As an American mom living in Paris for the past 7 years, I have learned how to do things à la française, while still embracing my culture. This includes throwing my French-American kids the best birthdays, so that every year I need to top myself even more. Défi accepted! After a total of 10 birthdays for my 6-year-old and 4-year-old, I would like to give myself a new accolade: Masters in Party Planning (for kids).
In Paris, we can do like the French and host a party chez soi, or we can do like the Americans and host a party at a venue.
Before I get into the details of each, I have to say that I do love the birthday à la française – the party is solely for the kids, so parents drop them off at a home or venue, and then get their afternoon off. At pick up, a glass of champagne may be offered (at a home event) while the kids enjoy the end of the party and get goody bags. When my oldest son was 2-years-old, it was a bit of an adjustment for me to leave him. But, as time went on, I realized he had a blast without my watchful eye on his candy binges, and I got 2-3 hours of blissful freedom.
Now for the good stuff!
Want to plan a party like the French?
You can hire an animateur to come to your home. I’ve seen some good ones who decorate, bring a guignol theater, cake and goody bags to fish for at the end. They are experts at reigning in the kids and playing fun games. No worries – there are no stray kids wandering the home. There are many package options and themes. My boys have met all their favorite superheroes and Queen Elsa, who completely mesmerized them. These party planners go above and beyond:
Rêve en Or
Like the name suggests, these planners specialize in making dreams come true! Experts in children’s birthdays, baptisms, corporate events and weddings. My kids loved their “gift bag” goody bags.
For more info: www.reveenor.fr
Specialists in children’s parties of all kinds, as well as, custom-tailored ateliers. These are excellent when your kids drive you crazy during the never-ending French vacances scolaires!
Want to plan a party like the Americans (or expat folk)?
The French like to label us as practical, which we are at times and it’s not a bad thing! If you’re like me and don’t want to clean the mess of 25+ kids and have your neighbors complain, then you host a party at a venue. Here are my favorite places to host:
Club des Enfants Parisien
As the name says, this is a kid’s club with activities all year long. Thanks to the awesome maître here, my boys are Taekwando champs in the making. For birthdays, you get a 2-hour party with an activity of your choice (circus, trapeze, taekwando, dance, art, etc). Start with the activity, then finish with the cake and presents. My boys have had the circus party, which I highly recommend, as it’s totally fun and silly and gets your kids beyond tired – which makes a good night for you!
Price: 350 euros for 10 children, 20 euros for each additional child. Includes: Cake, drinks and bonbons
When: Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon (100 euro supplement)
Where: 57 rue Ampere, 75017 Paris
Ages: 4 – 11+ years old
This is an amusement park, which also offers workshops. For birthdays, you get a 2.5-hour party with an age-appropriate atelier of your choice (magic, gardening, baking, theatre, etc). Start with the atelier and finish with the cake and presents. My boys have had magic and gardening parties and both are lovely. The birthday invitation allows you access to the park so if you have other children not participating in the party, they can play at the playgrounds or get tickets to go on rides – this is a great bonus!
Price: 350 euros for 10 children (maximum 15) 30 euros for each additional child. Includes: Cake, drinks, candy goody bag
When: Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday from 3pm-5:30pm
Where: Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris
More info: http://jardindacclimatation.fr/activite/les-ateliers-danniversaire/
Imported from the US, Gymboree proposes a 2-hour GymGouter party, with an animateur to roll around and play with the gym equipment. Years ago, my son celebrated his 3rd birthday at the Aquaboulevard location in the 15th arrondissement. They took care of the decorations, plates, cups and napkins. We brought the cake, drinks, bonbons. Birthday parties will now be hosted at the location in the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the 16tharrondissement starting in 2017. Call in January or February for prices and details. This place is sure to book up fast!
Where: Located in Jardin d’Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris
More info: http://www.gymboree france.com/anniversaire/gymgoute
L’ile de Robinson
Who doesn’t love Robinson Crusoe? This is an indoor amusement park for pirate fans just outside of Paris. I found this gem thanks to a party hosted by one of my son’s friends. For birthdays, you can have a 2.5 or 3-hour party in a private room and access to all the games and activities in the park. Let your kids be a pirate for a day and you’ll be their hero (until they remember Superman and Batman are cooler than you)!
Price: 22 euros per child (8 minimum, 14 maximum maximum) Includes: Cake, drinks and bonbons (lunch is available for morning party)
When: Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday from 10am-1:15pm (with lunch option) or 1:45pm-4:15pm or 4:30pm-7pm
Where: 50 rue du Sergent Bobillot, 93100 Montreuil
More info: http://www.ilederobinson.com/attractions/des-espaces-anniversaire-reserver.html
L’Aquarium de Paris
If you live in Paris and have kids, you’ve been to this aquarium at least a handful of times. Located next to Trocadero with a view of the Eiffel Tower, this is the place to be – there are live mermaid shows, movies, workshops for kids, and of course, the sharks! For birthdays, you get a 3-hour party starting with a treasure hunt, then fish feeding, and the grande finale of fishing for crabs. A buffet lunch is offered for the morning party. A goûter with cake, pastries, drinks and bonbons are offered for the afternoon party.
Price: 39 euros per child (maximum 35). At least 1 adult must accompany the party (25 euros for morning party, 20 euros for afternoon party). Includes: Cake, pastries, drinks and bonbons (buffet lunch is offered for morning party)
When: Saturday or Sunday from 10am-1pm or 2pm-4:45pm
Where: 5 avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris
More info: http://www.cineaqua.com/index.php/fr/qu-un-aquarium/anniversaire
Le Musée des Arts Decoratifs
This museum showcases decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present day. It offers year-long workshops for children and adults. My son’s friend has hosted his birthday here two years in a row. It’s an excellent cultural experience for the kids. For birthdays, you can choose a 2 or 3-hour party. Starts with a visit in the museum, then an age-appropriate workshop making art, pottery, jewelry, etc. Make room on your shelf to display the masterpiece from your little Picasso! For an additional hour, you can have a lunch in the morning or a goûter in the afternoon.
Price: For 2-hour party: 168 euros for 12 children maximum, for 3-hour party: 252 euros for 12 children maximum (2 adults must be present during the goûter) Includes: Drinks, plates, cups, napkins. You need to bring the cans, snacks and bonbons (or lunch for morning party).
When: Wednesday at 2:30pm; Saturday and Sunday at 10:30am or 2:30pm
Where: 107 rue de Rivoli, 75001
Ages: 4 – 14 years old
More info: http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/IMG/pdf/feter_son_anniversaire_sept-dec_016.pdf
WH Smith Bookstore
If you’re an Anglophone, your home library has probably been stocked by this English bookstore, perfectly placed next to the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden. What you may not know is that it recently opened a tearoom offering a fine selection of teas, as well as a proper English breakfast. My son’s best friend had the honor of hosting the first party at this new venue. For birthdays, you get a custom-tailored party filled with traditional British games in a private room. “What’s the time, Mr. Wolf” was an absolute blast (extra credit for excellent theatrics goes to a certain Papa – you know who you are!). To save the hassle of preparing goody bags, you can choose to end the party with a fishing prize game, sending each child home with a new book. A perk to having a party here is that parents can shop or relax in the neighboring tearoom.
Price: 13-30 euros per child (minimum 4, maximum 25) Includes: Reading, fishing, games, songs, dance, puppets, spectacle, drinks, healthy snacks, cake and bonbons (depending on package)
When: Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 9am-12pm; Monday through Friday evenings from 7pm-9:30pm
Where: 248 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Ages: 4 – 14 years old