One low key day in Paris
July 17, 2017 9:41 AM   Subscribe

We will be transiting through Paris on Saturday, July 29th, and I'm looking for a roster of ideas for things to do that day. The most important guideline is that they be low-key.

We are landing at Orly at 7:50 am, arriving from New York, and we've booked a room at the airport hotel, as we fly out again the next morning for elsewhere in France. "We" are my husband and I, and two kids who are just shy of 7 and 5. We have been to Paris before, and will be again many times, so there's no need to see big sights. But this will only be the kids' second time in Paris, and so it's still sort of magical and I'd like to provide them with memories. We all speak French.

What I want is to have several ideas in my back pocket for things to do, but which we can easily abort from if jet lag sets in. So I don't want to invest in tickets for the Cité des Sciences for the whole family if we only end up staying twenty minutes. They like playgrounds and carousels, and the older one is just beginning to have an appreciation for history, but he's still into trains and good ole-fashioned running around. They spent a week in the Montmartre area with their grandparents last summer, so they've done the Sacre-Coeur steps and funicular.

I've got the Luxembourg (fountain sailboats, marionnettes and playground) and the Coulée Verte. What other low-key activities would you suggest? Best if it's nearby the RER B or C to return to the hotel.

(Bonus question: Orlyval to RER B, or shuttle to RER C, or tram to line 7? Which is easiest/fastest to get into the city?)
posted by Liesl to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Jardin des Plantes?
posted by praemunire at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lucky you. Paris Plage, the incredible summer beach on the Seine with sand, palm trees, chaise longues, and games trucked in and set up, will be on! So find the nearest one to the Luxembourg Gardens, and you're set for the day.
posted by Elsie at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

During the summer there's a funfair in the Jardin des Tuileries.
posted by terretu at 11:17 AM on July 17, 2017

I was just in Paris for my third time in June. From many recommendations and food blogs, I was directed to the cutest candy store ever...A l'Etoile D'Or, 30 Rue Pierre Fontaine, near the Moulin Rouge. Denise Acabo is the owner. She speaks only French, I speak only English. This does not stop her from greeting you with a genuine warmth and kindness. She took me by the arm showing me everything in the shop and explaining to me as best she could in her broken English and me responding in my terrible French what I would like. It was the highlight of my trip. She checked her hair, which she keeps in two braids, came from behind the counter, and insisted we take a photo together. I smile every time I see it. If you 're into chocoalte at all, she sells Bernachon chocolate which can only be purchased from her or Bernachon directly. It's incredible. The kids would love it, and since you speak French you'll probably have an even better experience. I cannot tell you how much I loved it!
posted by fresh-rn at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Have you ever been under the Eiffel Tower at night? Not only is the light show gorgeous, but the whole Parc du Champs de Mars has a fun carnival atmosphere--stands selling sausages and chips, crepes and ice cream; buskers; kids running around with glowsticks...and you can walk along the Seine back to RER C when you're ready to head back to Orly. To me, that was a magical evening...and I was in my thirties.
posted by tully_monster at 1:03 PM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I loved the bateaux mouches trip on my first Paris trip (aged 6). Also the sailboats in the Luxembourg, so yay! And totally seconding Paris Plages, it's so great. You could also venture to the Musée en Herbes unfar from the Halles (free entry). Aaalso the Espace Electra still has their videogame exhib going on which I really enjoyed (also free). Try the VR helmet! WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! :D
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:06 PM on July 17, 2017

Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts) near Bercy Village. One of the hidden gems of Paris. The site says pre-booking is required, but we walked up and got tickets to join a tour.
posted by Joleta at 10:01 PM on July 17, 2017

While Parisian rail is justly famous, I'd take Orlybus (outside rush hour) as it puts you in a nice low-key area, outside the main tourist section and quite different from Montmarte. The trip planner is outstanding, so I just take whatever it says, though Google is pretty good as well. That said, are you sure you wouldn't rather collapse at a hotel in Paris? If you run out of gas in the Jardin du Luxembourg (an excellent destination for the reasons you list, as well as soccer with the local kids) you've got to schlep all the way to Orly. Plus you'll be up at 4 in the morning anyway due to jet lag if you're coming from the U.S. East Coast so getting to Orly early shouldn't really be an imposition. Just a thought.
After the Jardin, I'd stroll down the grand Boulevard Raspail and visit the little-known crêpe district on Rue du Montparnasse (Creperie Josselin is one I'd recommend, but I've never had a bad one anywhere in that area). The best view of the Eiffel Tower is also from the Tour Montparnasse, and there's no waiting or reservations needed, though that's a pretty busy commercial area. Head back through the Cimetière Montparnasse, which is not as famous or scenic as Pere Lachaise, but pretty cool. Or you could wait in line for the ossuary / Catacombes which is right in the center of Denfert-Rochereau. Paris is loaded with small playgrounds if you need a break somewhere along the way.
posted by wnissen at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2017

The Jardin d'Acclimatation, which is cheap, easy to reach, has tons of activities, and you can even take a petit train from Porte Maillot to get there.

caveat: I've never been there on a summer weekend, so I don't know how crowded it can get.
posted by pendrift at 11:35 AM on July 18, 2017

Pere Lachaise cemetery. Lovely, quiet, shady and green in many areas, and free.
posted by SinAesthetic at 5:02 PM on July 19, 2017

Some beautiful photos of the current Paris Plage. Lots of fun and games for adult and enfants alike.
posted by Elsie at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2017

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