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The best things to do with kids in Edinburgh

Young’uns restless? For a tip-top family day out, choose from our pick of the best things to do with kids in Edinburgh

gorgie city farm
Woody Ellen, via Flickr
By Niki Boyle and Huw Oliver |

If the kids are flagging after a long-ish dawdle around some of the best museums and galleries in Edinburgh, we’ve got you some ideas. Whether it’s attactions that go ‘moo’ and ‘grrr’ or interactive exhibits that’ll make little ones go ‘woo’, there’s all manner of excellent things to do with kids in Edinburgh – so much so, the trouble is knowing where to start in this exceedingly family-friendly city. From a 360-degree cinema to a museum of optical illusions, here are six brilliant ways to keep the kids entertained on your next day out.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Edinburgh

Best things to do with kids in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura, exhibitions
Tony Marsh
Things to do

Camera Obscura And World Of Illusions

Although this tourist attraction dates back to the Victorian era, and has an bona fide camera obscura as its centrepiece, its other galleries will do much more to entertain younger children. There are optical illusions, tricks of perspective, a giant plasmasphere, holographic Liquorice Allsorts and much more. Be prepared for squeals of delight and confusion. 

Edinburgh Zoo
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

Edinburgh Zoo

If you want scary animals, there are lions and tigers; hyperactive squirrel monkeys provide the slapstick; creatures like anteaters and tapirs are strange and otherworldly. The big stars, however, are the cuties: koalas, pandas, penguins and pygmy hippos. The zoo covers 82 acres of hillside in the west of the city – so plan to spend at least half a day here, maybe more.

Craigmillar Castle
Photograph: dun_deagh / Flickr
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Craigmillar Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a world-class visitor attraction but its chapels, interiors, memorials and museums don’t exactly take to kids who jump around and shout. But at the ruins of Craigmillar Castle in the south of the city it’s hard to imagine kids doing anything else. The venue attracts relatively few visitors, there’s ample space to play, and a six-year-old with a plastic sword will wreak no damage.

Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Our Dynamic Earth

Resembling a cross between a massive futuristic marquee and a crashed spaceship, Our Dynamic Earth is an educational visitor attraction for children. Through interactive exhibits and displays it tells the story of our planet and how it has been shaped by forces of nature: climate, evolution, tectonics, volcanism and more. It’s all high-tech fun and there’s a 360-degree ‘ShowDome’ for science-flavoured movies too.

sheep at gorgie city farm
Photograph: Katherine / Flickr
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

Gorgie City Farm

Open since 1982, this venue has two key selling points. For older children it can be an educational experience as it’s an urban farm with chickens, cows, goats, pigs and sheep. And if you want to entertain younger kids, there are accessible pet lodge animals, from the challenging (a snake called Dougal) to the cuddly (hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits).

Time Twisters

Time Twisters

It may be based within an unlovely commercial estate out in the far west of the city, but Time Twisters is generally viewed as the most entertaining soft-play venue for kids in Edinburgh. The play area has a happily cartoonish Egyptian theme while the café makes an effort to provide healthier options than the average children’s menu.

Got a babysitter? Head straight here...

A long island iced tea at the Paradise Palms in Edinburgh
Photograph: Paradise Palms
Bars and pubs

The 13 best cocktail bars in Edinburgh

The best cocktail bars in Edinburgh not only know how to make a damn fine martini, but also how to make tipplers feel at home. Like many of the city’s excellent pubs, cosiness reigns supreme on the Edinburgh bar scene and if you don’t leave feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, then you’re probably doing it wrong.