The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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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.

Top 10 things to do teens French Riviera

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.

canyoning gorges du loup cote dazur

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.

canyon forest villeneuve loubet french riviera

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.

lac st cassien aqua parc

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.

wolves at alpha parc st martin vésubie mercantour

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.

Perfum workshop

6. Rollerblade along the seafront at Cagnes sur Mer or along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.  I've written about this in detail here.

roller blading in cagnes sur mer

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.

sailing at villeneuve loubet

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.  

plateau de caussols

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).

le village des fous villeneuve loubet

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).

aquasplash

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 daysactivities 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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Top 10 activities for teens on French Riviera

 

Photo of perfume workshop courtesy of Collège Croix-Menée Le Creusot, Dijon

 

 

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The Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) 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 10 top ideas for great days out and activities for kids, perfect for holiday-makers and residents alike.

Côte dAzur holiday with kids

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.

lou BDL

1.  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  

bois des lutins 2

2.  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.

museum

3. 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.  In both places bikes can be hired.

2011-11-01 rollerblading

4. 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 bath tub, 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).

village des fous

5. 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, flamingoes, 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.    

iguana parc phoenix

6. 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.

fountains at Promenade du Paillon Nice

7. 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).

Aquasplash Antibes

8. 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).

pitchoun forest 2

9. 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, eating 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.

og on ferry

10. Marineland, the biggest marine life theme park in Europe with dolphin, orca & seal shows, sharks, rays, penguins and polar bears.  I hesitated whether to include this as it's not really my kind of thing but I was reasonably impressed after my first visit, having discovered that a lot of research is also carried out here, however I personally don't like seeing large marine animals in captivity.*** It can get very crowded so once again my tip is to arrive as it opens in the morning and prepare your visit ahead, checking the times of the various shows so as not to miss out. It is possible to take your own picnic or eat at one of the many cafés and restaurants. 

Marineland Antibes

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.

pinkpanther

I've also written about things to do with young teens on the Côte d'Azurideas for rainy days on the Côte d'Azuractivities 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?  

*** UPDATE 2016 Since devastating floods destroyed parts of Marineland killing an orca and many other captive fish and animals in October 2015, I have revised my opinion of this place and no longer endorse it. Personally I won't visit again.  

 

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boys infront of fish in cagnesOne of our favourite things to do en famille is head down to the seafront at Cagnes sur Mer loaded up with bikes, rollerblades, go-karts, scooters and the powerwing for a few hours of sea air and exercise. The pavement is wide, with a cycle lane between it and the road and it attracts all sorts of wheeled contraptions.  Families push prams and teach kids to ride their bikes, young couples rollerblade hand in hand, while others set up music and circuits to show off their prowess on wheels.  Teenagers zip in and out on skateboards and waveboards, serious cyclists put their heads down and power along the cycle path, joggers jog and people of all ages mosey along.

The seafront is set up for this kind of activity from Villeneuve-Loubet to Nice, with cycle lanes and wide pedestrain paths all the way to the old town in Nice at the eastern end of the Promenade des Anglais (which by then has become the Quai des Etats Unis!)  This makes it possible to do a 15 km (one way) flat bike ride without using roads which makes it a great activity to do with children.  Starting at the iconic block of flats "Marina Baie des Anges", a controversial landmark that you either love or hate (I'm in the "love" marina baie des angesgang), the first bit of the path is along a boardwalk next to the beach and nowhere near the road.  Continuing along here you come out at the Loup river and have to carry your bikes up the steps to the bridge.  Now you're in Cagnes sur Mer with the racetrack on your left (fun nights out in the summer watching the trots can be had here but that's for another post) and fabulous views of the medieval old town of Hauts de Cagnes and the mountains beyond.  For the length of the beach at Cagnes the pedestrain path is wide with plenty of room for everyone and lined with cafés, snack bars, ice-cream places and restaurants for refreshments.  After passing the small fishing port at Cros de Cagnes on your right the cycle track follows close to the road for a short while in St Laurent du Var, crosses the wide Var river, passes the airport on your right and becomes wider and further from the traffic once again in Nice.

The enormous boulevard running the length of the Baie des Anges (the Bay of Angels) is the lifeline of the city of Nice, and its wide seafront pavement is where residents and visitors come out to play but it's funny to think it wasn't always this way.  Nice was originally built facing north, the sea of little interest and the shoreline itself just a little track with the railway line running along the coast.  It was the English aristocracy who invented the art of promenading by the sea, taking the air, in the nineteenth century when they started spending winters on the Côte d'Azur, hence the name la Promenade des Anglais.  

Promenade des Anglais Nice

photo credit by Courrier International creative commons

Cycling along the Prom you really appreciate the sense of space and vastness of this urban bay.  The beach is an 8 kilometre stretch of pale grey pebbles and bright turquoise water.  The colours are so intense it's not hard to see why so many artists have been inspired here.  I never tire of the Prom with it's magnificent palm trees, white pergolas, blue metal chairs (for contemplating the velo bleubeautiful azure sea) and luxurious palaces.  It all feels so exotic and somehow further away than southern France.  I feel like I'm on holiday every time I go to Nice and yet I only live half an hour away.  I'm inspired to take photos in every different light, I'm never without my camera, and wish I could paint to capture its magic.  I know I'm lucky living here!

But back to the bike ride, if 30 kms (there and back) is too far, not to worry you can rent a bike one way using the Vélo Bleu system of hire-by-the-hour public bikes as there are stations to be found the length of this ride.  Then just hop on the bus back to where you started.  There are places to hire children's bikes and pedal-karts for whole families and we are happy to lend a variety of different sized bikes (including a babyseat), scooters and rollerblades to our guests at Lou Messugo.  Cycling or walking along the seafront is something that can be enjoyed by all ages in all seasons; on a sunny winter's day you get views across to the snowy Alps and on a hot summer's day you can cool off in the sea.  Do you see now why it's one of our favourite activities?

blue chairs promenade des Anglais Nice

Myriam in Cagnes

horse track

roller blading in cagnes sur mer

us on cart in cagnes

boys blading

lou powerwing

beach V-L

If you're looking for more things to do in Nice and the Côte d'Azur I recommend these related articles:  

Top 10 things to do with children on the Côte d'Azur

28 reason to holiday on the Côte d'Azur with toddlers

5 free things to do with kids in Nice

 

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seaside promenade Côte dAzur France

 

 

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