Where to go in France with a 3-year-old?
April 21, 2010 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Help us plan our summer trip to France. Did I mention we're taking a 3-year-old?

My wife and I are considering a trip to France with our 3-year-old son this summer. Right now we're planning on a week due to other commitments, but we might be able to extend that to 10 days or possibly even 2 weeks. We used to be frequent international travelers but haven't been to France since 2001, and then only to Paris, so we're a bit lost on where to go and what we'd be able to do with a toddler.

So far we are planning on a few days in Paris and the surrounding area. We figure we'll be able to do some of the more active things around the city (Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, etc.) We aren't planning on spending much if any time at the big museums as we don't think a 3-year-old would be too interested. I've been to Paris once and my wife a few times, but as I mentioned it's been nearly 10 years, so any tips on traveling with kids there are welcome.

Our tentative plan is to then take the train somewhere from Paris for the remainder of our trip, but where? We've kicked around the idea of Provence, but have also had recommendations for everywhere from Biarritz to Mont St. Michel to Burgundy. I'm interested in Avignon, but not really sure what there would be to do there besides look at the architecture. Most of the recommendations we have are coastal destinations; however, we live in Southern California so a beach is not something we usually seek out on vacation. Also, I'm not opposed to renting a car to get somewhere, but we will be taking a 2-week road trip here in the States to visit grandparents a few weeks before this trip, so spending a long time in a car is something we'd rather avoid. Any recommendations on somewhere to go that would be kid-friendly and accessible by train would be extremely helpful.
posted by sbrollins to Travel & Transportation around France (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I realise you are mostly interested in suggestion outside of Paris, however, while you're in Paris, Disneyland Paris is an obvious option. We took our daughter there when she was 3 (she was approaching her 4th birthday) and she loved it (not too surprisingly). You can get there quite easily by metro from central Paris.
posted by oclipa at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2010

I have read a lot about canal boat cruising and while at first the thought of toddler!boat! seems like an oxymoron, the self-drive boats on small canals would permit you to get off frequently to walk along the tow path and people do manage it with children.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2010

I'm living in France and spend a lot of time in Rennes, in Brittany. It's a lovely walkable city with some big parks, great architecture, lively street life, and all of the Breton cuisine specialties as well as good international flavor (African and Haitian restaurants yum). Every week there is some festival or other, and the museums here are fun and fit for kids. Now that I think about it, there are a LOT of kids here. I also like that here, relative to other places in France (Paris, the cities in the south), this doesn't usually feel so sketchy at night, and you do have some options for places to get necessities on Sundays or later in the evening.

Plus, it is just a short bus ride from Mont St Michel, which you could do as a day trip, or go somewhere else along the coast. The coast up here is not the same as in the south of France or in SoCal.

Rennes is a 2 hour TGV ride, 3 hour highway, or 5 hour small-road trip from Paris.
posted by whatzit at 11:40 AM on April 21, 2010

I'm a big fan of Burgundy, especially the Côte d'Or (Santenay, Meursault, Beaune). Beautiful landscape, great for biking. Mild climate, even in summer.

Some areas of the Provence are nice too. St-Rémy-de-Provence is a delicious town, close to Avignon, close to Arles and Nîmes (Van Gogh country!). Both regions have great wines, and fantastic gastronomy. If you need hotel/restaurant recommendations, I can memail you a few.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2010

We took an almost-2 year old on a 10 day bike tour in Brittany and we all had a blast. The kid loved camping, getting out a lot, and riding in bikes. The parents liked riding bikes around a 3rd world country smashed on the local moonshine.

We rented from this outfit: http://www.bretonbikes.com/
posted by H. Roark at 1:14 PM on April 21, 2010

The west coast of France, from Nantes down to La Rochelle, through the Vendée, is a lovely area, and has interest inland so you wouldn't feel tied to the beaches.

Lyon and Dijon are close to one another and worth a visit.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:51 PM on April 21, 2010

If you go to Brittany, consider hitting up Nantes on the way. Besides being a nice city itself, there is also a "machine workshop" with lots of little steampunk animals and a gigantic elephant you can ride. Only you can tell if your child would find this scary or awesome, but it's definitely something a lot of kids and adults can get a kick out of.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:28 PM on April 21, 2010

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