There are so many things to do with kids at Kew Gardens that is making it one of the top spots for families in London. But don’t underestimate the amount of walking involved, especially if you’re going by public transport and bringing young children.
By tube to Kew Gardens with kids
The first challenge is actually getting to Kew Gardens. It is, technically, outside London due to its TW9 postcode, but the District Line, as well as the London Overground line, stops at Kew Gardens Station (zone 3). Many families will have the Children’s Garden as their first priority, and it’s important to keep in mind that the playground is located all the way to the north-west corner of the park, which would be a 3 km walk if arriving at Richmond Station.
If you just want to go as quickly as possible to Children’s Garden our recommendation is to arrive at Kew Gardens Station with the District Line or London Overground and then enter the park through Victoria Gate which would be a 1.5 km walk in total. The path is very scenic and will take you past the impressive Palm House before arriving at the popular playground where you’ll also find the soft play area and the White Peaks Cafe where there are good food options for kids.
In the same area as the playground, you’ll find Kew Palace which is a stunning location for a picnic on the front lawn. We have never been to the palace itself though as there are so many other things to do for kids in the park.
If your priority is the Great Pagoda or Temperate House on the southern end of the park, arriving from Richmond Station through the Lion Gate is around the same distance as from Kew Gardens Station. And if your aim is to see as much of the park as possible, a good strategy could be to start at Lion Gate and exit through Victoria Gate and travel back through Kew Gardens Station.
Queuing at Kew
Cycles and scooters are not allowed in the park so anticipate a fair amount of walking. Knowing how stressful it can be with tired kids it makes sense to do a bit of planning in advance and prioritise what you want to see. The queues for the Children’s Garden can get very long in the afternoon, so arriving in the morning is usually recommended. Alternatively, arrive just before lunch and try to get an early afternoon slot at the playground. In this way, you can have lunch while waiting for your slot and the kids will be well-rested and full of energy when they finally enter through the gates.
Top Activities for kids at Kew Gardens
These are the top three things to do with kids at Kew Gardens:
- The amazing Children’s Garden – check our review!
- The Treetop Walkway (which rivals any rollercoaster for breathtaking excitement!)
- Climbers and Creepers
The best attraction for young kids is the Children’s Garden, which probably would have made it to the top of our list of Londons best playground if it hadn’t been for the entrance fee, limited time-slots and queuing. Read all about it in our review! By any comparison, it’s an amazing playground where kids can get close to the elements of nature while enjoying equipment like slides and climbing frames.
Treetop Walkway is also one of our biggest highlights. Sixty feet above the ground amongst the canopy level of the forest, the views from up there are amazing on a sunny day, not to mention the ability to peer down at the forest below. You can even take pushchairs up as long as you stay at the base, and the nets on the sides are so high that its safe for young children.
Climbers and Creepers
Climbers and Creepers is the soft play area next to Children’s Garden. For us, going to Kew Gardens is all about being outside in nature, so priority will never be to spend time inside. We are also not huge fans of soft play areas in general, but from what our short visit to Climbers and Creepers it seems like one of the better ones. If it’s a long wait for Children’s Garden or raining outside this is definitely a good place to take the kids, but its not the main attraction in our book.
A tropical experience in London
On a good day, Hyde Park, Regents Park, and St James Park are chock full of tourists eager to experience the “London Summer Life”. Kew Gardens, on the other hand, offers an escape from all that, plus it offers much much more than just a park with grass and trees and overpriced ice creams. Indeed, it is one of the least celebrated London spots but it deserves so much more credit; it is one of the world’s biggest botanic gardens, collecting plants from all over the world. Sort-of like the London Zoo, but with plants, instead of animals.
Inside, they have several large greenhouses, each with a specially controlled climate to mimic a certain part of the world. There is the famous Palm House, which looks like an upside-down boat, and inside it is a humid 30+ degrees and houses plants from tropical climates. A definite place to visit during the winter, not so during the summer! There is also a water lily house, a desert greenhouse, and lots of flora and fauna organized by category throughout the park, in addition to a bee park with lots of hives.
Classic Kew Gardens Highlights
Here are some of our overall favourite Kew Gardens attractions:
- The historic glasshouses
- The iconic Chinese Pagoda
- Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
- The Marianne North and Shirley Sherwood galleries of botanic art
- Museum No. 1, which documents man’s relationship with plants
Many visitors’ favourite attraction at the Gardens is the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which is split into various climatic zones where you can enjoy the plant species and environmental conditions of different parts of the world, ranging from cacti-filled deserts to the tropical rain forests. The Gardens is also home to Kew Palace (which requires a separate entry fee, due to it being administered by the Historic Royal Palaces organisation) and the popular Summer Swing concerts.
There are also numerous free guided tours throughout the day, and we were lucky enough to have arrived just in time to join one of them. The normal guided tours are at 11am and 2pm, and take about an hour. The guides are very knowledgeable about the plants at Kew as well as the history of Kew Gardens itself.