The most visited country in the world for over 20 years running and with more than 90 million tourists choosing to visit in 2018 alone, France has something for everyone, and our family has a little something for France. It was not easy to pick, but after lots of discussions and a somewhat democratic process, we voted for our five favorite experiences in our six (and counting) visits to France.
We recommend everyone to head down to Provence and enjoy its spectacular cuisine and gorgeous villages. It’s worth it to get a guided tour to appreciate the history of the region. It’s equally enjoyable to rent a car and go at your own pace just in case the young ones don’t have an interest in any history lessons.
Our kids were getting understandably impatient while my spouse was enjoying some of the finer things in life (and by that I mean a lengthy wine-tasting). Fortunately, I had a trick up my sleeve and took them on an afternoon hike through the iconic lavender fields.
The wine, the walk, and the soothing effect that walking among that much lavender had on us were all so relaxing that we were knocked out in bed shortly after a gorgeous sunset.
As a parent, I’ve yet to encounter a better tool for negotiation than the word “Disneyland”. Our kids behaved impeccably every time we reminded them of the grand prize they could win at the end of our trip.
We went through an authorized Disney World vacation planner to make sure we didn’t disappoint the kids or make any rookie mistakes.
We all agree it takes three days at least to get all the magic in. It was a perfect way to end our first family visit. To quote our daughter’s enthusiastic yet succinct review of why she loved it, “it’s Disneyland, in France!”.
As we approached this glorious fairy-tale of a UNESCO world heritage site for the first time, I asked the kids if it looked familiar to them. Imagineering (the R&D group at Disney) used the place as their main source of inspiration for Rapunzel’s castle in Tangled. Any real-life castle that inspired a Disney castle is good enough for the whole family.
Its history as an abbey and prison as well as its surreal scenery enchants around 3 million visitors a year. Don’t let winter discourage you, it is just as striking and otherworldly when covered and surrounded by heavy snow.
My personal favorite, Nice is undoubtedly the heart of the French Riviera. You could spend all day hopping between the Belle Époque architecture and turquoise Côte d’Azur beaches. The city’s beach is all pebbles so don’t expect any sand. Make sure to bring something comfortable to sit on if you aren’t used to pebble beaches.
The city has plenty of sunny days and ice-cream parlors to keep everyone happy. At one point we were the ones dragging the kids to get another round of our favorite jasmine, rosewater, and pistachio flavored scoops. Grab some cones and try making your way to Promenade du Paillon, one of the most beautiful children’s playgrounds we’ve seen in all of our travels.
We were lucky enough to also witness Bastille Day while there. Sitting together at the beach watching the incredible evening fireworks display was by far our most memorable night in France.
In Paris, I saw people tear up witnessing Musee Marmottan’s collection of Monet paintings. His stunning water lilies are still famous around the world, but all parents know that not everyone enjoys a museum visit.
I devised a plan to spark some excitement for art by telling the little ones that we were not going to see paintings but rather live in them for a day. It’s very easy to get a train to get to Vernon by train from Paris in order to visit Giverny, Monet’s home.
I gave the kids a notebook and a few drawing tasks to complete as we marveled at the green Japanese bridge, the magnificent gardens, Monet’s pink house, and the water lilies he painted even as he began to go blind.
Once they had experienced the subject, it got much easier to convince them to agree to then join us in going to Musée de l’Orangerie or come along for my second visit to Musee Marmottan to understand the beauty of “how that man painted those flowers”.
In the end, it’s easy to see that here is so much more variety and charm to France than just Paris (but definitely go to Paris!) and combining different areas keeps it more exciting for the whole family, regardless of your age or attention span.
We hope our suggestions have inspired your family to book a trip to France, bon voyage!