At the end of May, over Memorial Day weekend, I took Mazzy to Paris, along with my friend Seri (aka Little Miss Party) and her son Gavin. Seri and I researched, asked our followers for recommendations and plotted out the best possible plan we could for a long weekend, but I want to be clear… The following itinerary is in no way a comprehensive list of everything you should do with your family in Paris. We were there for a VERY short time. Too short in retrospect. We have also both been there before (this was my 6th time) and already seen a lot of the major tourist sites, pre-kids.
Even though we whittled our list down to what we thought were the bare essentials, we still weren’t able to do them all— some due to time, some due to weather and some because we needed to switch things up to ensure the kids thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
If you are traveling with kids, I highly recommend including a few activities meant solely for their enjoyment. Even if it means you have to skip something you never believed you would have allowed yourself to miss. Paris is full of CAN’T MISS locations. We made those kind of tough decisions five times a day while we were there. Even if you are going on a longer trip, I’m sure you will be forced into making sacrifices too.
We traveled there on a Thursday night, which meant we arrived at our hotel in Paris around lunchtime. We stayed at the Westin Paris, for a few reasons: 1) Because we could use Starwood points. 2) Because it is very centrally located (right across from the Tuileries Garden.) 3) Because we wanted to stay in a larger well-known hotel where it would be easy and safe to hire a sitter for the kids.
As soon as we dropped off our stuff, we changed, ate lunch in the hotel garden and headed over to Fat Tire Tours for a bike ride. We chose Fat Tire because they have tandem bikes with smaller tricycles on the back, so it’s easy for kids to ride along with a parent, without actually doing much work.
The bike tour was about three hours and it was a lot for two tired jet lagged kids on the first day. But it is also great to do a bike tour at the beginning of a trip so you can get yourself situated, get a general feel for the city, check off some main sites and spot areas or neighborhoods you might want to go back to give a second look on foot. If you have more time, I think a bike tour on the second day is ideal. On our tour, we stopped at the Place de Concord, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and L’Hotel des Invalides— which I always feel a special connection to because I wrote a report on that building for French class in 7th grade.
By the time we got to the Louvre, Mazzy was exhausted and not in picture taking mode.
So, after the ride was over, we went to closest ice cream shop we could find. Yes, it was right before dinner but you do what you have to do.
We also made them a deal. They saw fidget spinners for sale in a nearby shop and really wanted to buy one. We said they were exactly the same as the fidget spinners at home but they didn’t care. So we said that if they posed happily in our pics for the rest of the trip, we would get them each a spinner. Best couple of Euros I’ve ever spent.
Then we walked over to an area on the Seine that had outdoor restaurants and food carts along the water, where everyone was gathered to watch the sunset.
We got the kids burgers, had a drink and then took them back to the hotel where we had arranged for a sitter. They were exhausted and did not fight us on this one bit.
Seri and I dressed up and headed to L’Atelier Robuchon for a very adult dinner. Don’t we look fancy?
The food at L’Atelier was unreal (it has two Michelin stars) but what I will really remember are two things…
1) Seri could not keep her eyes open throughout the meal so I had to work overtime to keep my conversation animated so that she would remain awake.
2) As part of my efforts, I might have been making hand gestures that were bigger than normal. In the middle of my story, I threw my hands up and happened to make contact with the server who was coming from behind to place the next course on the table— poached egg and foam served in a martini glass filled to the brim.
That glass went flying. The entire restaurant gasped together as it spun in the air in the most dramatic slow motion fashion possible. At the peak of it’s flight, it turned upside down and dropped the entire egg (with foam) on my lap. Then the glass picked up speed and headed for my lap as well but caught the edge of the table and flung back upward. The waiter tried to catch it but just caused it to fling farther toward the opposite edge of the table until it crashed down between our table and the one next to us. Glass and egg were EVERYWHERE.
Interestingly, not one drop got on my dress. Thank you, napkin! I think I might be a legend back at L’Atelier now, which I’m fairly positive has never before had that dramatic of a spill.
After breakfast at the hotel, we started the day by meeting Sarah Doucet at the Moulin Rouge, who is someone who contacted me through Instagram. She lives in Montmartre and volunteered to give us a tour of the neighborhood.
Montmartre is a beautiful neighborhood on a hill and you might recognize it as the setting of Amelie, one of my favorite movies. When you stroll down the cobble stone streets with pretty front stoops and overflowing flower boxes, it feels exactly like you want Paris to feel.
Sarah walked us through all the note-worthy photo-taking spots (famous buildings, secret alleys, cool mural walls, etc.) which was perfect for two Instagram obsessed moms. For those who are also a fan of photo ops, I will tell you the location of each one.
Passage Lepic (a secret path that you need a key card to enter, thank you Sarah!):
Rue de l’Abreuvoir with the pink buildings that have become Instagram famous:
Pink Flamingo graffiti on Rue Berthe next to Place Émile Goudeau:
Photo Booth built into the wall at Rue des Trois frères number 53:
Place des Abbesses with the wall of “Je t’aime” in every language:
Mazzy and Gavin would not leave until they found “I love you” in English— can you find it?
Next to the wall is a tiny playground, plus there is a small carousel by the nearby metro station, which makes this a very kid friendly spot.
We stopped for lunch at Marcel at Villa Léandre which was PERFECT. Great ambience, Delicious salads, plenty of options for the kids and we managed to snag a corner spot by the window.
We walked up to the Sacre Coeur which is the highest point in Paris and has an amazing view, but it’s worth noting that this particular view does not include the Eiffel Tower. (For that, I recommend the top of the Montparnasse.)
Also worth noting, although we didn’t do it on this trip, the steps in front of the Sacre Coeur is a very popular place for people to congregate to watch the sunset.
On the way back down, we stopped for ice cream in the main square, which is the more touristy part of Montmartre and filled with people. There are tons of shops selling Parisian trinkets and lots of art for sale in the square.
A huge thanks to Sarah for putting so much thought into all the places she showed us.
We had other ideas for that afternoon, but after a very hot walking tour with the kids (it was 98 degrees), we thought it would be best to switch plans and go to Le Jardin Acclimatation, a local amusement park that also has a big splash pad.
The section of the park with rides is pretty manageable, but the park itself is huge, with ziplining, trampolines, gardens and various other activities. You can spend a whole day there, but since we arrived after lunch, we never made it out of the area with the rides.
Le Jardin also happens to be the backyard of the Louis Vuitton Foundation which was at the top of our list to see. It’s a fairly new modern art museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and more than one person told us that it’s great for kids because there is plenty of space to run around.
It did not disappoint.
The building looks like a space ship and there is a wonderfully serene staircase fountain at the side entrance.
Behind the fountain is a tunnel full of mirrors where Mazzy and I had tons of fun playing hide and seek.
Can you find her?
There is also a theater with a rainbow mural on one wall and really interesting modern art exhibits downstairs with pink walls perfect for @pinkinnyc.
After checking out their collection, we went back to the amusement park and stayed there until it closed. We ended up getting the kids pizza for dinner in the park and then going back to the hotel to meet the babysitter again. Once again, the kids were tired and perfectly happy to curl up with their iPads and then go to sleep.
Seri and I headed out to Clover for dinner, where we had one of the most serious meals of our lives. It was almost uncomfortably quiet in there with no music and all the patrons extremely focused on their food.
For good reason, it was pretty delicious.
Although for people like Seri and I, it’s hard to eat without talking. I think the people in the restaurant were probably happy when we left!
For breakfast, we stopped for a decidedly unhealthy (but well worth it) breakfast at Angelina’s, where we got macarons, croissants and pastries.
We also picked up baguettes for a “baguette fight” that Mazzy and Gavin had been planning since we arrived. Then we walked to the Palais Royal, which we found through a tiny unassuming archway. I promise, your jaw will drop on the other side.
I think it’s my favorite photo backdrop ever. I recommend going to the Palais Royal early, before the shadows.
Let the baguette fight begin:
What you can’t see is that the square opens up to the left, where there just happened to be an entire orchestra playing classical music that filled the square. You can see them play on my Paris travel vlog.
We ended up spending quite a bit of time in the Palais Royal, running around the square and listening to the orchestra while walking through the adjacent gardens. As a result, we had to give up a few spots that we wanted to hit next (options were the Opera House, walking up the L’Arc d’Triomphe or going to the top of the Montparnasse, a tall black unremarkable office building with an exceptional view of the Eiffel Tower), but when you’re having a nice moment, sometimes the best thing you can do is stay in it.
On our way out, we stopped at a small grocery store to grab picnic provisions and head to the Luxembourg Gardens. I’d been there on a previous trip and I remembered it being a gorgeous garden with playground options for the kids and a fountain where you could sail remote control boats. They would have loved it.
Unfortunately, on the way over, it started to rain and we decided our time would be best served in a museum. We changed courses.
We instructed our pedicab driver to take us to Musee D’Orsay, which I think is way better than attempting the Louvre. The Louvre is tremendous and every time I’ve been there, I get overwhelmed and don’t really enjoy it. The Musee D’Orsay has masterpieces from all the major French impressionists (Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Cezanne etc.) plus it’s in an old train station which makes for a really cool setting.
In my post about how to travel with kids, I talked about giving your kids a camera so they can take pictures too. Seri gave one to Gavin and he let Mazzy use it in the museum.
You could really see how it changed her perspective and got her more actively involved with the location. This will be my trick from now on.
Next, we headed back to the hotel to change for a picnic at the Champs De Mars (the park directly in front of the Eiffel Tower) and dinner. Ever since Mini Boden had sent Mazzy the rainbow dress below, she had labeled it her “Eiffel Tower dress” and saved it for this moment. She was right. It was perfect.
Our plan was to have a picnic directly in front of the tower so we’d have the perfect photo backdrop, but since it was so hot and there was absolutely no shade there, the kids rejected this idea.
They were right. It was dumb. We picked everything up and brought it under some trees off to the side.
Sure, it wasn’t the quintessential backdrop, but the kids were happy and that was most important. Seri and I were much happier in the shade as well. It’s really hard to ignore sweat dripping down your back when you’re all dressed up.
FYI, towards the back of the Champs de Mars, there is a picture perfect little playground with a few kiddie rides, a sand box, swings and a cafe that looked adorable, but for some reason, Mazzy and Gavin decided it was too babyish for them and didn’t want to go in. There is also a beautiful carousel right at the base of the tower (on the corner of the Pont d’Iéna and Quai Branly) but the kids didn’t want to do that either.
Instead, when the kids were done eating, they had themselves another baguette battle. Obviously.
Then we headed over to the tower.
If you want to avoid the line to go up to the second level, you need to make reservations ahead of time. We got tickets and arranged a tour through Fat Tire Tours, the same place that we did the bike ride. Once at the second level, you still need to wait on line for a ticket to get to the top. If you choose not to go to the top (like we did), you’ve still got a great view from the second level.
By the way, that green rectangle in the photo above is the Trocadero Fountains which a lot of people wade in when it’s hot out. I really wish we had known that at the time!
Once on the second level, the kids were getting so much direct sun, they sought shelter underneath a staircase while Seri and I got everyone drinks and ice cream.
Then we joined them underneath the steps because we were beyond hot ourselves.
We opted not to go to the top that day. The line was too long, the weather was too hot and the kids were very happy sitting under those stairs, as were we. Again, as I said earlier, sometimes the best travel decision you can make is to stay where you are.
The photo below was taken right after I told them we’d be returning tomorrow to take the stairs.
After the Eiffel Tower, we walked over to the Seine for a dinner cruise on the Bateaux Parisien. To be honest, I was a little scared to take the kids on a dinner boat ride (trapped in a restaurant with no way to leave sounds like every parent’s worst nightmare) but the cruise ended up being one of my favorite things we did on the trip.
Mazzy and Gavin were so well behaved and thrilled to sit down, eat dinner and watch Paris pass by, waving to people along the canal and trying to get them to wave back. They also started asking Seri and I questions about our previous trips to Paris. We told story after story, as the kids laughed along with our misadventures.
I think it was my most enjoyable, most grown-up meal with Mazzy ever.
After the cruise, Mazzy said that we were right near a climbing wall on the underside of a bridge that she had first noticed on our bike tour. We weren’t sure but followed her regardless. She led us right to it.
Then Mazzy and Gavin climbed and scaled until the sun started to set.
We headed back over the bridge (don’t ask me which one) at “magic hour” and got some of the best photos of the trip.
I wish I could send the good photo samaritan who took the awesome picture below a personal note of thanks. I think it’s the only one we have of us all together on the trip.
The trip had its ups and downs (it was over 98 degrees every day!), but that day, Day 3, was one of my favorite days with Mazzy ever. The day just kept topping itself at every turn. And it wasn’t over yet!
That night, we took the kids on a Paris by Night L’Open Bus Tour which I highly, highly recommend. Your kids need to see Paris all lit up, even if it’s past their bedtime.
The bus leaves right at dusk, in that magic moment when the lights turn on but the sky is still blue. The Louvre is the first stop.
The bus has an audio recording that you can listen to with headphones, set to French accordion music and it really added something special to the tour. Mazzy even commented that the music made it feel even more like Paris.
“It is Paris!” I told her.
I don’t have a picture of the moment Mazzy first saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle, but I was really lucky to capture it on video. You can see it in my Paris travel vlog. I think it was my favorite moment of the entire trip.
On the last day, we went to Angelina’s again to pick up macarons for presents and croissants and coffee for breakfast. Then we say in the Tuileries Garden eating and chatting about our favorite parts of the trip, until it was time to head home.
If you have any questions about our trip, please ask them in the comments! And if I can plus my Paris travel vlog ONE LAST TIME, you should really watch to see Mazzy and Harlow reunite when we get home.