10 family holiday activities for Easter 2017 in France
Thinking of holidaying in France this Easter with children in tow? Whatever their predispositions, you’ll find an activity or attraction to spark their interest and diffuse their energy. We’ve scoured the four corners of our nearest neighbour to bring you our top 10 activity ideas – from horse-riding in Normandy and history shows in Pays de la Loire to surfing in Biarritz and a trip to ever-popular Disneyland Paris. And before we forget… France’s biggest Easter egg hunt is held at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte near Paris, with 85,000 eggs and a LOT of chocolate hidden in André Le Nôtre’s famous garden. Visit on Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, 10am-6pm. Happy holidays!
1. Meet the characters at Disneyland® Paris
According to Audrey Hepburn, Paris is always a good idea – so Disneyland® Paris must always be a good idea for a family break, especially this spring when it launches a vast programme of special events to celebrate its 25th anniversary. From 25 March 2017 there’s a host of new attractions to dazzle and delight children – although we fully expect you to be equally engrossed. Take a 3D inter-galactical journey with Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, travelling across destinations from the Star Wars Galaxy and meeting the films’ heroes. Have your picture taken with your favourite character aboard enormous new floats in the flamboyant Disney Stars on Parade. Watch Mickey’s newest show Happy Anniversary Disneyland® Paris and the Disney Princesses’ Starlit Princess Waltz. And after all that excitement, you’ll just have to push back bedtime a little later – Disney Illuminations sees classic Disney tales come to life on the castle walls after dark.
2. Try sand-yachting in Brittany
Families with kids of eight upwards will love the excitement of racing around the wide flats of Brittany’s stunning Kernic Bay in a sand yacht. One of many outdoor sports on offer at Plouescat Nautisme, you speed along on three wheels, sans engine and with just the wind as your power – although it’s quite a controllable activity, making it easy to slow down and turn for the accident-prone (sigh of relief for parents). In fact, it only takes a quarter of an hour or so to master the basics and Brittany boasts no less than 26 centres where you can try it out, so you’re within striking distance of a sand yacht wherever you stay. No need for any particular physical strength and the activity can be enjoyed year round – though it’s sensible to don an extra jumper at this time of year.
3. Follow film stars and island hop on the Côte d’Azur
Beyond its undeniable air of glamour and sophistication, the French Riviera might surprise you with what it offers for children and families. Take the world-famous Cannes Film Festival, for instance: you can’t actually attend without invitation, but you can have fun walking the seafront boulevard of La Croisette and seeing how many famous film stars’ handprints you can find around the Palais des Festivals (it’s France’s version of Hollywood Boulevard). Parents in search of some P&Q should take the ferry from Cannes to the car-free Lérins islands, shimmering just 15 minutes out in the bay. Île St-Marguérite is the larger and closer of the two with links to the Man in the Iron Mask (you can visit his cell), while Île St-Honorat has an active monastery and old fort for kids to run around. Both islands are criss-crossed by trails suitable for pushchairs and stippled with safe, secluded rocky coves that older ones will love exploring: pack a picnic and find a place to paddle while you eat.
4. Go horse-riding in Normandy
It’s hard to holiday in Normandy without saddling up and seeing the countryside on horseback. There are studs and equestrian centres throughout the region, most catering for families and English-speaking visitors, and all offering a range of riding and pony-trekking excursions. Choose from a few hours’ gentle hacking in the forest in Eure, a few days touring along coastal paths and beaches of Cotentin or through the verdant slopes of the Suisse-Normande, or taking horses across the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your kids might be equally keen on the sound of donkey-riding, a fun way to meander through the department of Calvados and its picturesque, blossom-filled Pays d'Auge.
5. Browse colourful markets in Provence
There are few more typical symbols of France than an open-air market – and sunny Provence is known for its incredible range, an almost carnival-like atmosphere where eyes and noses can feast on colourful, fragrant displays and taste buds can be thoroughly tickled. Children of any age will enjoy wandering the markets held in most of the region’s villages, especially if they’ve been given the task of choosing tonight’s dinner ingredients. Sellers will often give polite children a taste of something yummy like a ripe strawberry or a piece of cheese, and some markets have street performers and musicians. Equally as fun as the food are the various stalls for other things like toys, hairbands and jewellery – an ideal outlet for pocket money.
6. Cycle through the Loire Valley
Cycling and small children aren't an obvious match, but the Loire Valley’s network of smooth, safe trails takes the stress out of contending with traffic while on two wheels. Try the popular Loire à Vélo, an immense 800-kilometre cycle route which passes through the iconic Loire Valley along the banks of the eponymous river, taking in majestic châteaux along the way. Most sections of the route are no more than 40km long, manageable by most children with a maximum 4 hours of cycling a day, which can be broken down as you wish. And since it follows the river, there’s little in the way of hills to worry about.
7. Watch spectacular history shows in Pays de la Loire
One of France’s most famous theme parks, award-winning Puy du Fou in Vendée is one for your holiday list if you have history fans in the family. It brings the country’s rich past to astonishing life through all sorts of spectacles: chariot races in a near-full-sized Roman amphitheatre, soldiers storming castles, jousting tournaments, Vikings and gladiators, all of which are guaranteed to get ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from your brood. The shows cover all periods from Roman times to the Belle Époque of the 19th century, with a fair degree of historical accuracy to evoke the world as it really was. And the best bit? There are hotels on site, one of which (La Citadelle) is new for 2017 – so no need to squeeze everything into one day. There may not be rollercoasters in this rural forest setting, but the action-packed shows certainly provide enough of a thrill. Trust us.
8. Surf the waves in Biarritz
The ritzy resort of Biarritz on France’s south-westernmost strip of coast (almost as far as you can go before you hit Spain) has been a mecca for surfers for decades, annually hosting one of Europe’s premier surf events at the mighty Plage de la Côte des Basques. If you have older children, they’ll love the adventure of learning to master the art of the waves here; all the town’s surf schools will give lessons or offer camps, with Biarritz Surf Training and Biarritz Association Surf Clubs both coming highly recommended for families. Younger tots will still be entertained in town: they can mess around with a bucket and spade on the wide, sandy Grand Plage and – dare we suggest it – fill up on as much ice cream from the seaside stalls as your money can buy.
9. Take a child-friendly vineyard tour in Champagne
The kids might not be old enough to really appreciate (or even legally drink) a glass of the Champagne region’s most celebrated product, but that doesn’t meanthe region is off-limits when it comes to a family holiday. If you want a vineyard experience that won’t bore the children to tears, head to the Mercier champagne house. Tours here are continuously engaging and include a ride on a small train, which chugs through the estate’s 18-kilometre-long cellars – a spectacular sight that will enrapture little ones. Before you board the train you’ll watch a video about the company and take a lift to descend underground; spot the giant wine cask when you get there.
10. Take Go husky-sledding in the French Alps
If you’re longing for the mountains but the kids haven’t learned to ski yet, what else is there on offer to keep them entertained? Assuming they love dogs, climb aboard a sled pulled by a team of furry four-legged friends – it’s by far the most fun way of enjoying the fresh air and scenery. In certain resorts (Praz-de-Lys-Sommand opposite Mont Blanc, and Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe at the heart of the Espace Diamant), children can learn how to drive a sled themselves – the mushers run workshops and games too – and in Valmorel, even toddlers can enjoy the ride, with excursions possible from aged two upwards.