Top Ten Paris Experiences For Families with Autism

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Paris is known as the most romantic city in the world, and there are lots of specific activities for adults to enjoy. In the beautiful city of lights, it can be difficult to think of activities fun for your child or children. But as Paris is a huge, wonderfully varied city, there’s always something for everyone. Here’s a list of the top ten experiences in the city of Paris enjoyable for kids of any age.

Eiffel Tower

It sounds cheesy and completely cliché but stopping at the Eiffel Tower is a rite of passage for anyone visiting Paris. You can take the elevator or the stairs up the tower. The ticket line for taking the stairs is much shorter and moves faster than the one for the elevator. However, the stairs only go to the second floor, and you will have to take the elevator to the third. You can buy tickets to the elevator in advance, but you better be quick seeing as how they sell like hot cakes. Either way, you will get to the top and experience a magnificent view of Paris.

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • Each level has a couple of hundred stairs. By the time you’ve reached only the second tier, you’ve walked seven hundred stairs. Unless your kid likes stairs, definitely preorder your ticket online and ask for accommodation when you get there.
  • The main issue with the Eiffel Tower are the crowds. Not only do you need to prepare your kid by packing an entertainment device like an iPad or Nintendo DS to amuse them, but once you reach the site go to the front of the line and ask for help with any possible accommodations to shorten the time in line.

The Louvre

Famously known as the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa the Louvre holds and maintains thousands of incredible pieces of artwork. There happens to be a private tour designed to take kids on a scavenger hunt through the Louvre. A private guide will come and lead you through the museum using puzzles and clues to find the prize. The tour is fun and educational, introducing kids to the history of art by taking them through a broad range of collections.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The scavenger hunt can be somewhat pricey for a family with several kids. If you want to do it on your own, getting the Paris Pass is recommended, since you will have a shorter line.
  • Be advised that the Mona Lisa is  actually a small painting in a moderately sized room, so there is an actual line to see her. If you’re interested in seeing her, head over there first before your child loses interest in the museum.

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Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Gardens are a lovely little park area with a playground and a fountain pond in which children can play. You can sit and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings while your kids laugh at the Marionette Theater or spin around on the old carousel.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The gardens are a pleasant place to sit and let off steam between destinations. You can also have a picnic lunch while the kids run around or feed the birds.
  • You may want to introduce your kids to the Luxembourg Garden by reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, either the full version or an abridged version .

Jardin des Plantes and Natural History Museum

For a more educational trip, the Jardin des Plantes and Natural History Museum is perfect for kids. Founded in 1793 during the French Revolution, the garden used to be the royal garden of medicinal plants until Louis XV in 1718 allowed the gardens to focus on natural history. For children, there are plenty of things for them to see including the Menagerie, the world’s oldest zoo in the world. The Jardin des Plantes is a hidden gem that not many visitors know. It’s a wonderful location to take those family photos.

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • Although it is a park, you are not allowed to step on the grass. Advise your kids to be mindful.
  • This museum is an excellent activity for a sunny day; it can get somewhat muddy on rainy days.
  • Take your kids to the herb section, since it’s not only fascinating, but it’s a pleasurable sensory experience with all the different smells.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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If your child is a fan of Disney, then you can take them over to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the main setting for Disney’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” There you can see gargoyles, gothic architecture and intricate façade featuring biblical characters. It is a working cathedral, so you must be quiet and respectful while in the building. Not to be missed are the incredible stained glass windows. Some Sunday evenings might be hosting concerts worth listening to for the acoustics.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Like all churches, running around or shouting is not acceptable. Prepare your child accordingly.
  • You can visit the bell towers if you’re physically fit since there are several hundred narrow stairs to climb with little possibility to change your mind midway.

Pompidou Center

Another fun activity would be to take the children to the Pompidou Center. What’s so special about this place? It’s an inside-out building! The pipes and escalators are on the outside of the building and are color coded so that children can know what pipe does what: green for water pipes, blue for air-conditioning ducts and yellow for electricity cables. There is also a fantastic modern art gallery inside as well as a permanent exhibition of art from 1905-60 which showcases art from Chagall who drew illustrations for the fables written by Jean de la Fontaine.

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • Check out the rooftop cafe for delicious sandwiches and a view of the Paris skyline.
  • The escalators and elevators in this place are fun to take up and down just on their own and can be a very sensory activity for kids with autism, especially younger children.
  • Not to be missed: the Stravinsky fountain next to the center, along with the antique clock on the wall.

Galeries Lafayette

No visit to the city of lights is complete without some shopping. The best places to shop are the Parisian department stores, and the iconic Galeries Lafayette is one of them. Forming the department store are several buildings that occupy a few blocks in the city. It provides a shopping extravaganza for the locals and tourists alike. Make sure you explore the large food department, sampling some of the cold cuts and desserts that they sell.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • For the perfect Parisian selfie, take the elevator to the rooftop where you can get your perfect postcard snapshot in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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Paris Catacombs

The catacombs are part of the city’s museums and are infamous as the world’s largest gravesite, holding the remains of over six million people. In the 19th century, the city renovated the underground caverns into what we know now as the catacombs. The site first opened to the public after the 1815 Napoleonic War. The catacombs are in underground tunnels in a small part of the city known as the Mines of Paris, beneath Rue de la Tombe/Issoire. The rumor is that the Parisian members of the French Resistance used the tunnel system during WWII against the Nazis. In 2009 it was briefly closed because of a vandalism incident.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Be aware that visitors need to descend a narrow stone stairwell 90 meters underground in partial darkness. It can be frightening for some.
  • There are carefully arranged human bones on the walls and caverns, which though artistically arranged might not be suitable for younger kids.

Musee des Egouts de Paris

Not for the faint of heart, this is an underground tour of Paris’s sewage system. Visitors can sit and traverse the city from side to side just like in Victor Hugo’s famous description in Les Miserable when Jean Valjean is trying to escape Javert, the police inspector. A highly historical place and quite the engineering feat of its time, one can visit the museum and get the information via posters and info boards.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This museum a sewage museum so it is reasonably smelly. For people with autism who are smell sensitive, this might be difficult to endure.
  • Be aware that the place is somewhat dark, and the floor can be slippery because of water seepage.
  • If you plan on visiting, introduce your kids to Victor Hugo’s books, including Les Miserable and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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Sightseeing on Bike

If you are looking for a more active way to view the city you can join any one of the many companies that offer bike tours, the most famous of these being Fat Tire Tours. You can see the central Paris attractions while enjoying the lovely French weather on your bike. The tour last about four hours and you bike around four to five miles so be mindful if you have young children as this type of tour may not be for them. The company also does segway and night tours of all the sights.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Do not book this tour unless your kids are experienced bikers. Traffic lights in the city might split your group.
  • You might want to pack a lunch and bring it with you since the bike tour only stops in one particular place for everybody. This site tends to be a bit pricey without as many food options as needed if your child is choosy or has dietary restrictions.
  • The company does offer tandem bikes and trailers for those not comfortable with their kids riding on their own.

Though Paris may be considered the most romantic city in the world, it is still a family friendly place. So if you are thinking of taking a trip that the entire family could enjoy, Paris can easily be one of those locations.

 

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