At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Let’s get real for a moment. While we love our tweens and teens, they can bring a family vacation down by acting mopey, pouty, or malaised. Sound familiar? But just because your kids are hanging out somewhere between childhood and adulthood doesn’t mean you have to forego family vacations.
On the contrary, tweens and teens can be among the best-traveling partners if you plan your next family vacation right. This starts with piling tween- and teen-friendly activities into your upcoming itinerary. And it also requires getting buy-in from kids during the planning stage by enlisting them to help fill out the itinerary.
With this in mind, let’s look at amazing things to do in Edinburgh with teens.
What to do in Edinburgh? The Edinburgh Dungeon is the perfect location to get your scare on. You’ll find it near Waverley Bridge, a two-minute walk from the Edinburgh Waverley Train Station and a three-minute walk from Princes Street. It’s recommended for children eight years and up.
Guests enjoy an award-winning, 70-minute immersive and interactive walk-through experience, tackling thousands of years of Scotland’s blackest moments. Tweens and teens will be scintillated by this popular tourist attraction, which incorporates stunning special effects and plenty of nefarious historical characters. These include the Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean, murderers like Burke and Hare, and Agnes Finnie, a notorious witch.
Professional actors reenact some of Edinburgh’s darkest moments during 11 live episodes, showcasing immersive 360-degree sets. These shows will leave a chill down your spine while getting you up to speed with the city’s history. Besides theatrics, your family will enjoy thrilling underground rides, making this an unforgettable introduction to the nation’s past.
Is your tween or teen glued to their social media accounts? If so, make a point of visiting Calton Hill on your Scotland family vacation. Known as Edinburgh’s Acropolis, it has inspired and astonished visitors for centuries. It’s an incredible place to snap Instagram-worthy photos because of its towering Greco-Roman-inspired columns.
Calton Hill also provides breathtaking views of major landmarks like the Crags behind Holyrood Palace and Parliament, Arthur’s Seat, Princes Street, the Royal Mile, and the Firth (estuary) of the Forth (river). The area also provides access to an impressive collection of historical monuments. Two of the most noteworthy are the Nelson Monument, shaped like an upturned telescope, and the National Monument, inspired by Athens’s Parthenon.
The Greek theme continues at the City Observatory, dating to 1818. Designed by William Henry Playfair, it represents a Neoclassical play on a Greek temple theme. Interestingly, the site has been one of fantastic discoveries. Professor Thomas Henderson, the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland, enjoyed a eureka moment here in 1834, figuring out how to measure the distance and parallax of the stars.
Near Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura offers a world of illusions for people of all ages. One of Edinburgh’s oldest attractions, it dates to 1835. But don’t assume the fun within is old-fashioned or outdated.
The establishment contains five floors of interactive and exciting exhibitions and activities. Highlights include a mirror maze and a vortex tunnel. There’s also the Camera Obscura show, which relies on a dark chamber, daylight, and reflections to project a live image internally onto a table.
Besides countless intriguing attractions, Camera Obscura provides 360-degree views of the city from the Rooftop Terrace. Breathtaking vistas provide another wonderful opportunity to snap social-media-worthy shots. From this vantage point, you’ll see the Royal Mile, the Firth of Forth, and Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh’s city center was made for walking, from its vintage boutiques to its chic shops, mysterious staircases, quaint side streets, and clandestine courtyards. The capital’s most impressive attractions are concentrated within walking distance, and public transportation is safe and reliable when your feet beg for a break.
Among the most unforgettable experiences you can have in the city is a goosebump-inducing walking tour. Because of the rich and sometimes sinister history of the area, there’s no lack of scary options. These include late-night tours of Edinburgh’s infamous subterranean vaults beneath the Royal Mile. During a tour, snake your way through an intricate underground world while seeing spine-tingling sites like stone circle vault and a torture exhibition.
Some options also explore another haunted local spot, the graveyard of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Be sure to stop by the monument to Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who spent 14 years loyally guarding his owner’s grave. You’ll also find plenty of tombstones that inspired J.K. Rowling while writing the Harry Potter series, including the tomb of “Tom Riddle.”
The average summer temperature in Edinburgh sits at 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and drizzle is always a strong possibility. Locals have a saying about their city. Expect all four seasons in one day. This makes packing and dressing in layers a must. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to warm up with a hot beverage and a delectable treat.
If celebrating a British-style high tea is at the top of your list, options abound. These include the Grand Café at the Scotsman Hotel, the Palm Court at the Balmoral, and the Colonnades at the Signet Library. If you’re a fan of multitasking, consider boarding the Red Bus Bistro to take tea while exploring the city.
For something a little less upscale but no less delicious, make a beeline to Mimi’s Bakehouse for hot chocolate and cupcakes. Other fantastic cafes include Mary’s Milkbar on Grassmarket and the Milkman Coffee on Cockburn Street. (Warning: The hot chocolate floats at Mary’s Milkbar are the stuff of obsession, so order with care!) For animal lovers, you’ll even find cafes that cater to fur babies, like George Street’s Chihuahua Café and Grassmarket’s feline-friendly Maison de Moggy.
“Old Reekie” (literally “Old Smoky”), as residents affectionately know Edinburgh, is chock full of incredible museums. But sticking with the most staid and traditional ones may not be the best way to keep teens engaged and entertained. Instead, mix things up at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and neighboring art and nature walk.
Another favorite? Surgeon’s Hall. Walk through centuries of medical experimentation and discovery. Opened in 1699, the museum sheds light on many gory historical episodes, brought to life through shocking artifacts and exhibitions. (Think body parts preserved in glass jars.) Moreover, the entire skeleton of William Burke, Edinburgh’s notorious grave robber, continues to shine a toothy grin.
Edinburgh also boasts “the UK’s most popular attraction outside of London,” the National Museum of Scotland. This multi-sensory treat contains interactive exhibitions for all ages, and it’s centrally located near the Royal Mile. There’s no better place to head on a rainy day. (Something you must plan for in Scotland.) This eclectic museum is a 21st-century Wunderkammer writ large, from robotics to genetics, programming to archaeology.
Too often, dream vacations get weighed down by the pressure to hit every major attraction and monument. But there’s usually less emphasis on going where locals seek adventure. That’s why we highly recommend adding heart-pounding activities that get tweens and teens out of their comfort zones.
For example, visit Gravity, a large trampolining park and local hangout located at Fountain Park, west of city center. After you get your bounce on, rub elbows with the locals in other ways. (The location also boasts a cinema, bowling alley, and bars and restaurants.) Let your kids splash around at the Royal Commonwealth swimming pool while getting to know area kids. Moreover, it’s a great starting point for a hike to Arthur’s Seat. This extinct volcano offers breathtaking views of Edinburgh.
For kids who like pushing the boundaries regarding heights, consider visiting one of the city’s many climbing walls. Alien Rock has two locations with unique offerings. Alien Bloc sits near Warriston/Powderhall and boasts an indoor bouldering course. Situated ten minutes from the Botanic Gardens, enjoy a nice post-adventure cooldown there. Alien One is in Newhaven, not far from the Ocean Terminal near Leith. Housed in a former church, it offers various rope climbing courses. Both locations have a great selection of other climbing surfaces, too.
Sometimes, traveling with teens gets a bad rap. But we don’t think this is fair. That said, planning an itinerary that tweens and teens can sink their teeth into requires creativity, innovation, and even a little inspiration. It also necessitates a thorough knowledge of your destination and plenty of real-world experience with family travel.
As professional travel advisors, we specialize in crafting incredible itineraries that every member of your family can get behind, no matter their ages or interests. Not only do we have a wealth of know-how when it comes to the ins and outs of traveling with kids, but we’ve got the local connections to ensure your family enjoys every step of your journey.
What’s our secret sauce? Combining the best accommodations with a perfect mix of hands-on experiences, independent exploration, and tours. Start planning your dream vacation to Edinburgh with teens.
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