The Top 5 Paris Parks For Kids (and Parents, Too)
Paris parks are green, pretty full of fun things to do and present families with well-needed breaks from site seeing. Far more than in the U.S., these parks will present opportunities for your kids to separate you from your money. Be prepared to stumble upon carousels everywhere and to pay for public playgrounds. On the upside, the bathrooms are fairly well kept, there are always places for parents to sit and read, and it’s likely you’ll find good espresso, sandwiches or pastries, and even chilled wine and beer nearby.
Paris’ Central Park
Given its central location you are likely to find yourself near the Tuileries Gardens quite a bit. This might be the most famous of the Paris Parks and was Tiny Traveler’s favorite park because of the Trampoline Garden. Kids can bounce their hearts out for a generous five minutes for €2. The permanent carousel is €2.50. There is a good-sized and nicely done free playground, where your child is likely to run into other English-speaking kids (TT did). In the summer months there is a temporary carnival that we somehow managed to avoid.
The Jardin Luxembourg is worth going out of your way for if you are spending time in St. Germaine, Montparnasse and even The Latin Quartier. There is an amazing, huge playground where tourists and local kids all mix together. TT swung on the zip line a dozen times or more. There are playhouses, things to climb on and a toddler area. You have to pay €2.50 for adults and €1.50 for kids, but I noticed that local parents sat on benches just outside of the fenced-in play area and just paid to send their kids in (not toddlers of course).
This most classic of Paris parks also has a beautiful old-fashioned carousel where the horses swing instead of going up and down. Small kids will love it; older kids can sit on an outside horse and try to catch gold rings with a stick. Kids can also ride real horses, rent sailboats to launch in the large central fountain and try a Guignol puppet show in a nice-looking theater. We didn’t manage to catch a puppet show and didn’t have time to try the sailboats.
A Cool Urban Experiment
The Park de la Villette was a favorite because it exemplifies very clever urban development. It was also a lot of fun and had a lot of things for free, something you can’t take for granted in Paris parks! The undulating Wind and Dunes playground looks like it was designed by Dr. Seuss. The dragon playground, with a giant dragon slide at its center, was closed for renovation and we looked at it longingly. It was too nice a day for the Science Museum so we wandered paths, bridges and lawns, coming upon outdoor classes and concerts (both official and impromptu). At the inevitable amusement park (the only thing besides snacks that wasn’t free), TT chose an old-fashioned bicycle-chariot ride. I’d never seen anything like it but all the kids
clamored to do it (€2).
The park sits at the far end of a canal where they build a Paris Plage (beach) in the warm months. It’s fun to walk along to see all the people and assorted activities. Plus, we found the only free carousel in all of Paris (score!),
A Pricey Afternoon Out
Guidebooks rave about the Jardin Acclimitation and I’m not sure why, it was our least favorite among the Paris parks listed here. We assumed it was a regular park with some added features. Turns out it’s a small fun park where you can spend quite a bit of money in an afternoon.
We can’t say it was totally worth it. It’s €3 per person to get in. Admission includes two pretty good playgrounds (head for the much bigger one at the back of the park, which has more to do and good water features). It also includes a quite good Guignol puppet show and a very, very small zoo.
It’s impossible to get out without going on at least a few of the rides. Ticket for these are €3 euros each, but the better rides require two tickets and if a child is too small to ride on her own, you need a ticket, too. Tweens will like the rope courses and roller coasters. TT loved a ride where kids are zipped into large plastic balls and roll around in pool. Little kids will go for the boat ride, train and steeplechase. Teens will be completely bored.
A Nice Local Park
If you rent an apartment in the residential 15th Arrondissement or go shopping on the Rue Du Commerce, check out Square St. Lambert, which was our local park. It has a fountain, manicured flowerbeds and lawns, separate play areas for bigger and smaller kids and a small but good Guignol theater that is open daily in the summer (€1). It was a great local find.
So, What the Heck is Guignol?
Guignol is Punch-and-Judy-style hand-puppet shows. In every episode, the good king or baron assigns a task to the hero Guignol. Then the evil duke sends his servant to foil Guignol. But with the help of the kids in the audience–who shout directions and warnings to the puppets– Guignol outsmarts the bad guys and saves the day. Before it’s all over several characters get bonked with sticks, which TT found hilarious. It’s low-tech Parisian kid culture and you should try it at least once, even if you have no French.
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