Parc Zoologique de la Barben
This is a great zoo for young children with everything from elephants and giraffes to smaller animals like antelopes and pigs. It’s not a huge place, but big enough for little kids to spend an entire day there. Food can be expensive, but you can also take a picnic. There’s also a little train that you can ride around on. It has over 130 different species and is in a fantastic Mediterranean setting. A really pleasant place.
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, daily.
Many museums in France run weekly workshops for kids, where they can learn about the art and also try their hand at it too, or you can take family classes together. The Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence showcases a lot of Cézanne’s work as it was his home town. Try to book in advance of your trip but you might also be able to get a place if there’s a cancellation at the last minute. It’s worth a phone call and good French isn’t necessarily needed all of the time (although it will, of course, depend on the topic).
Le Village des Automates
The Village des Automates is a great place for smaller kids. It’s a theme park with lots of miniature rides. It also has playgrounds and zip-lines as well as large areas to picnic if you don’t want to buy lunch there. It’s deep in the heart of Provence, so it can get hot. Take a ton of water.
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, daily.
Accrobranche is a French national pastime where both kids and adults can climb into a harness and swing through the trees. Most large French towns will have one nearby and every site normally caters for every age. So the smaller kids – age 5+ – can climb in safety (they move from log to log without having to undo and redo their buckles from tree to tree) while the larger kids (accompanied by adults if necessary) can swing down giant zip-lines. It’s a great confidence booster, lots of fun and good exercise. Just stay away if you suffer from vertigo. And be warned, the bigger lines can get very high indeed.
The water park at Plan de Campagne (the huge shopping area between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence) opens in the summer months. It’s a firm favourite with older kids as it has some great rides and slides with tyres and mats. It also has a shallow swimming area for smaller kids but in my opinion the rides aren’t really appropriate for them – they are too fast and little kids can often end up feeling a bit bruised.
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm. Mid June to Early September. Kids under a metre get in free.
It doesn’t rain often in Provence, but when it does, it can really pour. The Parc Légend’Aire is your escape from the weather and a chance for the kids to let off some steam. It’s on an industrial estate outside Aix-en-Provence, inside a large hangar. It’s not pretty and it’s not quiet, but it has everything under one roof that your kids might need for a few hours, if you’re lucky: soft play, slides, laser quest, motorbike tracks and a small café that does chicken nuggets and chips.
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm, daily.
If you’re looking for a good kid-friendly beach, head to Bandol. It’s a pretty seaside village with restaurants and shops, which will provide all the ice-creams you need. Head to the beach around the bay, called Anse de Renécros, for a perfect family-friendly dip. The bay has a very gentle gradient into the water, so even little kids can run around without being in danger. It can get very busy in summer, so get there early. Afterwards, head to the promenade in the town centre, which has a great kids’ playground. You can sit in the shade, while the kids climb.
If you need more than these suggestions, check out Pacamomes. It’s the portal for parents in the Provence and Cote D’Azur regions of France, and will tell you about everything that’s going on for kids in the area.