PLAYGROUNDS on the French Riviera

I thought it was due time to update my previous blog post about playgrounds on the French Riviera.  If you have children, the region has lots of options for playground fun.

I have included mostly free public options in my list here, so if you have any questions feel free to post your question in the comments below the post (if there is an entrance fee I have specified where relevant).

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just an overview of a few playgrounds we have tried and tested on the Côte d’Azur.

PLAYGROUNDS ON THE CÔTE D’AZUR

ANTIBES

– UPDATE 19 August 2018:  Unfortunately, the 2 public playgrounds in Antibes old town on rue Republique, beside the carousel and main post office (La Poste) have been closed due to construction works for the Marenda Lacan new shopping precinct.  Construction work has been stalled for some months now, so it is a great shame that tourists and local residents have no playgrounds for use during summer 2018. The nearest public playground to old town Antibes is on the way to Salis beach at the bottom of Albert 1er.

– 2 public playgrounds at Salis beach (plage du Ponteil) – one is nearer to the Archaeology Museum beside the boules pitch and there is a public toilet beside that; the other is very small and located opposite the carpark at the beach.

The Jardin Enfant Albert 1er is the closest playground to old town Antibes

– Small fenced playground on the corner of avenue Philippe Rochat and avenue Mas Ensoleillé.

– Medium-sized fenced playground between route de Grasse and Hameau de la Palmeraie with climbing structures, rocking horses, slides.

– A playground at Les Semboules area, next to Jacques Prévert school.  This is a great playground for hot days as it is entirely shaded by trees.  Plenty of free carparking across the road.  Suitable for toddler age to older kids, there is also a basketball court and ping-pong table adjacent and picnic tables. No toilet facilities onsite and the water fountain doesn’t work, but a great playground nonetheless because it is a community playground and never busy.

– Parc Départemental Valmasque:  Between Antibes and Mougins this large park has forest walks, fitness trails and playground equipment.  Lots of shady trees, picnic tables and toilet facilities.

Indoor soft play centre – Royal Kids – has slides, ball pits, motorised cars. Suitable for babies up to 12 years. Admission fee applies. www.royalkids.fr

CAGNES SUR MER

– Large playground zone beside parking Villette.  There is an accessible pay toilet beside the playground. Lots of play equipment for different ages including climbing frames, swings (including a baby swing), rockers as well as a mock road system which is great for scooters and bikes.

CANNES

– A playground is located at Square Mistral which is a good option for beach goers along the boulevard du Midi.  It is 5 minutes flat walk from Cannes Vieux Port.

– Adjacent to the Palais des Festivals on boulevard de Croisette (near to the public beach where the Petit Train departs from):  Children’s entertainment area including carousel, funfair stalls, snack kiosks.  There is a small climbing frame, but it’s pretty unimaginative.  Public toilets are nearby on the beachside of the Croisette.

– Further along boulevard de Croisette in the direction of Port Pierre Canto, there is another public playground at the end of the beach with playground equipment.

CANNES LA BOCCA

– Indoor soft play – FunCity, 47 avenue Maurice Chevalier, 06150 Cannes la Bocca:  Indoor playground facility with designated playareas for different ages, large climbing frames with tunnels, nets, slides, trampolines, soft toys, ball pits, inflatables, mini-karts, onsite restaurant for snacks and gift boutique.  Entrance fee payable http://cannes.fun-city.fr

GOLFE JUAN

– Small playground at Square Nabonnand on the main road by the post office.

JUAN LES PINS

– Main playground is at Pinède Gould (also known as Jardin de la Pinède) with playground equipment, mini-train, dodgem bumper cars and mini-carousel. (Rides are chargeable). There are also squirrels to watch that roam free in the pine trees in the park.

– Another carousel is on avenue Guy de Maupassant on the Juan les Pins promenade beside Le Ruban Bleu restaurant, and just along from the carousel toward La Jétee restaurant there are go-karts and trampolines in summer.

– There is a public playground/park at Jardin Pauline (corner of rue Pauline and boulevard Raymond Poincaré).  Lots of trees so it’s great for hot days!

– Another small fenced public playground at Square Duluys (corner of rue St-Marguerite and boulevard Raymond Poincaré).

– Parc Exflora, chemin du Vallauris, between Juan les Pins and Golfe Juan:  Large open grassed area for picnics (no playground equipment).  Small lake for feeding ducks.  You can obtain access to the public beach via a tunnel under the coast road/railway line.  Across the road from Parc Exflora on the corner of chemin des Eucalyptus there is a boules pitch and a small playground with public toilets nearby.

LA COLLE SUR LOUP

– Ludiparc, 1401 route du Pont de Pierre, 06480 Le Colle sur Loup: Park set on 4.8 hectares with trees and river frontage, playground equipment, climbing frames, trampolines, inflatable castles, mini-golf, ping-pong tables, restaurant onsite for snacks, carparking onsite, Wifi connection, baby changing table.  Entrance fee payable €4 (free for children under 3 years) www.ludiparc.fr  Note:  The terrace and toilet facilities are not wheelchair accessible.  The biggest benefit of Ludiparc is they have water activities that are perfect for hot days including a splash park and access to the River Loup.

Ludiparc, La Colle sur Loup (photo: Vence Tourisme)

– There are a few public playareas in La Colle sur Loup – on rue Max Barel in the village, at Jeu de Baume down from the rue Clémenceau, and at the Parc de la Guérinière.

MONACO/MONTE CARLO

While not technically classed as part of France, I have included Monaco/Monte Carlo as many visitors stay in Monaco or daytrip there.

– If you have children you can stop at Parc Princesse Antoinette (Princess Antoinette Gardens), La Condamine, 54 bis boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco – a free park with go-karts and a playground.  Older children can be entertained there by mini golf, badminton, ping-pong, a football pitch and basketball courts.

– There are carousels near the Stade Nautique, and on the Larvotto Esplanade. – In the Fontvielle area, there is a playground by the Princess Grace Rose Garden and a carousel near the Fontvielle Big Top. Kids can wander around the Trocadéro Gardens, or after some retail therapy the family can enjoy time out at the children’s playground area at the end of the pedestrianised rue Princesse Caroline.

– Another great spot to take the kids and escape the bustle of Monaco, is the free Japanese Garden on avenue Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo – a real oasis of serenity with  waterfalls, stone bridges and Zen gardens.  You can’t run around or kick balls but it’s a nice zone to wander through.

MOUANS SARTOUX

-Playground at the Château

MOUGINS

– Free entry playground at Ecoparc Mougins, on chemin de Fontaine de Currault. Accessible eco-toilet onsite at the playground, climbing frames, swings (including a baby swing), small ropes courses, playhouses, balancing beams. The play area has seating and lots of trees for shade. Nearby at the Ecoparc centre is a cafeteria that sells cold drinks and icecreams, and sometimes there are amusement rides such as vertical bungee or bouncy castles set up in summer (rides are payable).

NICE

– Parc du Chateau, rue de Foresta/Montée Monfort:  Located at the end of quai des Etats-Unis overlooking Nice, this park is on the hilltop with old ruins, a waterfall, playground, restaurant, lookout points over Nice city and port and snack kiosk.  There are public toilets onsite.  You can take an elevator up from quai des Etats-Unis, or if you are stroller-free walk up the numerous stairs for a wonderful view from the top.

– Parc Phoenix – find out more about Parc Phoenix here.

– Located on the western edge of the ‘Musiciens’ quarter in Nice (so named because the streets and squares are named after famous musicians such as Verdi) you can find the Jardin Alsace Lorraine, 30 boulevard Gambetta, with park benches, statues and a fenced in children’s playground.

-Parc Carol de Roumanie with water sprinklers and play equipment

– Central Nice play area – There is a carousel at Albert 1er gardens, also the Promenade du Paillon/Couloir Verte playarea at place Massena with sprinklers, wooden play structures, swings.  Accessible toilets onsite.

– Parc du Castel des Deux Rois not far from Nice Port with playground, water sprinklers in summer, mini-farm, accessible pay toilet, snack kiosk, lots of grass to kick a ball around, cycle paths

ParcCasteldesdeuxrois2

Parc du Castel des Deux Rois, Nice

OPIO

– Parc de Loisirs on the Carrefour du Piol, D3 d’Opio-Valbonne is a great park with a big playground zone with play equipment for just-walking age, toddlers and older kids.  Slides, climbing ladders, basketball court, exercise station, cycle paths, grassy areas for kicking balls around, accessible public toilet, picnic tables. No snack kiosk onsite but there is a bakery nearby towards Valbonne. Between May-mid June they install skate ramps for initiations in skateboarding and roller blading.

Parc de Loisirs, Opio (playground Opio)

Parc de Loisirs, Opio (playground Opio)

Parc de Loisirs, Opio (playground Opio)

Parc de Loisirs, Opio (playground Opio)

ST TROPEZ

– Plage des Graniers, located beneath the St Tropez citadel gets busy in summer but is family-friendly and offers a few different playgrounds beach-side.

– Plage des Jumeaux, route d’Epi, Plage de Pampelonne, Ramatuelle is a good place to take kids where adults can watch the kids on the playground on the beach.

VALBONNE/SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS:

– Playground in Valbonne on Val du Tuveret beside the big carpark and skate park.  There is a toddler playground on the road with Hôtel de Ville and the Abbaye de Valbonne.

– Parc des Bouillides, route du Parc, 06560 Valbonne Sophia Antipolis:  It is closer to the Sophia Antipolis area than Valbonne but is zoned as Valbonne by the local parks.  Access from Antibes is via route du Parc and look for the small side road on the right-hand side with a small sign leading to the restaurant ‘La Source’ and carpark. Fenced playground with soft matted area, running track, walking trails, also has municipal sports athletics club, climbing wall, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, skate park.  Picnic tables all through the park, and paved pathways which are well-maintained for scooters and bikes.  No toilet facilities onsite.

VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-MER

– A public playground is located at les Jardins de l’Octroi, Square François Binon, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer.

– Another small public playground is also beside Port de la Darse, you can reach it via the coastal pathway below the Citadelle but be aware that this pathway while paved is uneven in places.

public playground by Darse port

Public playground by Darse port in Villefranche sur Mer

VILLENEUVE LOUBET

– Parc de Vaugrenier:  2 kilometres towards Nice from Antibes this park has walking paths, picnic tables and forest walks.  A children’s playground area, nature trail, wooden confidence course and accessible toilet facilities are at the eastern entrance.  There is also a lookout hut over the lake to view turtles.

NOTE:  For a map and more details of other playgrounds in the region, Nice Matin has a great interactive map with location pins that you can find here: Playgrounds on the Côte d’Azur

 

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Sightseeing – NICE (A tourist attraction that’s no longer there)

Descending by airplane to Nice Airport one of the first things you notice is the beautiful turquoise colour of the sea against the landscape – in fact, the colour lends to the name of this region, the Côte d’Azur (Azure Coast).

Not far from the airport is the end of the main waterfront road – the promenade des Anglais – which is dotted with Belle Époque hotels, beach restaurants and wide paths for strolling, rollerblading or cycling.

Nice once had a Belle Époque pier, la Jetée Promenade, that was constructed in 1882 and extended from the promenade des Anglais (opposite what is today the Ruhl Casino Barriere de Nice) and housed a casino, restaurant and arcades.

Casino Jetée Promenade

Casino Jetée Promenade

The Jetée Promenade was a dream of the Marquis d’Espouy of Saint Paul, after the Marquis visited the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London.  Looking at vintage photos it reminds me of the Brighton Pier and West Pier in East Sussex, and similar to the West Pier the Jetée Promenade also fell victim to fire damage.

Sadly, the casino and jetty structure were demolished in 1944, during World War II, by German troops, and all the bronze, copper, brass, metal wiring components and anything of value was taken by them for scrap metal.

You can find black and white vintage postcards of la Jetée Promenade at flea markets and souvenir stores.  There is an antique postcard market held in Nice on the 4th Saturday of each month, at Place du Palais de Justice.  Look for postcard markings for Sauvaigo, Rostan & Munier, G. Lemaitre & Cie, and ‘Giletta Frères, Nice’ who were three brothers renown for their photographs and making tourist posters and postcards.

A local Riviera architect has created a 3D virtual model of la Jetée Promenade Casino, as it would have looked in 1891 against a view of today’s promenade. You can view his amazing replication work at casino-jetee-promenade-nice.blogspot.fr

 

Sightseeing – NICE (Jardin Botanique / Botanic Garden)

The Jardin Botanique de Nice is open daily and situated on the Corniche Fleurie with views across to Baie des Anges and the Massif de l’Estérel.

It is located in the midst of a residential area on a hillside, but we noticed minimal traffic noise and could hear birds and insects all the time.

DSC03310

The garden contains more than 3500 plant species including trees, herbs, cacti, agaves, aloes and flowers, and is divided into zones that mimic the Mediterranean climate around the world including South Africa, Mexico, Australia and central Asia.

DSC03302

If you are driving to the garden, come off the AutoRoute A8 highway at exit 51.  There is a free carpark at the entrance to the garden (with about 15 spaces including one designated disabled space) though the carpark is quite busy and even though we have a small car (Volkwagon Golf) we found it difficult to exit out of the carpark as there were cars trying to arrive into the carpark and it is very narrow entrance.

If you intend to visit the garden by public transport, there are no trains located nearby so your only option is by bus.  There is a bus stop located right at the entrance to the garden, the stop is called ‘Jardin Botanique’ (Bus numbers 8, 65 and 73, from Lignes Azur, tickets can be bought from the driver, timetable information at www.lignesdazur.com)

Within the garden, the paths are well maintained with a mixture of wide paved pathways and earth stairways, and excluding the stairways there are enough ample paved pathways so the garden is accessible for wheelchair bound people.  Points of interest include a small waterfall, ornamental ponds, small bridges and a herbarium.  There are many park benches and water fountain taps dotted throughout the garden which is lovely.

DSC03309

There are two accessible toilets onsite, free of charge, located beside the gardien’s building.  I forgot to check if there were baby-changing facilities, but the toilets were very clean and spacious enough for baby strollers/buggies/wheelchairs.

Two accessible toilets at Jardin Botanique de Nice

Two accessible toilets at Jardin Botanique de Nice

There is a fenced children’s playground onsite with climbing frames, rocking horses and a merry-go-round operated by pedals.  Age suitable for children from walking age upwards.  Near to the playground are two children’s picnic tables, and two larger picnic tables which were shaded under trees.

Location:  78 avenue de la Corniche-Fleurie, 06200 NICE

Hours:  Open daily, 9am-5pm in winter, 9am-7pm in summer.

Price:  Free entry to garden, free carparking onsite, free public toilets onsite.  They also offer free guided tours in French and English only with prior reservation (duration: 1.5 hours)

Points of interest:  Cacti, trees, agaves, aloes, fenced children’s playground, small waterfall, ponds, bridges, herbarium

NOTE:  I took a photo of the map of the garden at the entrance, however it was not very good quality.  Next time I visit I will take another photo and mark an entirely wheelchair-friendly garden route and add back to this blog post.

Activities – NICE (Luna Park)

Today, the autumn chill has hit with force and our heating at home is on, warm gloves and hats are out of the wardrobe and the kitchen pantry is stocked with hot chocolate and soup.

Finding options to entertain the family in inclement weather can be time-consuming. One of the best places in the region is Luna Park – an indoor covered amusement area with rides and attractions suitable for all the family.

nice-with-children-lunapark

carousel Luna Park

Luna Park will be open from 07 December 2013 – 05 Jan 2014 and has video games, snack stands, fishing games, archery games, carousels, mini rollercoasters, giant slides, amusement rides and more.

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BreakDance ride – Luna Park

Opening dates:  07 December 2013 – 05 January 2014

Hours:  2pm-11pm except Saturday 2pm-1am. On 24th and 31st December, Luna Park closes at 8pm

Prices:  €2 entry per person (under 3 years are free), with rides costing from €3-€5. The best value is 10 child rides for €10 (called a ‘Baby Pass’) or 15 rides for adults for €20 (‘Carte Pass) and these passes are for specific rides and valid until the park closes in January, buy at the entrance office.

Where:  Luna Park, Palais des Expositions, Esplanade de Lattre de Tassigny, 06600 Nice

310311173507--Luna_Park_Nice_Riviera_map_

Transport:  Via tramway, stop at ‘Palais des Expositions’.  By train, stop at station ‘Gare Nice Riquier’.  If driving, carparking is nearby at Palais des Sports Jean Bouin

Activities – NICE (Madagascar photography exhibition – until 29 Sept)

One of our favourite spaces on the French Riviera for families is Parc Phoenix in Nice.  Even in the height of summer it is seldom as busy as the region’s theme parks or beaches.

Parc Phoenix is a 17-acre park located on the edge of Nice city complete with huge tropical greenhouse with fern, orchids, tropical plants and animals.  The park is 99% flat paved paths (there are some stairs inside the greenhouse), and there are accessible toilets.

There is a small aquarium onsite, a musical fountain display and various animal enclosures with birds, reptiles, prairie dogs, and turtles.  Parc Phoenix has a snack shop onsite selling sandwiches, drinks and ice-creams, and there is a fenced children’s playground with picnic area.

They often have exhibitions included as part of the entrance fee (which is just 2 Euros – a bargain for what you get – plus the entrance fee also includes entry to The Museum of Asiatic Arts next door; the modern looking building overlooking the lake at the park entrance).

One such current exhibition is by Nicolas Cegalerba, displaying photos of his travels to Madagascar and the biodiversity of the flora and fauna. It runs until 29 September 2013 in the Salle Cassini at Parc Phoenix.

There is also another exhibition on bats that runs until 05 December 2013 in the room under the ‘Pyramid’ hill just before the snack kiosk.  We sometimes see bats fly over our house at dusk here in Juan les Pins, and it was interesting to learn that of the 35 species in France, 31 of those have been identified as being present here in this region.

Recommended as a place to visit for families, anyone interested in plants and animals, travellers with reduced mobility.

Parc Phoenix, 405 Promenade des Anglais, NICE (Telephone: 04 92 29 77 00)

For opening hours go to http://www.parc-phoenix.org/

Activities – MOUGINS (Les Étoiles de Mougins)

Food, glorious food.  France is well known globally for culinary creativity and my own photos of markets bursting with vibrant fruits, tasty vegetables, tables laden heavy with cheeses and meats and delicious pastries and cakes sets off food envy amongst friends.

I have had my first-ever taste experiences here in France of wild boar stew, escargots, truffle ravioli and all kinds of sweet treats.  France has shown me the pleasure of eating socca on a paper napkin sold out of the back of a caravan in a busy town, and savouring a 5-course degustation menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant in a ski resort.

If food is one of your interests (and not just seen as one of the means to life), then take your tastebuds along to ‘Les Étoiles de Mougins’ this week, held Friday 14 September to Sunday 16 September.

Top chefs will be holding cooking demonstrations (including Frédéric Anton of Le Pré Catalan in Paris who some may recognise as a judge from the French version of Masterchef), there will be food and wine tasting, gourmet products for sale and music in the evenings.

The programme for this event is here http://www.lesetoilesdemougins.com/fr/edition2012/programmation

Travel tips: If you are traveling via train, take a local train to Mouans-Sartoux and you then take bus Ligne 650 to Mougins but be aware the buses are irregular off-peak.  If you are driving, the streets for ‘Vieux’ (old) Mougins are narrow and you will need to park your car at the carpark at the entrance to the village and walk up steps (therefore, not ideal for less mobile travellers).  If the gastronomy festival gets boring for the kids, head to the free Valmasque park near Mougins (via car) with forest trails, a playground and a 5-hectare lake with lotus flowers and water birds.  If you are child-free, stop by ‘Le Cave de Mougins’ at the entrance to Vieux Mougins for some tapas and wine tasting.

General information – NICE (Free WiFi)

If you are traveling to Nice until January 2013 you can be advised that the city has recently jumped onboard development and technology and they now offer 3 free-of-charge WiFi hotspots in the central city.

Whether using a mobile phone, iPad or laptop you activate your WiFi connection, search for the ‘Orange’ server and connect – it is easy and quick to use.  Between 8am-10pm users can access the internet for 30-minute periods, and there is no limit to how many times you can use it so you can reconnect as often as you like.

The 3 hotspot locations are at :

  • Place du Palais de Justice
  • Cours Saleya
  • Jardin Albert 1er
     

 

If the community trials of the free internet get good feedback, more hotspots are likely to be added around the city including locations at Place Garibaldi and Place Massena.

 

I believe this is a good initiative for Nice city, and it won’t take competition away from existing internet cafes that also offer printing, scanning, fax services and phonecard sales.