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Parents’ guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is brilliant for kids but you have to do some groundwork in advance. Turn up without a plan (and a packed lunch, waterproofs and plenty of steely determination) and you’re in for a tough time.

Last year over two million tickets were issued for 3,193 shows in 299 venues. Basically the Scottish capital goes a little crazy during what’s considered to be the world’s greatest arts festival.

But don’t let that put you off: the Edinburgh Fringe really is a festival for the entire family. Over five percent of shows are for children, bringing the delights of theatre, puppetry, comedy, dance, magic and storytelling to your little ones.

Here are our top tips for surviving the chaos — and maximising the Fringe fun:

1. If you’re not familiar with the city — and even if you think you are because Fringe Edinburgh is a little different from regular Edinburgh — look at some maps before you go. The tourist information office near Waverley station is the best place to go for maps and a general overview of the city. Work out where your venues are and the best way of getting there.

2. Don’t book too many shows. With so much choice it’s easy to get carried away and schedule every spare minute. Regardless of the age of your kids, and whether they’re travelling in a buggy or on foot, they’re going to get tired. And so will you. The last thing you want is to be rushing across the city with moaning kids to make it to a show that none of you will enjoy because you’re too sleepy/grouchy/hungry. Part of the beauty of the Edinburgh Fringe is there is so much going on that a street performance you stumble across could end up being the highlight of the day.

More: 10 Ways to keep your kids entertained if it rains all summer

3. Take a rucksack packed with high-energy snacks, water, baby wipes and a change of clothes for each family member. Don’t forget lightweight waterproofs even if the weather forecast is good — this is Scotland remember.

4. Aim for a mixture of shows that will appeal to all your children and try to introduce them to something completely different for a really memorable experience. Bearing that in mind, here are some recommendations that both you and your young kids will love: 

Ali McGregor’s Jazzamatazz!

The daytime family participation show from popular cabaret artist Ali McGregor has been a huge hit with kids and adults alike in previous years and is guaranteed not to disappoint in 2015. Leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready to sing, dance and jive along. Recommended for ages 1 to 10.

Video credit: Ali McGregor/YouTube

Jazzamatazz! is on at the Assembly George Square Gardens on various dates from Aug. 6 to 30. Buy tickets here.

Flamenco for Kids

Flamenco for Kids is always a huge hit at Edinburgh Fringe. Children from age 3 are provided with flamenco costumes and encouraged to clap, dance and stomp to the fabulous music of Ricardo Garcia’s Flamenco Flow. Perfect for working up an appetite for lunch.

Flamenco for Kids is on at C venues every day from Aug. 5 to 31, apart from Aug. 17 and 24. Buy tickets here.

The Amazing Bubbleman

The Amazing Bubbleman, a.k.a. Louis Pearl, has been wowing audiences with science, magic, comedy and audience participation for over 30 years. Kids of all ages will be entranced by his bubble brilliance incorporating volcanoes, tornadoes and trampolines — and you will too.
Video credit: Louis Pearl/YouTube

The Amazing Bubbleman is at the Assembly Rooms, Aug. 6 to 30. Buy tickets here.

Burklyn Youth Ballet: Alice in Wonderland

American ballet company Burklyn Youth presents Lewis Carroll’s much-loved tale of Alice in Wonderland as a vibrant dance performance set to the music of Offenbach. The colourful costumes and straightforward storytelling make it a perfect production for children as young as 2.

Alice in Wonderland is on at Zoo Southside from Aug. 14 to 22. Buy tickets here.

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The Scarecrows’ Wedding

Everyone’s favourite scarecrows, Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay, are brought to the Edinburgh Fringe thanks to Scamp Theatre and their adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding. We all know how the story ends but we won’t enjoy it any less. Recommended for age 3 plus.
Video credit: The Book People/YouTube

The Scarecrows’ Wedding is at Underbelly, George Square on various dates from Aug. 6 to 31. Buy tickets here.

Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids (and Childish Grown-ups!)

The time-travelling Victorian duo promise to bring “… a mountain of mysterious magic, a hatful of hyper-reality, and, of course, a truck-full of tricks and tea,” to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. It’s the perfect silly, magic, captivating show for the whole family (recommended age is 4 plus).

Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids (and Childish Grown-ups!) is on at Underbelly at Med Quad on various dates from Aug. 5 to 31. Buy tickets here.

Shakespeare Untold

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre makes its first Fringe appearance this year, presenting two kids’ plays, recommended for age 5 plus, under the umbrella title Shakespeare Untold, in association with Seabright Productions. “Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale)” tells the story of the star-crossed lovers from the point of view of the Capulet Ball party planner, while the rather more gruesome “Shakespeare Untold: Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker’s Tale)” is retold by the man who baked the horrible pie.
Video credit: ShakespearesGlobe/YouTube

Shakespeare Untold: “Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale)” and Shakespeare Untold: “Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker’s Tale)” can be booked separately or as a double bill. Both shows are at the Pleasance Courtyard from Aug. 5 to 31. Buy tickets here.

The Ugly Duckling

Needham B. Broughton High School from Raleigh, North Carolina retells the classic children’s story, using music and captivating characters to teach kids of all ages the real meaning of beauty. Toddlers and school-age kids alike will enjoy this charming performance.

The Ugly Duckling is at the Church Hill Theatre from Aug. 7 to 11. Buy tickets here.

See the full Edinburgh Fringe Festival programme here.

More: 20 Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows that will knock your socks off

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