Top 4 : The Best February Festivals On The French Riviera

There are plenty of reasons a festival might make your bucket list, however when you have children you often need to compromise with schedules, facilities and transport.

One of the best ways for kids to experience arts, music and culture is to join in on the festival atmosphere at local events.

From big-hitting carnivals to small traditional celebrations, the French Riviera has plenty of festivals for all ages and attention spans!   Here’s my pick of the Top 4 family-friendly festivals happening during February on the French Riviera.

  1. Nice Carnival  :  15 February – 29 February 2020

One of the world’s biggest carnivals, the 2020 theme for this annual event is ‘King of Fashion (Roi de la Mode)’.  Fabulous flower battles, afternoon and night time parades with floats, lights, costumed actors and animations ensure a family-friendly event with plenty of entertainment.

The Bataille des Fleurs takes place at the same location as the main parades; at Place Massena and around Jardin Albert 1er gardens.

The parades are spectacular, with floats taking hundreds of hours of work to create.  Parades last around 1.5 hours.

My top tips: 

To get access to your seats, be sure to use the correct entrance number which is shown on your ticket or else you will be diverted elsewhere.

Before you go to Nice, check the road restrictions on the official website because there are many roads closed 3 hours prior to the parades as well as restrictions on parking zones.  You can find the information under ‘Practical Information – Access, Transport and Parking’ on the Nice Carnival website.  Some parking zones including Port Lympia and Nice Etoile have a special parking offer where you pay just €5 for 5 hours parking.

Don’t forget if you dress in fancy dress, you get FREE standing entry in Zones A and B for the Carnival Parades and Parade of Lights.   Persons with disabilities also get FREE entry for standing Zone B for the Flower Parades, Carnival Parades and Parade of Lights.

Children aged 0-10 get FREE entry in Zone B (Standing around Jardin Albert 1er) for the Carnival Parades and Parade of Lights which is excellent for families to be able to enjoy the festivities!

For the official carnival programme, go here:  Nice Carnival 2020 

Watch a video below of one of last year’s Corso carnivalesque illuminé below (courtesy of Nice Côte d’Azur Tourism) showing what to expect during this 2-week party:

2. Fête du Citron : 15 February – 03 March 2020

The 87th edition of Menton’s wonderful Fête du Citron kicks off the same day as the opening of Nice Carnival, running from 15th February to 3rd March 2020.

It’s a unique festival attracting around 200,000 visitors annually who visit to see around 140 tons of citrus fruit in sculptures and parade floats.

We particularly love seeing the large-scale citrus sculptures in the Jardins Biovès which are 5-10 metres in height and engineered from wire framing and thousands of oranges and lemons.  It’s a good outing for families as the exhibition zone isn’t too big, nor do you have to wait too long for the action to start.  The gardens are open during the day, and there is evening admission when the sculptures are illuminated with sound.

Adjacent to the gardens is the Palais de l’Europe which has an artisan market selling things such as limoncello or Provençal linen decorated with lemons, alongside an orchid display.

The parades include street performers, dancers, confetti and bands with the night time parades having lanterns or fireworks as well.

This year the theme is ‘Les Fêtes du Monde’.

My top tips:

Taking the train is a good option because the Jardins Biovès and the parade circuit is about 5 minutes walk from the main train station.  Menton has 2 train stations so you need to get off at Gare de Menton and NOT Menton Garavan station.

If you drive, beware that streets in and near the festival are closed to traffic and if you are going to the Sunday Golden Fruits parades to arrive before midday.  There are 3 carparks available to use on Sundays (Golden Fruits parade days) – they are located near the Italian border (Rondelli Stadium), at the Intermarché car park near the Vallée du Carei motorway exit and the Val d’Anaud Stadium.  These carparks are free and shuttle buses run to/from the festival zones. Check the shuttle information here:  Fête du Citron shuttle buses

Wheelchair users can access the garden display, as well there is a designated viewing area for the parades at Place Saint Roch which is the eastern end of the parade route.  If you have restricted mobility and want to access the beach, go opposite the Belle Époque Hotel Royal Westminster – the entire seafront of Promenade du Soleil is wheelchair accessible.

Visit the official Lemon Festival website here:  Fête du Citron 2020

If you have never visited the Fête du Citron before, you may be wondering what happens to the incredible amount of fruit that is used!  A lot of it is thrown away due to rot or composted after the festival, however once the main sculptures are disassembled the remaining fruit is sold publicly.  You can buy bags of oranges and lemons for less than €1 – there is no limit.

You can see some of my photos from previous festivals below:

Things to see and do in Menton

Menton is a lovely destination to visit year round with a backdrop of mountains, an Italianate Old Town and a promenade stretching to Cap Martin.

Other things to do when you’re in Menton include discovering the Musée Jean Cocteau, visiting the churches Basilique Saint Michel and Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs, exploring the gardens such as Serre de la Madonne or Jardin Fontana Rosa and taking in the panoramic view from the Cimetière du Vieux Château, high above Menton.

If you want to do a day trip while you’re visiting Menton, you can head over the border to the Italian towns of Ventimiglia or Sanremo that have great food markets, or read more on Christie from Scribbles and Smiles blog and add Sainte-Agnès to your itinerary.

Sainte-Agnès is off the beaten track but worth visiting (photo: menton.fr)

3. Fête du Mimosa : 19 February – 26 February 2020

The mimosa is already flowering and is a welcome end to winter days.  The annual Fête du Mimosa is held in the streets of Mandelieu-La Napoule where the golden bloom is celebrated with flower battles, music and activities.

For more information about the Mimosa Festival programme and tickets, visit the Office de Tourism website here:  Fête du Mimosa 2020

Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu-La-Napoule (pic: Mondoramas)

As well as the main festival in Mandelieu-La Napoule, other towns host mimosa festivities and parades including Pegomas, St Maxime and Tanneron.

Route du Mimosa walking trails

You can also do a variety of walking trails if you want to see mimosa forests – the best family-friendly trails we’ve found are between Mandelieu-Tanneron-Auribeau-Pégomas.

If you start at Mandelieu, take Boulevard Paul Tarascon, then Boulevard des Termes, heading towards Tanneron on the Route de Tanneron (D92).  After driving about 10 minutes from Mandelieu, you reach the Circuit du Grand Duc and there is an easy walking trail with great views of the hills covered in mimosa.  This trail is super popular at weekends and there is limited carparking, so go early!  Here is the map:  Circuit du Grand Duc.

For other mimosa trail options, refer to ‘La Route du Mimosa’ for more information.

4. Festival International des Jeux : 21 February – 23 February 2020

A fun festival for families with all types of activities, games and toys to try out.  You can find everything from classic and contemporary board games, Cosplay, video games, escape games, simulators, toys, sci-fi and fantasy games, wooden games, models, trading cards and more.

Entrance is free, however they also have a payable VIP option where you get fast access entry and a free game.

My top tips: 

There are a few restrictions for this festival for items that you can and can’t take into the venue.  For example, you can’t take your own food into the Palais, unless it’s vacuum sealed sandwiches/crisps etc and a plastic water bottle up to 50cl.  There are food outlets inside the Palais; prices are OK for an event venue.

You also can’t take baby prams or large backpacks inside; last year there was a luggage check facility to leave these items and it cost €2. I couldn’t find any more information on their website if the luggage facility is chargeable this year?

Find out the full programme and list of exhibitors here:  Festival International des Jeux

Note:  Last year, getting into the Palais was a bit of a mission as the entrance queues were long and there was only one person on the first security bag check (!!).  I hope they rectify this for this year, because there were lots of families with small children who waited a long time.  Regardless, the festival is worth checking out over the 3 days that it takes place.

Have you been to any of these festivals?  Which one is your favourite?  Like or comment on this post. 

 

 

 

 

4 Fabulous February Festivals on the French Riviera

  1. Nice Carnival, Nice | 11 February – 25 February 2017

One of the world’s biggest carnivals, the 2017 theme for this annual event is ‘King of the Energy’.  Fabulous flower battles, parades with floats and costumed actors and animations ensure a family-friendly event with plenty of entertainment.

My top tips:  Don’t forget if you dress in fancy dress, you get FREE standing entry for Zones A and B for the Corso Carnavalesque and Corso Carnavalesque illuminé.  Persons with disabilities also get FREE entry for standing Zone B for the Corso Carnavalesque and Corso Carnavalesque illuminé.

Watch a video of last year’s Carnaval de Nice below (courtesy of Nice Côte d’Azur Tourism) highlighting what to expect during this 2-week party:

2. Fête du Citron, Menton | 11 February – 01 March 2017

Menton’s wonderfully zesty Lemon Festival is bringing ‘Broadway’ to the Mediterranean with a dash of show-stopping citrus sculptures, parades and music.  Read more about how to make the most of your visit to the Fête du Citron in 2017 in my blog post Fête du Citron 2017

Fête du Citron 2017's theme is 'Broadway'

menton-citron-igp

3. Fête du Mimosa, Mandelieu la Napoule | 15 February – 22 February 2017

A welcome end to winter days with the brilliant mimosa flowers in the streets of Mandelieu la Napoule for the Fête du Mimosa.  Head along for flower battles, music and animations based around the yellow blooms.

Find out more about the festival schedule at Fête du Mimosa

mimosas

Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu la Napoule

Fête du Mimosa in Mandelieu la Napoule

4. Festival International des Jeux, Cannes | 24 February – 26 February 2017

A super festival for families with all types of exhibitions with classic and contemporary board games, video games, simulators, toys, sci-fi and fantasy games, wooden games, models, collector cards and more!

Entrance is free, however this year they have introduced a new VIP option (payable for 1 or 3 days) where you get discounts and goodies from show participants.  A great festival for school age children.

My top tip:  They have a coat check facility but be advised it is €2 per item.

Find out the full programme and list of exhibitors here Festival International des Jeux

Festival International des Jeux in Cannes is a great festival for families

Festival International des Jeux in Cannes is a great festival for families

festival-international-jeux-cannes-plateaux

Images:  Fête du Citron, France Bleu, Daily Mars, D&F

 

Activities/Sightseeing – NICE (Carnaval de Nice, 14 February-04 March 2014)

The Carnaval de Nice 2014 (Nice Carnival) is coming soon and is one of the biggest events on the French Riviera, held this year between 14 February and 04 March.

Until the eighteenth century, the ‘Carnaval’ consisted of masked balls and food fights in the streets of Vieux Nice.  During major military and political turmoil caused by the French Revolution and the First Napoleanic Empire, festivities were put on hold.  In 1830, the first parade was held where carriages/floats were marched past the King and Queen and set the tone for the future of the carnival.

Today, care is taken choosing an annual theme – 2014’s theme is ‘King of Gastronomy’ – and the creation of the floats uses modern technology, textiles and amazing work of sculptors.

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‘King of Gastronomy’ – Nice Carnaval theme 2014 (image courtesy of Nice Carnaval website / Nice Tourism Office)

I highly recommend this event if you live in the region or are visiting.

TIPS:

– Tickets can be pre-purchased online at www.nicecarnaval.com and you print an e-ticket. Saves time having to collect tickets!  Or you can buy tickets from 27 January, at the Tourism Office (Office du Tourism et des Congrès) at 5 promenade des Anglais in Nice (there are various other ticket booths located near the parade route for pre-parade sales but as this is a popular event you will be battling lots of people and congestion pre-parade).  If you purchase online, refer to the parade map in this link to check seat numbers plan-tribune

–  Adult tickets cost €35 for 2 events (excluding Saturdays). Children under 6 years are free of charge when seated on a paying adult’s lap. Kids 6-12 years – tickets cost between €5-€10.  Note:  There is FREE ENTRANCE on 14 February from 8.30pm for the opening of the Carnival, and also 04 March from 8.30pm for the Burning of the King float and fireworks at Place Massena.

– There are rates for persons with reduced mobility and their accompanying person. €5 in standing area, or €10 in reserved seating or €10 in a wheelchair area with raised level.  The wheelchair area will be located opposite the Tourism Office (5 promenade des Anglais).  Carparking with disabled spaces is nearest on rue des Congrès. All of these rates must be booked via French Nice Tourist Office, their email resa.nice@otc.com  If you speak English and need assistance reserving these tickets please contact me on accessriviera06@gmail.com and I can help you.

– Parade routes will be closed 2 hours prior to each parade. Bear this in mind when arriving to the parade by car.

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previous Nice Carnival float (image courtesy of Nice Carnaval.com / Nice Tourisme Office)

– Many Nice hotels offer ‘Carnival’ accommodation rates for families. Some participating hotels are Novotel Nice Centre and Best Western Roosevelt. View accommodation rates online at http://en.nicetourisme.com/special-offer

I am hoping to take my son to the opening evening, and the closing evening so with some planning on how to get there and where to sit, it should be another enjoyable event.

Also, don’t forget to vote for the Carnival Queen!  prizes are up for grabs including restaurant meals, Flower Parade tickets, cookery classes and a stay at the Hotel Beau Rivage. Vote online at http://reine.nicecarnaval.com/en

Happy Carnival!  Here’s to the ‘King of Gastronomy’!