Happy hearts and happy faces,
Happy play in grassy places—
That was how, in ancient ages,
Children grew to kings and sages.
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Edinburgh's reputation as the intellectual powerhouse of the 18th-century Enlightenment, and more recent incarnation as a party city for stag and hen parties can overshadow its allure as a destination where families with young children can expect to find plenty to occupy young and curious minds - and have lots of fun.
This tour suggests a clutch of attractions that can be enjoyed on a busy half-day excursion, although each of these sights has enough to keep visitors of all ages entertained and intrigued for several hours.
Edinburgh Zoo received a real shot in the arm at the end of 2011, with the arrival from China of Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yuang Guang (Sunshine), a pair of giant pandas. Visitor numbers have rocketed, and there is little doubt that the pandas have been the prime movers in that.
The zoo will be celebrating its centenary in 2013, but youngsters should also find bags of fun at the Camera Obscura, a charmingly quaint form of optical technology (now bolstered by some high-tech illusions) that's been entertaining visitors on the present site for around 160 years. The Italianate palace that houses the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street dates from roughly the same period - but subsequent extension followed by a three-year renovation ensured that its reopening in 2011 revealed a state-of-the-art facility, stuffed full of enough hands-on exhibits to make it an instant crowd-pleaser, not least with children, and the UK's most popular visitor attraction outside London.
The Zoo, Camera Obscura and Dynamic Earth are among the city's more expensive visitor attractions, but all are included in the Edinburgh Pass scheme. Entry to the National Museum of Scotland is free. less «