Adventures in Paris: Just for kids in northeast Paris

On the northeast edge of Paris, but just inside the ring road (“Périphérique”), we recently spent the day at a couple of spots truly made for kids.  It was easy for us to get to, since our apartment is on the northern edge of Paris to begin with, but even for families staying in central Paris, a Metro ride to the end of Line 7 (Porte de la Villette) is an easy trip.

First, embedded in the city’s Science Museum (Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie) is an area dedicated to kids called Cité des Enfants.  We had heard about how great this place was, but as we started to explore it online, we found the tickets, pricing, and scheduling to be quite confusing.  So here’s our summary:

  • Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Paris’ Science Museum) has several sections (though generally housed within one huge building).
  • Admission to the various sections of Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is handled separately.  So if you want to see certain exhibits (expositions) or visit the kids-only section (Cité des Enfants), just know that you’ll need the right tickets for the right areas.  One of the other (permanent) sections is an IMAX theater (la Géode).
  • The ticketing gets especially confusing if you want to do anything more than just Cité des Enfants, because they have admission packages that may or may not have the combinations you’re looking for.
  • Because Cité des Enfants is such a hands-on, interactive kid experience, they limit the number of kids in that area at any given time, and they do so by time-specific tickets (which allow entry for a set 90 minutes).  While online reservations sell out (at least in summertime) by about 3-4 days before, our seemingly sold-out session showed additional slots available the day of our visit when we showed up at the museum.  That said, purchasing advance tickets is a good idea, not only to be sure of availability, but also because the ticket lines can be very long and slow.
  • Ninety minutes in the kids’ section sounds a bit short—and I admit our kids probably could have happily stayed a bit longer—but our visit didn’t feel too terribly truncated.
  • There are two age-specific kid areas, and you buy a ticket for the section(s) relevant to your family.  In our case, that meant I went with the two littler kids to the 2-7 year old area, and Emily went with the two bigger kids to the 5-12 year old area.  It’s nice that they overlap ages like that, because it means that many families could squeeze into just one of those age groups and stay together.  We sent our Lincoln (barely age 6) to the older area to accompany his brother, but he would have been plenty happy in the younger area.

Both kid areas really are great.  A few highlights include a construction/factory area, a physical/human body area, a TV studio (in the older area), and—most beloved of all—a water area, complete with smocks that do a decent job of keeping the kids dry.  The boys had a blast, and we enjoyed watching them have so much fun.

Having made the trip out to the children’s/science museum, you might want to spend another hour or two exploring the adjacent park—Parc de la Villette.  About a five-minute walk from the back doors of the museum (on the far side of the metallic sphere housing the IMAX theater), you’ll cross a canal and find the Paris-standard park carousel and a few other paid rides, including a carousel-like ride with hanging swings, which the big boys LOVED (I used to love those, too).  There’s a snack stop there, too.  But head just 100 feet further (away from the canal), and you’ll find a great complex of playground areas, separated by ages (the age separation is relatively common in Paris), with clean restrooms, all for free (even though it doesn’t look like it as you enter).  Not only do they have many of the standard Paris playground features (teeter-totters, climbing structures, slides, sand pits)—they also have human hamster wheels (at least that’s how I’d characterize them), a bouncy area (like a big flat bouncy house—i.e. air-filled trampoline), and some fun ziplines.

So make a day of it and enjoy the whole area of La Villette.  Your kids will thank you.

2 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    I just discovered several posts that never made it to my inbox, so I’ve been enjoying reading about your adventures. Wow, oh wow! Loved the lushness and quaintness of the medieval, walled city. The science museum looked just fabulous and the nearby park sounds totally awesome. What great adventures you are having. My favorite image so far is of Peter chattering away in English to everyone nearby, assuming they can understand him. He is such a cutie!


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