There's plenty to do in Paris, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the city and explore a little further afield. We've picked five day trips the kids will love, from a fabulous zoo and a unique aerospace museum to the must-visit Disneyland and Asterix theme parks, and even the most charming of châteaux!
Traveling with small kids? Head to Fantasyland in the main Disneyland Paris park, where they will love the attractions aimed at the younger guests, from Alice's Curious Labyrinth to classic It's a Small World. Toy Story fans will love the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast in Discoveryland, while the older kids will no doubt enjoy the thrills and spills at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a 13-story lift-shaft drop, or the adrenalin rush at the Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roller Coaster! Prefer to share as a family? Try the very popular Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland or the Moteurs Action, Stunt Show Spectacular in the Walt Disney Studios Back Lot. Death Star aficionados will enjoy the Star Tours Star Wars ride in Discoveryland, where you can experience flying Han Solo-style!
If you can't pack it all into a day trip, the park comes with a plethora of hotels for overnight stays! Why not stay at the contemporary cool Hotel Bassano. With its free WIFI and sound-proofed rooms, it's ideally located for the metro that takes you to the theme park.
Château de Fontainebleau
Inspired by Italian style, the beautiful Château de Fontainebleau was first designed in 1528 by architect Gilles Le Breton, who transformed the neglected hunting lodge into one of the finest palace in France. Don't miss the ostentatious ballroom and Long Gallery, famed for their crazy fireplaces and excessive style. More must-sees? Marie Antoinette's boudoir and Napoleon's throne room. Fontainebleau's most famous feature is the double-horseshoe entrance staircase added by Louis XIII at the front of the chateau. This forecourt became known as the "Cour des Adieux," where it's said Napoleon bid farewell to his troops after abdicating before being exiled to Elba. Even if you don't tour the inside, take time to stroll the magnificent gardens, including Le Nôtre's Grand Parterre and the carp pond in the Jardin Anglais!
To stay near the Château de Fontainebleau, check into the very swish Aigle Noir Hotel, where service comes with a smile, baby cribs are available and rooms overlook the château.
French cartoon favorites Astérix and Obélix have their very own theme park about 20 miles away from Disneyland, near the Château de Chantilly in Plailly. Based on the popular series by Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny, Parc Astérix enables you to visit the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece, Egypt, the very last standing village in Gaulle, of course, and the Land of the Vikings. Home to six roller coasters, including Europe's largest roller coaster, the Goudurix (a wordplay which roughly translates as "taste for risk"!), the park also has four water rides, including the wet and wild Grand Splatch log ride, the Oxygenarium, a spinning-rapids water slide with inflatable dinghies, and the river-rafting Romulus and Rapidus ride. Endless entertainment!
For an Astérix experience the kids will love, head to the Trois Hiboux with its bunk beds and outside play areas. Kids up to age 3 stay free!
Parc de Thoiry
Animal lovers will love Parc de Thoiry, just under an hour east of Paris. As well as having one of Europe's best animal reserves, the 370-acre park boasts a beautiful, authentic château and a 2,300-meter long maze and gardens for the kids to "get lost" in. The safari park trail is a drive-through and will have you getting up close and personal with cheeky monkeys, zebras and even bears. At the zoo, get a chance to meet the elusive Siberian tigers, Eurasian lynx and even snow leopards, or just take time to visit the beautiful 16th-century château, though part of it isn't open to the public, as it's still home to the counts of La Panouse!
Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace
Budding pilots and astronauts will love the French Aerospace Museum, one of the oldest aviation museums in the world. Set on over 1,600,000 square feet of land and hangars in Le Bourget airport, the 19,595 exhibits cover everything from the early pioneers and the 1879 Biot-Massia glider to biplanes, World War I planes and Soviet rockets. It's a unique opportunity to visit the inside of a Zeppelin airship cabin or to see a 1961 Dassault Mirage fighter, an American Thunderchief, the Concorde 001 prototype or even Ariane's rocket launchers! It even has the only remaining piece of the infamous Oiseau Blanc, which disappeared during its first trans-Atlantic flight attempt from Paris to New York in 1927.
Rowena Carr-Allinson contributed this to MiniTime.