5 cool ideas for Christmas holidays on the French Riviera

With the start of Christmas school holidays, we’re counting down to Christmas with a whole range of family-friendly activities or places to visit during school holidays.

If you’re thinking two weeks is a looooong time to keep your kids entertained, then take a look below for my 5 suggestions for Christmas holidays on the French Riviera which will see you past gift unwrapping, the 13 desserts and wondering where to find those photo booths to get portraits with Santa in your Christmas jumpers. 🙂

Crazy Fact:  Today, I learned for the first time about Père Fouettard.  Ever heard of him?  Well, he is known as ‘Slapping Santa / Santa Spanker / Father Whipper’ in various forms in France and apparently accompanied Saint Nicholas who distributed gifts to children who are good and Père Fouettard bought a whip with him to spank naughty kids.  I thought it was part hilarious and part disturbing!  There is also a version in Holland, Germany and Austria.   I can’t believe I’ve lived here so long and never heard of this crazy tradition, though I think if I get desperate I’ll be introducing Père Fouettard to my boys 🙂

Here’s 5 ideas for things to see and do during Vacances de Noël 2018:

1. Get creative at BRICKLIVE Monaco

After a show at the Saatchi Gallery in London last year, BRICKLIVE is coming to Monaco.  From 22 December until 6 January at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, families can enjoy a fun atmosphere and get creative with an interactive event.

Though not officially part of LEGO®Group, the show will have a ton of colourful bricks for kids of all ages to play with.

bricklive monaco

BRICKLIVE is coming to Monaco, head there during Christmas school holidays 2018 (image: Pinterest)

There will be huge brick pits filled with 250,000 bricks, race ramps where you can build your own car and challenge friends, themed build zones such as a LEGO®Friends area with a Monaco build map, Christmas decorations, Minecraft zone, dance zone and a 10-metre graffiti wall to plant your vertical creations onto.  Special features are five life-sized wildlife statues in the ‘Animal Paradise’ zone including an elephant made of 271,000 bricks, and a dedicated zone for Star Wars.

Bricklive Monaco opening hours:  Open every day from 10am to 6pm until 6 January (except Christmas Day and New Years Day).

Cost:  Adults €20 / Kids under 12 are €16 each / Under 3 years are free.

Buy tickets hereTickets for Bricklive Monaco

Watch the video below to see what to expect (video courtesy of Bricklive Monaco):

2. Visit the French Riviera Christmas Markets

Visiting the Marchés de Noël is one of the nicest things to do during Christmas school holidays.  You’ll find stands selling handicrafts and food, theme park rides such as ferris wheels and mini rollercoasters as well as pop-up ice skating rinks.

Don’t miss visiting the Antibes, Cannes, Nice, Monaco or Valbonne markets as they all offer a different atmosphere and attractions.

I was too busy to write up my usual Christmas market blog post this year, but I’m sharing some links where you can find lists for the various Christmas Markets below:

Antibes Christmas market is spread over 3 zones in old town Antibes including Pre des Pecheurs, Place Nationale and Place de Gaulle (photo: Access Riviera)

3. See the nativity crèches in Lucéram

Lucéram isn’t one of the best known villages on the French Riviera, but it’s worth visiting during Christmas because the entire town is decorated in a nativity scene wonderland.

For two decades, locals participate in the annual ‘Circuit des Crèches de Lucéram’ by creating individual crèches during festive season with nativity displays dotted around the upper and lower village.  You don’t have to look far to find one – there are around 500 in place with a map provided by the Lucéram tourist office and they are free to visit.

The crèches and santons are literally placed everywhere including doorways, window sills, shop counters and the village lavoirs (communal wash houses).

If you want to see nativity cribs on the French Riviera, then Lucéram is THE place to go – it’s the ultimate showcase for nativity scenes and don’t think you’ll be bored from a repetition of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus or the Three Wise Men because Lucéram’s offering has all sort of characters from French life including bakers, iron mongers, priests, farmers and animals!

creches luceram

Circuit des Creches in Lucéram (image: Simone Laurent)

This season’s ‘Circuit des Crèches’ runs until 6 January, with special animations on certain days.

If you’ve never visited Lucéram before there are a number of things to see and do outside of Christmas season such as painted chapels including Notre-Dame de Boncoeur, Le Musée de la Crèche as well as walking and mountain biking trails at nearby Peïra Cava. The best option to get to Luceram is by car as the bus schedules are infrequent; driving time is approximately 40 minutes from Nice or Monaco via l’Escarène.

Watch the video below (by Drone de Regard / Lucéram RP):

4. Chill out in the mountains

The French Riviera is known as a place of sea, sand and sunshine but there is plenty happening in the mountains during Christmas school holidays.

Saint-Martin-Vésubie has an ice skating rink, concerts, Christmas films, storytelling sessions for children – even Père Noel arriving by zip line on Christmas Eve! You can find the 2018 programme of activities here:  St-Martin-Vésubie Noel animations

Ever seen Santa arrive by zip line? Well, it happens on the French Riviera! (image: Tourism Office St Martin Vésubie)

Valberg has a range of activities happening over Christmas holidays including fireworks on Christmas Day, a free treasure hunt for kids on 26 December, the famous torchlight descent by the ski school on the 28th December and a New Years Eve party with DJ, snow bar and laser show.  Find out more here about Valberg’s Christmas programme.

valberg christmas

Families can join in on a free treasure hunt for candy at Valberg during Christmas school holidays (image: Valberg tourism)

Auron has a Christmas market as well as free storytelling sessions including Pinocchio from 26 to 28 December.  See the dates and times here:  Auron Christmas 2018

noel auron

Auron is hosting Festival du Contes de Noël during Christmas 2018 (image: Auron tourism)

The Vesúbia Mountain Park hosts Ciné’Eau which are fun cinema screenings where viewers float on swim rings in their pool heated to 32 degrees.  You can also choose to sit on a chair poolside if you prefer not to get your feet wet!

Fancy a winter cinema screening while floating in a heated pool? It’s possible on the Côte d’Azur!

The films will be screened on Friday 28 December from 4.30pm.  Films on offer are :

4.30pm  Coco (a Disney film that’s appropriate for kids)

7pm      Jumanji  (suitable for older kids)

9.30pm The Shallows (rated PG13 but it is a shark/thriller movie so expect a modern-day Jaws with some gory scenes and bad language)

Reservation is necessary as there are limited places each session.  Kids under 6 years have to share a swim ring with a parent, and of course as per public pools in France you need the obligatory dinky swim cap and appropriate swimsuit.  I’d estimate a guess that all 3 films will be in French language.  Find out more information here about the Ciné’Eau sessions.

Any time of the year, Vesúbia Mountain Park is a very cool attraction to entertain children with climbing walls and nets (minimum age is 5 years), an indoor canyoning zone (minimum age is 10 years and height 1.3metres) and more!  Check out their website here:  Vésubia Mountain Park

5. Soar sky high over Monaco

Did you know every year you can take a helicopter mini tour over Monaco for a special price at Christmas?  That’s right, the friendly team at Heli Air Monaco offer ‘Baptèmes de l’air Père Noel’ each festive season.

It’s a super cool way to treat your children/nieces/nephews and while it is a splurge for some it’s actually a very good deal for such an amazing experience flying over the iconic buildings and coastline of Monaco!

monaco helicopter tour

Helicopter flights at Christmas with Heli Air Monaco (image: Get Your Guide)

This year, you can take a 5-minute scenic helicopter flight with Heli Air Monaco from 1 December to 6 January for just €35 per person.

Note:  All passengers must take their passports AND for each passenger under 18 years of age you must fill in a parental permission form.

To take advantage of this offer you book and pay in advance online – simply choose your preferred date and time slot when you book via the link.  Click here for the official Heli Air Monaco Santa Flight booking link; at the question ‘How did you know about first flight Santa Claus?’ please tick the last box and type ‘Access Riviera blog’.  Disclaimer:  I don’t get any commission for you mentioning my blog, but it’s good for Heli Air Monaco to know that you found out where to book here on Access Riviera!

For a teaser of what to expect, you can watch the video below of my heli tour during Monaco Yacht Show 2018:

https://piknu.com/m/1890514818755251203_3859215050

Thanks for reading my Christmas blog post!  I’m happy to say I’ll be finishing 2018 by reaching over 350,000 views recently so I appreciate every visitor.  Please share this post on social media or comment if you found it helpful.

Thank you and have a Merry Christmas!

 

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Toussaint school holidays: 8 things to do with kids on the French Riviera

October school holidays run from today until Sunday 4 November on the Côte d’Azur and it’s a time to sample some of the autumn activities in the region.

There are lots of school holiday options for kids that aren’t attending the centre de loisirs/centre aérés or booked on stages for holidays – I’ve written this post to highlight some of the free or low-cost activities for families with kids of all ages on the French Riviera.   Have a safe and enjoyable Toussaint vacances!

Saturday 20 October and Sunday 21 October

JUAN LES PINS:  The 4th edition of Village des Sciences et de l’Innovation is being held all weekend at the Palais des Congrès in Juan les Pins.  The event has more than 60 stands with games, educational activities and demonstrations.  If your children are interested in robots, tech, planets and science this is the place to go!  Entry is free of charge all weekend.  Opening hours are 1pm-7pm on Saturday, and 10am-6pm on Sunday.  See the programme here:  Village des Sciences et de l’Innovation 2018 Juan les Pins

fete de science juan les pins

Village des Sciences and de l’Innovation 2018 (image: AntibesJuanlesPins tourist office)

MOUANS-SARTOUX:  The RE-PLAY festival is being held at Gymnase René Friard in Mouans Sartoux and is a great option if your kids are into video gaming, cosplay or computers with retro games on display, competitions and workshops.  Entry is free for children under 10 years of age (limit of 2 kids per family), all others entry is €5.  The festival is open from 10am to 7pm all weekend.

replay festival mouans sartoux

RE-PLAY Festival 2018 in Mouans-Sartoux (image: L’agenda Geek)

Wednesday 24 October

CAGNES-SUR-MER:  Perfect for small children around 3-4 years of age, ‘Le grenier magique de Lili’ is a theatre show of 50 minutes duration with songs and magic.  It will be held at the Centre Culturel, 28 avenue de Verdun in Cagnes-sur-Mer at 3pm. Tickets cost €5 each and can be pre-purchased from the Tourism Office on boulevard Maréchal Juin.

Saturday 27 October and Sunday 28 October

FRÉJUS :  The Festival International de l’Air is a kite festival and is a great place to go where kids can watch over 100 kites in flight, as well as join in on free workshops.  The festival is hosted at Base Nature François Léotard (1196 Boulevard de la Mer, 83600 Fréjus) with free parking there.  Entry to the festival is free of charge, and opening hours are 10am-6pm on Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday.

Festival International de l’Air 2018 is a kite festival in Fréjus – video below is by ‘Là-bas, vu d’ici’.

Until 28 October

NICE:  The 3rd edition of Quinzaine des Théâtres is presenting a number of musicals, comedies, dances and recitals that coincide with Toussaint school holidays.  As well as a diverse programme, it gives local residents the chance to discover 21 theatres and venues in and near Nice.  Some of the family-friendly shows on offer include:

  • Beauty and the Beast (suitable for kids 7 years and upwards, duration 1 hour, cost €6) and Même pas peur! (for kids 5 years and upwards, duration 1 hour, cost €6) at the Théâtre Bellecour
  • La Fôret Magique, a show with magic and songs (suitable for kids 5 years and up, duration 50 mins, cost €5-7) at Théâte de la Cité
  • Les Contes du Maneki-Neko is a show based on traditional Japanese stories (suitable for kids 6 years and up, duration 50 mins, cost €6) at Théâtre de la Semeuse.

The full programme for Quinzaine des Théâtres 2018 is here:  Programme Quinzaine des Théâtres 2018

quinzaine des theatres

Les Contes du Maneki-Neko is just one of a diverse range of shows as part of Quinzaine des Théâtres 2018 (image: Culturo)

Tuesday 30 October and Wednesday 31 October

NICE:  Espace Magnan is hosting the Fête du Cinéma d’Animation over 2 days with films suitable for children 3 years upwards.  Most films for younger ages average around 45 minutes duration, while films for older kids are around 1 hour -1.5 hours in length.  Tickets cost €6 – €7 each depending on sessions and can be pre-purchased via Espace Magnan’s website.  You can see the festival programme here:  Fête du Cinéma d’Animation 2018 programme

Halloween on the French Riviera

Halloween, recognised on 31st October, hasn’t always been traditionally observed in France but it is very popular now.  Schools host Halloween parties and local towns are getting more ‘into the spirit (pun intended)’ by giving out bon bons to children and putting up decorations.

As Halloween falls during Toussaint school holidays, there are plenty of activities happening.  The following day Toussaint (All Saints Day) is a bank holiday and a day where lives of deceased relatives are remembered.

Halloween costumes & decorations : French Riviera

There are many stores on the French Riviera that sell ready-made Halloween costumes and accessories, or for DIY inspiration you can look on Pinterest or Good Housekeeping that have loads of fun and inexpensive ideas.

If you’re looking for Halloween costumes for kids, spooky decorations and party items, the best places to go on the French Riviera are :

  • The €1 and €2 stores – Maxi Bazaar, Maximart and Destock – which always stock things such as tridents, plastic cauldrons and skeletons, and trick-or-treat buckets.
  • La Foir’Fouille in Antibes, Grasse and Mandelieu
  • GiFi in Antibes (near Decathlon), Callian, Cannes La Bocca, Fréjus, Grasse, Menton
  • IdéaFête in Villeneuve Loubet, Nice St Isidore or Mougins
  • Fêter et Recevoir in Cannes La Bocca and Nice
  • Carrefour

Trick or treating in neighbourhoods on the French Riviera is not as popular as other countries, with children mostly going around village shops or towns.

Some family-friendly Halloween 2018 activities this year on the French Riviera are:

  • Valbonne village is very popular for trick or treating from afternoon onwards.
  • Hard Rock Café in Nice hosts Halloween events each year.  This year, on both Saturday 27 October and Sunday 28 October between 9.30am-midday they welcome families for a Halloween-themed breakfast, kids workshop and magic show.  Reservation is necessary; cost is €16 each child under 10 years of age, free for under 2 years of age, €19 for adults. Email them to book: nice_sales@hardrock.com 
  • Espace Magnan in Nice has a special screening of ‘Mary et la fleur de la sorcière‘ at 2pm.  Suitable for kids 8 years up, children can go in costume and participate in a colouring-in competition to win cinema tickets.  Cost:  €6 per child
  • Parc Alpha Loup has Halloween celebrations running all through school holidays until 4 November.  Any children under 12 years of age who come in Halloween costume get free entry – a hat doesn’t justify free entry, you must dress up with some effort!   Note: The Alpha Loup website address given on all posters now redirects to Pure Montagne (the rebranded regional site for Côte d’Azur mountain activities and tourist sites).

Parc Alpha Loup for Halloween 2018

  • Vesubia Mountain Park is having a Halloween night party on Friday 2 November that includes abseiling by black light (essentially glow-in-the-dark!)  Entry is reduced to half price for kids under 12 years that come in costume.  More info is here:  Vesubia Mountain Park Halloween 2018

Until 3 November

CANNES:  P’tits Cannes à You is a family-friendly festival aimed at kids 3-13 years and comprises a programme of marionette shows, creative workshops, dance, theatre and music.  The programme includes things such as a screening of Paddington 2 on October 22 and 25, a marionette show on October 24 suitable for kids from 2 years upwards and regular storytelling sessions for toddlers.  Find the full schedule here:   P’tits Cannes à You 2018 programme

P'tits Cannes à You

P’tits Cannes à You is an annual festival with film, shows and workshops for kids (image: Ville de Cannes)

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