When travelling with children, it can be hard to keep them entertained. However, you’ll have no such problem when holidaying in Edinburgh. The city has an abundance of activities and attractions to keep your brood busy for days. Here’s a list of the top things for children in Edinburgh.
A frontrunner in animal conservation, there are plenty of reasons to make a visit to Edinburgh Zoo. One of the main reasons is that the zoo is home to the UK’s only pair of giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guan, who are on a ten-year loan from China. Other highlights of the zoo include: the famous penguin parade and the only knighted penguin in the world, Sir Nils Olav; the Tiger Tracks, featuring a ground level viewing tunnel allowing you to get up, close and personal to the Sumatran tigers in their new enclosure; the Koala territory, who in January 2019 welcomed their newest member, a 6-month koala joey; and the Budongo Trail, a huge indoor-outdoor space capable of housing up to 40 chimpanzees at one time.
Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
A tropical rainforest in a series of hothouses just outside the centre, the Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World has a multitude of creepy crawlies for you and your family to discover. In the Bugs and Beasties area you can meet creatures like tarantulas, millipedes and praying mantis. The Nocturnal Zone uses infra-red light to give you a glimpse into the lives of those which only come out at night. The Reptile Room houses chameleons, lizards and snakes. If you’re feeling brave, you might even get chance to handle one of the many creatures there.
Gorgie City Farm
A wonderful free attraction in the East End of Edinburgh, Gorgie City Farm has been offering a hands-on farm experience for over 30 years. The animals you can see are dependent on the season, but you will often find pigs, chickens, sheep, goats and cows on the farm. The staff give practical and interesting knowledge on how to care for the animals and farm life. They also have a pet lodge where you can handle some of their small domestic pets. In their gardens there is a herb and sensory garden, an education garden and several greenhouses. Once you’ve had a look around the farm, you can sample some of the local produce in the cafe and shop.
A completely unique attraction in the city, BobCat Alpacas are a premier alpaca farm dedicated to producing high quality fleece. In addition to this, they offer alpaca experiences where you get chance to meet the animals, learn about them and how to handle them. You then have a 90-minute walk with them in the Pentland Regional Park and once you return, you get to hand feed them. If you don’t fancy the 90-minute walk, or it would be too difficult for your little ones, then you can opt for a farm visit without the walk.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is Edinburgh’s oldest visitor attraction, having opened its doors to the public in 1853. Housed in a Victorian rooftop chamber in a tower next to Edinburgh Castle, your kids will be mesmerised by the moving images of the city’s panorama projected onto the walls via a projector. On the five floors below in the World of Illusions you will find over 100 hands-on, interactive exhibits displaying various optical illusions, holograms and tricks of the light. The museum also serves as a way of learning about these illusions as well as the history of photography.
Dynamic Earth gives you and your family the chance to go on the adventure of a lifetime – the lifetime of our planet. It features a number of interactive exhibitions on earth science and how our planet was shaped. You will begin by travelling back in time to the beginning of our universe, the Big Bang. During the rest of your journey you will get the chance to experience simulated volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, feel the ice cold of the glaciers, gaze in awe at the Aurora Borealis and come face to face with the dinosaurs.
Edinburgh International Climbing Arena
A fantastic centre offering something for all ages and abilities, the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena is the largest of its kind in Europe offering climbing walls, a bouldering room, abseiling, aerial assault courses and a mobile climbing tower. If you get tired of climbing, your children can have fun in the soft play area while you relax in the cafe.
Midlothian Snow Sports Centre
If you and your family love skiing and snowboarding, the Midlothian Snow Sports Centre offers both free sessions and lessons. But one other activity they offer is tubing, which basically consists of zooming down a ski slope on an inflatable tube. Tubing sessions for kids aged four to 12 are on offer every Friday afternoon; they only accept bookings on the day and there are limited spaces, so make sure to book early if your kids are keen.
Great for a rainy day, Ryze is Edinburgh’s first trampoline park. There are a multitude of trampolines to enjoy, including: the super trampolines, giving you chance to walk the walls like Spiderman; Open Jump, a series of interconnected trampolines; and waterfall trampolines, ending in a foam pit. Other exciting activities at the centre are: Ninja, a cool obstacle course; Trikzone, designed for more advanced thrill seekers; Xtreme Dodgeball, featuring wall-to-wall trampolines and cages; trapezes; aerial silks; Airbag, where you decide how far you are brave to go; and many more.
Royal Commonwealth Pool and Clambers
Another good place to go if the weather isn’t so great, the Royal Commonwealth Pool and Clambers offers an excellent 50-metre main pool and a slightly smaller teaching pool if your kids are on the young side. If you’re into diving, there’s a 25-metre diving pool. When you’ve finished in the pool, you can head to the Clambers Children’s Soft Play Area. This area has everything from baby ability gyms to huge wavy slides, ensuring much bouncy and climbing fun.
Murrayfield Ice Rink
There are not many activities as exciting as whizzing around on ice and Murrayfield Ice Rink offers you and your brood exactly this. There are lots of different sessions to enjoy, including family sessions which are usually quieter than the general sessions, meaning you can skate in peace and extra safety. For something more upbeat, there are also disco sessions on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Soft Play Centres
A fun soft play centre all about the deep blue sea, your kids will walk the plank to get into the huge play area capable of entertaining them for hours. There are Zoopla cannons to shoot soft foam balls at fellow pirates as well as Surf Rider play and ball pools. Other activities include a play supermarket, a shoe shop, garage and a play pizza delivery room.
A soft play centre with a difference, this centre has an Egyptian theme and has different play areas for children up to the age of 12. Your kids will have the chance to crawl through crocodile-infested swamps and underground tunnels, fight ancient mummies in their tombs and cross dangerous snake pits on rope bridges. But it’s not just play that children get out of the experience; they will also get the chance to learn about the lives of the Ancient Egyptians. There is also an award-winning dining area where the chefs prepare delicious, healthy food from scratch.
World Wonders Soft Play
Suitable for kinds up to age 12, Wonder World Soft Play centre is full of surprises all connected to the wonders of the world, from go karts to an exploding volcano. The centre is split up into different areas dependent on age. Older children have access to the main climbing frame, slides, trampolines and even a football pitch. Away from this area is the Wee World, where kids up to the age of two have the run of a mini play frame, slide and ball pool.
Outdoor Attractions and Activities
The Edinburgh Treasure Trail
A self-guided treasure trail around Edinburgh’s Old Town, you will solve clues and puzzles whilst learning interesting facts about the city. Ideal for everyone aged six and above, you’ll receive either a pdf downloadable map (if bought on the day) or one sent through the post (if booked in advance) and then follow the 1.75 mile route which you complete at your own pace. Keep your eyes peeled for the clues – you’ll find them on buildings, monuments, plaques amongst other features of the city – as they will eliminate a destination on your map as you go, hopefully leading you to the place where the buried treasure is hidden.
Royal Botanic Garden
If you’re looking for a more sedate way of spending the morning or afternoon, head to the Royal Botanic Garden. Set in 72 acres of land, there are plenty of plant and tree species to discover. Highlights include: the ten glasshouses, each with a different climate from tropical rainforest to arid desert with species from around the globe, including a 200-year-old palm tree; the Rock Garden; the Giant Redwood trees; and the Chinese Hillside. You may also see ducks and squirrels wandering about.
The Potter Trail
Most people know that Edinburgh is the home of J K Rowling, the world-famous author of the Harry Potter books and she found much inspiration for names and places from her surroundings. On this special tour, your guide will take you to the place where Voldemort is buried, the original Diagon Alley and the cafe where Rowling wrote the first book. If your kids love Rowling’s books, they will also love being sorted in their Hogwarts House.
Edinburgh Bus Tours
If you and your family are getting tired feet, why not opt for one of the three tours offered by Edinburgh Bus Tours? Each lasting 75 minutes, you can choose from the Edinburgh Tour, the Majestic Tour and the City Sightseeing Tour. They run on a hop-on, hop-off basis, so if you see something that takes your fancy, you can get off and explore and then get back on when you’re ready to move on.
Perfect for those sunny days, Portobello Beach is a two-mile stretch of sand ideal for sandcastle-making, swimming and sunbathing. Also in the area are a few play parks, and plenty of places to get fish and chips and ice cream.
Mercat Tours are an award-winning tour company offering history and ghost walks of the city. They have a specific tour specially created for kids, the Gory Tour, which delves into dark and creepy history of Edinburgh. All children over the age of five are welcome on the tour, where you will hear stories of witch trials, body snatching and torture, as well as visit Blair Street Underground Vaults. However, children over the age of five can join any tour and there is even a family ticket.
National Museum of Scotland
One of the best museums in the whole country, this museum has plenty of activities for kids. Highlights include: having a go on the Energy Wheel, showing your children how much energy they produce while running on a huge hamster wheel; travelling around the world in the Imagine Gallery, dressing up in traditional clothes from around the globe and animating a Chinese dragon; racing a F1 car; and finding out which animal weighs the same as you.
Castles make a great day out for kids of all ages, absorbing the history and imagining what life was like hundreds of years ago. Edinburgh Castle go even further to make it fun for your young ones. When you first arrive, make sure you grab an Explorer Quiz, a scavenger quiz hunt which is both fun and educational. There are also weaponry tutorials and the firing of the One o’Clock Gun for them to enjoy.
Museum of Childhood
A great chance to show your children the toys and games of your childhood, the Museum of Childhood has a vast array of exhibits showing the history of all things children. Not only can they see toys and games but also clothing, books and comics from yesteryear.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia was the first royal yacht to be specially built for use on the ocean and designed as a royal residence. The entrance ticket comes with a free audio tour; there’s an audio tour especially for children, meaning they can have their own exploration of the yacht, seeing where Princes William and Harry spent their summers and where world famous celebrities and leaders were entertained. Highlights include the engine room and the sophisticated State Apartments.
Arts and Crafts
If your young ones like to get creative, Doodles Ceramics Workshop is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. The longest established paint-your-own-pottery workshop in the city, Doodles offers a number of activities, including ceramic painting, clay modelling and clay imprinting. The ceramic painting is what they’re famous for; you have a choice of white, unglazed items, such as mugs, plates, tiles, teapots and egg cups, then once your kids have made their mark upon them, Doodles then clear glaze and fire it so it’s ready for you to collect in three to four days. All materials are included in the price.
Edinburgh is a fabulous city and hopefully this guide has shown that it has plenty of activities for all the family to enjoy.