Plailly_Parc Astérix © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent ColinPlailly_Parc Astérix © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin
©Plailly, Parc Astérix |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin

Top 10 fun activities to share

The Hauts-de-France region is blessed with activities for families, each more fun than the next. From unusual rides in classic 2CVs and boating around the floating gardens of Les Hortillonnages to watching seals on the coast. Or why not visit Europe’s largest aquarium, climb an old mine slag heap that’s thriving with new life or zip through tree top canopies? One thing is for sure: you’ll never be bored here.

Northern France _ Boulogne-Sur-Mer_Nausicaá aquarium © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS FlamentNorthern France _ Boulogne-Sur-Mer_Nausicaá aquarium © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS Flament
©Northern France, Boulogne-Sur-Mer, Nausicaá aquarium |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Anne-Sophie Flament
Loos-en-Gohelle

01. Climb to the top of a slag heap

Who said this is a flat region? There are more than 340 hill-like slag heaps in the UNESCO-listed mining basin that were formed over time during the coal mining era. From the top of the twin heaps in Loos-en-Gohelle, the view stretches as far as the eye can see – 19 miles (30 kilometres) and a 360-degree vista. They may rise steeply, and it’s great to see kids using their energy to climb higher and higher, in part motivated by the animals that dart across the path – lizards, blackbirds, blue tits and great tits have all made their homes here. Once at the summit, breathe the clean air, enjoy the silence and share the joy as a family. Good memories all round!

Amiens

02. Take a boat around the floating gardens in Amiens

 

 

Have your children ever climbed aboard small boats like these before? Boats with their flat bottoms and distinctive shape that aids docking? Have they had the chance to cruise more than 740 acres (300 hectares) of unique canals? If not, then this is the perfect chance. Float serenely through the blooming vegetable and flower gardens of Les Hortillonnages, around islands reclaimed by nature, through marshes and past large areas of woodland. Shhh – listen! There is nothing but calm, yet the city borders this peaceful place – you may even glance the cathedral as you round the bend. You’ll likely catch sight of the birds that live here and be able to greet a gardener as they tend their precious patch. There is more than enough here to spend a fun weekend together.

 

Lille

03. Lille in a 2CV with Tradi’Balade

Introduce the kids to that mythical and enduringly popular French car: the 2CV. Who’s going to drive – Mum or Dad? Tradi’Balade rents convertible 2CVs, entirely refurbished for an unusual ride around Lille – an unforgettable and unusual moment to share as a family.

Berck-sur-Mer

04. Seal watching in Authie bay

Here’s an idea that’s a bit out of the ordinary – and an experience sure to please young and old alike. At low tide – or from about two and a half hours before – the bay’s sand banks start to emerge, along with a colony of up to 100 seals. They come to sunbathe and rest before the tide returns. To see these harbour and grey seals, simply take the Chemin aux raisins from the nautical centre in Berck-sur-Mer. You’ll be astounded to see the seals just 165 feet (50 metres) in front of you. Take care not to scare the seals as they can be timid, and be sure to follow safety advice.

Baie de Somme

05. The Somme bay railway

It’s all aboard to step back into the 1900s on this original steam train ride. The Bains de Mer network links Le Crotoy to Cayeux-sur-Mer and provides an authentic experience the kids won’t forget in a hurry. Listen to the whistles of the conductor, hear the blast of steam from the chimney, the piercing toot of the locomotive and the hypnotic clanking of the wheels on the rails.

You can even rent a bike from the departure station in Noyelles and peacefully ride cross-country to another station before hopping on the steam train for the return trip. It’s time to depart!

Hauts-de-France

06. Adventures in the tree canopy

Do you sometimes tell your kids to stop being cheeky monkeys? Well now they can live up to the name at one of the many climbing and scrambling trails in the trees of Hauts-de-France. Often called accrobranches, you can discover them in Ailly-sur-Noye, Lille, Val Joly, at Lac de l’Ailette, in the forests of St-Amand and Phalempin, and in a pretty citadel setting in Arras. These adventure trails for all ages are not to be missed – especially as they usually end with a thrilling zipline descent.

Boulogne-sur-Mer

07. Dive into the largest aquarium in Europe: Nausicaa

How about going nose to nose with millions of fish at Nausicaa in Boulogne-sur-Mer? Be enchanted by the mysterious jellyfish, shudder at the sight of sharks – the knights of the sea – and discover the agility of sea lions. Most of all, simply marvel at the grand spectacle of the sea in front of you: a glass tank of 3500 square feet (100 square metres) behind which you can see regal manta rays, sharks and shoals of fish. More than 40 species in total live here, an unedited panorama of marine life usually only seen under the high seas. Open your eyes wide to make the most of it.

Chantilly

08. Peek behind the scenes of Chantilly’s equestrian world

Discover life at an elite horse racing stable. It’s a world that children will enjoy getting to know – and a world that’s often closed to the public. See the lives of race horses up close and witness the inner workings of Bois Saint Denis, Chantilly’s famous horseracing district. See trainee jockeys, vets, trainers and farriers at work before capping the day off with a show under the majestic dome of the Grandes Ecuries de Chantilly.

Plailly

09. Upside down at Parc Asterix

Oxygénarium, Tonnerre de Zeus, Pégas Express, Discobélix … or maybe you prefer Goudurix? All these mythical-sounding names are actually attractions at the Asterix amusement park, which boasts over 40 rides. From tranquil roundabouts for the little ones to twists and turns at 50mph (80km/h) for everyone else – with lots in between. Upside down, stomach-churning accelerations, complete disorientation … You’ll need time for them all. Why not stay for the weekend in one of the park’s three hotels?

Chamouille

10. A bike ride along the Voie Verte de l’Ailette

Saddle up for 10 miles (17 kilometres) of blissful cycle paths – 0% cars but 100% solitude. Ride in complete safety on the Voie Verte de l’Ailette, a car-free cycle path from Monampteuil to Vauclair (south of Laon) that’s ideal for kids. Ride through forests, pastures and wetlands before finishing near the 1000-year-old Vauclair Abbey. Consider taking a picnic in your panniers – there are loads of great spots along the way, including Lac de l’Ailette, which is designated as a protected natural zone and has lots of fun family activities.