The Côte d’Azur is a wonderful playground for old and young alike. Perhaps more well-known for its glamorous hedonistic lifestyle than for child-friendly vacations, this list should help dispel that myth. Here are my top 10 things to do with children on the Côte d’Azur – great days out and activities for kids, perfect for holiday-makers and residents alike.
This list is based on my experiences with my boys, it’s in no particular order and doesn’t include the obvious and many attractions of all the nearby beaches on the Riviera.
Top 10 things to do with children on the Côte d’Azur
1. Le Bois des Lutins
Le Bois des Lutins, an adventure playground so original you can’t help but be charmed. The main attractions are the netted walks high in the trees, linking tree-houses and platforms from where you can search for hidden fairies, elves and pixies. To get down you have to brave the enormous slides and tunnels. You’ll also find giant inflatables, including the “hamster wheel”, toboggans in the woods, zip wires, an underground troll cave, traditional wooden games and unusual swings. Because most of the park is in the woods it makes a great day out even on the hottest days. You can take your own picnic or buy food on site at the snack bar. Billed as being suitable for 2-102 years old, I wouldn’t disagree! Everyone finds something they love at this wonderfully low-tech park. Click here for more details
2. Musée Océanographique de Monaco
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.
3. Rollerblading/cycling on the seafront
Rollerblading/cycling along the seafront at Cagnes sur Mer. Click here to see the post dedicated to this activity. Of course this can also be done on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice too. You can hire bikes in both places.
4. Le Village des Fous
Le Village des Fous is a unique theme park consisting of a “crazy village” and a labyrinth that you have to get through in order to access the village. In the labyrinth not only do you have to find your way through but there are also physical challenges at each stage. Once you’ve made it through the maze the “crazy village” awaits! (It is possible to by-pass the maze and go direct to the crazy village if that appeals more). This is a fun park with original rides such as pedal karts, a flying bathtub, water catapults, crazy mirrors, water slides, rope walks in the trees, toboggans in giant tires, water jets and much 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. In summer be sure to pack the kids’ swim stuff & towels (and plenty of sunscreen).
5. Parc Phoenix
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. The pyramid-shaped glass-house has 6 different climatic zones offering the visitor a rich, colourful, steamy, tropical experience. Kids love the enormous exotic plants that look like they’re out of a cartoon they’re so bright and wacky, and they just adore the iguanas wandering around freely! You’ll find a number of animals such as otters, wallabies, crocodiles, marmoset monkeys, lemurs, flamingos, kookaburras and other birds living in sympathetically designed enclosures and several excellent 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.
6. Promenade du Paillon
Take the Mini Train (tourist train on wheels) around Nice and then wander along the Promenade du Paillon through the water jets to the excellent children’s playground. This will appeal to younger children as it’s a relaxing way to see some of the old town of Nice and its famous seafront boulevard the “Promenade des Anglais”, followed by a fun play. In summer kids strip off to their underwear (or put on swimsuits) to play in the fountains (so be prepared and bring a towel). The playground is great at any time of year.
Aquasplash, don’t all kids (big and small) love a water park? A vast choice of waterslides, some not for the faint-hearted, 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).
8. Pitchoun Forest
Pitchoun 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, wooden tunnels, trapezes and swings but none of them are very high up making them suitable for as young as 3 years old (or 1m high) and up to about 9. Adults can walk around the course alongside the children to assist if necessary. Unlike in places designed for older users, the children are permanently attached to the wires; another reason why it’s suitable for such young kids. You can take your own picnic or eat in the café at the Village des Fous next door. For older kids there’s a more challenging course a couple of kilometres away at Canyon Forest (find out more here).
9. Ile Sainte Marguerite
An unusual thing to do with children on the Côte d’Azur is take a ferry ride to Ile Sainte Marguerite from Cannes followed by a walk along la Croisette to find the stars’ handprints. Everybody loves a boat ride, right? The ferry across to the island of Sainte Marguerite takes 15 minutes, just long enough to get salt spray on your face but not feel sick! The island itself is home to a 17th century fort where the man in the iron mask was imprisoned, a bird reserve, beautiful rocky coves and majestic umbrella pines all linked by shady walking paths suitable for pushchairs. There is a restaurant and a snack bar (not always open, depends on the season) but this is the perfect place to take a picnic and spend a day on your own little beach, paddling, rock pooling or swimming away from the crowded beaches along the coast. Once back in Cannes, if you have the energy stroll along the famous Croisette seafront boulevard, eat ice-creams and search for the hand-print of the pink panther (I think that should be paw print!) Film stars have had their handprints immortalised around the Palais des Festivals where the Cannes Film Festival takes place every year and amongst them, if you look carefully, you’ll find the famous feline.
10. The Brague River
The Brague River gently flows through the wooded land of the parc naturel de la Brague, a forest of 633 hectares stretching across the towns of Valbonne-Sophia Antipolis, Biot and Antibes. There are several places to access the river and join the 9 km hiking trail along its banks. One of the easiest is from the edge of Valbonne village opposite the cemetery on Avenue de Pierrefeu where you’ll find a path down to the river. Here you’ll find stepping stones which kids love to play on and not far along is the big pipe seen in the photo below. The paths are well signposted with plenty of refreshing places to stop and splash in the water. Look out for sculptures in the rocks and a scallop shell indicating that the path is part of the Camino de Santiago. Take a picnic and enjoy this haven of tranquility. For a map showing all access points and car parks click here.
Alternative N°10! Sledging in the snow
From December to April (roughly, depending on the weather) the Côte d’Azur can be the base for days out to nearby ski resorts, for skiing, sledging, making snowmen or igloos and general fun in the snow. When the snow is plentiful it’s only about a 30 minute drive into the mountains to find snow deep enough to play in. The nearest ski resort to Lou Messugo with lifts, equipment hire shops, cafés etc is Gréolières les Neiges (50 mins). Find out more about skiing on the Riviera here.
All of these are within 30 mins of Lou Messugo gîte with the exception of Monaco at 1 hour. Many are only 10-15 mins away.
I’ve also written about things to do with young teens on the Côte d’Azur, ideas for rainy days on the Côte d’Azur, activities with toddlers and top indoor activities (all of which can be done when the sun shines too!) Have you been on holiday in the South of France? Do you have any favourite things to add to my list?
Tips and reasons for travelling abroad with toddlers
Sightseeing with children – visiting hill villages
Reasons to book a self-catering gîte holiday
Very happy for you to share, thanks Lucy
Phoebe – this is a fabulous blog post. I hope you don’t mind if I refer readers to it in my own GlamperRV blog –
What a great list, it all looks fantastic. I love Iguanas and would have to be dragged away from them. The water parks and water play also look wonderful.
How sad about the marine park. A few years ago we went to one inthe Netherlands that I had fond memories of as a child and all I can say is, never again.
Thank you for linking to #TravelAtHome
I was wondering if you knew of any attractions for children with special needs. my son is 4 and autistic and I wondered if you had any thoughts on anything he may like to do? he is very active but hates too many people and queuing
Thanks for this. Off to Cannes area with my brothers and nieces and nephews soon, so very helpful.
Yes it’s a great place to bring up kids, there’s so much to do, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
I love the idea that the kids strip off and head straight into the fountains (so bring a towel!). That is apparently so irresistible for all kids. I had no idea that the Cotes D’Azure was so child friendly. Lucky you bringing up your boys there!
April’s a great month, you’ll have a fab time!
Thank you for the amazing information! We are going to Cote d’Azur in April with our children!
What a shame Priya! You’ll just have to come back, but thanks for stopping by all the same.
A great roundup of fun activities with kids, wish I had seen these before our trip last summer!
It sure is a fun museum!
It’s hugely family-friendly these days Cathy, this is just the tip of the iceberg!
The Côte d’Azur ad Nice in particular has become much more family friendly than it used to be, nowadays it’s a great place for every age.
Please do come and visit, it’s a great place!
When are you booking you holiday to Lou Messugo Ting???
What amazing attractions so close to you… you are really selling the area to me… I am due a visit 🙂 I think we would love all of them, but Le Village des Fous looks absolutely brilliant! Love the idea of Crazy Village! I shall bookmark this for future reference. Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes
So much fun stuff! I could see myself enjoying a lot of these activities – let alone my daughter. Great tips. Will come see you one day. #mondayescapes
This list looks AMAZING! I want to get there now and do it all! I was 12 the last time I was there, so really need to start planning a trip with my own little one 🙂
It’s somewhere I never think of as particularly family-friendly but so much to actually do there with kids #MondayEscapes
The oceanography museum looks so fun! And who doesn’t love a splash pad!? Super cool, thanks for sharing.
They look like great fun, especially the labyrinth obstacle course, and the first one – would love the inflatable hamster wheel. #LAB
I only visited the south of France as a child. I think we will need to visit soon this looks amazing!
I’ve never been to the south of France, but I think I need to visit now! Le Bois des Lutins sounds like an amazing adventure playground and you have some amazing attractions nearby.
A great list of activities, thanks for sharing. Lovely photos too 🙂 x
My kids love all these things and are so lucky to live here. They don’t realise just how much though!!
That’s great! And you know where to stay too don’t you???!
Yes the Bois des Lutins is brilliant!
Book yourself a holiday here at Lou Messugo then!! Simples!
Your 3 year old would also adore the Bois des Lutins, it’s an amazing place. I can’t recommend it more! Enjoy your holiday!
Wow. Looks amazing place. Your little ones look like they are having a fab time #LAB
Wow, this looks and sounds absolutely amazing! I wish I could be transported there right now. It’s definitely going high up on my wish list.
Wow, totally inspired by Le Bois des Lutins, looks so cool! Defo one to visit sometime. Thank you. #pocolo
I WANT to be where you are!! This all looks fantastic. What great family fun. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo
Oooh! This looks like so much fun! We’re also going on holiday in France in July. Can’t wait! My 3-year old will love the Aquasplash and the little train 🙂 #PoCoLo
The Musée Océanographique is definitely one of my favourite places to visit with kids. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.
My pleasure Mistie
Fabulous and comprehensive post. Who would have thought it was so kid friendly. I would LOVE to go back and do these fun things for the kids. Thank you for sharing, especially the Musée Océanographique de Monaco.
Love the pics! It looks like a great place to take my kids. Thank you for sharing and giving me another place I want to visit. 🙂
Wow! Everything sounds and looks so much fun x
We’re lucky there are so many fun and original things to do in the area and I too love the 1st photo of my son in the “hamster wheel”!!
So you got to Labyfolies and didn’t we have a great day out! 😀
These activities sound amazing, lots of great things to do with the kiddos! I just love your pics, particularly the 1st one 🙂
We will definately have to revisit Les Bois eds Lutins and make our first trip to Labyfolies in May. If I read anymore of your blogs I will have to extend our stay to fit it all in – so exciting! The photo of Oscar on the ferry should be used as their advert – fantastic!
Thanks for commenting Rachel. You’re right about les Nuits du Sud too, it’s a great way to take young children to their first concert.
Yes to all of it – it’s surprising just how kid-friendly the region really is! The Nuits de Sud was also a huge hit with our kids, for those fortunate to visit the area during the summer concert season.