First time traveler. Planning to arrive in late-September this year. 35 years old, enjoy getting off the beaten path, taking on local color and tradition. Will do some touristy stuff, but generally avoid it. All suggestions welcome. Thanks!
You might check your local Library or book stores to see if you can find a copy of Rick's France or Paris Guidebooks, as there are lots of suggestions there.
I can certainly make a suggestion on "the usual" sights however it would help to know more about your specific interests, aside from "taking on local color and tradition".
Some sights to consider:
the Eiffel Tower
The Louvre (don't try and tour all of it - it's huge!)
Segway tour of Paris
Notre Dame and other Churches such as St. Chappelle
Day trip to Versailles
Cruise on the the Seine
Hike to the top of the Arc du Triomphe
You might consider hiring a local Guide for a tour of a few hours, as you'll learn a great deal about the history. There are local Guides listed in the book.
You might consider getting a two day Paris Museum Pass as that will minimize your time in queues.
Catacombs in Paris, definately a bit unusual,,
Bike Tours are fun.
If you want to avoid tourists in Paris then don't go.. LOL ,, its going to be filled with them. Really people need to get over their self loathing, you(we) ARE tourists. The sites are NOT tourist traps, which to me denotes a place with no value other then taking your money, the sites in Paris where there are tons of other tourists are busy because most of them are WORTH seeing. Tourists have been flocking there for a few centuries,, LOL join in.
NOw, for some local flavor,, take the metro or bus out of the main area,, and just wander around,, most tourists eat and sleep in central Paris, usually arrondissmont( gee, hope thats spelt right) numbered 1-7,, so if you want to experience less tourists, get out into the other areas,, for sure, but don't avoid central Paris by any means, thats like cutting off your nose to spite your face,.
i agree with aboves, but unless you get invited home for lunch i don't know where you'll find "tradition"... as i've previously mentioned try the Rue d'Avron for color and a mix of cultures. No museums, but real people.
Search online for local weekly markets in Paris. I live in the 15th arr. right now and we have a great open air, fresh market every Sunday. It's a good way to buy some fresh food and pretend to be French for the morning.
My personal favorite is to stroll around Paris neighborhood. RS has suggestions of Paris walk (like Marais walk) but what I did I walked wherever my feet took me. By doing that I experienced so many things... beautiful old buildings, ethnic districs, markets, less expensive (yet nice) restaurants etc.
(A) Hate to break it to you, but there's really nothing of interest to do in Paris. It's a loud, ugly, congested, polluted, crime-ridden, moral-less, God-forsaken place. I suggest you give up your tickets and hotel reservations now. In fact, I'll take them off your hands, at no charge to you.
(B) Seriously, the touristy stuff is touristy for a reason. Every(most)thing you've read about is great. But also, walk around and get lost and put aside all expectations. Some of the best places and experiences I've encountered in Paris were unexpected and unwritten about. Paris is fabulous. Explore, explore, explore. Walk a lot.
You'll love it. But if you don't, remember point A above.
guidebook suggestion--pauline frommer's paris. lots of off the beaten path suggestions. of course, i also have the rick steves paris book, but i feel the pf book covers a lot of things the rs book does not, and vice versa. (actually, i'm planning the whole of the london and paris portions of our trip with the pf and rs books, both paris and london--it is a lot of reading, but it will hopefully be worth it!)
There are some good guidebooks that focus on lesser known/off the beaten path type stuff--little gardens, the oldest house in Paris, old Roman walls, that kind of thing. Of course, the very fact that they're in a guide means they aren't THAT secret, but you won't find Notre Dame size lines (or any, really) and you will get to explore neat parts of the city you might otherwise miss. Check your local library or travel bookstore.