5 Reasons for your family to cycle the streets and parks of Paris
Paris is known for its endless list of must-see sites as well as a culture of “quality over quantity.” So when you find yourself torn between crisscrossing the city to see as many paintings, architectural marvels, and historically significant sites as you can or spending the day sitting in cafes and parks like the Parisians do, it can be a tough choice. However, seeing Paris on a bike tour is the perfect way for families to get the best of both worlds. A well-guided, carefree ride through the city allows you to enjoy Paris and still feel like you’re slowing down enough to savor the moments.
I absolutely would recommend a full-day tour by Fat Tire Tours. I was very impressed with the tour, the guides, and the way that they catered to families and took safety seriously.
Here are 5 reasons to plan a cycling tour for your family.
1/Learn more than just the lay of the land
Seeing Paris by popping in and out of metro stations can be disorienting, especially for kids. Riding a bike between sites can help connect the dots, giving the city’s layout context and making it much less overwhelming. Most sites are often a surprisingly short ride away from each other, and understanding the geography of the city firsthand can bring the city’s story to life through meaningful references that highlight how the city was planned, evolved over time, and has been repurposed. When you’re done with a day of sightseeing by bike, you’ll be amazed at how much ground that you’ve covered. Plus, looking at that map of Paris will make a lot more sense to everyone.
KidTripster Tip: To get the family oriented, do a bike tour on one of your first days in Paris.
2/See the city from a different perspective
When you’re biking down side streets, cutting through parks or even rolling down well-traveled boulevards, you see the city differently - perhaps more like a kid. The slower pace and constant change of scenery brings out details and texture that you just can’t get with any other mode of transportation. The intentional variety built into the route by the tour companies gives riders the opportunity to take in the city through intimate neighborhoods and bustling Parisian staples.
3/Stay active to stay engaged
Keeping kids involved for long periods of time while sightseeing can be a challenge. However, making them active participants in the city by peddling around its streets and parks provides just the right amount of stimulation and constant variety, helping make the journey fun and a catalyst for learning. The generally flat streets are a great environment for riders of any ability and kids of all ages to enjoy themselves for hours without being taxed too heavily.
KidTripster Tip: We had kids on our tour as young as 8 years old. Fat Tire provided properly-fitted bikes for them, always put them in the right position within the group, and adjusted the pace accordingly. In my opinion, kids aged 8 and up with good bike handling skills should be able to do an all-day tour. If your kids are younger, you could opt for a tandem, bike trailer or bike seat.
4/Experience the unexpected places in between
As you ride from site to site, there’s another side of the city that you get to experience when you’re on a bike. Tour guides not only take riders to the locations that we all know and give you the inside stories that add so much to the experience, but they also take the time to give you the often more insightful and meaningful stories behind many moments that you’d pass right by if we were in a taxi or zipping along underground. Tours will stop in unexpected places, like a small hidden park, to look at the surrounding buildings, where the guides may provide detailed descriptions of 1800s life in the crowded, walk-up apartment buildings. Hearing a floor-by-floor architectural description coupled with a breakdown of the related social class system provides you and your kids with a more compelling and relatable moment.
5/Enjoy the slower pace without slowing down
It’s surprising how much ground you can cover on a bike, and when sites are smartly linked together, like most bike tours do, the experience is amazingly full, yet relaxed. The day seems to casually roll along with sites around every corner and stories to go along with them. Full-day tours will include long lunches in locations such as the Tuileries Palace or other restful moments, where riders are allowed to linger, creating the perception that you’re on less of a tour and just more of a ride through the city.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re venturing out to visit the Palace at Versailles while in Paris, opt for a tour with Fat Tire Tour. It leaves from Paris, and the tour price includes the round-trip train ride to the city of Versailles. There you’ll pick up your bikes, stop at the local market square to grab picnic supplies, ride through the extensive grounds, and spend time in the palace. The ride takes cyclists through the less-traveled parts of the expansive grounds and makes for a wonderful way to spend the day as a family. Just walking through the palace won’t leave your kids with the same memories.
Jason Bacon is a travel-addicted Creative Director in Portland, Oregon, and wanders regularly with his wife and their three adventurous kids. They love challenging each other to eat the odd, unknown, and unexpected during their travels. His oldest daughter is the most daring, hands down.
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This writer received a complimentary tour for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely his own.