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Take the kids to … Eden Project, near St Austell, Cornwall

Take the kids to … Eden Project, near St Austell, Cornwall

The world's largest indoor rainforest certainly delivers the wow factor, but the focus on fun and educational activities, sustainability and healthy food also helps to create a great family-friendly excursion In a nutshell A vast, lush crater filled with two million plants, dominated by two shining biomes. The path leading to the entrance gives no clue as to the sight that awaits, then suddenly you are gazing at what looks like alien spaceships among acres of landscaped gardens. One biome houses the world's largest indoor rainforest, the other 1,000 varieties of Mediterranean plants. Outside paths wind up and down terraces and past a giant bee and a 3.3 tonne Junkman sculpture. Sustainability is at its core, from various water and energy-saving devices to local and international community projects. Best thing about it? I can't think of another UK attraction that matches it for visual wow factor. In the school holidays there are free themed shows and activities, with an educational bent - but always fun and interactive. My five-year old had great fun in a messy slime-making session during a half-term science week. Dinosaur Uproar is this summer's attraction (until 2 September) with animatronic dinosaurs roaming the grounds, a dig pit for mini palaeontologists and activity sessions throughout the day. In September (10-27) celebrity chefs - and former the Great British Bake Off contestants - will be giving demonstrations as part of the Festival of Food. What about lunch? There's no shortage of places to eat, and there's an emphasis on healthy food - no fizzy drink dispensers here. The Med Terrace in the Mediterranean biome is a pleasant spot for a sit-down lunch with pizzas from £8.50 (kids £5.50), paella £9.95, seabass £9. At the Eden Kitchen one main item (say, roast salmon or chicken wrapped in prosciutto) with salad costs £7.95; for kids the "grab a bag" (wraps, hummus, juice or water, fruit) costs £5.95; a juice bar sells mixes from £3.50. Ice-creams come in exotic flavours (mango yogurt, coconut and baobab, coffee and brazil nut) for £2 a scoop. Exit through the gift shop? The shop is vast, selling gifts, clothes, cards, local beer, wine, food, books, gardening paraphernalia and more. But you can scoot around the side of it to avoid temptation. Getting there Drivers park for free and there are electric car-charge points. The nearest train station is St Austell, then First Bus 101. Visitors arriving by foot, bike or public transport get a discount. Opening times 9.30am-6pm (8pm some dates in August). In the school summer holidays get there when it opens or face long queues. Value for money? It's not a cheap day out but it is a very special place. Advance tickets (they are 10% more on the door): adults £22.50, kids (5-15) £12.50, family of four £62.50. Tickets to the Hangloose thrill rides (the Drop, where you jump onto an airbag, England's longest zip-wire at 660 metres, and a giant swing) ramp up costs considerably (combined ticket for all three £34, bought separately at the Hangloose kiosk). The new onsite hostel, a collaboration between YHA and Snoozebox, costs £55 a night (for a family of four). Guests who buy Eden Project tickets directly through YHA get 20% off the entry price and unlimited access for the duration of their stay.

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