot summer’s day. Such a simple pleasure but all they really want when the city heats up. It’s a 20-acre now new and improved amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne but it is gentle and understated compared with Disney or Asterix.
There are rollercoasters, carousels and good old-fashioned fun like hook-a-duck for the little ones. There are pony rides and a mini-farm and the Jump Zone trampoline area. The Jardin d’Acclimatation now also houses the Fondation Louis Vuitton art gallery but we don’t rate your chances of getting the kids to agree to abandon the park. A fun way to arrive for younger kids is to take the little train that runs from Porte Maillot to the main entrance of the park.
Nighttime at the Zoo
Until August 15th, Parc Zoologique will be open every Thursday night from 7 pm. You and the family could take a late-night stroll through the zoo and watch the animals sleeping or prowling in their surroundings during the night. Perhaps a late-night picnic is your thing or an apéro. Whatever takes your fancy, this is indeed an unusual opportunity that might be worth a punt. Tickets can be bought here.
Parc Zoologique, Zoo de Vincennes, 53 Aveneue de St Maurice Paris 12.
Parc de la Villette
The Parc de la Villette is the third largest park in Paris and is found in the north-east of the city. Many Parisians head there to visit the fantastic science museum, the Philharmonie music venue and the IMAX cinema. But the park itself is well worth a visit in its own right, especially in the summer. There are ten themed gardens to explore.
A favourite with kids is the Jardin du Dragon which is home to a very large dragon sculpture with a huge slide for children. Enjoy a stroll along the Canal de l’Ourcq. There are some great activities at Little Villette, the new children’s centre in the park. Le Parc de La Villette is a completely different experience do any of the other Paris parks. Modern and vibrant, it is close to Mama Loves Paris’ heart. Perfect place to have fun in Paris with the kids this Summer.
Parc de Sceaux
Parc de Sceaux is just south of Paris and is easily accessible on the RER (Line B to Bourg-la-Reine, Sceaux or Parc de Sceaux). It’s a fantastic summer destination for a picnic outside the city. There is a grand chateau and you can stroll through the gardens which were designed by Andre Le Notre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles and Chantilly. An easy and refreshing excursion.
Air and Space Museum
Just a short jaunt outside the periphique of Paris is the Paris Air & Space Museum. It’s a venue little known by tourists but very popular with the French. There is also a planetarium here and so many interesting things to get immersed in – including a Boeing 747 to explore! What kid wouldn’t want to have a go at learning to fly on the flight simulators? You can get there by public transport. Until September 30 the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on Mondays.
Jardin des Plantes
This beautiful botanical garden is home to four museums and a mini-zoo. Those who know the Jardin des Plantes feel great affection for this park but it is never over-run with visitors and so is ideal for the summer months.
Tempt your kids over there with the promise animals of the Galerie de l’Evolution and then get the whole family out for a stroll around the beautiful plants and trees that this garden hosts. Think about delicious mint tea and cakes at the cafe of the Paris Mosque afterwards.
Chantilly is one of our favourite summer day trips. Of course, the chateau houses wonderful art galleries and private suites. But in the summer months, even the grounds alone are worth the visit, with fountains, flower beds and the Anglo-Chinese Garden for the family to enjoy. Kids love the maze and the Children’s Hamlet, which has two play areas, one for 3 – 6-year-olds with a huge snail-shaped play area covered in grass, mini wooden houses and farm animals on springs. The other is for children aged 8 to 12, with a play structure on which bigger children can climb and jump from. There is also the Petit Parc with sheep and kangaroos. Until November there is a mini train. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you can take a coach out to Chantilly from rue des Pyramides in central Paris run by ParisCityVision An alternative however, is to take the train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux and then it’s a five-minute taxi ride or 20 minute walk to the Chateau or a free DUC bus ride to ‘Chantilly, Eglise.
Guess what? The Paris Batobus is not just for tourists. It’s actually a great way to give kids a sense of their city as a view from the river really brings the city alive for them. It’s especially great in the summer as it shows them the major sights but eliminates moans and groans about having to walk on a hot sticky day.
You can get on and off as you please and use your ticket all day as the boat stops at around nine places all the Seine including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. A great adventure if you’ve got visitors with kids from out of town, this boat-bus gives a wonderful snapshot of the city from its best vantage point – the river.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Every time we go here we are reminded what a privilege it is to have this special place as ‘our’ park. The summer blooms in the Jardin du Luxembourg are incredible.
Toddlers keep busy with their buckets and spades in the rose garden (endless tipping of water from the taps!). Pony rides, Guignol puppet shows and the sound of racquets hitting tennis balls. Wooden sailboats and a terrific playground.
Ice cream stops!
The founder of Bertillon may have been against eating ice cream in summer but we don’t agree with him. Get the kids out with the promise of ice cream and then a whole new adventure in a different neighbourhood begins.
High ropes in the Parc Floral
Chances are you might be heading out to Parc Floral for the Les Pestacles kids festival. While you’re there, do think about getting yourself up into the treetops for some high ropes and zip wires! This is a classic French activity – they love their ‘accrobranche’!
It’s a lot of fun and the Parc Floral is such a beautiful setting. Remember that children need to be over six years old and they suggest you wear sports shoes. The cost is 21 Euros for adults and 16 Euros for kids. Read Mamas review here.
Summer is a good time to go to Disneyland Paris as we find queuing in winter a bit chilly! It is really two parks, Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park. Take the RER A from either Chatelet or Gare de Lyon to Marne –La Vallee which literally brings you right to the entrance of Disney. It couldn’t be easier. If you’ve got younger children, they will be more than happy with the gentle ‘It’s a Small World’ ride, and Spinning Teacups at the Disneyland Park. Be warned that if they want to meet a Princess, you should reserve that immediately upon your arrival. By the way, it’s true that little girls often walk around the park in their full Princes’s outfits. Take one along so that you don’t get roped into an emergency purchase.
Get yourself and the kids stocked up on some summer reading and support the English Language bookshops that thankfully still exist in Paris. Shakespeare and Company is a favourite with us and they now have the great new addition of a cafe.
Berkeley Books is another gem that deserves your support. WHSmith is great to combine with a trip to the Tuileries gardens. Use them or lose them – we have already lost the Red Wheelbarrow, Tea and Tattered Pages and Village Voice from our city!
Les Pestacles 2019
This annual summer-long family festival takes place in the beautiful Parc Floral, part of the Bois de Vincennes in the East of Paris. Les Pestacles runs until September 4 and features shows, workshops, dance, and learning tours for kids. Plus lots of classical music. It’s a great way to get the whole family over to the Bois de Vincennes.
Parc de Belleville
Parc de Belleville is set on a slope and has the longest waterfall in Paris. Head up to the terrace at the top of the park for a wonderful panoramic skyscape of the city and a fantastic spot for photos. Go in the late afternoon and stay for an early picnic dinner.
This park has a relaxed vibe, with table tennis tables, wooden playgrounds and large lawns with families enjoying picnics.
This idea is so inspired it could only be French. The Baladobus really opens up the countryside to Paris residents. Take the RER train to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse or an SNCF train to Rambouillet, and the Baladobus will pick you up and drop you at various countryside locations. Destinations include Chateau de la Madeleine, Chateau du Breteuil, Vaux de Cernay Petit Moulin and Abbaye Vaux de Cernay. The Parc Naturel Régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse is opened up to city dwellers with no car with this simple but brilliant scheme. Please report back to MLP if you ride the Baladobus as we love the idea!
Mini Rock en Seine 2019
Rock en Seine is a major annual music festival and while you enjoy it, the organisers also make sure your kids get special treatment by hosting an event aimed at the youngest festival-goers! Mini Rock en Seine is for kids aged 6 to 10, it’s free of charge and away from the crowds. Whilst the grown-ups enjoy the main performances, the kids get to become rock stars, music critics and even presenters on Mini Rock en Seine TV! Both the grown-up and the kids’ version of Rock en Seine run from August 23-25th.
La Fete Foraine des Tuileries
In the summer months, the Tuileries gardens host a fantastic annual funfair. With carousels, ghost trains, trampolines and giant swings, this year promises to be one of the best. Waffles, churros, candyfloss and toffee apples galore! Entry is free but obviously, the cost of rides and food add up. Open until the evening of August 25. You can visit from 11am to 11.45pm on weekdays and from 11am to 12.45am on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
The dramatic waterfalls, cliffs, meandering paths and large lawns of the Buttes-Chaumont are fantastic for a long, lazy summer day.
Pack a picnic, lounge on the grass and people watch. Theatrical and quirky, this park has character. Check out the Mama Loves Paris review of this fabulous park.
Star Gazing with the kids in Paris
Enjoy a real-life planetarium experience in the open air. At a number of selected parks throughout the city, the French Association of Astronomy has organized a star-studded sky experience on various nights over the summer. All the necessary equipment will be provided. Here are the parks and the dates. Each evening starts at 9pm and goes on until 2am.
Parc de Belleville – August 7th
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont – August 10th
Jardin Villemin – August 9th and August 31st
Georges Méliès Square – August 23rd
Place des Vosges – August 15th
Parc Montsouris – September 28th
If you want something a little different to Disney while you are with the kids in Paris, then this is it. Yes, it’s based on the characters from the famous comic books but, even if your children are not into Asterix, Obelix and their merry friends, there is a huge amount of summer fun to be had. Rollercoasters, sea lion and dolphin shows, playgrounds and the new Forest of Dogmatix area. It’s so much fun for the family and teens will love it too. There are several ways to get there, including a coach (‘navette’) that will pick you up at the Louvre or you can take the RER to Charles-de-Gaulle Terminals 1 and 3 stop and take a coach from there. Details for both options can be found on the Parc Asterix website.
The new floating museum
This street art gallery in Paris is the first floating art museum in the world and it is right here in Paris! It is a three-story, sustainable, floating structure with transparent walls and flexible spaces dedicated to urban art and it is called Fluctuart. It’s taken four years of hard work to realise the project and now it is open to the public.
It is a must for art lovers or those seeking inspiration. Permanent exhibitions include works from Keith Haring and J.R, the famous French street artist. It is free to the public and open & days a week. A wonderful experience to enjoy with the kids in Paris.
Les Nuits aux Invalides
An annual event that is much loved by the French and gives you the chance to absorb 2,000 years of the history of France. Projected onto the stunning building at Musee des Armes it is an exquisite show but it is on late at night. Shows will be broadcast in 3D in the open air in both English and in French July 6 – September 2. The video gives you a flavour of what you can expect
Before New York had its High Line, Paris got there first with the world’s first elevated park. It is called the Promenade Plantée but also gets called the Coulée Verte. This disused railway line in the 12th district of Paris now blooms with cherry trees, roses and lavender and stretches from close to the Place de la Bastille all the way out to the entrance of the Bois de Vincennes.
It’s both an interesting and relaxing walk, offering some new perspectives on the city, and lots of conversations starters with the kids about how nature and the city can interact. We recommend going during the week when it might be less busy. Read our Promenade Plante review here.
Ok, we know it’s not in Paris. But we love the seaside town of Trouville. Combined with its immediate (and more elegant) neighbour, Deauville, this coastline is often referred to as ‘The Other French Riviera’. Just hop on a train from the St Lazare train station in central Paris and you can see it for yourself in two hours. Trouville has huge beaches for bucket-and-spade fun and delicious food and is probably more appealing to kids than its more sophisticated neighbour Deauville. A trip to Trouville is the way to get the kids out of the city when it starts to swelter. You could technically do it as a day trip, but why not stay the night and perhaps include the quaint fishing port of Honfleur in your travels? Take a look at the SNCF website for train times.
Pick a day and just go! Giverny is on most people’s bucket list but it takes many of us a while to just get on the train and experience it for ourselves. You can buy your tickets in advance.
To get there, either take the train from St Lazare station in central Paris or think about travelling on a coach trip organised by Cityvision in which case your entry ticket should be included in the price along with an audioguide. You can arm yourself in advance with some great resources for kids, including Colour by dots and Spend a Day with Monet – A Kids Guide to Giverny.
Martin Luther King Park
We love the Martin Luther King Park in the 17th district of Paris. We don’t get there often enough and so the summer is the perfect moment to make time for it.
It has the reclaimed urban feel of New York’s High Line and it’s an underrated Parisian green space. We enjoy the deckchairs, the play areas, the landscaped water features with lilies and reeds and the sports areas.
Palais de la Decouverte
The Palais de la Decouverte is a great destination for families. You can introduce the kids to astronomy at the Planetarium and there are all kinds of interactive spaces to bring science, light and acoustics to life.
Give the kids a chance to cool off and enjoy a splash around in an outdoor pool. Even some of the indoor pools can remove part of their roof.
The Josephine Baker pool is a favourite with us. The kids love Aquaboulevard (just prepare yourself for insanity!) and we are just fantasising about the day someone invites us to the super-exclusive Molitor pool. MLP has a guide to the best outdoor pools in Paris – so check it out and report back on where you and the kids swim this summer!
Take a walk along the old railway track which is now open to the public. In the last 1800s, a 32 Kilometer railway track was used to transport people, goods and services around Paris but it was closed after modern technology introduced better transport systems and links.
For years there has been an initiative to revive it and finally, it’s now partly open. It will take around 3 more years for the entire track to be ready and eventually enable an alternative scenic stroll through the city of light but we aren’t quite there yet. Right now you can explore about 3.km.
A Family Music Events at Parc Floral
Classique au Vert takes place at this beautiful park each year. Parc Floral plays host to some of the most talented musicians nationwide and the public is invited to enjoy this music en plein air over the summer months. The classical music event takes place from August 10 until September 1st. Fabulously enjoyable and a great way to while away the hours on a sunny day with the kids in Paris.
NO MLP listing on things to do with the kids in Paris this Summer would be complete without mentioning the spaces in the city where enjoyment is a guarantee. Berge Street along the River is wonderful for kids. The Science Museum, the biggest in Europe has the best children’s spaces that challenge the mind and keep the children occupied for 90 minutes.
With kids in Paris, the Puppet Shows around the city provide the perfect entertainment for the little ones as well as the many outdoor pools and cultural spaces, plus great picnic spots some of which you’ll find here. The Pompidou is always a winner especially with their dedicated children’s mezzanine and dedicated atelier space, and we love taking the kids on the Petit Velibs over by the canal.
A visit to Montmartre for a ride on the Petit Train is a grand idea and the obligatory stroll up to the top of the Eiffel Tower should be on your list to entertain the kids in Paris. Don’t forget you can head to the top of the Arc de Triomphe too and take in the stunning views of the city and of course there are wonderful exhibitions to explore like Tutankhamun.
Tutankhamun at La Villette
Paris is the first stop for this amazing tour from Egypt that will allow the public to see the amazing treasures of the Pharaoh’s tomb before they return home to Egypt to the Grand Egyptian Museum which will open in 2022. The Grande Halle at La Villette is the venue for this special exhibition and tickets are selling like hotcakes so do buy in advance for your preferred date.
With so much happening MLP will be posting throughout August as there is so much ground to cover, so follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.
Have a fabulous time with the kids in Paris this August and keep it locked to MLP. Spread the word, share this post and enjoy the season of sunshine.
This post could not have been produced without the fantastic contribution from the lovely Jennifer Hamerman and intrepid explorer Linda Mak. Thanks, Mamas x
Mama Loves Paris – Escapism for you and the kids