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The best kids' things to do in Edinburgh

Find the best attractions aimed at little 'uns in our guide to Edinburgh's family-friendly highlights

Woody Ellen, via Flickr

In Edinburgh you can do anything from gaze at 14th century Italian art at one of the city's best galleries, to having your palate, and intellect, stimulated by the latest in neo-bistronomy at some of Edinburgh's best restaurants. That’s not going to cut it with the kids however, especially when they've got an October half-term break to fill (from Saturday October 10-Tuesday October 20). Fortunately the city also offers attractions that go ‘moo’ and ‘grrr’ as well as others that make your children go ‘woo’.

RECOMMENDED: the full guide to half-term in Edinburgh for kids

Camera Obscura And World Of Illusions

Although this tourist attraction dates 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. 

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Old Town

Craigmillar Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a world-class visitor attraction but its chapels, interiors, memorials and museums don’t invite kids to bounce around. 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 is ample space to play, and a six-year-old with a plastic sword will wreak no damage.

Photo by dun_deagh, via Flickr

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Duddingston

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; plan to spend at least half a day here, maybe more.

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Costorphine

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. Using interactive exhibits and displays it tells the story of our planet and how it was shaped by forces of nature: climate, ecology, evolution, tectonics, vulcanism, weather and more. It’s all high-tech fun and there is a 360° ShowDome for science-flavoured movies too.

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Old Town

Gorgie City Farm

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

Photo by Katherine, via Flickr

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Dalry

Time Twisters

It may be based at 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 the average children’s menu.

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Wester Hailes

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