Paris With Kids: The Louvre

Architect I.M. Pei's iconic glass pyramid in the Louvre center courtyard.Yes, you can take kids to a “boring old art museum,” but try to have realistic expectations.

Teenagers and older children will see things that they recognize from school texts, and they may even stumble upon artworks that they fall in love with (much to their own surprise, and you know they won’t give you the satisfaction of telling you when they do.)

Younger kids actually like all of the eye candy, as long as the crowds aren’t too insane, you have a rough plan of attack and you keep moving.

In my view, the best distillation of the key items to see and appreciate, plus how to most effectively get to them, is Rick Steves’ guidebook “Europe 101: History & Art for the Traveler” (formerly “Mona Winks,” which you can still find on Amazon.)

True art historians may find them a bit too flippant and simplistic, but those of us in the stroller brigade who can’t lug around 10 pound “serious” tomes appreciate any help we can get (Rick travels with his kids, so he understands.)

Key items to remember:

** What day are you going? The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and some holidays. Check the museum Web site.

** Would a late-day visit work better for you? All wings of the museum are open late on Wednesdays and Fridays until 9:45 p.m. Otherwise it’s 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

** Tickets: Kids under 18 are free! If you’re an art teacher with credentials, you are too. For other free admission options, see here. Avoid standing in line at one of the entrances, and review the many options for getting tickets in advance (mailed ahead to your home) or at other locations in Paris such as the Galleries Lafayette department store or the Virgin Megastore.

Consider the Paris Museum and Monuments Pass, which gets you into most of the “biggies” (the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, etc.) Get it at a number of Paris locations, shown here.

** Don’t Go Hungry. Just a reminder that taking hungry (or sleepy) kids anywhere that demands good behavior will result in someone going insane, usually the parent. There are restaurants and cafes inside the museum, but try to be fortified before you go, and recognize that moment when the only answer is to get out of the Etruscan sarcophagi and get some chow.

** What To See. I cannot begin to capture the scope of the Louvre’s 35,000 works of art, so sorry, class, you’ll have to do some homework. In addition to the Steves book, the museum Web site has a great section for young people, so your family can pick the things that interest them and get a sense of the layout of the buildings. The site even has thematic trails, such as this one on Louvre masterpieces that celebrate beauty (there’s your La Gioconda, or the Mona Lisa as we call it.) You can also pick up a museum handbook in English as you enter, plus there are the usual guided tours and audio tours available.

** Getting There: The closest Metro stop is Palais-Royal/Musee du Louvre. For more entrance options, see the map here.

Have an artistically great time!

Winged Victory, Louvre, Paris (Scarborough photo)