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Hotel La Bourdonnais Paris

111-113 Avenue De La Bourdonnais, Paris, France

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Visited: 2012-04-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-22 10:55:05.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Friendly, clean hotel for families

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My children most loved the breakfast here--loads of pastries, Nutella, bread and fruit. The hotel has a few rooms large enough to accommodate 4 or 5, which can be hard to find in Europe. It's also in walking distance of the Eiffel Tower and close to a Metro station. Prices are reasonable.

Tips for Families

Be aware that it's an "old world" hotel, a bit creaky, sometimes a little bit noisy, but a really lovely place to stay.

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Musee de l'Orangerie

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France

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Visited: 2012-04-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-22 10:38:43.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A manageable museum for Monet lovers

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By the time we hit the Orangerie, our kids were a bit museumed-out. This was the perfect antidote to museum overload; the Orangerie is small but astounding--devoted to Monet's water lilies, and designed by the artist to his exact specifications for his six-foot tall paintings. Eight gorgeous paintings make you feel as if you are in his garden and it's a relaxing place to spend an hour standing or sitting, admiring the beauty. There is also a lovely gallery in the lower level with works by artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. This would be a much more manageable museum than the Louvre for parents who want to see beautiful works of art with younger children.

Tips for Families

You can set aside 1-2 hours for this museum and then head outside to let the kids run around in the beautiful Tuileries Garden. There is a lovely bookshop in the lower level of the museum filled with all sorts of books, including a selection for children.

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Louvre Museum

75001, Paris, France

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Visited: 2012-04-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-20 14:54:30.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A Must-See When in Paris

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The Louvre went over better with my kids than I thought it might. They're somewhat interested in art, and they knew about paintings like the Mona Lisa before we went. I wasn't expecting them to be as enthralled with the place as they were. Our first stop was to see the Mona Lisa--though getting to the museum early in the day with pre-booked tickets didn't save us a waiting line--this was the one painting we all agreed we needed to see. From there, we wandered a bit, looking at the Venus de Milo and some other statues ("Mommy? Why don't the statues have clothes?"), and overall let our children lead. They wanted to see the Napoleonic apartments, the Egyptian artefacts, and the walls to the original building, which was designed as a fortress in the 12th century.

Tips for Families

Before you do anything else, pick up a map of the museum from the entrance area, then plan where you are going. It's easy to get lost in this vast museum, and there's no chance you'll be able to see everything, so be choosy. If your children have particular interests, let their interests lead the way. The Louvre is easily overwhelming for an adult, so don't push to see "just a few more exhibits"--you'll probably regret it. It's worth it to purchase tickets in advance; for more info, check out this link: http://www.louvre.fr/en/advance-tickets

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Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris

6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris, France

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Visited: 2012-04-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-20 14:36:30.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

The Center of Paris

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We visited Notre Dame on Easter Sunday and, as expected, it was even more crowded than normal. This led us to skip climbing the towers--but having walked 2/3 of the way up the Eiffel Tour two days earlier, that was just fine with the kids. The best part about Notre Dame for kids might be the gargoyles outside lining the upper levels of the cathedral, or perhaps Point Zero--the center of France, marked by a bronze plaque 30 yards from the central doorway. The stained glass windows inside are inspiring, and you may be able to sneak in a little history by talking about the people who built the cathedral, starting in 1163. While the experience may be a little overwhelming for kids, especially when crowded, you can do this at your own pace once you're inside.

Tips for Families

Read a child's version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame with your kids before you go, and once you're inside the cathedral remind them those who helped build the cathedral often did become hunchbacks from lifting the heavy stones. Before you go, check out the cathedral website's page for kids: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?rubrique94

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Hamleys Toy Store

188-196 Regent Street, London, United Kingdom

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Visited: 2011-10-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-14 16:23:14.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Wall-to-wall toys--and people

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Hamleys is amazing--THE London toy store. They've been around for over 250 years, so they know what they're doing. If you can't find the toy you want here, it probably doesn't exist. With seven floors and 54,000 square feet, it will also take you a while to cover it all. The staff is friendly and helpful (how they manage it with all those customers, I don't know) and there will be many demonstrating cool new toys you didn't know you wanted. Worth a visit, but try to go early in the day before the crowds are out of control. Many iconic British brands along with many of the standard items you could find anywhere else.

Tips for Families

We went over a school term break and while our children were very excited about our visit, the place was packed (and I do mean packed) and it was difficult to move through the crush of people to choose a toy to take home. If there is a specific item you know you are looking for, find out beforehand what floor it's on and go get it, especially if there's a crowd. Keep your hands on your kids and bags as things can easily get lost in the crowds. Ultimately, the kids loved the visit but were also overloaded very quickly with all the noise and people, and were as happy to leave as they were to walk in the door.

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Tour Eiffel

Parc du Champ de Mars, Paris, France

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Visited: 2012-04-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-08 17:38:01.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A long way up, but the views are worth it

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Our daughter talked about going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower for years before we did it--and once she realized just how high the Tower is she nearly backed out! It's a long climb--you have to climb two-thirds of the way up the Tower, then take an elevator to the uppermost portion. The views at the top are incredible, though the views lower down are pretty special too. The website has activities and ideas to make the Tower fun for kids and families; be sure to check those out. Our daughter desperately wanted to see the Tower lit up at night; every hour for five minutes the lights also twinkle on and off--so both kids stayed up a little late to witness the light show, but it was worth it.

Tips for Families

If you can, book tickets in advance via the website; this will save a lot of time spent in line waiting to buy tickets on the day. This isn't a good destination for very little ones because there's so much walking involved, unless you're ok to do a lot of carrying--704 steps. The elevators weren't all working when we were there, so check that before you go. We printed off fun and educational booklets downloaded from the website before we visited so the kids would also learn something and have things to look for as we wandered around the Tower; check them out at: http://www.eiffel-tower.com/childrens-tower.html

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Natural History Museum

Cromwell Rd., South Kensington, United Kingdom

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Visited: 2012-03-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-08 17:22:25.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A dino-lover's heaven

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If you have a dinosaur-obsessed child like I do, this is the place to go. Dinosaur bones, eggs, animatronic dinosaur gifts, dinosaur games ... well, you get the idea. There's also a great history of evolution, the giant blue whale (don't miss it), and any kid will be impressed with a detour into The Vault, where the museum houses gems, crystals, meteorites and metals of all colors, shapes and sizes, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond and a rare Martian meteorite.

Tips for Families

Some of the animatronic dinosaurs in the exhibits might scare littler ones. Before you go, make sure to check out the "Parents' Survival Guide" online and plan your trip. (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/parents-survival-guide/index.html) Bring a picnic but don't eat in the exhibit areas.

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Kensington Palace

Kensington Gardens, Kensington, United Kingdom

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Visited: 2012-07-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-08 17:05:42.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A beautiful place to spend the day

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There's nothing like Kensington Palace on a sunny summer day. Situated within Kensington Gardens and adjacent to Hyde Park, it's easy to spend a beautiful day here picnicking, wandering, and relaxing. Kids love to learn about Queen Victoria's childhood here and older ones will marvel at just how tiny she was when they see one of her dresses (my 11-year-old is about the same height). Tweens interested in fashion will enjoy the display of Princess Diana's dresses. At the time of our visit, there were a number of Victorian toy replicas children could play with, and both kids loved this the most. Bonus: if your kids think you are strict, tell them to find out what Princess Victoria was allowed to do as a child. Suddenly, you'll look like the best parent ever.

Tips for Families

This is a great place to let off a little steam--at least outside! The park space around the palace makes for a good place to let little ones unwind if they've had too much history. Enjoy an ice cream in the park or the outdoor cafe while deciding what to do next. And don't forget to check out the palace website before you go for kid-friendly activities: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/FamilyvisitstoKensingtonPalace

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London Eye

Jubilee Gardens, London, United Kingdom

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Visited: 2011-10-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-08 14:49:52.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

The best view of London

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A 30-minute ride on an enormous, enclosed ferris wheel, the London Eye offers spectacular views of the city. Large glass capsules comfortably hold 28 guests; there are a few benches to sit on if you're not too busy standing by the windows enjoying the 25-mile view. If you, or anyone in your family, has a real phobia of heights, this is not the experience for you! If they're only mildly afraid of heights, the incredible views will probably help them forget their fear in just a few minutes. While there is a map of important sites within each capsule, there is no verbal commentary, although you can buy a guidebook if you like.

Tips for Families

Children under 4 go free. Tickets are expensive, but during peak times (school holidays, over the summer) you may want to consider springing for the Fast Track ticket so that you don't have to wait in line. The Fast Track ticket ensures you wait no more than 15 minutes to enter a capsule, while on weekends, holidays, and in July & August, your wait time with a regular ticket could be an hour or more. No outside food or drink is allowed in the capsules.

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Covent Garden

Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom

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Visited: 2011-12-01 | Submitted: 2012-11-07 12:37:02.0 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

So much to see

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I love Covent Garden but have to admit it was a little overwhelming for my kids. We visited at Christmas when it was (probably) more crowded than usual with visitors, and the combination of indoor shops and the market stalls was a little too much for my children. The toy store in the lower courtyard was a hit with them (Eric Snook's), as was the cupcake shop nearby (Candy Cakes). There is also a Disney Store adjacent to the market, although I hadn't gone all the way to London for the Disney Store!

Tips for Families

Make sure to stop and watch the street performers outside of the market: this is authentic London and one of the things your children will remember. If it's a food market day, make sure you wander past the stalls and eye up what they're selling--you may not want to buy it, but it's interesting to see some of the unusual items on offer, as well as the more standard fare.

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