Small in size but big in the hearts of those who grew up frequenting its paths, the Jardin d’Acclimatation – legendary leisure park in western Paris located in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne and inaugurated in 1860 by Napoleon III – does not continues to modernize to attract new visitors. Completely renovated in 2018, it reopened its doors on June 1 with new attractions imagined in a “steampunk” universe, straight out of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. A necessary modernization for this former scientific garden dedicated – as its name suggests – to the acclimatization of exotic animal species such as giraffes, camels and kangaroos, and transformed during the 1950s into a leisure park, but which had ended up becoming “boring” over the years in the words of the garden’s president and CEO, Marc-Antoine Jamet.

But if since this global overhaul, the Jardin d’Acclimatation has found a new lease of life, it is still struggling to fill up with 1.65 million visitors in 2023, compared to 1.735 million in 2019. Among them, 74% of families, and a clientele made up of 32% first-time visitors and 29% repeat visitors. As a result, after several complicated years in terms of attendance, marked by the Yellow Vest crisis and then that of Covid-19, the year 2023 was once again difficult, due to an inflationary context. “I’m not telling you anything by telling you that when you’re looking to save money, you first reduce your leisure budget. This is why it is clear that we must change our offer, be more qualitative than quantitative (…) in order to attract a clientele which is more volatile than before,” underlines the park boss, who noted “ a global change in the behavior of visitors who spend less or return less quickly. To do this, the latter can count on the unwavering support of the LVMH group, to which it belongs.

Powerful financial support, the LVMH group, owner and main shareholder of the Jardin d’Acclimatation and the neighboring Louis Vuitton Foundation, did not hesitate – just a few years after investing 70 million euros in the renovation of the site – to spend another 12 million euros to treat themselves to a brand new attraction. Named “the son of the dragon”, since it will replace “the dragon” which in 1987 was the very first fixed roller-coaster in France, it was ordered across the Rhine, from the German “pope” of construction of attractions, Gerstlauer. A “fairly extraordinary new attraction” expected for the first quarter of 2025, welcomes Marc-Antoine Jamet, who also targets a “less childish” clientele, with parents or big brothers “who did not necessarily find what they were looking for” among the proposed offer.

And if the great classics of the Jardin d’Acclimatation, the enchanted river, the flying chairs or even the aviary, have not changed, the management of the park wants to go all out on virtual reality which has, in recent years, taken on a important place within the Jardin d’Acclimatation. This season, several “digital centers” have been created: the kinetorium, an interactive adventure open to ages 8 and up, the Snow Adventure ice toboggan run, the Ball-O-Mania interactive game stands as well as, big new for 2024, the Jurassic Island adventure. The pitch? The dinosaurs have returned to Earth and invaded the park; the young adventurers sitting in their chairs but wearing their virtual reality headset will have to escape them. “We don’t have the Spielberg license, but we are at the heart of the classic film,” smiles the CEO of the park.

At the same time, the latter wants the Jardin d’Acclimatation to continue to host more and more themed festivals. After the “Dragons and Lanterns” festival this winter, several events will be organized there: from April 6 to May 12 first, with a large circus under a big top where two shows per day of “jumpline”, juggling, clown and acrobatics, then on Sunday March 31 with a huge egg hunt by Ferrero or on Sunday May 26 for the great Indian festival of colors “Happy Holi” and from October 5 to November 11 for the All Saints’ Day holidays, the “Dia de los muertos”, a major popular festival anchored in Mexican culture. Finally, the Jardin d’Acclimatation takes part in the “Family festival” of the Louis Vuitton Foundation. A “very qualitative” meeting, to “ensure that contemporary art and leisure can come together”.

In addition, the CEO of Jardin d’Acclimatation intends to “offer more services” that are a bit premium, particularly in the gastronomy section. From March 30, a cocktail bar will open within the park, “with an expanded offering and a certain number of virgin cocktails”. A pizza oven will also be attached to the Italian restaurant Da Antonino, “with a takeaway service” for those who prefer to have a picnic. At the start of the 2024 school year, a 19-meter-high Ferris wheel will be installed in the heart of the park. And the cherry on the cake, Marc-Antoine Jamet fought to get the Olympic flame to pass through the Jardin d’Acclimatation on July 15. “We are going to try to make it an extraordinary celebration, while the flame must spend around forty minutes between the Vuitton Foundation and the passage through the park,” he rejoices.

An ambitious program for this park whose adage is that it is “never quite the same, nor quite another” in the words dear to Verlaine. But will these new features be enough to lift it to third place on the podium among major French theme parks, behind Disneyland and Parc Astérix? “We are still neck and neck with the Puy du Fou and the Futuroscope, but the Jardin d’Acclimatation, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, at attractive prices, almost has a sponsorship vocation. Our objective is already to be in balance and then after…” assures the CEO, who recalls that single entry is 7 euros, and entry with unlimited access to attractions from 46 euros.