Over the Easter holidays my Mum and I decided to to tick another one off our ‘places to visit’ checklist, and take the smalls from East to West with a day out at Kew Gardens. I’d always wanted to visit here, having seen it featured at various times on the telly, but it was actually only when doing a bit of research that I found out just how much there is to do here with (and without) children. Exciting stuff!
Getting here for us is relatively easy- we hop on a train for 10 minutes from East Croydon to Clapham Junction, then change to get one from here to Kew Bridge, where it is another 10 minutes trot across the aforementioned bridge. I’d printed out a map online (although you get given one on arrival), and worked out what we may or may not like to see whilst we were there, although the great thing about such a big place as Kew Gardens is that you can walk for hours and just go with the flow if you want- the landscape is so beautiful with many, many interesting areas to see. Tickets are £15 each per adult, and £3.50 for a child (free for under 4 are free). Mum and I saved some dollar by getting the National Rail 2-4-1 deal (for more info see HERE), which left us with more money to spend on ice creams!
On arrival we decided to head to the ‘Treehouse Towers’ adventure playground, so Freddie and Sasha could stretch their legs, and, it turned out, overcome their fear of wobbly bridges- the screams and tears from child number 2 at first were something else! Once she had mastered this though, there was no stopping either of them, and we had an enjoyable half hour or so pre-lunch letting off some steam.
^^^The playground was pretty busy due to it being the holidays, but was still lots of fun for the children. I guess this is something we’re going to have to get used to once Freddie starts school in September and we can no longer go during the quiet times during the week! *sob*
^^Conquering a fear of wobbly bridges right here!
^^My little dare-devils loving the curly-wurly slide!
Post-playground and pre-lunch we decided to take a short stroll and look for the Shaun The Sheep tent (Shaun The Sheep was the children’s theme at the gardens over Easter, and there were lots of Shaun activities on as a result).
^^Spring is such a beautiful time to visit Kew Gardens, what with all the flowers and trees starting to bloom and blossom. The Magnolia trees are truly breathtaking.
After a 20 minute yomp, we realised we had gone the wrong way (there was zero signposting for the tent from what we could see, which was not ideal), and Freddie was getting tired and hungry (Massive ‘Mum Fail’ not to bring the buggy board here!), so we headed back to the White Peaks cafe near the playground for some lunch. Now, I’d read on the website that this cafe was a really family-friendly one- as had every single other visitor by the looks of it! On arrival it was HEAVING. Which is fair enough, what with it being the Easter holidays. But what did boil my piss was the fact that loads of the tables were taken up by families eating their own packed lunches, despite it stating clearly that own food could not be eaten there, and not a single member of staff was doing anything about it, despite milling about and clearing tables. This meant that we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, and with no clear organisation, people were grabbing anything they could even if they hadn’t been waiting as long, which led to stressed parents and me growling at anyone who dared approach a table we had earmarked for ourselves. Really not ideal at all, and would have been a nightmare if I’d been on my own without my Mum to watch the children whilst I went to get food. I reckon a system like they have at the Natural History Museum Cafe would work much better.
HOWEVER (rant over), the food is lovely if you do choose to buy and eat here, and the staff are quick to serve and friendly with it. There is also a good ‘make your own packed lunch’ stand for children if you don’t want a hot meal for them. Another bonus was bumping into my blogging pal Steph, although neither of us got to chat properly due the craziness of the cafe. Next time, I would either come here at 11.30 on the dot to ensure getting a table, or to be honest, if the weather was nicer, bring our own picnic and sit outside (Kew Gardens is pretty big, after all!). What I can recommend is the ice cream parlour next to White Peaks- lovely cones and a big thumbs up from both Freddie and Sasha here!
^^After lunch we embarked on probably the highlight of our day (and especially Freddie’s!) which was the Land Train around the gardens. There are various stops, and with your ticket can hop on and off different parts of the garden all day (there is a train every half hour from each one). What’s great if you have small children is that you can put your buggy on the front too, before taking a seat in one of the many carriages. The land train was perfect for us, especially in light of that buggy-board fail, and gave Freddie’s little legs a bit of a rest, all whilst taking in the beautiful scenery.
Our driver was really knowledgeable, giving a fantastic commentary of the history gardens whilst the little ones quietly
ish soaked up the sights- a rare chance for a bit of adult brain-fodder whilst having small children in tow! Tickets for the Land Train are £4.50 per adult and £1.50 for a child- worth every penny in my opinion. By taking the train we realised there really is so much to do here, and lots we still didn’t get round to doing (such as the log trail, Giant Badger Set, Bee Garden and the Treetop Walkway), and I’ve bookmarked these for next time we come with Daddy.
^^My sweet boy, absolutely LOVING his land train ride!
^^My lovely Mum and Small Person ‘Wing Woman’!
One of the places we did manage to actually hop off the train for half an hour, before hopping back on again, was the Palm House, the iconic building that you may associate most with Kew Gardens. Here we ventured down to the marine aquarium, which mainly focuses on aquatic plant life, but there are few fish thrown in for good measure, which will always please a preschooler!
^^The children were keen to explore the upper level of Palm House, which can only be accessed by quite steep, windy iron staircases. So whilst my Mum stayed with the buggy, I was forced to overcome my fear of heights (and the children falling through the wide side railings!), by walking my two up to the viewing gallery. Not for the faint-hearted, especially if you have to hold two children’s hands whilst doing so- just don’t look down through the gaps in the stairs! Well worth it though, as the above pic testifies
^^To round off our busy day, Sasha got her face painted (a zebra, natch), whilst Fred had one more run around the playground. Tired but happy, we then pootled off to get the train home for tea.
Kew Gardens, we will definitely be back for more!
Hints and tips for visiting Kew Gardens with young children:
- When it comes to lunch, either bring a picnic (there is a Sainsburys Local right near Kew Bridge Station if you can’t be bothered to cart a big lunch around), or choose your eating time carefully. Look to get a table at White Peaks Cafe near the playground early-doors (like, 11.30am), or consider one of the other eateries in the Gardens, there are plenty, all serving similar dishes.
- Plan your day pre-visit to get the most out of it.
- Bring a travel potty. There are loads of clean, well-equipped toilets around the gardens, but if you’re taking a stroll they can be few and far between, so you are liable to get caught short with a little one!
- Get the Land Train- probably the best, least-tiring way to see the whole of the Gardens and do a bit of a recce. Perfect for legs that are too big for a buggy now, but too small to walk long distances.
- Take your camera- so many gorgeous photo opps!
- Buggy access is generally good at Kew Gardens, although there is none at the Treetop Walkway (buggy park though), Palm House Aquarium and Gallery (we carried the buggy down the steps for the former, and Mum stayed with it for the latter), The Waterlily House and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage.
- You can get a good idea of children’s walking times i.e. how long it takes for them to get from A-B looking at the Kew Gardens Map HERE.