The Eden Project: a family day out in Cornwall
If you’re looking for a jaw-dropping family day out that doesn’t involve high adrenaline rides you can’t go far wrong with the Eden Project in Cornwall.
We have visited this world renowned attraction in the south west of England several times during family holidays in Cornwall. Our most recent visit was during the summer of 2020.
Read on to find out about the COVID-19 measures in place.
What is the Eden Project?
The Eden Project opened to the public in 2000 with the none-too shabby claim of housing the World’s largest indoor rainforest. It still holds that title more than 20 years on.
Since then the former china clay pit has grown in every sense of the word.
The Project is made up of three biomes, or zones, designed to house flora and fauna from around the globe.
Outdoors a network of winding paths take you on a journey through plants used as crops, for brewing and for medicines, as well as a sensory garden, orchard and areas dedicated to local vegetation.
There are view points with information signs along the route that show you how the site has developed over the past two decades.
Inside the two enormous domes are environments suitable for tropical plants more at home in Africa, the Far East, South America and the Mediterranean.
The attraction focuses heavily on protecting the environment and has some impressive sustainability credentials. Here’s the facts:
- The Core interactive education centre is powered partly by solar energy; more than 90% of the money used on supplies for the project’s restaurants is spent with catering companies in Devon and Cornwall;
- rain and ground water is used to water the plants and flush Eden’s loos;
- and it is currently building its own geothermal energy plant.
And while a lot of the attraction of the Eden Project is in it’s ‘back to nature’ approach to a family day out, there is also the SkyWire. At 600 meters its England’s longest zip wire that shoots you across the top of the Eden Project crater at speeds of up to 60mph.
Read my guide to more things to do in St Austell with kids.
More top Eden Project facts
- The Rainforest Biome is 55m high and Mediterranean Biome is 35m high
- The Eden Project site is the same size as 30 football pitches
- The Eden Project was a location for the James Bond film Die Another Day
Visiting The Eden Project in 2020 – know before you go
Here’s what you can expect at The Eden Project after lockdown:
- It’s essential to book your timed entry in advance
- There’s a one way system around the whole site, including the Biomes and The Core
- The Lookout in the Rainforest Biome is closed.
- You can only visit the Blue installation and Seed in The Core. The hands on activities upstairs are closed.
- The Skywire zip line, gift shops and toilets are open
- There are no additional events or activities, like storytelling in the biome, at the moment
- There’s social distancing signs and hand gel all over the site
- The cafes, takeaways and dining area are open. If you bring your own picnic you are asked to sit in the outdoor picnic areas.
- Bring a contactless payment card to pay for food and shop purchases.
We arrived at 9.30am and spent four hours looking around without feeling crowded. We would have spent longer if The Core was fully open but we hope to go back another time and do that again.
All tickets are valid for a year. Just book when you want to revisit during COVID-19.
Our previous visits to The Eden Project
Our first visit to the Eden Project with the kids was in 2016 when they were three and one-years-old. We returned the following year for a winter light show in the Mediterranean dome, which was incredible.
This next section retells the story of our first visit with some updates from our trip in 2020.
Visiting the Eden Project with kids
Unfortunately the Great British weather was playing its usual trick of dishing up rain during a busy holiday period. Even so we knew the Eden Project would still be a good option for a rainy day in Cornwall because so much is under cover.
Here’s more ideas for things to do when it rains in Cornwall.
We arrived at 10am, half an hour after opening. The lines for tickets weren’t too long considering it was a bank holiday weekend, but as we had booked online the night before we joined the much shorter queue to pick up our visitor stickers. We also got 10 percent off and were able to turn our tickets into annual passes for no extra fee.
As is the norm with a baby and toddler, our first stop was the cafe by the entrance for a refuelling pit stop. Alongside the cafe there’s a farm shop-style gift shop, which sells plants, food, ethical cosmetics, energy saving gadgets, and gardening tools.
We picked up a site map (in Spanish to begin with – there are many languages on offer) and set off on the meandering trials of the outdoor biome.
The weather was truly grim so after whizzing through the Zigzag through Time, which demonstrates the evolution of the planet, and the crops of the world, we found ourselves in the welcome dry of the biomes entrance that links to the two domes.
We turned left and entered the Rainforest Biome, at which point my camera lens steamed up and the cold damp feeling from outdoors was replaced by a warm clammy sensation fitting with the topical nature of this zone.
This biome is made up of four interconnected domes, which at their highest point measure the same as 11 double decker buses stacked on top of each other. The scale is awesome and there are some beautiful tropical plants.
Less impressed by this amazing feat of engineering and cultivation was Tin Box Tot who was having ‘one of those days’. We were able to keep her attention for about 10 minutes before she wanted to leave.
Sadly this meant we rushed around the rainforest and didn’t get a chance to take the treetop walkway, which is a new feature since my last visit. Thank goodness for those annual passes!
2020 UPDATE: we took the walkway in 2020 and both girls loved it!
We managed to cajole the Tot into the Mediterranean Biome with the promise of story time. Every day at 12pm and 2pm stories are told in a clearing among the lemon and lime trees.
We made the midday session and were regaled with a story of far away kingdoms and fairy princesses. This was a bit of a turning point for Tin Box Tot and probably saved the day for us.
After a scrumptious Italian-style lunch in the Med Terrace Restaurant we decided to brave the great outdoors again. There was a brief break in the showers, giving us enough time to explore the sensory garden and some of the children’s play areas on our way to The Core.
The Core is the project’s education centre with plenty of interactive activities for children. A lot of it went over the heads of our girls at three and one-years-old, but the Tot queued up a few times tom turn the wheel on the giant nutcracker and enjoyed running around the 70-tonne granite seed at the centre of the building.
2020 UPDATE: a new installation that we loved during our visit in 2020 was Blue. It’s a nine meter tall artwork that pays homage to cyanobacteria. If, like me, you are none-the-wiser, its a bacteria that helps create oxygen.
The installation puffs out scented smoke through vortex cannons. The kids loved trying to catch it.
Before we knew it we had spent five hours at the Eden Project and it was time to head back to the caravan for our girls’ next meal time (we miss these at our peril!).
Overall we were fascinated by what we saw at the Eden Project and, despite the odd toddler meltdown, had a great time. It’s good to know we can revisit some of the parts we didn’t see this time to make the most of our entrance fee.
The Eden Project offers lots of baby and child-friendly facilities, such as high chairs in all its restaurants, microwaves for heating food, and unisex baby changing rooms.
If you plan to see the views from the treetop walkway in the Rainforest Biome then you’d be better to carry or wear your baby, but otherwise the Eden Project is mostly pushchair friendly. There are signs posts and alternative routes where the paths are less accessible.
Eating at the Eden Project
You have a choice of places to eat at the Eden Project, all offering kids menu choices, from pick and mix lunch bags to hot meals.
There’s a canteen in-between the two domes, a restaurant in the Mediterranean dome, a cafe in reception and ice cream and snack booths outdoors.
Are dogs allowed at the Eden Project?
Yes. As we were staying just down the road in our caravan we decided to bring Tin Box Dog along with us for the day. The good news is that dogs can be walked on a lead around the outdoor gardens at The Eden Project.
When we pulled up in the car park we mentioned our four-legged family member to the car park attendants and they directed us to the dog shelters in the Orange car park.
The shelters are wooden, open fronted sheds designed to keep the worst of he sun off your car – not so much of a problem during our visit! You are asked to return to your vehicle regularly to check on your pet – common sense really.
Tip tips for families
- A good tip from the Eden Project is to wear sunscreen during your visit. A lot of your time will be spent outside and even when inside the domes offer no protection from the sun.
- Take a picnic if you want to avoid adding to the cost of your visit. There’s plenty of benches and grassy areas where you can sit for lunch away from the cafes and restaurants.
- If you hate having pocket money arguments in the gift shop the Eden Project have made it easy for you avoid this. When you re-enter the visitor centre to leave you can turn right into the cafe and bypass the gift shop completely. However, if you don’t mind being tempted there’s a wonderful array of food, gifts and souvenirs.
Eden Project opening times
The Eden Project is open from 9am to 6pm. Be aware that the domes may close earlier. Check the Eden Project website ahead of your visit for exact opening times as these may change during the year.
Eden Project accommodation
It is possible to stay at the Eden Project by booking into the YHA Eden Project Youth Hostel.
Eden Project prices
In 2020 adult tickets cost £28.50 and children’s tickets cost £15 (5 to 16-year-olds). You can buy a family ticket for £75 (two adults and two children. These prices allow you to come back as many times as you like within a year.
There are lots of other ticket opens. Check the Eden Project website for up to date price information.
If you enjoy The Eden Project you might also like The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall – it’s just down the road.
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