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.
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.
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
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.