The Côte d’Azur, or French Riviera as it is also called, is a fabulous playground for young and old alike. Perhaps more well-known for its glamorous hedonistic lifestyle than for child-friendly vacations, this list should help dispel that myth. Here are 10 top ideas for great days out and activities for older kids, tweens and young teens, perfect for holiday-makers and residents alike.
1. Canyoning in the Loup river gorges. This activity is for adrenalin seekers and not for anyone with a fear of heights. You spend about 4 hours in a mountain river climbing along narrow passages, sliding down and jumping into rock pools from up to 11 metres high! It takes stamina and strength but is such a thrill it’s well worth the effort. It can take a lot longer than advertised in the brochure depending on the size and ability of the group.
2. Canyon Forest zip-line adventure course in the trees (in the style of “Go Ape” in the UK). There are 4 different courses for different levels of difficulty consisting of rope ladders, zip wires, rope bridges, via ferrata, wooden tunnels, trapezes and swings. This activity is billed as being possible from 8 years old (or 135m tall) but it’s pretty tough that young. On the other hand it goes up to adult level and teenagers will certainly find their thrills here. Beautifully set in the gorges of the Loup river access is by a 2 km bike ride (or on foot) and the price of admission includes the bike rental. There is a spectacular flying fox (zipline) 330 m long across the gorge! You won’t have time to eat while on the course but there are a couple of small snack bars for ice-creams and drinks at the end. Needs to be booked ahead in summer.
3. Hire a pedalo & jump off massive inflatables at St Cassien lake, an enormous man-made reservoir near Montauroux. The huge blow-up icebergs and bouncy platforms are only out in the summer but the lake is a lovely place to walk and picnic at any time of year.
4. See wolves in their natural habitat at Alpha Parc. Wolves used to exist in the wild in the southern Alps but were hunted to extinction in the 1930s. Since the 1990s they have been making a comeback however and this park sets out to showcase 3 different viewpoints of how the wolf can or cannot co-exist with sheep farming. Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Mercantour National Park, you get to view wolves in their natural habitat and learn all about the pros and cons of their return through an excellent audio-visual presentation. With trout fishing and many hiking trails nearby in the pristine forest there’s plenty to do for a whole day out, but be prepared as at 1500m altitude even in summer it can be cool and the weather can change rapidly. For a full write up about Alpha Parc check here.
5. Make your own perfume at Galimard Perfumerie. You can visit several perfumeries in Grasse, the world capital of perfume making, but only Gallimard and Fragonard offer workshops where you can make your own. The session takes a couple of hours and can be arranged in many diferent languages.
7. Hire a catamaran, optimist, windsurfer or sea kayak at the Yacht Club at Villeneuve-Loubet. The club is open all year round but check for hours which are restricted in winter. Available by the hour or half day. Courses (individual or group) are also available during school holidays (in French). During the summer there is a café on the beach. Out of season you need to take your own snacks.
8. Geocaching adventure “treasure hunt” using GPS in the local forests, mountain plateaux and even many towns. This is a great way to motivate and inspire teenagers to go for a walk or sightsee! The aim is to find a hidden “cache” having looked up a nearby one online. You need a GPS device or smartphone, everything that you’d take on a hike (water, food, sturdy footware, first aid kit) and a pen to sign the log book when you find the treasure. You may also need a torch depending on the difficulty of the search.
9. Le Village des Fous is a unique theme park consisting of a “crazy village” and a labyrinth with challenges and obstacles that you have to get through in order to access the village. Not only do you have to find your way through the maze but you have to answer riddles and succeed at physical challenges to pass each stage. The riddles and challenges are graded according to age, with 4 levels starting at 4 years old and up to adult and the clues are in English as well as French. Once you’ve made it through the maze the “crazy village” awaits! This is a fun park with original rides such as pedal karts, a flying bath tub, water catapults, and plenty more. You can take a picnic or eat at the café. The maze gets very hot in high season but there are plenty of drinking fountains and areas where you can cool off in water spray making it perfectly bearable even on the hottest day. There are water play areas in the crazy village so bring swimming gear (and plenty of sunscreen).
10. Aquasplash Don’t all kids (big and small) love a water park? A vast choice of waterslides, some not for the faint-hearted, huge wave pool, aquarobics and a pirate playzone for the littlies make this a fun day out. It can get very crowded in high season so my advice is to get there as it opens. You’re not supposed to take picnics but you can get away with it if you’re discreet (I always do).
Don’t forget if you’re looking for ideas for things to do with younger kids on the Côte d’Azur or fun on rainy days, activities for toddlers or indoor activities for all ages I’ve also made some Top 10 lists. Have you been to any of these places? Can you add any other ideas?
You may also be interested in 3 of the best adventure activities in the Alpes-Maritimes
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Photo of perfume workshop courtesy of Collège Croix-Menée Le Creusot, Dijon