Urban Kids is an indoor play centre aimed at children from nine months to 13 in Venelles, just outside Aix en Provence.
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Even in Provence, families need a covered, heated / air-conditioned space now and again to escape from the cold winter Mistral, the torrential spring and autumn rains or the blazing midsummer sun. And that applies to tourists just as much as locals.
Urban Kids is 1,000 square metres / 10,800 square feet, well under half the size of its rival, Legend'aire (2,600 square metres / 28,000 square feet), with accompanying disadvantages and advantages.
Obviously, there's less space and a smaller range of attractions. On the other hand, Urban Kids is cheaper than Legend'aire and mums who have tried out both parks report that it has a more intimate atmosphere.
In particular, Urban Kids is more suitable for smaller children and the birthday parties which are hosted there are said to be better supervised.
Its games and rides include tunnels, sledges, a ball pool, giant Lego, go-karting and tobogganing tracks, trampolines and model car rides, for which there is an extra charge. Note: both adults and children are required to wear socks in the play areas.
The area for very young children, pictured, features bright foam-rubber carpets and stairs and the park mascot, Mimi Mouse, is in attendance. There's a crèche with organised games for children aged four and up.
The café area serves the usual pizzas, chicken nuggets, fries and pancakes, but also slightly healthier fare such as salads and tagines (North African stews). As at many other such parks in France, you're not allowed to bring your own picnics. Other facilities include free car parking and wi-fi.
Urban Kids has various day rates (check its website for the latest prices) and children under the age of one get in free. A useful feature is the "discovery" tariff – 4.50€ for an hour. Perfect if your time is limited or simply if you don't want to spend a whole day in an indoor playground.
It's also open on Friday and Saturday early evening for older "children" (i.e. youngsters aged 15-plus, who would probably be furious at being described as such). For them, it offers DJs, games, laser light shows, sweets, cakes and soft drinks.
Where: Urban Kids, 35 avenue de la Grande Bégude, 13770 Venelles. Tel: (+33) 4 42 38 71 92 Website for Urban Kids
How to get there:
Despite its name, Urban Kids is not in the city centre but on a shopping and trading estate in Venelles, a small town ten km / six miles north-east of Aix.
To drive there from Aix or Marseille, take the A51 motorway towards Gap and use exit 13. Then turn left at the first roundabout and follow the signs marked "zone d'activité" (or "espace d'activité"). Urban Kids is near the sports shop Mod'n Sport.
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By public transport from Aix, catch a bus at La Rotonde and get off at the rond point de la Gare roundabout, by the Botanic garden centre (you may have to change buses). From there it is a short (three to five minute) walk along the avenue de la Grande Bégude to Urban Kids.