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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Sunday Photo - mountain reflection

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Vésubia mountain park

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At first glance the Côte d’Azur (or French Riviera) might not seem like an obvious choice for a holiday destination for families with toddlers with its reputation for glitz and glamour, but look again, it really is.  I’m going to show you just how toddler-friendly this place isWe’ve lived here since our youngest was a toddler; I speak from personal experience.  Here are 28 things to do, activities and days out with toddlers on the Côte d'Azur, France.

holidays with toddlers on Côte dAzur

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One of the best-kept secrets on the Côte d'Azur is the sensational, and hugely original, Bois des Lutins, well-known to locals but luckily for us, not often mentioned in the tourist guides.  And even luckier for us is that it's only 10 minutes from Lou Messugo.  The Bois des Lutins, (Pixie or Elf Wood) is a charmingly low-tech fun park for all ages (billed from 2-102 years) mainly consisting of rope walkways linking tree houses high in the trees.  There are enormous bouncy castles, zip wires and giant net trampolines, along with traditional wooden games, swings, slides, hammocks, "hamster wheels", toboggans and tunnels to crawl through, all in a natural forest setting. The theme of elves and pixies runs throughout the park with trees named after different characters and magical little creatures hidden high in the branches to search for. Some trees blow bubbles, some play music or squirt water and most have a story to tell, in French, naturally.

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We went yesterday with cousins, in a group ranging from 10 months to 14 years and a handful of enthusiastic adults and we all had a blast.  It's getting harder and harder to find a place that entertains both our 8 year old and teenager but this place still hits the spot.  Even the baby enjoyed watching her siblings and cousins muck around in the fresh air.  It's late October and we were verging on too warm in jeans and long sleeves, such is the lovely autumn weather at the moment.

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The Bois des Lutins actively encourages picnics with plenty of tables all around the park, though there is a simple snack bar for drinks, ice-creams and sandwiches if you don't want to bring your own food.  There are also several drinking-water fountains making it unnecessary to lug around heavy bottles of water, another little touch hugely appreciated by pack-horse parents!

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We've been many times over the years, in hot summers and cooler seasons but as the majority of the activities are in the trees it's shady and not too warm in the summer and can even be a place to go in light rain.  I recommend this adventure activity park to all my gîte guests with families and without a single exception, they've all loved it.  Recently some even went twice in a one week stay!  If you're planning a holiday on the Côte d'Azur with children you won't regret spending a day at the Bois des Lutins, honest! You'll love it!  And in the words of my 5 year old nephew from England, every time he comes to France from now on he wants to visit the magical pixie wood.  Every time!

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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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