Monday, February 02, 2009

The CineAqua: Something for Everyone

As everyone who has traveled with kids knows, one of the greatest challenges is finding activities to keep everyone happy. While a 10-16 year old may be interested in a tour of the sewers (yes, they exist!), all the 2-6 year olds want is space to run and play-- leaving the parents to pacify the toddlers at one stop and the teen at the next.

The first time I walked into the CineAqua in Paris, I was stunned. The steep entrance fee of nearly 20 euros per adult (15 per child), leaves a family of four out $90 before you walk in the door-- quite a bit more expensive than a trip up the iconic Eiffel Tower or the world-famous Louvre. I've been back to CineAqua a couple times since, however, and discovered that the true beauty of this gorgeous destination is its ability to make everyone happy (it's also worth noting that the price is about the same as aquariums in the U.S.).

Half aquarium, half "Movieum," the CineAqua combines two very different museums into a single stop. With nearly 500 species of fish and invertebrates, 3 full-size cinema screens, a petting pond and shark tank, this odd combination of attractions is not only open to all ages, but actually has something to keep everyone engaged.

People of all ages, and especially young children, will enjoy watching the wide variety of sealife swim by in beautiful blue and green tanks. Interspersed throughout are large cinema screens showing movies like "West Side Story" or the latest Bollywood hit-- something the teens/adults will enjoy for more than a few minutes. There are also areas dedicated to explaining how studios create special effects, build and film models, and, the last time I was there, a make-up artist demonstrating how to make grotesque wounds on your hand with a take-home kit.

As if that wasn't enough, the CineAqua has one of the best locations in Paris. It is located directly across from the Eiffel Tower on the steps of the Palais Chaillot (note: look carefully for signs-- it is easy to miss). In the winter, it is a great place to warm up from the cold, and in the heat of July, it is comfortably cool. They have a full, Japanese restaurant and separate cafe for snacks. The bottom line is that this is the best attraction I've found for families exploring the city, and one of the only ones where everyone wins.

Address: 2, Avenue des Nation Unies, 16th arrondisement
Metro: Troacadero