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Taking young children to Edinburgh's Festivals

Tuesday 12 July 2016 @ 00:00

Think 'Edinburgh', and there's a good chance you'll also think 'festivals' - but are the world-famous Edinburgh Festivals suitable for taking young children to? Here's why (with a little planning) the answer is a resounding yes!

Festival Fun throughout the year

The first thing to remember is that it isn't just about August, when Edinburgh's population doubles with visitors keen to experience "the Edinburgh Festival".

Edinburgh Festival Glamping

First of all, in August, the Scottish capital actually has six major festivals taking place independently, albeit at the same time as each other. And secondly, there are a further six which take place during the rest of the year too!

Specific programming will obviously vary from festival to festival, there's always plenty for young children and their parents to see and do...

Spring

In spring there's the Edinburgh International Science Festival, which was the world's first public science festival, and which offers a fantastic range of interactive science fun for all ages, with loads to see, do and enjoy.

Then a few weeks later comes Imaginate, Edinburgh's dedicated festival of performing arts for children and young people. Look out for funny, moving and downright silly plays and dance performances which little ones will adore.

Early Summer

In June comes the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which always includes a great selection of family-friendly material including open air afternoon screenings of kids’ favourites. Fingers crossed for a sunny day!

Glamping at Edinburgh Festivals

Then in July it's time for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival - and while most of the concerts taking place are a bit more adult-oriented, kids will love the buzz and hubbub of the opening weekend's Mardi Gras and Carnival Parade, two huge free events which fill the city centre with colour, noise and fun for all. Musicians, dancers and acrobats will thrill kids and adults alike.

August

Then we come to the most famous part of Edinburgh's festivals heritage, with a fantastically bewildering array of thousands and thousands (and thousands) of shows, performers and festivalgoers of all ages.

Like the Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival, is quite adult-oriented, but nonetheless it's very welcoming to parents and children, with most galleries and exhibitions buggy accessible and a dedicated children's programme of activities each year.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo's spectacular show will amaze and delight all the family - it's an incredible experience, although do bear in mind that it might be a little bit too loud and late for the very youngest.

With a more relaxed manner, Edinburgh International Book Festival has a fantastic and huge programme of readings and author events for children of all ages. Plus its location in Charlotte Square Gardens is a really lovely spot to hang out while the kids run around a bit.

Biggest and arguably most famous of all, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has over 50,000 performances, including a great range of shows and events aimed at children. Plus, it's great fun to just wander down the Royal Mile and witness scores of musicians, acrobats and other street performers - kids will be captivated!

Then there's the Edinburgh International Festival, another festival which has an adult reputation - increasingly though, the festival has been introducing excellent cultural material for children as well, so do check out the programme. Plus the end-of-Festival fireworks set to stirring and beautiful classical music, played live in Princes Street Gardens, is a must.

And on the final weekend of August comes the Edinburgh Mela, a vibrant feast of multicultural fun and entertainment. The Mela is great for taking kids along to, immersing yourselves in music, food and fashion, all in the setting of Leith Links, a beautiful green space in the centre of the capital's port area.

Autumn and Winter

After the full-on Edinburgh summer, autumn offers the chance to ease back and introduce your children to the magic of traditional storytelling with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October. With storytellers from around the globe spinning tales of all sorts, it's a lovely opportunity for families to escape the cold and dark outside.

And to end the year there’s Edinburgh's Hogmanay - the city's spectacular New Year celebration with 3 days of revelry. Look out in particular for the amazing flaming torchlight procession of thousands, and the brilliant family friendly events on New Year's Day, where you can go on a cultural treasure hunt around Edinburgh's Old Town.

Practical points

Letting off steam

As we all know, sometimes children and parents just need somewhere to burn off excess energy or savour a rare moment of peace and quiet.

Luckily, Edinburgh has lots of beautiful green parks, and most have fun, modern play areas for the kids to go wild in, while the grownups take a breather.

Some of the best include Princes Street Gardens, the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links, Inverleith Park, Holyrood Park, Blackford Hill, Harrison Park and Saughton Park - and there are many more.

Beyond the festivals

Even if you're visiting the city for a festival (or lots of them) you'll want other options to keep the children entertained. So when you're planning your trip, keep some of these superb attractions, in mind:

  • Edinburgh's Camera Obscura
  • Royal Botanic Garden
  • Dynamic Earth
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Museum of Childhood
  • Edinburgh Zoo
Dynamic Earth

Edinburgh is a city with so much to offer parents and children, all year round - and with helpful facilities and welcoming people, its twelve great festivals are here to be enjoyed by all!


A previous version of this article originally appeared on www.edinburghfestivalcity.com.

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