{Edinburgh} Summer of Fun – Free Events for Families in July & August 2023

With seven weeks of summer holidays stretching ahead of us, and everyone feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, I sat down at the beginning of summer to research all the best FREE family events Edinburgh has to offer in July and August this year. I hope you’ll find something to enjoy.


Edinburgh is known for its summer festivals. There’s plenty on offer for families, but the costs can add up, so here are a few free suggestions:

Edinburgh International Festival

The Edinburgh International Festival kicks off on Saturday 5 August with Opening Fanfare, a free and un-ticketed music event from 12pm in Princes Street Gardens. Featuring lots of different performers, from brass bands and pipers, to rappers and choirs. Bring the kids, bring a picnic, and enjoy the music.

On Sunday 6 August Opening Fanfare continues in Princes Street Gardens from 3pm.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe always takes over the city in Summer. This year’s Fringe runs from 4 – 28 August, and there’s a few free children’s shows listed in the programme, including:

Abracadabra With An Apple Magic Show, 5 – 15 August at CC Blooms

Join the funalicious Alex with more than a decade of being a master magician, bringing a children’s magic show! Filled with fun, laughs and stories that entangle together in one awe-inspiring performance.

Ancient Coins of Forgotten Kingdoms, 5 – 27 August (not Tuesdays) at Burrito ’n’ Shake

Ancient coins are an amazing window into history – rare, valuable and often beautiful. This family-friendly show – not just for kids – mixes humour, hands-on demonstrations and amazing images.

The Armadillo and the Human Skin, Sat 12 August, 12:00 – 14:00, at Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

A drop-in event with activities, talks and the opportunity to meet one of Edinburgh Zoo’s armadillos! The event will also explore the amazing skin, why we blush, get pimples and freckles. Drop-in any time between 12:00 – 14:00.

Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Sat 5 August, 11am & 12pm at Eric Liddell Community 

The National Theatre’s adaptation comes to life in Dr Seuss’ classic story. Join Cat as he turns a rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure. Presented by an award-winning high-school theatre program. 

Jon – The Music Man, Thurs 3 – Sun 27 August (not Sat 12/ Sun 13) at The Counting House

Jon Lawrence has entertained thousands of children all over the world over the last ten years with his collection of silly songs which encourage the children to sing, dance, laugh and learn. As an ethnomusicologist he demonstrates instruments from around the world and encourages children to try them on stage. 

Kids Brunch Club, 10am on all Sundays in August at Brewhemia

Step straight into the magic kingdom in this interactive character brunch experience the whole family will enjoy! Join your favourite fairy tale heroes, heroines (and the occasional villain) for a magical morning to remember!

Vampire’s Ball: Ultimate Halloween Party, Thurs 3 – Sun 27 August (not Mondays) at Bar 50

It’s Halloween all year round, with the Vampire’s Ball: Ultimate Halloween Party! With rockabilly, reggae, ballad, folk, and straight-up rock and roll songs, along with custom dances that you will be taught how to do!

>> Check out more details on all the above free family events

Edinburgh Book Festival

This year’s Book Festival runs from 12 – 28 August. Entry to the Book Festival Village at Edinburgh College of Art on Lauriston Place is free and everyone welcome. Some family events will be livestreamed onto the large outdoor screen for everyone to enjoy, and on weekends you can meet some of your favourite book characters. Free drop-in events include:

Meet your favourite book characters:
  • Meet Supertato (Sat 12 Aug, Sun 20 Aug & Sun 27 Aug, 11:30 – 12:00)
  • Meet the Gruffalo (Sun 13 Aug, 11:30-12:00 & Sat 26 Aug, 10:30-11:00)
  • Meet Bookbug (Sat 19 Aug, 111:30-12:00)
Sprog Rocks in the House, Sun 13 August, 10:00-10:30

Back to rock the Book Festival for the third year it’s Sprog Rock are joined this year by Glasgow-based beatboxer Bigg Taj, so expect beats and (nursery) rhymes as Sprog Rock bring their unique, catchy songs back to the Courtyard Stage

Cressida Cowell’s Dragon Hunt, Sat 26 & Sun 27 August, 10am-6pm

Spot hidden dragons around the Book Festival Village courtyard and find out their strengths and weaknesses. Downloadable activity sheets will also be available.

The programme also includes some free family events that require advance booking, as well as some ‘pay what you can’ events. Full details at www.edbookfest.co.uk/families 


Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One)

Explore, play, and make using a Family Art Basket which are FREE to use every afternoon during the school holidays. In each basket you’ll find lots of creative, fun ideas and materials to help your family create and connect. Daily from Mon 3 July to Sun 13 Aug, 2pm-4pm. Booking essential to guarantee a basket.

There’s also Art Space 2 at Modern One, a free room for families where you can play, read, create, and eat your snacks. >> Read our Art Space 2 Review

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland has a varied family programme over the summer. Free drop-in events include What, wear, when? (Mon 10 – Fri 14 July), Object Encounters (Mon 17 July – Fri 5 Aug, excluding weekends), and Repair to Wear (Sat 29 July). Times vary.

Are you an expert at something? Want to share your advice? Come to Experts Radio Lab at the museum and join their live radio show. Free drop-in Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 8 and 24 August.

The museum also has several interactive galleries aimed at families,and a host of free trails to choose from. Check out the online Family Hub for more details.

Museum on the Mound

Museum on the Mound is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Bank Holidays, and has free Summer activities running from Tues 4 July to Sat 19 August.

  • Activity sheets to design your own coin, banknote and key.
  • Coin Striking 2.30pm -4pm.

City Art Centre & Museum of Edinburgh

The City Art Centre & Museum of Edinburgh both have free Family Activity Spaces, that are open daily from 10am – 5pm. Both spaces are packed full of art materials and worksheets relating to the relevant exhibitions, and at the Museum of Edinburgh there’s also a reading corner and some replica objects you can explore.

>> Read our reviews of the Museum of Edinburgh and the City Art Centre family activity spaces

Lauriston Castle

Lauriston Castle always has some great family events through the year. On Saturday 22 July (10am – 12:30pm) they are hosting a free drop-in event to celebrate International Moon Day.

The Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood has finally reopened. Whilst refurbishments are still ongoing in some of the upper galleries, the ground floor – which had a complete overhaul just before the pandemic – has plenty of hands-on activities to keep kids busy, including games, dressing up and a story corner.

Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage 

They don’t have any special events on over the Summer, but the holidays are a perfect opportunity to check out the hottest new museum in town! >> Read our review of the Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage


Library Summer Reading Challenge

Ready, Set, Read! Sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge at your local Edinburgh City Library. Children will need a library card to take part, but it’s free to join. The challenge is to read 6 different books over the Summer. On sign up, you get a free book mark, pencil, and a booklet to keep track of your reading. For every 2 books you read, you receive stickers to put in your booklet. Once you’ve completed the challenge, you’ll get a medal and certificate.

Library Events

Many of the Edinburgh city libraries are also running free events over the Summer. Unfortunately, there’s not a central page that lists them all, you need to check out each library individually. We have found the best place to do that is on Facebook (e.g. we follow Fountainbridge, Morningside and Edinburgh Central Library on Facebook), as that’s where they seem to post about it. Activities include weekly Bookbug sessions, board game meet-ups, arts & crafts afternoons, Lego clubs, and family story time. Why not go and bookmark your nearest library on Facebook now!


Ikea Edinburgh Workshops

Did you know Ikea has a programme of free summer events? Some are for Ikea Family members only and required booking, whilst others are open to all and don’t require any registration, including

  • Jungle Safari Quest (Sun 16 July – Mon 14 Aug)
  • Messy Modelling (Weds 26 July & Fri 4 Aug)
  • DIY Night Lights (Fri 28 July)
  • Summer Splash (Mon 17 July – Fri 21 July & Mon 31 July – Fri 4 Aug) 

Pets at Home Stores Workshops

Learn about keeping your pets safe this summer. Come along to one of the free My Pet Pals – Summer workshops at a Pets at Home store, which include fun crafts and puzzles all about cooling and travelling with your pets. Daily from 22 July to 3 September at the Corstorphine, Craigleith, Fort Kinnaird and Pentland stores. Pre-booking required.

Indoor Beach at Ocean Terminal

Can’t make it to the beach this summer? Head to Ocean Terminal instead to enjoy some family fun at their indoor beach. Grab a coffee and let the kids have some sandy fun! It opened on 3 July, and is available daily from 10am to 6pm. They haven’t said yet how long it will run for.

Summer Superheroes at Fort Kinnaird

Whizz over to Fort Kinnaird to meet your favourite superheroes on selected dates through the summer. No pre-booking required, but arriving early is advised to avoid disappointment. Meet and greets will take place outside the Odeon cinema on Fri 28 July, Sat 29 July, Fri 4 August and Sat 5 August.

Kids for a Quid Scotrail Offers

Okay, so this one isn’t entirely free, but if you’re travelling on a Kids for a Quid rail ticket (up to four children per adult can travel for £1 during off-peak times and weekends), you can get free entry for one child per full paying adult at selected visitor attractions in their Kids Go Free Deals. Current offers in Edinburgh include the Royal Yacht Britannia, Deep Sea World, Camera Obscura, and Edinburgh Zoo, as well as offers further afield if you fancy a day trip.


And, of course, when the weather is good, Edinburgh has over 100 public playgrounds to choose from, some of them set within bigger parks. Check out our A to Z map of public playgrounds in Edinburgh here, including reviews of the around 30 playgrounds we have visited so far https://www.thebearandthefox.com/a-z-of-public-playgrounds-in-edinburgh/

I’m sure there’s probably more great free events that are missing, but if you know of any other great free events in Edinburgh this Summer, just leave a comment or send me a message and I’ll add them in!

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