Before we took our latest trip overseas I spent a lot of time googling “child-friendly activities in XYZ”. The results were mixed, but largely there is a lot of helpful information out there, and I’m hoping that by writing this I can help others too! I have always been a traveler. Well, at least since I moved to London for the obligatory working holiday more than 15 years ago. So, I want to continue traveling. However, traveling with a child is different.
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First of all, you need to acknowledge that you are not going to travel like you used to before you had children. Not unless you come with babysitters (which we did last time, and I highly recommend it!). So, forget those Michelin-starred restaurants and winery tours. Of course, you can still give them a try, but chances are your little one has other ideas.
I have to say though, traveling with children gives you a whole new view of a city. You find treasures you might have ignored in the past, and experience parts of a city that were hidden to you previously. So, without anything further, here are my top things to do in Lyon with a kid (based on what my kid liked!).
Visit Parc de la Tête D’Or
This park is incredible. So incredible, in fact, that we visited twice – and even then we didn’t see everything on offer. I imagine if the weather was nicer we would have visited more!
The highlights of this park are many. If the weather is nice you can paddle through the lake, but as we were bundled up in coats and scarves we chose instead to head towards the children’s area near the free zoo (that’s right, FREE zoo!).
Before heading into the zoo, you come across a play area, with a carousel, games, sweet treats and an old fashioned pedal horse your child can pedal around a yard for two euros. All the activities are charmingly nostalgic, and make you wish you were a child once more. Missy delighted in the pedal horses, and enjoyed fishing for ducks to win a prize (every child wins). The carousel, it goes without saying, was a true highlight.
After spending some time pretending to fly through the playground, we head into the zoo, where giraffes, monkeys, zebras and crocs all roam about for the pleasure of guests. It’s not a huge zoo by any means, but certainly big enough to entertain a three-year-old for a little while.
Then, it was on to a cafe in the park for crepes and wine (when in France and all that).
On our second visit, missy enjoyed a puppet show (in French, but she still loved it) about Guignol. The show was a little bit on the violent side, but the kids thought it was hilarious, and I enjoyed pretending I was about to encounter Cary Grant in Charade (obscure reference, but if you know what I’m talking about you’ll appreciate it).
Trek to Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
I did not expect this to be a recommendation when it came to traveling with children. However, missy loved it! More importantly, we ditched the travel pram for the day, and she walked hundreds of steps to see the Lyon landmark. It helped that the paths had shiny round flowers on them that she delighted in following up the winding hills.
The Basilica itself is absolutely gorgeous, though not entirely kid-friendly. A quick whispered look is well worth it, but it’s the journey up to it that kids will get the most out of.
Visit the Lyon markets
There are many wonderful markets in Lyon. We found ourselves ambling along various markets along the Saône during our trip, all of which our little miss got a lot out of. It helped that nearly every stall holder took the time to say hello to her, and she never walked away from a market without a free gift of some description. In fact, the French overall were absolutely wonderful in every encounter with little miss. It feels like a really child-friendly country.
Food, glorious food
While Michelin-starred meals may be off the menu, everything else goes. Everywhere we went offered generous children’s menus and the French have a culture of children eating at restaurants so don’t be afraid to give it a try (though there is an expectation that your child will behave).
We took little miss to a couple of bouchons (she even ate veal tongue (she thought it was chicken)), and she enjoyed her first three-course meal in a traditional bistro. I was bursting with pride at her behaviour, while enjoying some local fare myself.
Bouchons aside, you’re spoilt for choice in Lyon. Patisseries abound, and the markets have incredible food on offer. If you have time the Halles de Lyon is well worth a visit for top quality local fare. Take the time to try a Sève macaron or six (trust me, you won’t regret it), and pick up some beautiful food for dinner. Be prepared to carry a few extra kilos in home (if not in luggage, around your waist!) .
Visit the museum of miniatures
I’ll admit that when I saw the signage for the museum of miniatures I was not inspired to go. It doesn’t help that the museum is right in the middle of a tourist hub, so I just thought it would be an overpriced tourist trap. Fortunately, it exceeded my expectations.
The museum is home to a whole floor of miniature worlds for you to explore. From traditional bouchons in miniature through to New York subway carriages and 1970s apartment fit outs. It really is incredible, the detail that goes into these miniatures. For missy, it was like viewing a whole heap of doll houses, and that’s never going to disappoint!
Following the floor of miniatures you enter the cinema section, where you will encounter prosthetics and props from many different movies, most notably the Queen Alien from Aliens, complete with functioning animatronics, which are somewhat scary (fortunately rooms not suitable for scared children are clearly marked). Other highlights include wands from Harry Potter, the hoverboard from Back to the Future and Mary Poppins’ umbrella. Absolutely worth spending your euros on!
So, that’s what you can do in six days with a three-year-old (one of those days was spent hauling luggage around really). Of course there is loads more you could do in Lyon and I would have happily stayed there another week (though my hips are grateful I did not). Definitely a good one to check out, particularly if you’re a foodie!
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