Fun on the French Riviera with kids
Our Nice apartments are mostly very kid-friendly (we have children, as do many of our owners), and every listing details the specific gear that is offered in each individual apartment. Cots, high chairs and baby's goody bags may all be reserved during the booking process.
I used to think that the French Riviera wasn’t the best holiday destination for children. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now that I have two of my own, I have gathered invaluable tips from other parents on all the great places available to entertain kids, and I’m delighted to be able to share them with visitors to the area.
A lot of the activities aren’t particularly well promoted, but there’s certainly plenty to do. If you want to dive into a whole book about keeping children amused on the French Riviera, then I would recommend purchasing a copy of Footprints’s guidebook ‘South of France with Kids’. Our own websites also offer more detailed information on a whole range of child friendly activities. The French Riviera hotspot for kids is undoubtedly around Antibes, Biot and Villeneuve-Loubet. If you are staying in Nice, it’s easy to either hire a car for the day or use a transfer service like Friend in France. Alternatively you can also take a train or bus to get there. From the region’s sandy beaches to rural nature reserves, here’s a roundup of my favourite places to play and relax in the sun. Don’t forget that in France kids are welcome absolutely everywhere: from posh restaurants to humble caf.s.
Swing from the treetops
Little cheeky monkeys will love Le Pitchoun Forest (€15 per child) which offers four small climbing courses. For children 8 to 17 years old, the nearby Canyon Forest (€25 adult, €22 children 8–17 years old) combines four different adventure courses, including zip lines, rope bridges and giant swings: all spiderwebbing through the treetops of Villeneuve Loubet.
Amusement Park Mania
Espace Marineland is the intoxicating site with four amusement parks. Marineland itself is a well-respected marine life park, boasting pods of dolphins, killer whales and sharks. Kilometres of twisty-turny slides at Aquasplash make it the Riviera’s largest water park. Farmthemed La Ferme du Far West hosts pony rides and a small petting zoo, and, opposite, giant dinosaurs flank Adventure Golf’s three crazy golf courses. Tickets are pricey and entry fees vary according to each specific park. Combination tickets are also available. Up for more? Next-door Antibes Land has loads of huge rollercoasters.
Life under the sea
Ever wondered what’s going on beneath the waves? Take a peek at underwater life aboard the aquarium-like Visiobulle, a glass-bottomed boat that circles the Cap d’Antibes. Boats depart daily (April through September) from Ponton Courbet in Juan-les-Pins. €13 adult, €6.50 children 2–11 years.
Nice’s Promenade des Anglais
This five-kilometre seafront promenade is sublime. It’s wide, flat and almost entirely pedestrian – although there’s a designated lane for cycling and rollerblading too. You can hire bikes (€10/half-day), skateboards (€6/half-day) and rollerblades (€7/half-day) at Roller Station (49 Quai des Etats-Unis). If the sun is too hot for all that physical exertion, then you can take your pick of any of Nice’s private (15) or public (innumerable) beaches. Castel Plage (sun loungers €12/half-day) pulls celebs like Harry Potter star Emma Watson. Hi-Beach offers shady, padded Family Houses (€29/half-day), perfect for soft play with tots, plus kids’ toys and blanket Wi-Fi. Hi-Beach is definitely the best beach I’ve ever found in terms of catering for children in the height of summertime.
All of Nice’s beaches are pebbly, but I’ve noticed that little feet easily navigate across them. My two year old loves building pebble towers and trying to beat his dad at skimming pebbles into the water. For older children, it’s entertainment enough to watch adults getting from the water to dry land. Tip: To have any hope of emerging in a Halle Berry or Daniel Craig pose buy little sea shoes which are cheap and very effective for tackling pebbles underfoot. These shoes can be bought for around €15 for adults and €7 for children.
When it rains
Near to Nice Port (towards Carrefour) is the cute and amusing Musée de la Curiosité at 39 rue Beaumont where you can tour four or five rooms of old fashioned children’s theatre pieces, including the haunted room. It really doesn’t matter that the commentary is in French. My two year old loves this place, but it mostly suits children between 4–8 years old.
Fifteen minutes from Nice by car there’s KidCity, a 700m. colourful paradise for active little ones with everything from giant lego blocks, to slides, inflatables, ballpools, trampolines and even rope bridges. After the fun is over, adults can take weary children to the panoramic restaurant. It is open between 10am–4.30pm daily, but longer at weekends and Bank Holidays. Prices are a reasonable: €6 for the under 4s and €10 for children between 4 and 12 years old.
The Oceanographic Museum in Monaco is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. The aquarium is excellent and the whale skeleton simply fascinating.
For older children, escape the Riviera’s summertime crowds on the Ile Ste-Marguerite. This blissful – and car-free – island sits just off of Cannes’ shoreline. Crossed with eucalyptus-shaded paths and surrounded by clear turquoise waters, the island is also home to the Musée de la Mer. This museum displays sunken Roman treasure, but its highlight is definitely the scary cell that once imprisoned the Man in the Iron Mask. Pack a picnic lunch and hop aboard one of the daily ferries (return €12 adult, €7.50 children 5–10 years old, free for children 4 years and under) that depart from Cannes year-round. A pricier daily service runs from Nice port too.
Take an easy stroll along the Sentier du Littoral. This stunning coastal footpath is clearly marked and runs almost continuously along the Riviera’s shoreline. The best bits loop around Cap d’Antibes, Cap Ferrat and the St-Tropez Peninsula. Seriously outdoorsy families can up the ante with Randoxygéne Walking Guides (printed guides available in most local tourist offices, in French only. These free guidebooks cover the whole of the Alpes-Maritimes region, mapping out hiking paths, cycle routes and more challenging Alpine climbs.
Track wild wolves
The Alpha Wolf Park (€12 adult, €10 children 4–12 years old, free for the under 4s) is set within the mountainous Parc du Mercantour’s Bor.on Valley. Dedicated to restoring the region’s indigenous wolf population – which came close to extinction during the last century – this nature reserve is home to three packs of wild wolves. The park is a wealth of information and is dotted with observation huts, hiking trails and a kids’ playground. Its altitude makes a welcome retreat from the summer heat.
Hit the slopes
To the surprise of most visitors to the French Riviera, the Alps are but a paltry hour’s drive inland. Head this way anytime between December and March, and your family can easily spend a day swooshing down the slopes. Auron, Isola 2000 and Valberg are the region’s most popular ski resorts. All three are a bargain €4 ride on the 100% Neige Bus, which departs daily from Nice’s main train station and airport. Between April and November these mountain resorts offer a cool mix of mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking.
10 more great kids’ activities
Think of this list as merely a starting point! The French Riviera is home to plenty more fun family activities for kids of any age, including the following: Between April and October, rent a jetski or try wakeboarding at Cap Ferrat Watersports.
Visit the botanical gardens at Domaine du Rayol, or join one of their guided snorkelling tours (min. age 8).
Try canoeing, rafting or hiking through the jawdropping Gorges du Verdon, Europe’s own Grand Canyon.
Burn rubber on the go-kart track at Fr.jus’ professional-style Inter Racing Kart.
Older children can catch a film under the stars at the Monaco Open-air Cinema (Le Rocher de Monaco). Films begin around 9.30pm (Summer only).
An hour’s drive northwest of Nice, the Réserve des Monts d’Azur offers guided safaris through herds of wild bison and Mongolian horses.
Visit Cap Ferrat’s Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild: nine different themed gardens and a musical fountain surround the all-pink mansion.
Spend the afternoon on Villefranche’s Plage Les Marinières: the town’s main beach is a perfect arc of golden sand, lapped by shallow waters.
Visit Parc Phoenix near the airport which is a very cheap and easy day out at €2 per adult and free for under 12s. Open spaces, a large children’s park, an impressive greenhouse and a small aquarium are all on offer. Don’t forget some bread to feed the ducks at the entrance.