Les Petits (Under 5s)
There are lots of possibilities for family days out depending on the ages of your children and your interests. Here are some ideas to keep you going for a few weeks to start with:
at Bretteville-sur-Odon, near Caen (53km, 33miles, 40 minutes)
Fun theme park for kids combining popular dinosaur and Viking motifs. The mascot is a rather jolly young green dragon, called Festy, wearing a waistcoat and a Viking horned helmet. Viking ship roller coasters, Aqua Park, jousting and much more.
Ragnarol, a Viking battle, is held every day in July and August. Five restaurants and three picnic areas, one of which is covered for shade. You can even arrange children’s birthday parties in the afternoons – from 109 euros for eight children and one adult – includes free access to all the attractions and afternoon tea with a birthday cake and candles. The park’s motto is Defiez le! (Brave it!) It refers to braving the main attraction (a 59 second long roller coaster).
Cerza Parc Zoologique
near Lisieux (70km, 43miles, 1hr 7)
A conservation animal safari park featuring 1000 animals from 120 species in an expanse of 60 hectares (150 acres). Guided visits, safari train ride, shop and restaurants. You can – if you take care to book well in advance – even stay overnight in the park in a wooden eco-lodge or a sort of Mongolian type Yourt (tent with wood walls) so you can get a chance to observe the animals by moonlight.
Another animal park in Normandy is the Zoo de Jurques with rare white lions, animal feeding times, bird show (82km, 50 miles, 56 minutes).
The Model Miniature Railway at Clecy
(40km, 25 miles, 41 minutes)
Covering an area of 310 square metres this is one of Europe’s largest scale models (1: 87 HO Scale)with 250 busy locomotives, 400 trucks and carriages, 650 buildings, over 1000 tiny vehicles and countless diminutive figures – Une infinité de details. Also a restaurant, bouncy castle, mini train ride.
Elegant 18th century national monument, the chateau displays the furnishings in keeping with the life of an aristocrat of the era. There’s also an interesting collection of miniature furniture – more than 700 fabulous tiny masterpieces including silverware and miniscule books from the 17th to the 19th century. The pretty 14 hectare park includes a surprise water garden kids love – water jets emerging with no notice from the innocent looking, half hidden life- like doves and turtles. Excellent on a hot day.
Rando parc Pony rides
Pérrières (25km, 15 miles, 25 minutes)
Tiny ponies for the very little ones. (Les tout-petits)
(14km, 8 miles, 18 minutes)
Brilliant modern swimming pool complex – Aside from the 25m laned pool for grown-ups, there are leisure pools, toboggans, ‘river currents’, slides, wavepool, Jacuzzi, gym.
Labyrinthe de Bayeux
Test your family’s navigational skills finding your way round an intriguing puzzle of 9 foot high maize hedges. Apparently, Patience, ruse et perspicacité seront vos meilleurs alliés for finding your way out. I would add to that a good French dictionary, so you can understand the clues! Other activities include an adventure circuit through the trees and pedal carting for older kids. (Linguistic note: the English word play ‘maize maze’ is of course lost in translation!)
Minigolf and freshwater aquarium
at Parc des Loisirs Occagnes (14kms, 8 miles, 21 minutes)
Learn about freshwater fish at the only freshwater aquarium in Normandy. Over 4000 fish. Documentary films and videos (in French….). Also minigolf, trout fishing, bar and brasserie
(53kms, 33 miles, 48 minutes)
Beautiful 475 hectare forest for easy walks along shady nature trails. Hide and seek geocaching and small animal park. For carriage rides, book in advance.
Royal Kids indoor theme park
Bretteville –sur-Odon (54km, 33 miles, 40 minutes)
1600sq metres of fun and games – everyone can run around. Divided into two areas: – under 3s (giant Lego etc.) and 3-12 yrs. (trampolines, electric carting etc.). Snack bar hot and cold drinks. An all weather choice.
A day at a sandy beach
There are quite a few old fashioned but still charming family oriented seaside resorts just east and west of Caen – all just under an hour’s drive. Try Merville-Franceville Plage, Ouistreham Riva Bella (Our closest at 64km, 40 miles, 49 minutes) or Luc-sur-Mer with its child friendly 2km pedestrian/cycle path. Deck chairs, picnic, ice creams, bucket and spade; all de rigeur.