Family Travel: Ciao Bambino on Paris with Kids

Luxembourg Gardens

Amie's son (and a French co-enthusiast) admire toy boats in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Can we all just agree that a long weekend in Paris sounds amazing? But it’s a sophisticated city — would you do it with kids? It may not be as welcoming as, say, Italy, but if you think creatively — and resign yourself to skipping the fancy, romantic restaurants you’d do if it were an adults-only trip — it’s definitely do-able. There are carousels, crepes, croissants, parks to romp in, and of course the impressive Eiffel Tower.

Today, Amie O’Shaughnessy, Founder & Editor of Ciao Bambino, a family travel resource with tips, advice, and comprehensive reviews of the best places to stay with kids of all ages, talks family travel — and shares some of her tips on taking the kids to Paris.

How old are your kids?

I have one son, age 7.

Tell me a little bit about how Ciao Bambino came to be.

After spending 11 years in software sales and marketing, I decided I wanted to do something entrepreneurial and start my own business. To be honest, at the start of my discovery process around the “right” idea, helping people travel with kids was not on my radar.

I’ve always been an international travel fanatic and I’m crazy about staying in special accommodations.  Travel has always lingered in the back of my mind as a wonderful place for my career. It wasn’t until I had kids that I realized there was even a need for a Ciao Bambino-style resource. Like many new parents, I felt trapped at home and realized that in order to continue to travel to far-off destinations, I’d need family travel-specific tips, advice, and tools.

At that time in 2004, there weren’t many sites helping families get anywhere but Disneyland and Hawaii. When I tried to plan my first trip to Italy with an infant and found few relevant resources, Ciao Bambino was born.

Obviously travel is a priority for you — how often do you guys travel?

We typically take 3 – 4 big trips per year (usually international) and embark on weekend getaways at least twice a month — much to my husband’s dismay. 🙂

I know you’re living in Switzerland now — how is it as a home for families?

We live just outside the city of Lausanne on Lake Geneva. I’ve been to many places in the world and I’m happy to say that Switzerland is on the top of the spectacular country list.

What makes Switzerland fun for kids? The Swiss have a plethora of playgrounds and parks with plenty of places for younger children to roam. It’s also home to some of the world’s best chocolate. The highlight, however, is the outdoors. If you have an active family that loves sports, Switzerland is paradise with miles and miles of biking, hiking, and skiing for all ages.

So, your recent family outing to Paris! Tell me about it.

We spent a glorious 3-day weekend in Paris in September. This was not our first trip as a family, although our son is finally at an age where he notices cultural differences between destinations.

Rather than going from museum-to-museum, we love experiencing cities by exploring a variety of neighborhoods on foot. In Paris, this means we can experience all of Paris’ eye-popping icons without feeling like we are running from attraction-to-attraction. The downside of this approach is not getting to dig your heels into any one area, but if the weather is nice, walking is a tremendous family activity.

We stayed at the St James Paris in the 16th arrondissement. This hotel has been on Ciao Bambino for years — one of my writers did the original review and I had never experienced the hotel on my own.  Grand and old-world on the outside, the newly designed interiors are cozy and comfortable. The Saint James feels more like an urban estate than a hotel — perfect with kids as it has spacious rooms in a neighborhood that is leafy and residential with easy access to parks and kid-friendly dining.

What was really a hit with your son?

Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is exciting but the parks captivate kids in Paris as they come in all shapes and sizes. The Luxembourg Gardens may be the most famous, but you can visit a new park every day and experience something different and uniquely Parisian.

(Some wonderful kid-friendly Paris destinations you may never have heard of? The Jardin d’Acclimatation, Parc de la Villette Playground, and the trampolines in the Tuileries Gardens. For the deets on these places and others, see Ciao Bambino‘s Off-the-Beaten-Track with Kids in Paris.)

There may be plenty for kids to do, but Paris is a sophisticated city — and maybe not exactly “kid-friendly.” What should parents be aware of?

I don’t think Paris is the easiest of the European cities with kids simply because you get the sense that kids may be seen but not heard in some venues, including restaurants. It makes you more conscious of where you go and how your kids act than say, Italy, where kids seem to be embraced practically anywhere.

OK, so for parents thinking of going — what’s your top Paris tip?

There are endless sights to see with long lines of tourists trying to see them. Plan just a few structured things to do and spend the rest of the time enjoying the city. Leave time for wandering and of course, great food!

Speaking of, any faves?

Amorino [with locations all around the city] had mind-blowingly amazing ice cream!

Thanks, Amie!

For more on Paris with kids — including info on events, hotels, and what to do in winter, visit Ciao Bambino.

More on family travel:

A Mom Amok on Rome with Kids

Travel Savvy Mom’s Tips on Doing Disneyland

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