Modern, yet marvelously medieval, Scotland’s capital city is a tiered, garden traveler’s dream that ripples with history, art, fun and cultural offerings.
History & Culture
A good place to begin your exploration is Edinburgh Castle, making a formidable statement on the city’s skyline from practically every angle. Within the walls, discover the Stone of Destiny housed in the Throne Room, and tour the Regimental Museums, Crown Jewels and the shining armors in the Great Hall. Plan to be there at midday for the firing of the One O’Clock Gun (daily guided or self-guided tours are available). In city center, the Scottish National Gallery houses a massive collection of masters, including works by Vermeer, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Titian — plus Scotland’s native sons Raeburn, Wilkie, Ramsay and McTaggart. At the National Museum of Scotland, you can enjoy an impressive overview of the city’s past and present through exhibits of archaeology, art and culture.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, enjoy the tradition of Sunday roast. Served up with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding with gravy, it’s offered on menus in restaurants and pubs citywide. If you like to nibble while you walk, Eat Walk Edinburgh offers organized food tours of the city that include fun and unusual options you might not otherwise come across. Love whiskey? You’re in the right town. Multiple tasting options include The Scotch Whiskey Experience and Rabbie’s Tours, which offers one-day and longer private and group tours with guides and transportation.
If gin is more to your taste, don’t miss a visit to the Edinburgh Gin Distillery Visitor Centre, where you can explore the creation process of gin and taste samples straight from the distillery.
Edinburgh is one of the best walking cities in Europe. Small, compact and built on multiple levels, you’ll get a great workout just sightseeing. Outdoor opportunities include seasonal gliding across the ice at Murrayfield Ice Rink, and bike hires at The Leith Cycle Co. But, the best local outdoor adventure experience may just be a history hike in Holyrood Park, an archaeological park that includes the extinct volcano known as Arthur’s Seat. The park offers free entry, and you can request a guided tour with a park ranger at the Holyrood Park Education Centre located behind Holyrood Palace.
All that city walking will have you more than ready for a spa afternoon. For elegance and truly sublime pampering, book a treatment like the Ayurvedic Oshadi Wrap at The Balmoral. Other great choices include the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian on Princes Street, and The Scotsman Hotel’s Aveda Spa on North Bridge.
Make for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. After a stroll along the winding garden paths and through the Chinese Rock Garden, enjoy a cozy afternoon tea with cake at Dawyck Café at the Visitor Centre. Explore Union Canal in a rented rowboat or barge, available for hire at Re-Union Canal Boats, located at Lochrin Basin in the Fountainbridge district. Not far from city center, Cramond’s promenade crosses the River Forth to connect to Cramond Island, where you can explore the 15th-century Cramond Kirk. The church rests above the foundations of an ancient Roman fort.
How about a wacky nighttime ghost tour? There are plenty to choose from, but two of the most fun (and free!) set off at varying times — mostly at dark — from the front of the Royal Mile Coffee House on High Street, and on board The Ghost Bus Tours. Test your nerves in The Edinburgh Dungeons, where you can scream your way through 11 shows that include Escape the Plague, The Green Lady and a spooky subterranean boat tour. At the Edinburgh Zoo, you can meet residents that range from an Asiatic lion, a Binturong and crowned lemurs, to Chinese gorals, Malayan sun bears and giant anteaters. Have a Harry Potter fan in your brood? Enjoy tea or lunch at the Elephant House, where author J.K. Rowling penned many chapters from her Harry Potter series. While your kids are nibbling a hot chocolate brownie with ice cream, they can count the number of elephant figurines, illustrations and statues sprinkled throughout the interior.
Family travels don’t necessarily need to be in theme parks or resorts with massive kids’ clubs. In fact, more upscale properties across the world cater to both adults and kids, and wellbeing brand Sensei joins the growing trend of family wellness travel. Sensei’s Wellness Science team, led by Dr. Vishal Patel, emphasizes the importance of family travels and exposing young travelers to wellness pursuits. Developing healthy habits at a young age can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s life, and bonding via family trips alleviates some of the main drivers of loneliness and isolation.
Five Tips to Help Minimize Potential Travel Problems
While the United States offers a plethora of bike-friendly destinations, a recent study by personal injury law firm Bader Scott found some counties across the country are far more dangerous than others. Family travelers might be surprised to find many lie in popular vacation states.
Ever dreamed of being a mermaid? Well, your dreams could come true on your next family trip. With March 29 National Mermaid Day, these two resorts offer experiences for guests of all ages to enjoy.
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
Make Best Western your hotel of choice during spring family travels for a sweet reward. This spring, BWH Hotels offers members of its Best Western Rewards loyalty program the opportunity to earn a free night stay.