Explore Lyon, capital of the Rhône-Alpes. The Lumière brothers hailed from this city, and it’s here that you’ll find the fascinating Musée Miniature et Cinéma Lyon, where older kids will enjoy seeing both painstakingly crafted miniature interiors and life-size film sets. There’s more cinema history at the Musée Lumière, including rotating screenings of the brothers’ vast number of films, each lasting about 50 seconds. The Musée Gadagne is also worth a look for its puppets from around the world, in addition to its displays on the city’s history. Some of the puppets are more than a little creepy – something that could also be said of the animated mechanical figures acting out little tableaux at the Musée des Automates. Still, kids love ‘em. Lastly, the shiny modern Musée des Confluences has fascinating natural history and anthropology displays. It's located in the former docks area, alongside La Sucrerie – a gallery and music venue in an old sugar factory.
Blow off some steam in Lyon’s riverside Parc de la Tête d'Or – the biggest park in any French city – which has a boating lake, a small zoo, boules, pony rides, two mini-trains, karting, cycling, carousels and more. Also within the city, France Aventures Lyon Fourvière is an ‘ecology theme-park’ with treetop acrobatic circuits for different age groups, beginning at age four (minimum height 1m). (There’s another treetop course, Parcours d'Aventures du Haut Beaujolais, in the north of the département.)
Take a trip back in time at Salva Terra, a medieval adventure and leisure park about 50km from Lyon, with reconstructions of daily life in the Middle Ages, games and activities, re-enactments of battles (some of which you can even join in), storytelling, music and so on.
Venture deep into the forest west of Lyon, to the Parc de Courzieu, where you can watch falconry displays, observe wolves (adults and babies) close up and follow a ‘wolf trail’ with interactive games, including a maze and a giant wolf’s head to play inside.
Get on your bike. Cyclists are particularly well catered for in Rhône, with three traffic-free Voies Vertes – flat ‘Green Routes’ also open to walkers, Rollerbladers, buggy-pushers and wheelchair-users. They include the 7km Chemin des Mûriers lined by mulberry trees producing local silk, and a part of the véloroute leading from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. Most Voies Vertes have bike-hire outlets nearby.
Swim in the scenic, fir-surrounded Lac des Sapins 65km north-west of Lyons. Other watersports are available, as are mountain-biking, volleyball and more, and you can camp or stay in chalets perfect for outdoorsy family holidays.