• Summer Holiday City Breaks with a Child-Friendly Twist

    by  • July 6, 2015 • Amsterdam, Art, Children, City Breaks, Exhibitions, Film, New York, Paris, Utrecht

    From Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, New York to the Netherlands, toddlers to teenagers, captivate the kids with a child-friendly exhibition.

    The summer holidays are fast approaching and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re going to fill six weeks of lazy school-free days with interesting, inspirational ideas and outings that will enthral and entertain your beloved offspring. Many will be staying close to home and doing day trips, others will be taking advantage of the extended break to have a fortnight’s foray to far-flung climes in search of sun, sea and relaxation. But why not consider a city break to one of Europe’s capitals, or indeed somewhere a little more long-haul? Here are just a few events happening across Europe and beyond with a child-friendly twist.

    Last week saw the grand unveiling of ‘The Hunger Games: The Exhibition’ at Discovery Times Square in New York and for those with youths of the teenage variety, this looks to be a fabulous look into the hit franchise of The Hunger Games and the turbulent world of Katniss Everdeen as she emerges from her humble origins in District 12 to become the Mockingjay.

    Running through until the end of the year, this hands-on, interactive exhibition explores the art, science, pageantry and history of the world of Panem through props, set recreations and the unique costumes as worn by Katniss and her fellow cast members in the film franchise. Explore Districts 12 and 13, board the Tribute Train to the Capitol and tour President Snow’s mansion. You can even sit down for an interview with the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman.

    The exhibition is open daily from 9am until 8pm (9pm Thursday to Saturday) and tickets can be pre-booked for specific entrance every half an hour. Adults cost $29.50, seniors $27.50, children (3-11 years) $22.50. Discovery Times Square is located at 226 West 44th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, directly across from Shubert Alley.

    If New York is a bit too far, why not consider a quick jaunt under the Channel and take the Eurostar to Paris where there’s a few child-friendly exhibitions already underway?

    First up is the Harry Potter™ touring exhibition taking place at La Cité du Cinéma, arriving in France for the first time and running through the summer until September 6th. Having already attracted over three million visitors worldwide, this popular exhibition brings together hundreds of original props, costumes, creatures and sets from this successful film franchise, all expertly positioned and displayed in authentically-recreated Hogwarts settings such as the Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut and the Gryffindor Common Room. Amongst the many exhibits, you’ll see Harry’s very own glasses and wand, see some of the props used in Professor Snape’s potions class and the defence against the dark arts. There’s also a quiddich area where you can toss a quaffle, wander amidst the Forbidden Forest and explore the herbology section.

    Entrance is at half-hourly intervals with opening from 10.30am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday, and from 9.30am until 8pm on the weekends. Tickets cost 22€ for adults or 17€ for children aged 4 – 14 years (under fours are free). You’ll find the Cité du Cinéma on the outskirts of Paris in Saint Denis at 20, Rue Ampère, easily accessible by the Metro (line 13) and RER B/D).

    At Art Ludique – Le Musée meanwhile is an exhibition devoted to the much-loved characters created by Aardman Animations. Entitled ‘Aardman, Art that Takes Shape’, the exhibition explores the work of Bristol-based Aardman and its most famous characters, with a wealth of exhibits sure delight visitors of all ages. As you’d expect, the stars of the show take centre stage with over 50 authentic characters and sets on display such as Wallace’s cracking contraptions, Gromit’s vegetable garden, the flying machine from Chicken Run, the five-metre-tall pirates galleon from The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! and some of the sets from Aardman’s latest release, Shaun the Sheep The Movie.

    You’ll also get to see over 350 concept drawings, character and background studies, watercolours and storyboards, including – never before seen by the public – Nick Park’s sketchbook in which, as a student, he created his first drawings of the eponymous Wallace and Gromit. Furthermore, there also more than 60 short and feature films, advertisements and video clips created by the award-winning Aardman team, guaranteed to leave you smiling!

    The exhibition runs all the way through the summer until August 30th, thus a perfect addition to a summer break en famille. Entrance costs 15.50€ per adult or 10€ for children aged four to 10 years (12.50€ concessions). To beat the queues, you can also buy tickets online for an extra euro. Art Ludique – Le Musée is open daily from 10am and can be found at Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design, 34 Quai d’Austerlitz.

    Celebrating 40 years of Paris’ Musée en Herbe, this lesser-known museum is currently playing host to an exhibition devoted to Tintin entitled ‘Tintin’s Imaginary Museum’. You’ll be able to see up close a number of original drawings as created by the Tintin cartoonist, Hergé as well as images from the enduring Tintin cartoon series alongside complementing ethnological memorabilia such as an Egyptian sarcophagus and a cap and pipe from China. Set close to the Palais Royal and Les Halles on the Rue Hérold, the Musée en Herbe is open daily from 10am until 7pm (until 9pm on Thursdays). A ‘visite libre’ costs 6€.

    If you fancy a trip to Amsterdam at the end of the school holidays, there’s an exhibition devoted to Miffy creator, Dick Bruna on at the city’s Rijksmuseum, in the Philips Wing. Running from 27th August through until 15th November (an option for October half-term perhaps?), this exhibition features 60 prints and drawings by Bruna himself (including Miffy), alongside complementing works from the Rijksmuseum’s own collection including pieces by Matisse, Léger, Werkman and Van der Leck. The Rijksmuseum is open daily from 9am until 5pm, tickets cost 17.50€ for adults and are free for under 18s.

    If a few works by Miffy aren’t quite enough however, take a short day trip to the town of Utrecht (launch pad for this year’s Tour de France and a mere 29-minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station) where, running until September 20th, is an exhibition at the city’s Centraal Museum entitled ‘Celebrating 60 Years of Miffy’. Perfect for toddlers, this hands-on, birthday-themed exhibition stimulates all the senses with music, dance and even smell as little visitors are invited to crawl through a giant birthday cake! Closed Mondays, the Centraal Museum is otherwise open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am until 5pm. Adults cost 11€, children 13 – 17 years 5€; 2 to 12 years 2.50€.


    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.