If you have toddlers and are considering trekking out to Disneyland Paris, I have a better solution: Jardin d’Acclimatation. The theme park is directly on Line 1 of the Paris metro (about 1.5 miles away from the Champs Elysées), and has tons of rides for the little ones.
This guide gives an overview of the park, things to do, tips on visiting, and whether it is worth the visit.
The theme park is actually inside Bois de Boulogne, in the neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine on the west side of Paris. It was opened by Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie in 1860.
Not so fun facts: During the Siege of Paris (1870-1871), many of the animals in the zoo were cooked and served to starving Parisians. In addition, from 1871 to 1930, there was a “human zoo” at the park for rich Parisians, displaying people of color that were brought over from French colonies in Africa and the West Indies, which thankfully no trace exists today.
Things to do in the theme park
There are the usual rollercoasters (for big and small), flying chairs, merry-go-rounds, bumper cars, etc. that you would expect to see in any amusement park and that is well adapted to older children as well. In addition, there is also:
- Small farm animals to pet.
- A few water rides for all ages, including an Enchanted River ride for the whole family.
- An aviary.
- There is a theatre which puts on short shows on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
- A puppet theatre in Napoleon III’s stables.
- Pony rides for small children.
- Several small playgrounds
Tips on visiting
- Bring your own picnic as the food in the park is expensive.
- There is an entrance fee for €5 and then you can do pay-as-you-go for each ride inside with tickets that you charge on a card. If you are planning on going on a lot of rides, get the all-inclusive armband for €28 (doesn’t include pony rides).
- Strollers are fine inside the park. Unless it is a high-end stroller, most people are fine to leave them just outside each ride entrance as you hop on each ride. Just don’t leave anything valuable in there.
- Just behind the Jardin d’Acclimatation is the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which is a new modern art institute that has recently opened in Paris. If you are planning on visiting there, I suggest going there first and then going to the Jardin.
- The surrounding Bois de Boulogne and River Seine area, is great for biking. Just be aware that the Bois de Boulogne has a reputation in the evenings as a prostitute pick up point.
Is it worth visiting?
Yes, if you have small children, they will definitely enjoy an outing here. Older children will still want to see Mickey and Minnie, but smaller children will appreciate that there are less crowds and fewer lines. You can also get through the park in an afternoon, rather than spending the whole day there, unlike Disney.
How to get there?
The Métro closest to Jardin D’Acclimatation is Les Sablons on line 1. There is supposed to be a tourist train runs from Porte Maillot to the gardens, but every time I’ve checked, it is not running. The simplest is to get there by metro.
Pro tip: there is a Burger King as soon as you get out of the metro at Les Sablons. You can pick up your meal and put it into a backpack and bring it into the park.
Is it easy getting around?
Yes, there is a good amount of walking, but it is all relatively flat. I would recommend taking a stroller for smaller children.
Unless it is an expensive stroller, most people will leave them just outside each ride entrance as you hop on each ride. Just don’t leave anything valuable in there.
When to go to Jardin d’Acclimatation?
The theme park is open all year round, every day up to 6pm. Note: The park is busier on weekends and Wednesdays when schools in France are closed. (This is the case when planning any kid-related activity in France.). So hop on a few rides and treat your kids to a fun day out! A bientôt!