Four Days in Paris: What to Do and Where to Go

GUEST BLOG: Guest blogger Kam Smith of highlights a four-day adventure with her family in Paris. "We are an average family living in a crazy busy world, trying to juggle work, school and family responsibilities. As a multi-generational family, we are always growing and changing," Smith says. 

Guest blogger Kam Smith and her family travel together and share their wanderlust adventures on their blog.

Guest blogger Kam Smith and her family travel together and share their wanderlust adventures on their blog.

"We have found that traveling together with our family of eight—from grandparents down to the little grandbaby—provides a 'time-out' where we can reconnect with the ones we love the most without daily interruptions or distractions. We have been to six continents and more than 40 countries together! Our family adventures are tremendously educational and most of all, fun! It is our goal to encourage other families to take a 'time out' together and explore our amazing world!" To follow their adventures, visit their Instagram. PHOTOGRAPHY: All credit and copyrights by


Oh, Paris! It is hard to beat this beautiful city of lights. For many of our readers, Paris tops their bucket list but many are not sure where to begin when planning a trip to the city of lights. In order to provide some direction, we have put together our Paris Highlight Tour for those on a tight budget and have only four days to spend in this magical city!

While we suggest you spend at least a week in Paris (we think there are so much to do to really enjoy the city), we understand that most people visit Paris while on their European tour and can only set aside three to four days for their visit and want to see the highlights.

Before we get to our four-day highlight tour, a couple of notes:

Taxi or Metro

When we travel to Paris, we like to take taxi cabs. We feel like the taxi cabs are moderately priced and can often get you from point A to point B faster than the Metro. And sometimes, time is money. That being said, the Metro is far cheaper and if you are traveling in a larger group it can be easier than having to flag down a taxi van (these are few and far between in Paris). For a great resource on navigating the Paris Metro, click here.


Where To Stay

Just like any big city, there are very good parts as well as places you might want to avoid. Our favorite location is anywhere close to or along Rue de Rivoli. It is central, safe, has a fantastic metro stop, and is within walking distance of almost every major landmark. We have stayed at both the Westin Paris Vendome and The Renaissance Paris Vendome and really enjoyed both. We also really like the Saint Germain des Prés area. It is central, quaint and feels "oh so Parisian." There are several boutique hotels that are DARLING and don’t break the budget, you can find some good options here! Keep in mind, as a general rule, hotel rooms in Paris are much smaller than their U.S. counterparts. Just embrace it as part of the Paris experience.

Paris Pass or Paris Museum Pass

If you are planning on using the Metro, and you plan on going nonstop—spring for the Paris Pass. If you plan on getting around mostly by walking or taxi because you want to savor the city, get the Museum Pass. We have used both and have found that they aid in avoiding lines. However, for us and how we travel, we prefer the Museum Pass as it costs less money in the long run. That being said, a couple of things on our list are not included on the Museum Pass which are on the Paris Pass. For these attractions, we just purchase the ticket on our own. Overall, we prefer the Museum Pass and think it is a better value. Take a look at the prices, the attractions each of the passes offer, and pick what suits your needs best.

Our Itinerary Style and Speed

We have learned over the years and through our countless trips that it is far more enjoyable to plan a doable itinerary. We like to take in the sites, experience the locations and really savor and enjoy each of the things that we plan. If our itineraries are too rushed, we become cranky, tired, and things can turn into a drag. Be realistic about what you are capable of and keep in mind the time change and jet-lag factor.

We love to leave “free time” each day to take a rest, explore on our own or if we are feeling up to it, visit something on our optional list. For this itinerary, we were a little zealous on the Google maps and gave our must-do for each of the days and then a couple of optional items. Don’t feel like you have to do everything listed on the maps—pick and choose what suits you!


What to Do in Paris: Day 1

Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Laduree, and a Seine River Cruise

What to do in Paris: Tips

Book Eiffel Tower tickets AHEAD of time! You can usually book about six to eight weeks in advance. We have eaten at the restaurants on the Eiffel Tower and do not suggest them. We find them overpriced, rushed, crowded, and with subpar food. Rather than spend time at the restaurant, it is more enjoyable to take the elevator to the top for 17 euros and have a leisurely walk down. The views are remarkable and it is fantastic to see Gustave’s engineering during the descent.

You can book your tickets here. It is important to note that the Eiffel Tower is one of the few things that is not offered as an attraction on the Museum Pass or Paris Pass. You must book tickets separately if you want to visit.

When visiting the Arc de Triomphe, you have to enter underground on the opposite end of the CRAZY Triomphe roundabout. Make sure to climb to the top and take in the stunning panoramic views of the tower, Champs Elysees, and surrounding areas. We have also found that it is advantageous to get the panoramic views in at the beginning of the trip because it can help you gain your bearings. We LOVE to be on the top of the Arc during dusk and at the first Eiffel tower sparkle of the night (this is possible depending on the time of year). There is something so magical about watching the sun go down and all of the sudden see the tower start to sparkle. (Yes, the lights really do sparkle every hour on the hour after dark—it is magnificent!)

Stop in at the quintessential Laduree for some seriously scrumptious macarons. My favorite flavor is vanilla—totally divine!

A night river cruise on the Seine is such a blast. (Did you get that? Just in case you didn’t—it is so much fun!) And again, it is a great way to get an overview of the city and to get your bearings. Also, there are not many things that can beat the views of the Parisian lights from the Seine!

What to do in Paris Optional List: Visit Grand Palais, Petite Palais and the Champs Elysees Gardens


What to do in Paris: Day 2

Il De La Citie, Cluny Museum, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chappelle, Latin Quarter, Pantheon, Hotel de Ville, Les Marais, and Place des Vosges

What to do in Paris: Tips

If you can visit Notre Dame right when it opens. However, that requires more walking as you need to backtrack down to the Latin Quarter and back up. Notre Dame can get super busy and it is far more enjoyable when there are not a million people pushing and throwing elbows. As of right now, it currently opens at 8:00 am. The crypts are worth visiting and we love walking around the grounds. Visiting the back of Notre Dame is a must. There is a cute little park that the littles love to play at. Don’t forget to check out the flying buttresses!

Make note that on Sundays at 4:30 pm, there are free Organ Concerts at Notre Dame. We haven’t been able to make it but I look forward to going this next trip this fall. I hear only great things about it!

Sainte-Chapelle is a beautiful little jewel box and is absolutely NOT to be missed. It is glorious. Make note that it is kind of tucked behind the main square, be sure to ask someone if you need help finding it. It can be a little tricky to find.

Don’t forget to stop at the darling carousel at the Hotel de Ville! Especially if you have little kids–or if you don’t haha. (I think the carousel is the CUTEST and I am nearly 28).

What to do in Paris Optional List: Explore the Conciergerie, Picasso Museum, The Memorial de la Shoah and Victor Hugo’s House.


What to do in Paris: Day 3

The Louvre, Opéra Garnier, Place de la Concorde, Des Invalides, Napoleon’s Tomb, and Orsay Gallery

What to do in Paris Tips

For this day, we suggest taking a break in the afternoon and then going to the Orsay Gallery in the evening. There is a charming restaurant at the Orsay Gallery that offers moderately priced food. The location and setting can not be beat! The Orsay Gallery is one of our favorite museums in the entire world. It is lovely, open, and offers exceptional 18th and 19th century art.

The Louvre! Okay, so the Louvre is amazing, but it is also VERY overwhelming. We suggest getting a guide to help you navigate, or plan out your trip beforehand and try to visit first thing in the morning. Like Notre Dame, it can get crowded VERY quickly. It is not out of the realm of reality to get lost and feel overwhelmed by all of the people, the expansive buildings and the enormous collection of absolutely stunning artwork. Just beware, it can be information overload.

Know your threshold. I am currently working toward my masters degree in art history and spending more than 3 ½ hours is just too much for me in one visit. Don’t expect to see EVERYTHING. Pick what you want to see the most, and seek it out. If you are not sure what you want to see but know you want to pay a visit to the Louvre, check out this fantastic highlights trail plan found on the museum website.

Subscribe to our blog see our upcoming post on planning a trip to a major museum. (I am also thinking about putting together a Louvre Highlights Guide??? Let me know if you think that would be worthwhile!)

What to do in Paris Optional List: Visit the Rodin Museum and Orangerie


What to do in Paris: Day 4

Plan A: Versailles

Plan B: Montmartre Area and Free Time to Explore the City

Okay, so this might go against the grain of almost everything you will read and hear–are you ready? If you are dying to see Versailles and you think this might be the only chance you will get to visit France–then totally go. However, like mentioned above, there is so much to do in the city and if we were only visiting for four days–we would stay in the city and enjoy our last day by going to Montmartre in the morning and taking it easy in the city center for the rest of the day. But again, do what works for you!

Plan A – Versailles

Don’t get us wrong. We love Versailles! LOVE Versailles. It is opulent, grand, and exceptional. But, it is out of the way and it isn’t something you want to rush through. If you decide to visit, make sure you set aside a whole day. Visit the beautiful gardens, and our favorite things to visit at Versailles are Marie Antoinette’s Trianon and Hamlet. You will feel like you’ve stepped foot into The Beauty and the Beast. It is adorable and you can’t help but feel sad for the queen’s fateful end.

Plan B – Sacre Coeur,  Montmartre District, The Love Wall, Picasso’s Atelier, and The Place du Tertre Open Art Market

Montmartre is like a city within a city. It is hilly, bohemian, and has been part of the avant-garde scene for over a century. The narrow streets are a stark difference to the large Haussmann boulevards in the city center. It has a more laid back feel and is very artsy. Oh, the “feels.” In our opinion, Montmartre is best viewed from the streets by leisurely walking around. We love the art market (where the artists are real artists, and not just selling some mass-produced postcards.)  The artists who cut out facial silhouettes are our favorites!

What to do in Paris Optional List: Visit Moulin Rouge, Pigalle* and the Montmartre Funicular.

*A special caution:  Be careful taking children through Moulin Rouge and Pigalle, especially after dark. The area can be a little “spicy.”  

Paris in Four Days Conclusion

Paris pretty much rocks, and honestly we think we could spend a month there and still have SO much to do. That being said, if you only have four days we hope this gives you a good overview of the highlights of the city and what to do in Paris!

A Trip to the Zoo: The Magic of Meeting the Wildlife

Next to Disney World, nothing gets a kid more excited than the idea of going to the zoo for the first time. Recently, Ariana had her first field trip to the zoo and couldn't contain her excitement. Her entire kindergarten class visited Lowry Park Zoo, a 24-acre facility that houses more than 1,200 wildlife. 


There were many reasons why the little one was beyond thrilled about this field trip. For one, visiting the zoo is better when you have an exploration buddy, in this case, Gabie, who shared every "ohhs" and "ahhs" at the magical sight of giant elephants, playful tigers and splendid manta rays, just to name a few. 


Secondly, this little girl was so excited about the trip because she was eager to go on a school bus for the first time. Yes, this trip was a lot of firsts for this five-year-old! She was more than eager to report that her first bus trip was "magical." Only one other thing could possible top that: Being in the zoo itself and seeing all the rare and endangered animals.   


There are multiple exhibits at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, but her favorite is the Safari Africa exhibit. To experience the full exhibit, we hopped on a Safari trolley where a guide drove us around the entire area and pointed out unfamiliar wildlife in each enclosure. We saw okapis, zebras, cheetahs (the little one's favorite!) as well as magnificent African elephants. Lowry Park Zoo is home to three elephants from Swaziland, one from Namibia and two calves born at the zoo. Our guide also noted that the male elephant is always separated from the rest of the herd as he prefers to be solitary.


When planning a zoo trip with your little one, wait to visit until they are old enough to truly appreciate the full experience. As rookie parents, we made the mistake of taking Ariana too early to the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati in the pastshe was either uninterested or terrified to see the giant mammals. Learning from our mistake, we made the decision to wait until she's older before bringing her to the zoo. This time around, she enjoyed every bit of the experience, including seeing the gigantic rhinocerous up close. 


Don't skip the bird sanctuary when in the zoo. The girls were delighted to see different species of birds, including eagles, hornbills and lovely flamingos in bright tangerine color. They were truly a one-of-a-kind sight to see!


Over at the Florida exhibit, the girls saw the Sunshine State's diverse wildlife, including manatees, crocodiles and the Florida panther. In fact, the girls (above) were simply in awe at these pre-historic-looking creatures.


Next to the sting ray exhibit is the aquarium for otters. The otter was clearly loving the attention as it kept showing off its amazing swimming and diving skills close to the glass where the kids were huddled to get a closer look at the tiny animal. As clearly shown on the little one's face, she was impressed by the little creature's aquatic performance!


Aside from its wildlife exhibits, Lowry Park Zoo also has a mini aquarium which displays sea horses, rare schools of fish, turtles and other amphibians.


Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the tiger and her baby cub play and chase each other. It was so adorable to see these wild creatures play hide-and-seek and playfully pounce on each other. It was almost easy to forget these are natural predators that are, in the wild, born to haunt and prey. 

Overall, it was such a wonderful experience for the kids. On the way home, this little girl summed up her day: "Best day ever!"

Sponge Docks: A Little Taste of Greece (Part I)

When I think of Greece, I think of its storied history, temple ruins, mythical gods and undeniable beauty, much like Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships" in Greek mythology. The beautiful island of Greece is definitely on the family's bucket list of places to see, so when we heard of a little Greek community at the Sponge Docks at Tarpon Springs along Tampa Bay, Florida, we took the opportunity to experience a little taste of Greece.  


A trip to the Sponge Docks from where we live is a short 30-minute drive, making it ideal for a quick Saturday family adventure. Despite what mythical stories may tell you, there is no Greek tragedy here. The Sponge Docks came into being after John Cheney discovered the business potential of selling sponges harvested from Florida's rich ocean floor. Cheney was an associate of a wealthy entrepreneur named Hamilton Disston who, in 1880, saved the state of Florida from bankruptcy by purchasing four million acres of land (Tarpon Springs included) from the government.


By 1890, the sponge industry was firmly established at Tarpon Springs. With news of a growing sponge industry, Tarpon Spring's population grew as experienced sponge divers from Greece were soon after hired to help meet a growing market demand. Along with this, tourism exploded as more tourists were eventually drawn to the Sponge Docks to purchase sponges, see the divers in action and indulge in authentic Greek food. 


As more and more Greek divers came to Tarpon Springs for work, they later created a community that continued to celebrate the Greek way of life. Today, a life-sized statue of a sponger stands tall to honor the early divers who helped put Tarpon Springs on the world map as the "Sponge Capital of the World."


Sponges are aquatic animals that cling to a rock or coral. When harvesting, divers gently squeeze out the gurry, a gelatinous substance found in sponges. They then pound and clean the sponges on the ship's deck. Be warned: You'll likely get a whiff of rotten smell while walking by a ship with drying sponges. While the sponges' skin is drying, heat releases a gas that causes a salty, dead-fish smell.


Today, the Sponge Docks offers a lot of quirky finds, including decorated bicycles randomly displayed throughout the street, which are actually art installations by a local artist named Warren Gregory who was inspired to create art bikes from his time in Amsterdam. Visitors and diners may also enjoy acoustic music al fresco-style, with a view of the calm sea, docks and ships. Who could possibly resist a nice glass of wine, gyro or baklava with a stunning view?

Clockwise:  Ariana with her Papaw Arvil at The sponge factory; playing with puppets sold at one of the gift shops and with the rest of the family for a customary photo shoot in front of the divers' memorial.

Clockwise: Ariana with her Papaw Arvil at The sponge factory; playing with puppets sold at one of the gift shops and with the rest of the family for a customary photo shoot in front of the divers' memorial.

At the Sponge Docks, there are surprises at every turn. There are many more to this adventure so keep an eye out of Part II of this travel diary.