When I had my first baby seven years ago, I had just moved to a new town in the Pays du Mont-Blanc, away from a network of friends . . . I rather short-sightedly thought that this would be the opportunity to make new discoveries, and to have new adventures. In effect, it was . . . but at times I was also incredibly lonely, even with the little bundle of joy that was accompanying me on these new adventures.
Progressively, I discovered the playgroups that were available locally for parents and babies (not many!) . . . but even with these weekly meet-ups, weeks could seem very long in the mountains when rain hampered visits to the local playground! Over the years I realised that there were, in fact, many more activities available than I had originally realised . . . and in a transient, innovative, creative region like the Pays du Mont-Blanc – where artists, musicians and sports folk abound – every year there appear to be more activites on offer for babies and pre-schoolers! (once children reach 4 years, there are plenty more opportunities for workshops and sport!).
This post is an effort to group together many of the activities available for babies and pre-schoolers (that I am aware of!) au Pays du Mont-Blanc and beyond, over the year. I hope that it will be of use to you – whether you are living au Pays du Mont-Blanc, a part-time resident or visiting for the holidays with a little one in tow.
* NB – please do not hesitate to contact me with any more ideas, especially if you organise activities for babies and pre-schoolers yourself.*
Colour code for listings:
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz & Vallorcine);
Passy & environs;
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy;
St Gervais, Le Fayet & environs;
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs;
Les Contamines & environs;
Your Weekly Planner
* NB – please check the running of events before attending, as the activities are subject to change and cancellation (weather, seasonal changes, holidays . . .)! *
Monday – 8h45 to 11h15 AND afternoon too (new opening): Sallanches playgroup «Méli Mélo» (not during school holidays) / 10h30 and 11h45: Postnatal mum & baby/toddler yoga at Ananda Yoga Studio in Chamonix (please check);
Tuesday – 8h to midday: market in Chedde in Passy / 8h to midday: market in Les Contamines-Montjoie / 9h to 11h: playgroup «A Petits Pas», Praz sur Arly (NOT during holidays) / 10h: farm visit at La Ferme des Montagnards on certain Tuesday mornings / 16h30 to 19h30: Le P’tit Marché Paysan de Produits Locaux market (Sallanches), see here for more details;
Wednesday – 8h to midday: Combloux market / 8h to 13h: Le Fayet market (in front of the Gare SNCF) / morning: Séance Maman Papa Bébé at the Bains de Mont-Blanc in the Parc Thermal, Le Fayet (check schedule when Les Bains re-open) / 9h to 9h45: (and also during school holidays) – Aquabébés at Vitam (Neydens) for children 6 months to 5 years / 10h15: l’Heure du Conte for 3 to 4 year olds (twice a month) at Médiathèque Ange Abrate Sallanches / from 14h: Le Petit Train in le Parc Thermal during the summer months / 14h30 to 17h30: La Maison de la Créativité (Conches, Geneva, Switzerland) / from 15h: Marché Paysan in Les Houches / 17h: L’Heure du Conte (3+ years) at the Palais in Megève (every other Wednesday) / Wednesdays for toddlers at Geneva museums: MAMCO at 15h15 – Mini Rendez-vous – for very young children (2 to 4 years); MAH (Le Musée d’Art et d’Histoire) – «Visites à tout petits pas» at 10h30, 14h30 and 15h30 for 3 to 5 year olds;
Thurday – 8h to 13h: market in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains / every other Thursday morning at Maternité de Sallanches, special breastfeeding meetings can be booked / 10h to midday: Chamonix playgroup «ChamCats Carers, Mums n Tots» at Presbytery of the Protestant Church (NOT during the holidays) / 14h30: farm visit at La Ferme des Montagnards on certain Thursdays;
Friday – 8h to 13h: Megève market / 9h to 11h15: «Bulles de Jeux» playgroup in Chedde, Passy (NOT during holidays) / 9h to 9h45: (and also during school holidays) – Aquabébés at Vitam (Neydens) for children 6 months to 5 years / 10h15 until midday: La Petite Folie softplay in Chamonix (painting, dancing, music session; price: 5€ per child); please check! / from 14h30: Magicien Diapason éveil musical at l’Etape in Argentière (14h30: 6 to 18 months; 15h30: 18 months to 3 years; 16h15: 3 to 5 years);
Saturday – 8h to midday: Chamonix market / 8h to 13h: Sallanches market / 9h to 9h45: (and also during school holidays) – Aquabébés at Vitam (Neydens) for children 6 months to 5 years / 9h to 12h and 14h30 to 17h30 (one Saturday per month): La Maison de la Créativité (Conches, Geneva, Switzerland) / 9h45 to 10h30 and 10h30 to 11h15, on certain Saturdays (check schedule): Bébé Plouf (for babies from 6 months to children 3 years, with an accompanying adult) at Saint-Gervais-les-Bains swimming pool, water 32 degrees / 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month: Séance Maman Papa Bébé at the Bains de Mont-Blanc in the Parc Thermal, Le Fayet (check schedule when Les Bains re-open) / 9h (one hour earlier than before): Jardin d’Eau swimming (from 6 months to 3 years) and 11h: Les Petits Poissons (3 to 5 years) at Centre Sportif Richard Bozon in Chamonix (check schedule) / 10h30 (once a month): l’Heure du Conte des tout-petits at Médiathèque Ange Abrate in Sallanches / 10h30: L’Heure du Conte (bébés lecteurs) for 0 to 3 year olds at the Palais in Megève (one Saturday per month) / from 14h during the summer months: Le Petit Train in le Parc Thermal;
Sunday – 9h to 9h45: (and also during school holidays) – Aquabébés at Vitam (Neydens) for children 6 months to 5 years / from 14h during the summer months: Le Petit Train in le Parc Thermal / 10h to 11h15 on certain Sundays (check schedule): Aqua Kids baby and toddler swimming at the swimming pool at Le Palais in Megève / on the FIRST Sunday of the month in Geneva many of the museums/temporary exhibitions are FREE! At the MEG (Musée Ethnographique de Genève), there are workshops for babies/toddlers: Baby Bazaar (0 to 2 years) éveil musical, from 14h to 15h15 and from 15h30 to 16h30 and «Cap sur . . . avec Tohu Wa Bohu» éveil musical (from 2 years, with accompanying adult) from 15h45 to 16h45, music, song, dance;
Breastfeeding/Allaitement – special meetings
A new initiative from the Maternité of Sallanches, special breastfeeding meetings can be booked / every other Thursday morning / reservations: 04 50 47 30 19 / there are also now meetings for new fathers/expectant fathers
- Chamonix «ChamCats Carers, Mums n Tots» – takes place in the Salle Paroissiale (Church Hall) of the Presbytery of the Protestant Church near the train station, in the centre of Chamonix. The playgroup is run by the lovely Barbara & Iona and is open to all babies and toddlers (and parents, grand-parents, minders . . .) until they reach a school-going age. There are plenty of toys and books to keep little ones busy while the grown-ups chat, drink coffee and tea and eat cake and biscuits! This Chamonix playgroup is especially lovely in the spring and summertime, when all adults and children tend to spill out onto the lawn / when? every Thursday morning (except during the school holidays) from 10h to midday / address: Salle Paroissiale of the Presbytery of the Protestant Church, passage du Temple, 74400, Chamonix / tel: +33 (0)6 23 04 78 10 (Barbara Falkiner) / see website of Protestant Church Chamonix or FB group page for more details;
- Chedde (Passy) – «Bulles de Jeux» is a playgroup for children up to 4 years of age. There are lots of games and activities on offer here and children can meet other children and parents and child-minders can chat with other parents and child-minders, and expecting parents are also very welcome / when? every Friday morning (except during the school holidays and bank holidays) from 9h to 11h15 / address: 80, rue du Lac Vert, Chedde, Passy / tel: +33 (0)4 50 93 55 72 / Facebook: see here for more details;
- Sallanches – «Méli Mélo» playgroup is a great place for parents/grandparents/family members keen to meet other parents/grandparents/family members, while letting their little ones (up to the age of 4 years) play happily indoors; a large indoor play area is open, with playground features, lots of toys and colouring facilities / when? every Monday morning (except during the school holidays and bank holidays) from 8h45 to 11h15 / address: Maison de la Petite Enfance, 515 avenue de Saint-Martin, 74700 Sallanches / tel:+33 (0)4 50 90 63 10 / parking: there is free parking just outside la Maison de la Petite Enfance;
- Sallanches – «La Pause Café Parents» (“le lien parents/enfants“) at the Espace Animation in Vouilloux (Sallanches) is not aimed specifically at parents with toddlers; it is, instead, a group for parents to meet and discuss family issues, and children are welcome to come along – a play area is set up for them. One Wednesday every month there is an Espace Ludo (games) set up for parents with children / when? on Wednesdays (except during the school holidays and bank holidays) from 14h30 to 16h / address: Espace Animation, 625 rue Cancellieri, 74700 Sallanches / tel: +33 (0)4 50 47 84 68 / parking: there is free parking just outside the Espace Animation and a great playground on-site!
- Praz-sur-Arly/Megève’s meeting place for parents/carers with small children (under 6 years) is called «A Petits Pas» (Lieu Accueil Enfants Parents – LAEP) / when? it is open on Tuesdays from 9h to 11h (*currently SHUT for winter hibernation, it will re-open in spring 2018) / address: ground floor of the crèche «Les Pralinous», 195 route de Megève, Praz-sur-Arly / tel: +33 (0)4 50 58 77 84 / more information here;
*See also MBFF post Baby and Toddler Playgroups & Storytelling au Pays du Mont-Blanc.*
Music & Dance
- Chamonix – la Petite Folie softplay – a regular (do check!) Friday morning of painting, dancing and singing aimed at pre-schoolers at this softplay café in Cham Sud / address: place Edmond Dessailloud, Chamonix Sud / tel: +33 6 78 22 59 35;
- Argentière – Le Magicien Diapason – at l’Association l’Etape in Argentière, music classes for babies and children (6 months to 7 years) on Fridays, with Claudia Giraldez and the Magicien Diapason . . . / when? Fridays at 14h30: 6 to 18 months; Fridays at 15h30: 18 months to 3 years; Fridays at 16h15: 3 to 5 years; Fridays at 17h: 5 to 7 years; more information here; address: l’Association l’Etape, 329 rue Charlet Straton, 74400, Argentière;
- Sallanches – Eveil & Compagnie workshops – run by Muriel Jurado, Eveil & Compagnie is a new initiative in Sallanches, offering Montessori workshops and éveil musical on Wednesdays for children from 18 months / you can pay per session / for more information, see website / Muriel also offers Montessori workshops (run on an annual payment scheme, 110€) at the FJEP in Passy, Saturdays 9h30 to 10h30 and 10h30 to 11h30 for 2/3 year olds;
Yoga & Baby Gym
- Yoga – at Ananda Yoga Studio in Chamonix, there are currently a couple of yoga classes on a Monday aimed at Mother & Baby or Toddler – Postnatal yoga Mum & Toddler with Abi: 10h30 to 11h45 and 11h45 to 12h45 / see website for more details and to check current schedule (subject to change);
- Yoga – Pregnancy Yoga (Saturdays at 9h30) & Baby Yoga (Mondays at 11h) with Abi Cross at the Mercure Hotel Les Bossons – see Abi’s FB page for more details;
- Baby Gym at the FJEP in Passy – for children 18 months to 3 years, with an adult, Wednesday 9h15 to 10h15 / annual price: 90€ per year / see here for more details;;
- Yoga – Un Chemin de Vie in Combloux offers yoga classes for pregnancy
- Pitchoun’Gym at MJC Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – for 3 to 5 year olds on Tuesdays from 17h15 to 18h / an annual price to pay, see website for more details;
Our local médiathèques offer some regular storytelling sessions . . .
- Sallanches – now that the new Médiathèque Ange Abrate is open to the public, there are regular storytime sessions (l’Heure du Conte) for children of different age groups, in the Salle de l’Heure du Conte (upstairs): Wednesdays for 3 to 4 year olds and 5+ years and one Saturday per month for les tout-petits – see below for upcoming sessions / address: 81 place du Commissaire Chesney / tel: +33 (0)4 50 93 95 49 / website;
- L’Heure du Conte (3+ years) – Médiathèque (Le Palais) – Megève – Wednesdays at 17h – FREE! – no reservations needed – upcoming dates: 16th and 30th May and Wednesdays 13th & 27th June / address: Espace Jeunesse, Médiathèque, 247 route du Palais des Sports, 74120, Megève / tel: +33 (0)4 50 91 57 70;
- L’Heure du Conte (bébés lecteurs) – Médiathèque (Le Palais) – Megève – Saturdays at 10h30 – for children 0 to 3 years – FREE! – no reservations needed – upcoming dates: Saturday 19th May, Saturday 9th June / address: Espace Jeunesse, Médiathèque, 247 route du Palais des Sports, 74120, Megève / tel: +33 (0)4 50 91 57 70;
During the school holidays there are storytelling sessions/spectacles/puppet shows organised across the network of many of the bibliothèques/médiathèques and Tourist Offices au Pays du Mont-Blanc: Chamonix Valley, Combloux (above Tourist Office), Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (L’Heure du Conte at the library on Thursdays at 11h (for 4+ years) . . . check the tourist office agendas to keep informed! / check also FB page for the network of médiathèques of the Chamonix Valley.
Médiathèques & Bibliothèques
We have some fantastic médiathèques/bibliothèques here au Pays du Mont-Blanc, with areas dedicated to young readers, and some have ludothèques available (a place to play with/rent out games) and these are great options for rainy days:
- Chamonix Médiathèque – located near the Centre Sportif Richard Bozon / see here for more details;
- Médiathèque Ange Abrate, Sallanches – the new médiathèque, located between the Centre de la Nature Montagnarde and a great playground, opened its doors to the public on 17th March 2018 / the children’s area is upstairs and has comfortable rugs and beanbags (and toilets nearby!) / there is a whole programme for children, with storytime for 3 to 4 years olds every other Wednesday, and a storytime for 0 to 3 year olds once a month, on Saturdays / see here for more details and opening hours;
- Megève Médiathèque – located within Le Palais, so next to lots of sports facilities! / see here for more details;
Theatre & Cinema
During the Toussaint holidays, the excellent Les Petits Asticots festival arrives au Pays du Mont-Blanc, with lots of entertainment for children.
You will also find children’s theatre throughout the year at:
- Chamonix – Une Montagne de Spectacles and EDMI;
- Les Houches – Salle d’Animations & Espace Olca / see Les Houches Animations;
- Vallorcine – Salle de la Ruche;
- Argentière – and L’Etape;
- Servoz – Salle Jean Morel;
- Passy – Parvis des Fiz; Plateau d’Assy – Cinéma du Plateau;
- Sallanches – Salle Léon Curral;
- Domancy – la Tour Carrée;
- Combloux – Tourist Office and Plan d’Eau Biotope (summer);
- Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – Théâtre Montjoie;
- Megève – agenda or Le Palais FB page;
- Les Contamines-Montjoie – Salle d’Animations;
- Cluses – Théatre des Allobroges;
As well as daily children’s films showing at the VOX cinema in Chamonix or the Ciné Mont-Blanc in Sallanches (Ciné Mont-Blanc also has a special children’s session some Sundays at 11h – sound and light geared towards younger viewers, shorter films), there are also children’s films showing at: Salle d’Animations in Les Houches (Grand Soir Cinébus on Wednesdays), Cinéma du Plateau in Plateau d’Assy (Mondays) and Théatre Montjoie in Saint-Gervais (on Thursdays). The children’s film festival Festival CinémAnimation arrives in the Chamonix Valley during the Toussaint holidays and Festival Cinémino shows children’s films in Saint-Gervais and other areas during the February holidays.
There are many fantastic playgrounds au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . some have more options for little ones, some more for older children. See the Playgrounds topic on the homepage of the MBFF website, or to have a peruse of MBFF’s favourite (tried and tested!) playgrounds, see here.
Parks, Gardens & Woods
- all year-round – Parc Couttet in the centre of Chamonix is a great place to picnic and let little ones run around;
- all year-round – the Bois du Bouchet in Chamonix is perfect for a buggy walk, a tour on a draisienne (push bike), or to pull a luge in the snow;
- spring and summertime – the lovely Paradis des Praz in Les Praz;
- spring, summer, autumn – Le Jardin des Cimes in Plateau d’Assy is magical and easily accessible with a decent buggy, or with young walkers / a delightful spot to come for lunch at the café / see here for more details;
- all year-round – Le Parc Thermal in Le Fayet – there is a playground, grass for games, paths for buggy walks, short hiking trails, the petit train during the summer months / see MBFF post for more details / *renovations of park and playground anticipated*;
- summer/autumn – Parc Patrice Dominguez in Les Contamines – many of the sports activities in this park are aimed at older children, but there are certain activities to entertain little ones: bouncy castles, walking with donkeys with Anes et Mômes (read about our experience here), the artificial lake with sand, pedalos . . .
- all year-round – Botanical Gardens (Conservatoire et Jardins Botaniques de Genève – CJBG) in Geneva, Switzerland – this park has a wonderful wooden playground in the shade, a magical carrousel in the warmer months, a small animal park and plentiful grass for running around and picnics (and beautiful trees, plants and greenhouses obviously!) / see here to read post / FREE!
Animal Parks, Family Farm Visits & other Animal Frolics
- spring, summer, autumn – Le Parc de Merlet Animal Park in Les Houches – the wonderful Parc de Merlet is a fantastic place for young walkers to spot chamois, ibex, llamas and more! / you can visit much of the park with a good buggy, but you’ll need a baby carrier for the higher path / sand-pit, parcours ludique, restaurant on-site / see here for more details regarding opening hours and admission prices and any special events scheduled / MBFF post and recommendations for a family visit/parking here;
- Saint-Bernard kennels in Les Houches – learn all about the beautiful and fascinating Saint-Bernard breed here at the Les Houches chenil / opening hours: July and August, 10h to 11h30 and 14h30 to 18h, rest of the year 10h to 11h30 and 14h to 17h (shut on Sundays and Monday morning) / address: 223 chemin des Vorziers, La Fontaine, 74310, Les Houches / tel: 04 50 47 23 60 / website: here;
- Family farm visit at La Ferme «Les Montagnards» – on many Tuesdays and Thursdays of the year, you can have a guided visit of La Ferme «Les Montagnards» in Ormaret, Combloux (Tuesdays at 10h and Thursdays at 14h30) / Delphine will show you how a bovine farm works and what daily life is like on a farm: 65 cows for milking, 40 pigs, rabbits . . . / price: adults 8€; children (3-12 years) 6€; FREE for under 3s / this wonderful farm also organises lots of children’s workshops during the school holidays – the last ones were butter-making (particularly useful during the days of butter shortage!) / *both mini MBFF members loved their crèche/garderie visits here!*/ address: 4 chemin des Poses, Ormaret, 74920, Combloux / reservations necessary: Delphine +33 (0)6 21 02 18 99 / FB page;
- Les Anes et les Mômes in Le Parc Patrice Dominguez in Les Contamines-Montjoie – for more information about our family experience see here / leading a donkey on a walk really is a lovely experience, especially in the beautiful setting of Notre Dame de la Gorge . . . this activity was recommended to us by friends who said that it had encouraged their children to walk enthusiastically! It certainly worked for us (except the plentiful arguments about whose turn it was on the back of Ernest the Donkey!) / website here;
- Chiens de Traineaux – we had a fabulous family outing with 3D Nordic in Praz-sur-Arly this winter . . . they are heading off to Lapland next winter season, but will still be offering canirando in the spring and summer (older children) and you can visit their kennels in Flumet. Other companies offering chiens de traineaux excursions locally: Huskydalen (Chamonix), Les Granges de Heidi (Passy), Cordon Tourisme, Au Mont du Villard du Nord (Megève), Voyageurs d’Hiver (Les Contamines-Montjoie);
- all year-round – Les Marécottes Animal Park in Switzerland – April 2017 saw the birth of a baby black bear (Mirus) and marcassins (baby sangliers) . . . see the Marécottes Facebook page or website for more details / getting there: see here / *you can take the train from the Chamonix Valley to Les Marécottes!* / *good to know: we visited this park in December, and the winter sunlight was magical*;
- all year-round – Barryland – Musée et chiens du Saint-Bernard in Martigny, Geneva – this is a wonderful, interactive museum for children and there are puppies this March (when the Col de la Forclaz re-opens, you can visit!);
Depending on where we live/are holidaying, there are many great buggy walks au Pays du Mont-Blanc. Do bear in mind, that depending on the terrain, most of the walks will be less bumpy with an all-terrain buggy! Here are some of our tried and tested favourites, all between 30mins and a couple of hours (depending on refreshment/picnic stops!):
- Chamonix – centre of town (plenty of lovely cafés along the way); river walks (Arve and Aveyron); Le Bois du Bouchet, Les Bois and Les Praz (including Le Paradis des Praz); Les Gaillands to Les Bossons (stopping for refreshments/lunch at Hotel Aiguille du Midi);
- Les Houches – Lac des Chavants (a playground here, and restaurant La Guinguette an added bonus!);
- Servoz & Argentière – a buggy walk through the traditional old villages;
- Passy – Lac de Passy; Le Jardin des Cimes;
- Sallanches – town walk (historical walk, two possible playgrounds and refreshments by the river!), Lac des Ilettes (picnic or refreshments in summer at Le Transat);
- Combloux – «100% bio» loop around the Plan d’Eau Biotope & Ferme d’Isidore (30mins);
- Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – La Boucle des Maison Fortes (visiting the architecture from the Middle Ages to modern times in the centre of Saint-Gervais), with the playground at the end of the walk; in Le Fayet, Le Parc Thermal is easy to navigate with a buggy and has a wonderful playground, picnic spots and le petit train during the summer months;
- Les Contamines-Montjoie – walking through the Parc Patrice Dominguez up to the pretty Notre Dame de la Gorge, along the river and up the lovely church;
- Col de la Forclaz – the Bisse du Trient (irrigation channel from 1895 bringing water from the glacier du Trient to the Col du Forclaz) family walk. We discovered this family walk last summer, thanks to CosmoJazz . . . we no longer have children in buggies, but we did see people arriving with all terrain buggies (we also saw people arriving with children on push bikes, which I would most vociferously not recommend, as there is a steep fall down one side of the path!) . . . the easy path follows the course of the Bisse du Trient, with a parcours ludique along the way, and at the end of the walk you are rewarded with a view of the Trient glacier and a café, La Buvette du Glacier. * NB If children are walking, it is imperative to hold their hand at all times, there is a steep fall!* / Aller-retour walk: 6,5km / see here for more details;
- Doussard, La Réserve Naturelle du Bout du Lac – Doussard, at the bottom of the Lac d’Annecy, has a lovely buggy-friendly walk / see here for more details;
Baby-Carrier Walks / Snow-Shoe Trails
*The following walks are fairly short (2 hours aller-retour), and have a place for refreshments (in season, some shut for winter, so won’t be open for snow-shoe walks – do check!) . . . how far you can walk with a baby-carrier, or how comfortable your little one is over long distances is clearly subjective . . . this list is just a starting point for comfortable short walks! / if you have a favourite walk, please let me know, and we can add it to the list!*
- Chamonix – La Cascade du Dard (Buvette La Cascade du Dard); Le Chapeau in Le Lavancher (La Buvette du Chapeau); Floria (Chalet de la Floria) on the Petit Balcon Sud;
- Les Houches – Charousses alpage (picnic);
- Vallorcine – Chemin des Diligence (with a stop at Ferme des Trois Ours); Cascade de Bérard waterfall (Buvette Cascade de Bérard, Hotel du Buet); Loriaz huts (a longer aller-retour);
- Servoz – Les Gorges de la Diosaz;
- Plaine-Joux – Boucle du Lac Vert; le Châtelet d’Ayeres (both perfect snow shoe trails);
- Sallanches – Le Sapin Président» (forest discovery trail leading to the Sapin Président, a 271 year old pine tree with huge dimensions), no refreshment stop here, just picnics; walks to the refuges of either Doran (part gravel road, part forest), Mayères or Tournieux (forest walk), with lunch/snack options at the restaurants during the summer months / see sallanches.com for more ideas;
- Combloux – «Sur Les Traces des Graniteurs» (on the trail of the old granite workers; 1h30);
- Cordon – «Forest Discovery Trail» (for more details in PDF see here; 1 hour loop in the forest), perfect picnic stop with tables in the forest;
- Les Contamines – Notre Dame de la Gorge up to Alpinus Lodge or Refuge du Nant-Borand;
My boys started to use a draisienne (push bike) around the age of two years . . . as well as being a fantastic way of gaining balance before moving onto a pedal bike (without the need for stabilising back wheels), they also became fairly autonomous, without the same need for being carried or buggies for certain short walks; this was merciful for my back!
- Chamonix – up and down the Arve river, next to the central playground; the Bois du Bouchet and river walks;
- Lac de Passy – around the lake, into the woods and the NEW Espace VTT in the woods next to the mini-golf for older siblings (4+ years);
- Lac des Ilettes – around the nature reserve lake (3rd lake);
- Praz sur Arly – at the playground in Praz-sur-Arly, there is a little bike park set up next to the river in the woods, Ludik Park;
- Les Contamines – Le Parc Patrice Dominguez, and up the river towards Notre Dame de la Gorge, are good push bike areas;
- Skateparks & Pumptracks – many of our towns and villages au Pays du Mont-Blanc are now well-equipped with a skatepark and/or pumptrack . . . little ones can use a push-bike here, but you will need to be vigilant as these areas are multi-generational and so there will be much bigger folk wizzing by! (Skate-parks in: Chamonix, Sallanches, Combloux, Les Contamines-Montjoie at les Loyers . . . MBFF are also big fans of the skatepark in Plainpalais, Geneva! / Pumptracks in: Servoz and Combloux;
There are plentiful accrobranches ® au Pays du Mont-Blanc (during the warmer months), and many have a parcours for 2/3 year olds . . .
- Accro’Park in Les Gaillands, Chamonix – from 3 years / see here for more details;
- Aéroparc Passy Plain-Wood at Plaine-Joux – from 3 years / see here for more details;
- Passy Accro-Lac – from 2 years Pitchounes;
- Parcours Aventure in le Parc Thermal in Le Fayet – from 90cm height / see here for more details;
- Acrobatic Island in the Parc Patrice Dominguez in Les Contamines – from 3 years / see here for more details;
- Filenvol – we went ot Filenvol last autumn and had a fabulous time! The concept is to run around in large nets suspended from the trees, and to slide down the net slides . . . giant trampolines in the trees, so much fun! You can picnic here / see here for more details;
- Talloires Acro’Aventures – for children from 1m in height, see here for more details / also, the Foret des Sens is open to buggies – see here;
Softplay & Bouncy Castles
We are very lucky au Pays du Mont-Blanc to have two softplay options for rainy days . . . both offering craft activities during the holidays and delicious homemade cake for weary parents!
- La Petite Folie in Chamonix / see here for more details / address: 83 promenade Marie Paradis, Chamonix 74400 / tel: +33 678 225 935 / email: email@example.com
- Le Parc en Folie in Sallanches / see here for more details;
- . . . for more ideas for indoor play centres a bit further afield, see MBFF post Softplay & Bouncy Castles au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond);
- Bouncy castles pop up in the summer months . . . Vallorcine, Lac de Passy and Lac des Ilettes, Les Contamines-Montjoie, and at many of the summer festivals for families;
Amusement Parks & All-Season Luge
- Chamonix Park Les Planards – amusement park in Chamonix, see here for more details / Luge Alpine Coaster: from 3 years, with an adult, see here;
- Luge 4S Megève – this is located at the departure station for the télécabine du Jaillet, next to Palais des Sport / from 3 years / opening hours here;
- Centre Kapla Annecy – not an amusement park per se, but a great rainy day option / see here for more details;
- Le Parc des Epouvantails – part of Le Petit Pays (Les Grandes Médiévales, Le TOUT Petit Pays and Le Hameau du Père Noël), a visit to Le Parc des Epouvantails comes highly recommended by MBFF! My first visit was accompanying a school sortie, and I’ll be honest by saying that I didn’t have high hopes for a park inhabited by scarecrows! And then, I was bowled over by how lovely this enchanting park was, and the children all had a fabulous time. As a visitor, you play classic, familiar games, but in BIG versions (Jeu de l’Oie, pick-up-sticks, wheelbarrow races . . . ), there are farm animals, a giant labyrinth in the trees, spectacles in collaboration with the Aigles de Léman, there is lots of shade, wide paths for buggies, picnic areas in the shade . . . my elder son and I had so much fun that we headed back with the rest of the family later in the summer. Everything here has been meticulously planned / open from: end of June weekends and then July to 3rd September 2018 (and also 24th & 25th June and 1st & 2nd July) from 10h to 19h / address: la Forêt des Moulins (20 mins from Annecy or Geneva, direction de Cruseilles, RD 1201) / tel: 04 50 32 73 64 / website;
Swimming Classes & Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are another great option for rainy days and our pools au Pays du Mont-Blanc offer classes for babies and young swimmers with adults; we have public pools in Chamonix, Sallanches, Marlioz (Passy), Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Megève . . . further afield, there is the large aquatic centre, Vitam in Neydens . . . and Les Bains de Saillons in Saillon, Switzerland (past Martigny), with lots of activities for children especially during the summer months;
- Chamonix – at the Centre Sportif Richard Bozon in Chamonix, there are both indoor (there is a 25m indoor pool with lanes and a children’s pool with rapids, water jets and a slide) and outdoor pools (the outdoor area is large and comprises the 50m Olympic pool, a children’s pool, slides and a children’s paddling pool / Babies and small children – as well as the indoor children’s pool and the outdoor paddling pool and slides, the Centre Sportif Richard Bozon offers special swimming classes for babies and toddlers: Saturday morning at 9h (NB – this has changed!), the Jardin d’Eau offers plenty of fun for babies and toddlers (from 6 months to 3 years) with one or two adults accompanying; at 11h is the Petits Poissons option for children from 3 to 5 years. Lots of toys are put out and the pool is slightly warmed for these classes. See here for more details / address: Centre Sportif Richard Bozon, 214, avenue de la Plage, 74400, Chamonix / tel: +33 (0)4 50 53 23 70 / parking: there is some free parking at the sports centre, depending on availability; otherwise there are paying car parks nearby / *Opening hours change with each season, so for up-to-date information, please check the official website*;
- Sallanches – Sallanches pool comprises an indoor pool and small outdoor paddling pool (with a small slide; bring your own toys). There is a large grassy area for summer picnics, and the pool opens its door in the warmer months. There is also a small refreshments bar open in the summer months. Bébés Nageurs (per session or with carnet) and Jardin Aquatique on Saturdays (3 to 5 years, on a yearly basis) are offered by Mont Blanc Natation / plans are underway to build a new swimming pool complex in Sallanches!
- Marlioz (Passy) – the pool in Marlioz, Passy is a “piscine tournesol“, opening up in the the warmer months to the spacious grassy area outside. There is a shallow end to the pool, but no paddling pool available, making it a more ideal pool for older children learning to swim or already competent swimmers;
- Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – the pool in Saint-Gervais was renovated and re-opened a couple of years ago. It comprises an indoor swimming pool, children’s shallow pool and paddling pool with toys and an outdoor pool with slide. There are grassy areas for picnics and a refreshment bar/café / Baby swimming: Bébé Plouf (for babies from 6 months to children 3 years, with an accompanying adult) on certain Saturdays, 9h45 to 10h30 and 10h30 to 11h15, water 32 degrees;
- Les Bains du Mont-Blanc in the Parc Thermal Le Fayet – Séance Maman Bébé Papa – your baby can discover 34°C water at the famous Bains du Mont-Blanc / from 6 months / price: 19 € per adult, one baby goes for free, 10€ for a second baby / when? Wednesday morning and 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month / session run by a coach / more information & reservations: 04 50 47 54 57;
- Megève – Megève’s swimming pools (within the Palais) re-opened their doors last summer with a free taster day . . . we went along and had a great time exploring! With both indoor and outdoor pools, the re-styled Espace Aquatique has something for the whole family! Indoor pools – there is one pool for swimming (25m x 12.5m), another for children and a baby paddling pool (with slides, water features and warm water, LOVELY!) / Bébés Nageurs Aquakids classes – on some Sundays from 10h to 11h15 (check schedule) / water heated to 32 degrees / 11,50€ per session / Outdoor pools ( (June until September)) – there is an Olympic pool (50 x 21m), and two children’s paddling pools, one with animal/water features / for rent are parasols and lounge chairs / Pentagliss – 3 adjacent outdoor slides / for 6+ years / Opening hours of indoor pools: for opening hours (which change over the year), see megeve.com/ *REMEMBER that boys and men must wear a slip; if you arrive with shorts, you will be asked to buy a slip!*
- Vitam – this huge indoor and outdoor parc aquatique in Neydens (near Saint-Julién-en-Génévois) is a great option for little ones, especially on rainy days! It is ideally situated within a shopping centre and also has an indoor play centre. On Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, from 9h to 9h45, there is a baby swimming class – Aquabébés – for children 6 months to 5 years (also during school holidays) / see here for more details;
Lakes and Sandcastles
- all year-round – Lac de Passy – plentiful sand at the beach!
- all year-round – Lac des Ilettes in St Martin, Sallanches;
- summertime – Lac in Les Contamines-Montjoie – in the Parc Patrice Dominguez, pedalos available;
- summertime – L’Etape in Les Contamines-Montjoie – at the top of the Télécabine de la Gorge, small pedalos available;
- summertime – Plage d’Excenevex (near Yvoire) on Lac Léman – thank you to Vincent for this suggestion . . . a large, sandy beach here!
Most tennis clubs offer tennis lessons to children from 4 years of age . . . Chamonix’s Club des Sports Tennis offers a tennis workshop to children 2 to 4 years in the summertime, the Stage Baby Tennis!
Children often love trains and train journeys . . . luckily, there are some memorable train journeys (big and small!) au Pays du Mont-Blanc!
- Montenvers – the iconic cobble train leaving from Chamonix and heading up to the Montenvers glacier / see here for post;
- Tourist train in Chamonix / see here;
- Mont-Blanc Express from Le Fayet to Martigny – with a Carte d’Hôte, you can take this train for free between Servoz and Vallorcine . . . a lovely excursion, with views of the snowy peaks throught the upper windows / see here for more details;
- Le Parc Thermal – see post for details about le Petit Train, the tiny steam train for children, that runs in the park during the summer months (Wednesdays and weekends);
- Le Tramway du Mont-Blanc – the highest-reaching cobble train in France, leaving from Le Fayet or Saint-Gervais and reaching up to the Nid d’Aigle (2372 m) / see here for more details / the playground in Saint-Gervais also has its own miniature tramway;
- Swiss Vapeur Parc – a park in Switzerland dedicated to steam trains! / website;
Skiing (Club Piou Piou)
ESF (Ecole de Ski Français) offer lessons to children from the age of 3 years, with Club Piou Piou. The Piou Piou areas are generally at the bottom of the ski station pistes in an enclosed area (to begin with). Here is a list of some of the Piou Piou areas:
- Chamonix Valley – Les Planards (Chamonix), Les Savoie Nursery slopes (Chamonix), Les Chavants lake (Les Houches), Les Chosalets (Argentière), La Vormaine (Le Tour), La Poya (Le Buet/Vallorcine);
- Passy Plaine-Joux – equipped this year with a covered tapis roulant, so that even small children can be autonomous quickly;
- Cordon and Combloux;
- Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (Bettex) and Saint Nicolas de Véroce;
- Megève (La Caboche and Mont d’Arbois);
- Praz-sur-Arly – bottom of ski pistes;
- Les Contamines-Montjoie – Les Loyer nursery slopes or l’Etape (cable-car);
*Private lessons can also be arranged with ESF*
Ice-skating is a great activity with the little ones here au Pays du Mont-Blanc. All of the ice-skating rinks, both the indoor all-year round ones and the seasonal outdoor ice-skating rinks (from December until March), offer chairs and sliding penguins and seals to help little ones find their balance (or have a rest while the adult pushes them around the rink!). There are all year round indoor ice-skating rinks in: Chamonix, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Megève. See MBFF post for more details;
Sledging & Luge Walks
When you have very young children, but of an age when they can sit up on their own, there are luges suitable for easy walks, which you can either buy or rent out. Ideally, a walk pulling a luge will be fairly flat, perhaps in a forest (for shelter, if snowing), around a lake, through a pretty alpine village . . . and perhaps ending at a designated luge pistes, for a little downhill fun! Over the years, the MBFF team have had some magical féerique walks of this type in the winter wonderland Narnias of:
- Chamonix’s Bois du Bouchet – this lovely walk can combine nicely with a downhill luge session at the sledging zone near the parapente landing field . . . and you are close enough to the centre of town for a warm-up drink/lunch;
- Argentière village;
- Plaine-Joux – along the chemin du Chatelet to the Chatelet d’Ayère refuge . . . you can rent out a luge that can be pushed from Skifiz Passy Plaine-Joux;
- Lac de Passy – there are even some little slopes for some downhill giggles, snow permitting!
- Lac des Ilettes in Sallanches;
- Megève at La Livraz – this is a great area to drag a luge, as it is fairly flat . . . there is also a small sledging piste right next to the Maison Nordique (salle hors sacs, picnic tables, and restaurant with play area!);
- Praz-sur-Arly – you can take the luge along Boucle de Cassioz snow-shoe trail . . . you might even see some huskies! Easy to access from the bottom of the ski pistes, refreshments at la K-Bane;
- Les Contamines-Montjoie – you can walk along the river at Notre Dame de la Gorge and there is also sledging in the Zone Nordique;
- In Italy, Val Ferret is a lovely place to go for a walk with a luge!
*Do check snow conditions before setting out on any of these walks (Lac de Passy and Lac des Ilettes will only prove fruitful if there is good snowfall at 500m!!!)*
Weekly Markets au Pays du Mont-Blanc
*Please confirm details before attending*
With a baby snoozing/or awake in a buggy or baby-carrier, it can be fun to head to a bustling market . . . there is so much colour and so many different smells to disvover!
- Saturday – Chamonix (8h to midday) and Sallanches (8h to 13h);
- Tuesday – Chedde in Passy (8h to midday) and Les Contamines-Montjoie (8h to midday);
- Tuesday – Le P’tit Marché Paysan de Produits Locaux (Sallanches; 16h30 to 19h30) – support local producers & local economy, local agriculture and their short growing seasons, and help to create a social link / each week there will be several local producers: le GAEC d’Arpennaz, La Ferme Victorine, Le Pain de Chibon, Le Safran du Mont-Blanc, La Roulotte à Savon, and the Légumes des Coteaux de Passy; the vin d’Ayze and l’Association Passepoils & Cie will also be present from time to time / address: GAEC Les Armaillis, 74700, Sallanches; tel: 06 63 04 32 35 / see here for more details;
- Wednesday – Les Houches Marché Paysan (from 15h), Combloux (8h to midday) and Le Fayet Market (8h to13h, in front of the Gare SNCF);
- Thursday – Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (8h to 13h);
- Friday – Megève (8h to 13h);
Museums au Pays du Mont-Blanc and Further Afield
There are a host of museums au Pays du Mont-Blanc and beyond for rainy days, and it can be a relaxing visit with a snoozing baby in a baby-carrier or interactive with a pre-schooler . . . see:
- Chamonix museums post;
- Le Musée Montagnard in Les Houches;
- the Centre de la Nature Montagnarde in Sallanches;
- and the museums in neighbouring Annecy (the castle, the Palais de l’Île, La Turbine science and cinema centre), la Maison du Salève, and museums/organisations in Geneva and Martigny (St Bernard Museum, Pierre Gianadda) . . .
Further afield . . .
- La Maison de la Créativité (Conches, Geneva, Switzerland) – the MBFF family are huge fans of this centre for creativity for families in Conches, near Geneva . . . we discovered the house and grounds of La Maison de la Créativité one sunny Saturday of autumn 2016, and we are hoping to visit again soon! A house and gardens full of treasures for children, wonderful creative workshops, an outdoor “kitchen”, a playground, incredibly welcoming staff . . . see post for more details / no need to reserve! / aimed at babies, toddlers and children up to the age of 6 years / address: 7, chemin Calandrini, 1231, Conches, Switzerland / tel: +41(0)22 810 18 90 / website / parking: on route de Florissant, and then a short walk (or bring drésienne!) / price: 3CHF for children 2+ years and adults, under 2s for free / open Wednesdays 14h30 to 17h30, and one Saturday per month 9h to 12h and 14h30 to 17h30 (you are welcome to picnic on the grounds as you wait for afternoon opening, or just after a morning visit / there is also a salle hors sacs and baby changing facilities);
- Muséum Genève (Natural History Museum) – this fabulous museum
wasstill is! our go-to rainy day option for a long time! See post for more details / «Fourmis» – temporary exhibition extended until 6th January 2019 – after the tremendously HUGE dinosaur exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the museum, it was time to put the spotlight on little ANTS . . . this exhibition has been extended to run again this year, and until 6th January 2019 / among other things, on show is the giant anthill Atta, which was on show at the museum back in 1977! / there are plenty of workshops on offer on Wednesdays and Saturdays, running alongside this exhibition / address: 1 route de Malagnou, 1208, Geneva, Switzerland / tel: +41 (0) 22 418 63 00 / website;
- MAMCO (Musée d’art moderne et contemporain) in Geneva – the MAMCO in Geneva offers fabulous 20 minute guided tours – Mini Rendez-vous – for very young children (2 to 4 years) on Wednesdays at 15h15 . . . for older children, there are 45 mins guided tours – Les Petits Rendez-Vous – on the first Sunday of the month in French and English, at 11h (highly recommended by the MBFF team!) . . . located in the Plainpalais area of Geneva, there is lots to do before or after a visit . . . there is a great playground at the MEG museum around the corner, and also a playground and skatepark in the Plainpalais square! / address: 10 rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, CH-1205, Genève / tel: +41 22 320 61 22; website: www.mamco.ch;
- MAH (Le Musée d’Art et d’Histoire) in Geneva – the MAH in Geneva is housed in a magnificent building, has a great play area for children next to the café/restaurant, and offers guided family visits one Wednesday per month at 10h30, 14h30 and 15h30, «Visites à tout petits pas» – each month, a new theme to discover the museum and its works with little ones 3 to 5 years (accompanied by an adult) / supported by the Fondation Genevoise de Bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera / FREE! / duration: about 30mins / more information: www.mah-geneve.ch or post / address: rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206, Geneva;
- MEG (Musée Ethnographique de Genève) – one of MBFF’s favourite museums in Geneva, we have taken part in lots of the creative workshops and a storytelling session here . . . at this museum, you travel the world with your children . . . there are even workshops/storytelling available for babies and toddlers! / on the first Sunday of the month: Baby Bazaar (0 to 2 years) éveil musical – from 14h to 15h15 and from 15h30 to 16h30, accompanying adult required, FREE! / «Cap sur . . . avec Tohu Wa Bohu» éveil musical (from 2 years, with accompanying adult) from 15h45 to 16h45, music, song, dance, FREE! / see website for more details, or see post / address: Boulevard Carl-Vogt 65-67,1205, Geneva, Switzerland / tel: +41 (0)22 418 45 50;
Family/Children’s Events throughout the year
- Toussaint – Festival les Petits Asticots au Pays du Mont-Blanc (theatre, music, storytelling, magic, circus, workshops, dance) for little ones and bigger ones / Cinémanimation Festival in the Chamonix Valley / Les Petits Princes de l’Automne and du Printemps in Megève;
- Springtime – Easter egg hunts . . . / re-opening of certain parks (Parc de Merlet, Jardin des Cimes, Gorges de la Diosaz) after winter hibernation!
- Autumn – harvest festivals and foires agricoles in the Pays du Mont-Blanc;
- August – Festival Les Enfants d’Abord in Sallanches / Festival Au Bonheur des Mômes in Grand St-Bernard;
- November/December – Christmas markets, storytelling, spectacles, visits from Santa, seasonal ice-skating, sledging . . .