,10 top ideas for great days out and activities for the whole family in the rainCôte d’Azur
1. Musée Océanographique de Monaco. This world-class oceanography museum sits spectacularly placed on the cliff face looking out to sea on the rock of Monaco. This in itself is worth the journey but perhaps not for the younger members of the family. For them there’s an excellent aquarium – not big but perfectly sized for young children – with a touch pool and times to observe the fish being fed. The museum is stuffed full of marine world curiosities. Again, it’s not so big that kids lose interest, but just full enough of oddities to capture their imagination. You’ll find a whale skeleton and an enormous polar bear alongside 200 year old diving gear and all sorts of pickled sea monsters! The roof terrace has a restaurant and excellent play area next to a turtle enclosure all with 360° panoramic views of Monaco and the Mediterranean. Open every day of the year except during the 3 days of the Grand Prix (in May) and Christmas Day.
2. Confiserie Florian – our very own Willy Wonka’s candy factory right on our doorstep! This traditional factory makes delicious sweets, chocolates, jams and candied fruits out of local flowers and fruit. Its location in the Loup river gorge under a ruined bridge is worth the visit alone and can’t fail to impress even in bad weather. In fact when it’s raining the river crashes through the gorge in a spectacular fashion – much more interesting than the little trickle in summer. What child can resist a chocolate/sweet factory? And what’s more, it’s free (until you start buying all the delectable produce!) It offers free factory tours with tastings throughout the day every day of the year in 5 different languages.
3. Musée International de la Parfumerie. Grasse is the world centre of perfume-making so what better place to find out all about the history of perfume than in the thick of it? This excellent museum, which is not too big to tire/bore the kids, has workshops for children and adults alike during school holidays and regularly changing exhibitions. It has interactive displays especially designed for children too. Open every day during the summer but closed on Tuesdays in winter. Check the website for opening hours.
4. Parc Phoenix – 7 hectares of exotic gardens with 2500 plant species and one of the biggest glass-houses in Europe located on the western edge of Nice. It is this pyramid-shaped glass-house with 6 different climatic zones that makes a great escape from cold and damp weather. It offers the visitor a rich, colourful, steamy, tropical experience even in the rain. The enormous exotic plants look like they’re out of a cartoon they’re so bright and wacky and iguanas wander freely. If the rain holds off there are several excellent outdoor play areas. The whole place is beautifully landscaped and designed for a fun and fascinating day out. Picnics are allowed and there is a small café too.
5. Fun City Cannes – the biggest indoor softplay area on the Côte d’Azur with ball parks, trampolines, baby play area, go-karts, zip wire and a café for stressed out parents! It has restricted opening hours during school terms so check the website for times.
6. St Cézaire Caves. Interesting, reasonably-priced underground caves near the lovely village of St Cézaire. The temperature is a constant 14°c all year round no matter what the weather outside is doing, making it a perfect outing for rainy days (or very hot ones). You have to take a guided tour but even if it’s not available in your language the caves speak for themselves and are worth visiting. The tour isn’t long and is perfectly suitable for kids. It is not suitable, however, for pushchairs as it involves steep steps. Only open on Saturdays from Nov-Feb but every day of the week during the rest of the year.
7. Laser Quest – an indoor action game played with lasers similar to Paintball but simpler and without the possibility of getting hurt, suitable from 8 years and up. Absolutely non-violent but not appropriate for anyone afraid of the dark. Honestly, not my kind of thing at all, but my kids have been many times and love it! Open every day, check the website for times, located in Cannes.
8. Glass blowing in Biot. The lovely village of Biot is famous for its unusual bubble glass which can be found for sale in many boutiques throughout the old centre. But on a rainy day why not visit the glass blowing studios and Eco-museum at the Verrerie de Biot. Established nearly 60 years ago and run by the same family since 1973 this workshop/studio/museum is fascinating to visit. You can watch the artists at work, learn all about glass blowing and even have a go yourself. Open every day. If the weather permits, a stroll around the medieval hill village just up from the Verrerie is well worth it.
9. Bowling. If you haven’t been bowling with your children then you should! It’s great fun from about 6/7 years up. From the moment they put on the dodgy bowling shoes they’re hooked. There are bowling alleys in Cannes la Bocca and Nice. I haven’t actually been to either as the one we used to go to regularly in Antibes has closed down but the link should take you through to another website with details for Cannes la Bocca. They are both open 7 days a week till late in the evening.
10. MAMAC – the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art in Nice. Perhaps not the most obvious place to visit with a family but this free (for under 18s) museum is a great hit with kids. The building, a contemporary hive of concrete towers, rooftop walkways, arches, terraces, roof gardens and glass bridges, fascinates and entertains children and this is even without visiting the exhibitions. Inside the permanent collections of local artists such as Niki St Phalle and Ben are very child-friendly as they are colourful, cartoon-like and accessible. There are plenty of works of art that children “get”.
Don’t forget to check these other posts for more ideas of things to do on the Côte d’Azur with kids and things to do with teens on the French Riviera. I’ve also written about another 10 activities indoors for all ages and activities for toddlers. Do you have any other suggestions?
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photo of glass blower courtesy of Biot Tourism and photo of M.I.P courtesy of Nice Matin