Image: Boat pond
Urban Canyon Press
The boat pond in the Jardin du Luxembourg has always been a hot spot for young boys.
updated 5/6/2009 5:21:09 PM ET 2009-05-06T21:21:09

Right now Paris is spectacular for families and the springtime offers a family-friendly view of Paris that is almost as spectacular as the one from the top of the Eiffel tower. Ooh-la-la.

And, now that the euro is almost on par with the U.S. dollar, a visit to Paris seems to be within reach.

Consider this: Continental Airlines is offering flights to Europe starting at a whopping $ 110 each way, making a round trip fare for less than $300. That's cheaper than flying from the East Coast to the West Coast!

Where to begin?

Try out the latest crave in Paris for shopaholics — it's called guilt-free shopping. Visit Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais) where profits — after production costs are deducted — will go to a children's charity in Madagascar. The owners are the chic founders of the French children's clothing company, Bonpoint. The 16,000-square-foot store is filled with brands, designers, artists and suppliers selling their wares at cost, or they donate a percentage of their wholesale price to Merci's charity. All  items in the store are priced at least 30 percent to 40 percent less than anywhere in town.

Bonpoint occupies a floor offering amazing affordable children's clothing at up to 40 percent off regular-store pricing, fragrances of Annick Goutal (the owner's sister) are poured into generic bottles, or any bottle a customer may bring to the store. (Recall scents are 40 percent less at Merci.) There is a family-friendly cafe, a used bookstore and changing rooms crafted from shipping crates.

Where to rest your head
Of course, hotels get into the act: The swank Le Meurice (228 rue de Rivoli) offers an exclusive family package where each young guest is equipped with amenities, including:

  • Passes for free carousel rides;
  • Use of custom-made, to-die-for toy wooden boats to sail on the boat pond in the Jardin des Tuileries;
  • Organized treasure hunts headed by the concierge where little guests are awarded an exclusive hotel gift at the end of the hunt;
  • A mini travel passport guide;
  • Plus loads of cuddly toys, game sets, sweet treats, endless amounts of color pens, pencils, children's bathrobes, slippers and more.

In addition to this family package, Le Meurice has created a passport provided to children upon arrival. The passport provides a map and trail of the city's most magical sights for children.

Conditions: Minimum of two nights stay, subject to availability.

Looking for Quasimodo
No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop over to see  France's most famous cathedral and premiere tourist attraction, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (home of Quasimodo, Disney's hero in the “Hunchback of Notre Dame”). The cathedral is open every day of the year. A popular way to visit the cathedral is to attend one of the many scheduled daily masses.

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Timetable: Open every day from 7:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
English speaking tours: FREE Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.

Kid fun factor: Climbing the 387 steps to the top of one of the towers, of course. However the south tower offers a  view of the great bell masterpiece known as the Emmanuel, which weighs an astonishing 13 tons (it takes six men to ring the bell). This bell is only rung on special occasions and holidays. Its a ring tone like no other in the world!

In between all the sightseeing be sure to visit Le Cafézoïde (92 bis quai de la Loire), the first and only bistro in the world catered for children. It's a place where kids can sip fresh fruit juice combos, play the piano, attend a puppet or dance show or draw Matisse masterpieces and more. It is truly a smoke-free and non-alcohol environment, ideal for babies and smaller children, borderline for tweens.

Parents take note: The mama of all tourist attractions — the Eiffel Tower — will host a new discovery game for children between the ages of 6 and 10. The program includes a 12-page complimentary book filled with loads of activities for children: treasure hunts, interactive games and interesting facts, figures and anecdotes about the tower and more.

Location: Discovery games and book distribution take place on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Whatever you choose to do in Paris during the springtime with kids its sure to be tres spectacular.

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