The Best Activities for Kids and Families in Edinburgh
Places to go and things to do in Auld Reekie
Visitors have been climbing to the top of Camera Obscura’s rooftop chamber for over 150 years, so they must be doing something right. Up there, you can view Edinburgh through a giant periscope, ‘pick up’ a bus or person on a piece of paper, and learn stories about the city’s past and present. Then work your way back down five floors of fun, including the ‘World of Illusions’, ‘Magic Gallery’ and the largest hologram exhibition in Europe.
A working farm in the middle of a busy city, this popular attraction has been welcoming families for over 30 years. Home to farm animals such as pigs, sheep, cows, goats and chickens, it also finds space for hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and snakes. For 20p you can buy a pot of feed and give some of them a snack – then feed yourself in the café after having fun in the play area.
Much of Scotland’s history is tied up in this impressive castle, a former home to Mary Queen of Scots – and current home to the ‘Stone of Destiny’, on which monarchs were crowned for centuries. Here you’ll also find the oldest crown jewels in Britain, the National War Museum, a magnificent Great Hall, and the famous One O’clock Gun.
There is so much to explore at this world-famous zoo, that visitors return again and again. Highlights include the ‘Budongo Trail’ chimpanzee enclosure, Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool (don’t miss the daily ‘Penguin Parade’ at 2.15pm) and the UK’s only giant pandas and koala bears, each in their own purpose-built enclosures.
Meadows Play park
Close to the city centre, the Meadows is home to Edinburgh’s largest play park. All ages are catered for here, from toddlers to teens, with a wide variety of apparatus to climb up, slide down, whizz across and run around.
National Museum of Scotland
Currently undergoing a period of re-development, there is still much to enjoy at Edinburgh’s largest museum, including lots of interactive exhibits to engage younger visitors. The ‘Natural Science’, ‘World Cultures’ and ‘Scottish History and Archaeology’ rooms are all open and filled with fascinating items from past and present. There are also regular events taking you to the heart of the exhibits.
Edinburgh is home to three national galleries – Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (One and Two) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – each with its own special collection and temporary exhibition. All of them are committed to welcoming families, holding monthly drop-in workshops such as Art Maker, Bags of Art and Portrait Detectives. You can also pick up a free family trail at the Scottish National Gallery to guide you around the building.
Our Dynamic Earth
Edinburgh is full of historic buildings, but none of them take you back in time as far as this award-winning science centre. Step inside the time-travelling lift and find yourself at moment of the Big Bang, ready to discover how planet earth was formed. Feel a volcano rumble beneath your feet, watch the ice age carve up prehistoric Scotland, see the rain fall in a tropical forest, then compete your visit with a screening inside the 360˚ dome film theatre.
Royal Botanic Garden
Hugely popular with young families, the Royal Botanic Gardens has wide open spaces for little ones to explore without fear of being ridden into (no bikes allowed) or stepping in something (no dogs). The beautiful flora and fauna changes throughout the year, making it a fascinating place to introduce young children to flowers, plants and trees.
Royal Commonwealth Pool
Recently upgraded, this large complex has three swimming pools and five diving boards. It’s also home to the popular ‘Clambers’ soft play centre and a large cafe. Check out the fun inflatable ‘AquaRun’ set up at selected times during the school holidays.