Things to do in Dundee with Kids – The city famous for jute, jam and journalism is also fab for junior travellers who want to enjoy life. There’s way more to see and do than I ever expected. Let’s get started.
Where to Stay
I’m starting with an accommodation recommendation because a great base, at a good price, with a swimming pool, is the foundation of a great holiday. Dundee’s Apex City Quay hotel is really reasonably priced, it has a pool which the kids love (with a whirlpool, steam room and sauna too) and the Yu Spa is fantastic (and uses Elemis products). We’re talking smart, modern family rooms, ample parking, good food in a smart restaurant, plus walking distance to the key visitor attractions and the railway station. What’s not to love? [The Apex also works well for a girls weekend break, I’ve done this before, arrive, cocktail, pool/facilities, spa treatment, dinner, sleep!] Check prices and availability.
Leaving the hotel we walked along Dundee’s rejuvenated waterfront to reach the V&A. En route we passed colourful murals and bike hire at Dundee and Angus Cycle Hub. The hub also has a cafe onsite.
FREE Next to the bike hire we found kids playing in the water fountains in their wellies – it would be even more tempting in the summer months. We stomped across the Urban Beach – pack buckets and spades, or treasure/fossils for sandcastle and archaeological fun. Finally we visited the whale sculpture and walked through the sound maze. Depending on the weather this could be an outing in its own right.
V&A Dundee – Things to do in Dundee with Kids
FREE The V&A Dundee is a fantastic pit stop for kids. I love the architecture, both inside and out, but step into the lobby to find a host of craft tables, activity sheets, books for little ones, absolutely free. Whether you spend 30 mins or three hours, it’s time well spent. Wander around the free galleries that cover Scottish design before stepping inside the LAB. The current exhibition (that you pay to enter, kids are free and adults are £10.91) focuses on PLASTIC but the LAB, with lots of plastic inspired activities for kids, is free once more. The Plastic exhibition runs till 5 February, and the new TARTAN exhibition runs from 1 April to September. Read a full review of the V&A here.
Discovery Point – Things to do in Dundee with Kids
This is a great destination for mini explorers, covering the epic 1901-1904 voyage of the RSS Discovery from Dundee to Antartica to chart the terrain, return with samples, journals and drawings, and learn about this unspoiled region for the greater good. From informative films to lots of hands-on activities – my lads loaded cargo onboard a ship with a mini crane, they compared the weights of different sea creatures and they packed food for an epic journey.
After you’ve learned the story of the voyage and its hardships it’s time to step onboard the ship Discovery. I wondered if the vessel moored outside was a life-size replica, but the boys were shocked to discover it was the ACTUAL ship that set sail over a century ago – it’s quite remarkable when you think about the fact you’re walking where the likes of Ernest Shackleton and Captain Scott once trod. Onboard you see the crows nest from which one poor sailor fell to his death, the cosy kitchen with the sick bay adjacent, plus there’s an activity deck for youngsters featuring a husky puppet show, building blocks etc. And in the men’s sleeping quarters a pack of cards and dominos await, so we sat playing GoFish where once the crew grabbed some shut eye. Remarkable story.
Pricing is quite complex, and can include annual access, plus joint access to Verdant Works and the Discovery Dome, so read more here.
Discovery Dome – Things to do in Dundee with Kids
A new addition to Discovery Point is the Discovery Dome. This is a 20 minute immersive artistic experience. The first impression is of the 3d planet earth globe art installation, Gaia, installed in the upper cupola of the building. Views on climate change are read out by children, before the recognisable voice of actor Alan Cumming narrates the tale of Dundee’s development from 1901 onwards, with images of the city displayed on the 360 degree blinds covering the dome’s windows. The grand finale is the raising of the blinds revealing views out over the city and water. It’s very new and very different so if it sounds intriguing check out prices here and note that a time slot has to be pre-booked in advance. Watch a short tiktok video of our trip here.
Verdant Works – Things to do in Dundee with Kids
I enjoyed the Verdant Works as we spent several hours here – top value! Dundee was built off the back of the jute industry. To be honest, I didn’t know what jute was, and I didn’t know if I’d find it that interesting but Verdant Works (housed in a former jute factory) really delivers. What really helped us was a volunteer called Iain who let our kids handle raw jute, which resembles hair from a very bad blonde wig, and he explained how it was combed and stretched and twisted to make yarn, then string, then rope. He somehow made it interesting, and the kids actually listened!
The jute was imported from India tapping into Dundee’s shipbuilding/maritime skills, then, using Dundee’s expertise in the flax industry it could be transformed into jute products by tapping into the city’s whaling industry as whale oil was originally needed to soften the jute. It all came together in Dundee.
The overwhelming role of women in this industry is also highlighted as 2 out of every 3 employees in jute were female, leading to Dundee being referred to as She-Town. The men at home with the kids were called Kettle Boilers (how insulting for simply looking after your own kids!) and Dundee women naturally played a strong role in the suffragette movement helping to secure the vote for women.
Also look out for the Red Box – a crafting and colouring centre for kids in the heart of Verdant Works. Entry prices to Verdant Works can be tied in with other Dundee sites and annual passes so check it out here. Watch a short tiktok video of our trip here. And remember there’s an informal cafe onsite too.
Camperdown Park and Wildlife Centre
FREE The playground section of the park is free and has extensive play equipment for little ones.
Entry to the Wildlife Centre was a huge hit with our little ones. It costs £22 for a family ticket, and expect to see creatures such as brown bears, lemurs and marmosets.
FREE Classic comics such as the Beano and Dandy come out of Dundee. We hunted down the statues of Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie, all just a few minutes walk from each other in the city centre. It’s also possible to step inside the foyer of publishers DC Thomson to see comic characters at large, and buy comics, magazines and relevant merchandise.
Dundee Botanic Garden
My husband took the kids to the gardens (while I luxuriated in the Apex hotel’s Yu Spa), exploring 9.5 acres, including a tropical glass house, water garden and herb garden. Children under 16 are free, and adults are £5. There’s also a coffee shop on site.
Food & Drink
Here are some foodie highlights that we loved. The V&A‘s restaurant isn’t your typical museum/gallery cafe. The Tatha Bar and Restaurant offers great views, tables are bookable, the food is gorgeous and punches above its weight, or you can simply drop by for a coffee. Dishes include ham hock and chicken roulade, celeriac, spinach & confit garlic pithivier, or braised beef.
Drop by Fisher and Donaldson for its legendary fudge doughnuts and coffee towers. An informal cafe is also onsite dishing up traditional Scottish fare.
In the centre of town, Waterstones Cafe (with gallery views down onto the shop floor below), allows kids to dine and do a spot of book shopping. We noticed so many lovely independent coffee shops in the centre of town, and plan to try more, so follow your nose to find a lovely spot.
As the name suggests, the Bridge View Station Cafe is situated in a converted railway station and boasts excellent views over the River Tay along the railway bridge. My kids tucked into sausages, mash and gravy, while I enjoyed a Ploughman’s Platter featuring a pork pie, Great Glen pork salami, Tain cheddar and Blue Murder.
Other attractions that we didn’t get round to…
We need to return to Dundee as we’re still to visit the McManus Gallery and its huge whale skeleton, cycle the cycle paths, visit HMS Unicorn, drop by the Dundee Museum of Transport, hike up Dundee Law, get scientific at the Dundee Science Centre, get arty at the DCA, get wet at Wild Shore Dundee, and when the Olympia Leisure Centre‘s flumes and pool reopens my kids will be desperate to visit.