Kew Gardens is the largest UNESCO World Heritage site in London and has a huge range of trees and plants both in the world famous greenhouse and the gardens. The garden is always changing and no two visits will be the same, so I’ve updated my Kew Gardens review after we visited again over the summer holidays.
We arrived by the back entrance near the car park so had to walk across the extensive gardens before you get to the more “touristy” part. Coming from this direction it’s quite easy to get away from / avoid the crowds. The first thing I noticed the first time we visited was how many squirrels there were. They were everywhere and they’re fearless – the kids loved it. Having promised hubby hundreds of squirrels I looked like a bit of an idiot when we saw a grand total of 2 this time!
There is so much to do I’m not sure where to start. Within the Bamboo gardens there is the Minka House (a Japanese Farmhouse which was taken from Japan and relocated to London). The Arboretum includes a lake and a beautiful bridge, there’s the Rhododendron Dell, Queen’s garden as well as the greenhouses. They also have a sculpture trail, great pagoda and the Great Broad Walk. In 2019 they opened the brand new children’s garden.
Kew Garden review update – covid-19
In the year since our last visit covid has hit. Kew Gardens has now reopened but there are still some restrictions in place. Most of the toilets are open, although the smaller ones are closed. The restaurant is currently take-away only. Some areas, such as the Badger Sett and the treetop walkway were closed when we visited. The restrictions may/will change so please double check their website for the latest updates.
Review of the Children’s Garden @ Kew Gardens
This is a ticketed area, but tickets are free. You can either book online in advance or you can try to book some of the limited tickets available on the day. We managed to get tickets on the day, even during the summer holidays, because we were there early. Each slot is 90 minutes long.
Kew Gardens review update 2020 – currently the sessions are 60 minutes long. Everyone is asked to leave between sessions and some equipment is closed. This will change in line with government guidance.
The garden centres around the oak tree circle and has six zones. The garden is really good and has lots to do. Inside the children’s garden there are mini trampolines, hammocks, a brilliant splash zone, a rope bridge, tower to climb, climbing rope frame, pagoda, and loads of great spaces to explore. There’s also a really food sandpit play area with slides, houses and more.
Certain areas are more suitable for different ages than others. The wooden playground in the pine tree wilderness is definitely more suitable for older children. It does have a little bridge that smallest child kept going over, but the rest of it was beyond her. The water garden will probably appeal most to younger, rather than older, children. It’s got a pump at the top which then sends loads of water down channels on either side. There’s also another water area with a little pool you can splash around in.
There’s only one entrance and exit, but it is quite a big area so it’s quite easy to lose over-excited children. I’d also recommend taking either a swimming costume or a change of clothes as the kids will get wet if they go in the wet zone.
Next to the Children’s garden is climbers and creepers which is aimed at under 5’s. It’s a really nice idea but it REALLY needs a refurb. Lots of the equipment didn’t work, large sections are closed off and it all looks really shabby. If the equipment had been better maintained then we would have spent ages in here. They don’t really mention it on their website so I wonder if it’s being abandoned now they have the garden. (Review update – on our latest visit it’s still there, but it was closed due to covid)
Kew Palace Review
We didn’t make it to Kew Palace the first time we visited, but we did have a look around on the second visit. This was once the home of King George III and Queen Charlotte. It’s surprisingly small, in fact it’s the smallest palace in the UK. Given that they had FIFTEEN children you would have expected something a bit bigger. I’ll say that again FIFTEEN CHILDREN!!!!!! Crazy. We were in there for about half an hour as there isn’t a huge amount to see. There are some really beautiful gardens at the back. Sadly we didn’t look around these as someone needed the loo and we forgot to go back. Oops. I’ve not done a separate review for Kew Palace from the main Kew Gardens review because, although they’re separate charities, entry to the palace is included in the price.
The Tree Top Walkway
The Treetop walkway was fantastic (if a little bit nausea inducing for someone who is a slightly afraid of heights). The boys thought being up in the trees was amazing. The only downside is that you cannot take a pushchair up there and there is nowhere secure to leave the pushchairs. There is somewhere you can leave them but it’s just at the bottom of the lifts. Carrying a smallest child at a couple of months old without a sling at 18 meters above ground was also less than ideal. (NB. only over 5’s are allowed but I either missed that last time or it was a new rule). It really was magical to be up in the treetops and you see so much from up there.
The Badger Sett and Log Trail
The Badger Sett is a really good idea. It’s a series of tunnels that the kids can run around and see what it’s like to be a badger. Sadly it was spoiled by the other kids who were there the first time we visited. Because there is zero visibility of what the children are up to it means those children that seriously need to be supervised get away with whatever they want to!! It was fine the second time we went, and this time smallest child was able to explore too so I could go in with them! Little tip – near the Rhododendron Dell there is a real Badger’s sett. Obviously the kids can’t go into this one but smallest child was really taken with the idea that the badgers were asleep and kept shhhhing us so we didn’t wake them.
Next door to the Badger sett is a log trail. There are lots of different types of wood here and the entire trail is made from trees that have fallen down in storms at Kew. This has had an upgrade recently and it’s now EPIC. It’s so big and beautifully carved in places. Middle Child ran around four times before we dragged him away.
There are four greenhouses in total, the Princess of Wales, The Palm House, The Davies Alpine House and the Temperate House. Word of warning, they’re all quite hot and humid. They have to be for the plants to grow, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
The greenhouses were all very special, but a real highlight for me had to be the Princess of Wales Conservatory. There are 10 different areas which allow a huge variety of plants to be grown. They also have the world’s most disgusting smelling plant here as well. It smells like rotting flesh. Nice!! I still haven’t managed to get into the Temperate house though. It was being refurbished the last time I did a review of Kew Gardens and this time we just didn’t get chance. It’s a shame because it looks really good on their video.
Middle child was particularly looking forwards to the palm house. It’s not huge but it’s packed full of really interesting plants. He particularly wanted to see the banana trees and was delighted when he did! The palm house wasn’t designed for mass tourism so it is quite busy in there and squashed in there at times.
What else is there?
Kew Gardens is world famous for its, well, gardens! They are sooo beautiful and there’s lots of little gardens dotted all around. It’s just a lovely space to spend the day.
Smaller little gems include the Minka House and Hive. Currently there are lots of blown glass sculptures dotted around the gardens. The last time we visited there were other sculptures of little men and materials. You can get tickets to go up the Great Pagoda if you want to. There is also a land train. It’s £5 per adult and £2 per child and tickets are valid all day. I think that’s a bit steep but it does help you get around the vast site more easily.
There’s a beautiful lake with a little bridge across the middle. When we visited the second time they have juvenile swans swimming around. During the course of our day we also saw a deer, a little mouse gathering nuts and loads of parakeets. There was me just expecting those squirrels!
The whole site is very pushchair friendly and there were no problems getting around the site, except for tired little legs. There are various little shelters dotted around if the weather gets a bit showery. They also have lots of drinking fountains dotted around so you can refill your water bottles which I really liked.
FREE for Blue Peter badge holders. £44 for a family ticket online, free for under 4’s (Aug 2020). CSSC card holders get FREE entry for them and up to three children, any accompanying adults get 50% off too. That’s £9 for a family of 5!
Parking / How to get there
Address – Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE
Parking can be problematic. I’d heard the car park can fill up very quickly so I deliberately got there early and had no issues. By 10 o’clock it was about 1/3rd full already and the car park was full when we left. The car park is chargeable £7 per day – you can pay by card as well as cash.
Various on-site including baby change. They also have fully accessible changing hoist and bench.
Picnics very welcome, and it’s a stunning place to have your lunch. There are a few covered places to eat if the weather isn’t great though. Various cafes on-site
Our Kew Gardens review
There is so much to do and there are new things have been added each time we’ve visited too. You will definitely be able to go back time and time again. Despite three visits now I’ve still not done everything. It’s supposed to be lovely around Christmas time too.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with out three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook
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