The Eden Project is a surreal, unworldly landscape born in a rather peculiar location. Hiding in a quarry in Cornwall, it's the brainchild of Tim Smit, who had a vision to build the largest captive rainforest in the world. Changing this barren quarry crater forever, the Eden Project, has been quoted as the 8th Wonder of the World, and it might just be one of the most beautiful transformations you might ever witness.
The Eden Project is an all round fabulous place for families to lay eyes on, to soak up facts, to get touchy feelie, and to meet what you eat from around the world. It's also a brilliant rainy day destination.
The Eden Project certainly has the wow factor with views like this from the Rainforest Lookout
1. Dream Big Little Ones
This message we reiterate to our kids on an almost daily basis. Nothing is out of your reach. And this is the message that hits you as you approach the entrance of the Eden Project. Before you've even laid eyes on whatever it is you're about to see, a series of boards display enlarged photos of the landscape as it was - a clay pit quarry with unstable foundations, and describe the vision of one man, Tim Smit, to create a lost world in a crater. Now that's an adventure!
The Eden Project is made up of a number of interconnecting biomes, the two largest being the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome. On site there is also the Core, home to exhibitions and an indoor play area for little ones.
Fact 1. Because of the shifting soil of the bottom of the clay pit quarry, one of the design team struck gold whilst washing up by noticing bubbles would have more stability on uneven ground - this is the reason for the bubble shaped biomes.
2. Showcasing the World's Most Important Plants
The Eden Project is the greatest ever collection of plants useful to humans. In one place your children can see a massive diversity of plants from all over the globe and understand how every day products in their lives are made from plants. Chocolate, rubber, coffee, bananas, sugar - you can see all of it right here under one roof. A vat of knowledge to be soaked up and digested. Unbelievable.
Rubber, cork, sugarcane and bananas - all crops that we were able to see.
Fact 2 - The huge dark bud hanging off the banana tree is in fact the male flower.
3. Understand why Conservation is critical
The Eden Project is an educational charity. From the moment you enter to your entire journey around the site, it's 100% absorption into the environment and unfortunately its threats. From a text book in school, our children can read about the perils our planet is facing but here at the Eden Projects it comes to life and they come some way to understanding it first hand. Seeing plants in their habitat with the ecosystems that the rainforest supports can seriously make the penny drop. Hurray.
Fact 3 - Rainforests cover 5% of the world's surface and are vital in controlling the earth's temperature by absorbing CO2, storing loads of carbon, making lots of rain… & making vast white clouds. White reflects heat, keeping the Earth cool.
4. Explore a Lost World
Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. You take your pick which movie set you feel you've stumbled into when you enter the rainforest biome. For kids I can only imagine the sense of adventure with the sheer scale of plant life towering above. Scurrying across rope bridges, steamy walkways, scrambling around bamboo huts, dug out canoes and a real waterfall. My kids adored it running round in wonder. A delight to watch.
Fact 4 - The Rainforest Biome covers about 16,000m² and is 50m high. So high you could fit the Tower of London twice inside it! Over 230 miles of scaffolding was used to build the biomes gaining the Eden Project an entry in the Guiness Book of Records!
5. Test your Nerve - Ascend the Rainforest Lookout
One of the biggest draws to the Eden Project is the chance to climb up to the Rainforest Lookout - a spectacular birds eye view of the rainforest biome. After the wobbly ascent, you'll be rewarded with an incredible sight down below - the canopy, a mass of verdant textured interwoven foliage stretches out across the biome, whilst giant trees, like the kapok and balsa, almost touch the hexagonal roof.
As it can get swelteringly hot up there, a hygrometer carefully records the humidity and if the temperature hits 34 degrees then the Rainforest Lookout closes.
The Lookout is limited to 45 minute slots at 10am, 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm. Our biggest tip on visiting the Eden Project is if it's hot - queue for the 10am as it could well close later on in the day if the humidity exceeds safe levels (although staff tell us that it often quietens down after 3pm as visitors head to the beach - so make a call on just how sunny it is and go with it). It's it's cloudy, then although it can still get very hot in the biome, 4pm is the good slot to avoid massive queues and was in fact the one we went for, with thankfully no queues at all. Result.
The steps up to the perch are mesh so be prepared to see below through every step. The staircase also shakes quite precariously on ascent. It's not everyone's cup of tea and some visitors can understandably get spooked! Groups of a maximum of 24 people are allowed up to the viewing platform at one time and everyone must be able to walk by themselves, so no babies or toddlers. It's also recommended that those with dicky hearts, who suffer from vertigo & similar medical conditions sit this one out.
Fact 5 - Adventurer Bear Grylls officially opened the Rainforest Lookout by jumping off it and abseiling down it in 2010
6. Touch and Feel Exotic Plants
Striking tropical blooms shouting 'I am vivid' jumped out on us on every turn and blew my girls away. We allowed them to carefully and with the utmost gentleness to touch the flowers. Everything's real here (and giant!)
Fact 6 - 83,000 tonnes of soil was made onsite to house over 135,000 plants in the biomes. It took 10 years for the plants to grow from the floor to the roof!
7. Learn about how Rainforests actually Work to Cool the Earth
The Weather Maker exhibit, also includes installations exploring how the world’s rainforests act as air movers, water sweaters, flood defenders, rain makers, sun reflectors and carbon catchers. Minnie had fun turning the handle to show how water vapour evaporates through leaves and pulls water up from the roots (flood defenders). I love that the Eden Project has such an interactive enthralling way of teaching.
Fact 7 - Older children over 5 will definitely get the educational slant on the Eden Project. In fact we'd suggest slightly older. Our 9 year old lapped it up like it was a gift from the gods and loved the kids booklet that she could fill in whilst roaming the place (£5 on entry). Our 6 year old enjoyed the general atmosphere but understandably many exhibits went way over her head. Whilst under 4 years old receive free entry, it might be best to wait until your kids are the right age to visit given the stiff admission fees (although annual guest card offered free for a further 12 months after full price admission).
8. Walk in a Cloud & Learn about Climate
The new Weather Maker section is now open and includes a rope bridge, a cloud bridge and an immersive exhibit where you can shelter from tropical rain storms. Our girls were thrilled with the cloud bridge and excitedly walked over and waited for the bursts of steam at least half a dozen times with no sign of interest waning. It's pretty cool.
Fact 8 - the Weather Maker was developed with academic support from the Med Office
9. Rest little legs by scheduling in the story telling sessions
The Eden Project, however exciting, can be a mammoth day out for Littles. We found that instead of wandering around aimlessly (easily done whilst in so much awe!) we took a note of the story telling times so that our girls (and us) could get a bit of down time. These are displayed on a board on entry after paying and were 12 noon and 2pm on the day we visited in the Citrus Grove in the Mediterranean Biome. An animated story teller captivated the children, all happily relaxing on bean bags. Definitely a wise move.
Fact 9 - The Eden Project's two largest bubbles are the Rainforest Biome and Mediterranean Biome. The Med Biome covers about 6540m² and is 30m high. It's a warm dry climate in here where sunflowers, olive trees, and lemon & orange trees all thrive.
10. Relaxed, plentiful family eating options
After steep entry fees, paying for an entire family's lunch (as well as the delicious ice-creams on sale) may well blow your entire budget. If that's the case, bring a packed lunch - there are plenty of lovely areas to spread out and graze. The friendly staff also commented that it was fine to have your own packed lunch on the outside and inside tables of the Eden Kitchen and the Burrito Bar. All the food onsite though looks absolutely delicious oozing healthy options. The stone baked pizzas (from £8.50) at the Med Terrace in the Med Biome looked outstanding, whilst European dishes such as Spanish Paella, Lamb Tagine or Linguine (£9.95) looked pretty darn good too. We would head to the Med Terrace on our next visit as it seemed much less busy than the other eateries. Below the rainforest biome, the Eden Kitchen offers dishes such as sumac chicken, morrocan lamb balls or roast mackerel. Kids fare comes as salmon fish fingers, sweetcorn and tofu fritters or lamb meatballs or if you're kids are a bit fussy like mine choose from a kids grab bag lunch (£5.95) for 5 items and a drink. Then there's the Burrito Bar banging out nachos and burritos. 8 inch burritos for little ones cost £5.50.
Fact 10 - if you ever wondered what the fruit of a Baobab tree tastes like - you're in luck. Try a baobab smoothie or a rum baobab cocktail in the rainforest biome
After 6 years of living in the South West I'm over the moon that we finally pulled our finger out and visited the Eden Project. I didn't expect to be so blown away. I was left seriously impressed and in awe of such a creation. From it's sustainable, environmental messaging to it's sheer size and wonder, it was a fantastic day out. We would thoroughly recommend it to families with age 6+ children. There's plenty of parking, a land train to save tired legs around the site, dogs are welcome on leads, a zipwire that flies across the site (from an adventure company neighbouring the Eden Project - we'll be trying that next time!). Everything you could wish for and more AND a great rainy day out. We will definitely be back.
We took advantage of the Eden Project's locals summer offer - a family ticket bought in June for £37 valid until the end of October. Amazing!
For more information, check out
0-4 free, 5-16 £14.00, adult £27.50, family ticket (2 adults/2 kids) £71.00
If you buy online you get 10% off tickets
If you live locally in Cornwall or Devon watch out for the local deals on Summer or Annual passes
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far