Family Days Out In France
France has some of the most recognisable tourist destinations in the world. In fact, when you think of the best things to do in France, you’ll instantly be hit with thoughts of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Louvre Museum, and the Champs-Élysées. But what you’ll quickly realise, is that most of what you know, is based in Paris…and yet…other than Russia (the European part) and the Ukraine, France has the largest landmass in Europe. So what on earth does France actually have to offer outside of Paris?!
With this question in mind, we set out on a road trip around France to discover what else the French had to offer outside of their stunning capital…and our discovery… led us to to some of the most stunning places we’ve ever been, and leaving us completely breathless, sometimes in more ways than one (see our visit to Dune du Pilat!)
Anyways…enjoy our Best Things To Do In France With Kids, outside of Paris!
Best Things To Do in France With Kids…
So Avignon isn’t exactly a ‘hidden gem’, as most of you will probably have heard of it. But what was hidden, was just how fantastic this place is!
First of all, the people are some of the friendliest we’ve met in France. Helpful and polite. The city itself is just full of things for families to do, including a ferriswheel overlooking the town, a boat tour down the Rhône River, a visit the the Palais des Papes (the largest medieval gothic palace in the world), and not to forget, the Bridge of Avignon.
The home of the Popes, and Christianity in general, throughout the 14th century, Avignon is overflowing with history.
- Visit Jardin des doms, a quiet little park above the palace, with fantastic views over the city.
- Take a boat tour, and sail underneath the famous Bridge of Avignon.
6. Lavender Fields / Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque
The lavender fields in France are a big draw for tourists, but the fields at Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque are even more spectacular, given the backdrop of the Abbey itself. Certainly worth a visit, if not for the photo, go for the drive. Spectacular scenery can be found throughout Provence.
- Time of year is SUPER IMPORTANT. Mid-June to Mid-Jul is best to catch the most vibrant purples.
- Be respectful. These are working lavender fields, so try not to pick it.
Anyone who’s anyone knows Nice, Cannes and St Tropez on the French Riviera, but unbelievably, we had never heard of this wonderful little town, called Menton. Situated at the South East corner of France, and sandwiched right between Monaco and Italy, Menton is one of the most picturesque coastal towns on the Riviera.
Gorgeous clear blue water, colourful architecture, and an idyllic climate.
When we arrived, we discovered lemons everywhere. In every shop, in every restaurant, this place was lemon crazy. And then we found the backstory.
Eve (as in Adam and Eve), when cast out of the garden of Eden took with her a golden lemon. Adam, fearing the wrath of God, asked her to throw it away. She agreed. But on one condition. That she could leave it in the place of her choosing.
Traveling across the world in search of somewhere to leave the lemon, they came across Menton, so beautiful in its appearance and natural vegetation, that it reminded her of the Garden Of Eden. She planted the lemon, and this is where the town of Menton later came.
The lemons are different from their Italian and Spanish counterparts, and Menton…well…it’s very easy to see why Eve chose this place!
- Try the lemonade, made with real Menton lemons. (We did…repeatedly).
- Paid parking is available right underneath the main beach. (Sablettes)
4. Puy Du Fou
The ‘Best Theme Park in The World’.
Yes! This theme park has won the title of best theme park in the world, and yet, I’ve only ever met one other person who knows of this place…and he lived in France!
With no rides, this theme park is all about the shows, but about half way through your first show, you’ll forget that rides ever existed and become truly excited for your next show.
Viking ships, Roman amphitheatres, water shows, musketeers and more. And even though all of the performances are in French, the action and dramatics are so good, that even the children can follow the story with ease.
- Plan in advance. Show times vary, so planning ensures that you can see all of your favourite shows.
- Bring plenty of water. The stadiums are all outdoors, so summer months can get hot. (It was 38°C/101°F when we visited!).
3. Grande Dune Du Pilat
The largest sand dunes in Europe, at over 100m tall.
It’s not just the dunes that make this place unbelievable, but the fact that it’s surrounded by gorgeous blue waters on one side, and stunning green forest on the other.
It’s a hike like no other, climbing a 100m sand dune, that’s constantly sliding back underneath your feet. But the feeling you get when you reach the top and take in the panoramic views, is something you will find hard to replicate anywhere else in the world!
- Paid parking is available on site.
- Although 100m doesn’t sound particularly high, don’t underestimate the difficulty.
- Take plenty of drinking water. This is one of the toughest hikes we’ve ever done.
2. Mont St-Michel
The inspiration for Disney’s Rapunzel’s Castle, this has got to be one of the most enchanting locations that we have ever visited! Kids gaze open-mouthed at the site of it, as you stroll across the bridge to what can only be described as…well…there are no words for it!
From 30 miles away…the site of what looks like Disney World, becomes so blatantly obvious!
- Time your visit with the tides. Seeing this place with the tide out, and in, is truly spectacular.
- There is an official (paid) car park for Mont St-Michel. Here you will find frequent (free) coaches from the car park that take you directly to the front gates of Mont St-Michel.
- For a really unique stay, you can actually book a hotel inside the walls.
- Bring a packed lunch. Food is EXPENSIVE here (even outside the walls).
1. Verdon Gorge / Gorges du Verdon
Of all places that we had researched for our French Road Trip, Verdon Gorge in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence was my number one ‘must see’. I was so excited about this place, that it was the one destination that I left as a complete surprise, not telling anyone where we were going (or why we were getting up at 5am to travel there), but…what a spectacular sight! The lake! The Gorge! And exploring it all from a paddle boat made it all the more magical. The word Verdon itself mean ‘Green’ and you’ll see why, as you drive into the mountains, and your eyes suddenly meet those stunning green waters of Lac De Sainte-Croix.
You can rent a paddle boat from several companies around the lake (we rented from ‘Basic Star’ at the north side of the Gorge, and they offered card payment and were extremely helpful). As you meander up the Gorge, you’ll pass gorgeous little beaches, rocks to jump off, and stunning little waterfalls.
When your time is up, you’ll find yourself wanting to stay in this paradise a little longer, and it’s easy to find a nice quiet part of the beach to yourself around the lake, to enjoy a picnic or some swimming.
- Arrive early, and you’ll have the whole Gorge to yourself!
- The paddle boats sell out pretty quick, so early arrival ensures that you get a boat without having to wait.