Under the gaze of the Eiffel Tower is a splendid park for children that most tourists miss, simply because they fail to go about half a mile towards L’Ecole Militaire. So this remains a little exclusive haven for Parisians to enjoy.
There are two main play areas for children at the park, one for little tykes from 2-5, and another for “big kids”, (from tough and daring little ones to ten year-olds), with a larger jungle gym for climbing. There is also a ping pong table (bring paddles and ball), and sufficient room to play hide and seek and a game of catch or soccer/football.
There is another area with full sized basketball courts and a mini soccer/football court for a pick up game — usually occupied by teenagers and adults.
Next to the play area is a kiosk where you can buy ice cream, coffee, other drinks, crêpes, sandwiches, treats and toys for the kids.
Behind this is a carousel that is cranked by hand. Children are given a baton to play “catch the ring”, a game in which children, while mounted on their horses, try to catch little rings placed on a rack as the carousel turns. The game is derived from a version Louis XIV of France created. Marie Antoinette was particularly fond of playing this game on her own carousel of wooden horses at Versailles. Centuries later, children still love playing this game of “catch the rings”, which is simply a delight to watch.
In the same area, you can rent go-carts for 2 euros (kids only). Kids get seven laps around the raceway, pedalling the go-carts by foot as fast as they can.
I have also played baseball with my son, but we needed to find a spot where hitting a ball would not cause havoc by nearby pedestrians. One time we played and a French man with his two young sons came by, so six of us had a little game of baseball, and to my surprise the French boys knew how to bat, pitch and case. They even said “striiiike” and “ooot.”
Champs de Mars is also perfect for a picnic, and in the summer the green lawn is full of people and families, having a picnic with wine, baguette, cheese and other French delights.
Champs de Mars is one of my favorite Parisian parks any time of the year, and one of those surprising little secrets that too many people miss out on when trying to see Le Best of Paris.