Summer Holidays 2024 – Free Family Events in Edinburgh

It’s back! My big, bumper issue of what’s on for families for FREE in Edinburgh over the school summer holidays. We’ve got festivals, museums, libraries, outdoor events and activities, and more! It has been a real labour of love pulling all this together, and I hope you all find something to enjoy.

Usual disclaimer, all info correct at the time of writing, but please do double check before travelling! And please also check whether pre-booking is required, even though all these events and activities are free, some of them are ticketed as space is limited.

You can also follow The Bear & The Fox on Facebook for more weekly new and updates.


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 Book Festival

This year’s Book Festival runs from 10 – 25 August, at its new permanent home in the Edinburgh Futures Institute. The Children’s Programme has daily free events, some require booking and others are on a drop-in basis. Check out my overview of what’s on for free each day in my previous round-up (come see me with the Maths Week Scotland team on the morning of Sat 17 & Sun 18 Aug in the Children’s Tent!)

>> Edinburgh Book Festival 2024 Children’s Programme

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe always takes over the city in Summer. This year’s Fringe runs from 2 – 26 August, and there’s several free shows in the children’s programme as well as some family friendly shows in the main programme to choose from. More details in my previous Fringe 2024 blog post.

>> Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2024: Free Family Friendly Events

Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival

This year’s Jazz & Blues Festival runs from 12 to 21 July and includes a couple of free events, including a ‘warm up’ family event the weekend before.

Edinburgh Youth Carnival
Moredun Library & Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre
Sat 6 July, 1pm – 5pm

Mardi Grass
The Grassmarket
Sat 13 July, from 1pm

Edinburgh Festival Carnival
Princes Street Gardens
Sun 14 July, from 12 noon


Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One)

Family Art Basket (F.A.B.)
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 31 July, 2pm – 4pm
Booking essential to guarantee a basket.

Borrow a free F.A.B filled with prompts and materials to help your family sculpt, paint, stick and spot – inspired by Do Ho Suh’s exhibition, Tracing Time. Suitable for age 3+ and there’s also a Sensory version for ages 0-3, and those who enjoy sensory, tactile materials.

Artist Weekends
Saturdays & Sundays from 6 July to 11 August, 2pm – 4pm
Drop-in, no booking required

Meet the artist team under the trees, to help your family create and connect in the outdoor sculpture park. Each week there will be different themes and materials to play with. 

Find more details on Family Art Baskets & Artist Weekends on the National Galleries Scotland website.

There’s also free family trails to explore the grounds, and Art Space 2, a free room for families where you can play, read, create, and eat your snacks. >> Read our Art Space 2 Review. The gallery is open daily, 10am – 5pm.

National Museum of Scotland

Summer Family Fun
Mondays & Fridays from 1 July to 12 August, 10:30am – 3:30pm
Drop-in, no booking required

Join the Enabler team at the National Museum of Scotland, every Monday and Friday during the holidays for a range of fun drop-in activities for all the family. With a different theme every week, from dinosaurs to outer space and from ancient Egypt to Vikings.

Check out the National Museum of Scotland website for more details and weekly themes.

(I will be there on 15 & 19 July with the Maths Week Scotland team, come and say hello! Also, the usual disclaimer that this is a personal post and not affiliated to my day job.)

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. The museum is open daily, 10am – 5pm.

Museum on the Mound

Museum on the Mound is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Bank Holidays (opening times vary, check the museum website for details). They have confirmed they will be doing coin striking each day from 2:30pm – 4pm where families can strike their own medieval replica coin. The education room will also be open each day with lots of independent activities available, like designing your own coin and trying your hand at designing and forging a banknote. As always, these activities are free and for the whole family!

City Art Centre

The City Art Centre has the following free drop-in events over the Summer:

Their family ArtSpace is also available daily, packed full of art materials and worksheets relating to the relevant exhibitions, and just in time for the the school holidays the newly stocked up Family Art Cart is also back. The City Art Centre is open daily, 10am – 5pm.

Museum of Edinburgh

The Museum of Edinburgh has the following free drop-in events over the Summer:

Their Family Activity Area is also available daily, packed full of art materials and worksheets relating to the relevant exhibitions, a reading corner, and some replica objects you can explore. The museum is open daily, 10am – 5pm.

Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage

The Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage has a bumper programme of Summer events:

The museum also has lots of other fun things for families to do. Read the review of our visit to find our more! The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am – 4pm.

St Cecilia’s Hall & Music Museum

St Cecilia’s is running a free, summer themed Family Trail from 28 June to 17 August. Follow the route around the museum, and see if you can spot the 8 buckets and spades hidden throughout the galleries. Free, but pre-booking is encouraged.

The rest of the museum if also worth a visit, including the year-round Explorer’s Trail, and the interactive discovery drawers in the Wolfson Gallery. Read the review of our visit to find out more! The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am – 5pm.

Lauriston Castle

Head to Lauriston Castle in the summer holidays to meet the RSPB. Join them for a chance to hear about your local feathered friends and to get a chance to do a quick art activity. Double up with a picnic and family walk around gardens and grounds. Drop-in, no booking required.

Dates: Mon 1 July, Sun 7 July & Sat 20 July, 10am – 4pm

Dynamic Earth

Join Dynamic Earth from Sat 29 June to Mon 26 August, 10am – 4pm, for a collection of free activities for under 12s to mark 25 Years of Scotland’s Science Discoveries: from making strides in space exploration, to uncovering the giant footprints of dinosaurs on the Isle of Skye.

Find out more about each activity on the Dynamic Earth website.

Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood doesn’t have any special events on over the summer, as far as I can see, but it’s still an excellent place to take the kids with lots of interactive things to do, including games to play, dressing up, and a story corner. Across the road from the museum you’ll find the Scottish Storytelling Centre, with a lovely cafe that includes an interactive story wall with lots of cubby holes to open and explore. The Museum of Childhood is open daily, 10am – 5pm.


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 theme this year is Marvellous Makers. The challenge is to read 6 different books over the Summer. On sign up, you get a booklet to keep track of your reading. For every couple of books you read, you receive stickers to put in your booklet. Once you’ve completed the challenge, you’ll get a medal and certificate.

The Summer Reading Challenge kicks off with a launch event at Edinburgh Central Children’s Library on Sat 29 June: Making Marvellous Stories with Danyah Miller, 10:30am – 11:30am (free, booking required).

Library Events

Many of the Edinburgh city libraries run both regular free events and/ or are putting on free events for the school summer holidays. 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, as that’s where they all seem to post about their events. Activities include Bookbug sessions, board game meet-ups, arts & crafts, Lego clubs, story time, and more! Why not go and bookmark your nearest library on Facebook now, via the links below!

Balerno Library | Balgreen Library | Blackhall Library (currently closed) | Central Children’s Library (part of Edinburgh Central Library on Facebook) | Colinton Library | Corstorphine Library | Craigmillar Library | Currie Library | Drumbrae Library Hub | Fountainbridge Library | Gilmerton Library | Granton Library | Kirkliston Library | Leith Library | McDonald Road Library | Moredun Library | Morningside Library | Muirhouse Library | Newington Library | Oxgangs Library | Piershill Library | Portobello Library | Ratho Library (Library van + events at Ratho Community Centre) | Sighthill Library | South Queensferry Library | Stockbridge Library | Wester Hailes Library


Summer of Stories (Craigmillar Literacy Trust) 

Join Craigmillar Literacy Trust for a series of and creative events throughout the summer, for families with children aged 4-12 and younger siblings. All events are free, include a drink, snack and a book, and (except for one outdoor adventure!) take place in Craigmillar Library Hub. Events run on selected dates between Tues 2 July and Thurs 8 Aug, times vary. Some are drop-in, others required pre-booking. Check out the full programme on the Craigmillar Stories for Sharing Facebook page.

Holyrood Park

Did you know Holyrood Park is managed by Historic Environment Scotland, and the park’s Ranger Service runs guided walks, group tours and events for visitors. Check out these free family drop-in events happening in July:

Or join one of the free Holyrood Family Adventure guided walks, suitable for age 5+ (booking required). Summer holiday dates are Fri 19 July & Fri 2 August, 1pm – 3pm.

Ikea Edinburgh Workshops

Ikea Edinburgh has a programme of free events? Some are for Ikea Family members only and required booking, whilst others are open to all and don’t require any registration. Summer events include:

Plus more drop-in activities, including a selfie station and a hopscotch challenge. Full details on the Ikea website.

Pets at Home Stores Workshops

Learn about keeping your pets safe in summer. Pets at Home usually run some free ‘My Pet Pals’ workshops over the summer, which include free activity sheets and a chance to meet some animals. The workshops are free, but with booking required.

Update: Workshops will take place at Corstorphine Craigleith, Pentland and Fort Kinnaird stores, from Sat 20 July – Sun 1 Sept, at 2pm. Free but booking required. Details on the Pets at Home website.

Prewired Summer Make-a-Thon 

Prewired, the Edinburgh programming club for young people, is hosting its second annual Summer Make-a-Thon! A full weekend of coding and problem solving. The 2-day event takes place on Sat 27 & Sun 28 July, 10am – 5pm. Free, but booking required. Age 11+ only.

Their free weekly Wednesday sessions also continue over the summer, 5:30pm – 7:30pm. These are for anyone under age 19, though children under 11 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Traditional Tunes for Tiny People

Sunday 28 July, 2pm – 3pm at Holy Cross, Davidson’s Mains

A free interactive music and storytelling session for the wee ones and their grown ups. The performance is specially designed to introduce traditional Scottish songs and stories to young children and their parents/carers in an informal and accessible way. Drop-in, no booking required.

More info via Live Music Now Scotland

The Wee Play Hub at Ocean Terminal

The Wee Play Hub on the first floor of Ocean Terminal is open Wednesdays & Fridays – Sundays, 11am – 3pm, and Thursdays 12pm – 4pm. As well as free play, they also have a weekly programme of drop-in events including art classes, crafts, story time and Lego club. Check out their Facebook page for details.

Ocean Terminal Indoor Beach

The Indoor Beach at Ocean Terminal is back for another year! Open from 12noon on Tuesday 2nd July, then daily 10am – 6pm (end date not yet confirmed). You’ll find it on the 1st floor. More info on the Ocean Terminal website.

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 Deep Sea World, Camera Obscura, and Edinburgh Zoo, as well as offers further afield if you fancy a day trip.


It doesn’t always have to be an event, Edinburgh is also a great place to get outside for a walk or a picnic. Maybe you want to get away from the bustle of the Festival in the city centre. Here are some of our favourite outdoor spots in Edinburgh:


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 photos and reviews of the playgrounds we have visited so far.

>> A to Z of Public Playgrounds in Edinburgh

Hermitage of Braid

Take a walk through the woods, explore the various side paths, play Pooh Sticks at the bridges, or download our free Murder Mystery Trail!

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

We love the ‘Botanics’ in all seasons. Opening times in July and August are 10am – 6pm (last entry 5.15pm). There is also a great interactive exhibition running from 15 June to 1 September called Play With Plants though there is a fee for that (£2 adults, £5 children age 1-4, £7 children age 5+). Admission to the Botanics itself is free.

Feed the Birds

Grab a bag of bird seed and visit one of the many spots across the city where you can feed ducks, swans and other birds. Our favourite spots include Blackford Pond, Easter Craiglockhart Nature Reserve, Inverleith Park, and Duddingston Loch & St Margaret’s Loch in Holyrood Park.

Head to the Beach

We love a good trip to the beach, whether for sunbathing, sandcastle and paddling in the sea, or just for a good beach walk with stone skimming and shell collecting when the weather isn’t quite playing along. We love our local Cramond and Portobello beaches, which you can visit by bus within Edinburgh, and there’s also plenty other beaches within reach that you get to within 30 – 45 minutes by train. Our favourites include Dunbar, North Berwick and Longniddry in East Lothian; and Aberdour and Kinghorn in Fife. Don’t forget your Kids for a Quid train tickets (see above)!

Trees & Seas Outdoor Adventures

And, finally, this isn’t something we’ve been to ourselves, but I wanted to include it for those living in the area. Trees & Seas provides inclusive outdoor play-based learning for children and families, with both weekly/ monthly sessions, and additional holidays sessions, with free participation for families living in postcodes EH16 and EH17 (with an option to donate, if you are able). Sessions take place in various places, including Craigmillar Castle Park and Forest, Gracemount Walled Garden, Bridgend Farmhouse, and Musselburgh Beach.

Check out the Trees & Seas website for sessions that still have spaces available.

This isn’t a complete list, I’m sure there’s probably more great free events that are missing – if you know of any other 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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