Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew met—no, exceeded—my expectations.

welcome to kew

I have heard for several years that Christmas at Kew Gardens is a must-do Christmastime outing in London, but this was our first time. You have to book tickets really early—we booked in JULY. And we were really lucky we happened to have a dry evening on the date we booked.img_4911We’ve been to Kew Gardens before, but this was a completely different experience. (And Kew Gardens is very much worth a visit during the day, with or without kids.)

img_4783Fundamentally, it’s a Christmas lights trail, but it’s a far cry from the drive-through Christmas lights displays I grew up going to. If I can compare it to anything, I’d compare it more to Baltimore’s Light City event, when artists’ light installations pop up around the city.

A while back, another American expat had complained to me that it wasn’t Christmassy enough, but I disagree. I don’t think the lights necessarily have to be in the shape of reindeer to make it feel Christmassy.img_4844.jpgimg_4956

There’s also a bit of a European Christmas market atmosphere, with warm drinks and food being sold at little wooden huts, and gourmet marshmallows to toast over a fire.

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What does an entire bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed jumbo marshmallows cost in the States? Less than £1.90, I think.

We walked along the trail of lights, stopping to admire or interact with each light display. There were light displays set to music, a laser light show, and lighted animations projected onto fountains.

Laser light show projected onto the Glass House 
Laser light show projected onto the Glass House, set to music

And of course, there are plenty of good photo ops along the way.

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The prize inside our Christmas cracker
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Grossing out our kids

And right about the time the kids need a break from walking, there is a conveniently located mini funfair with rides. We stopped for a break (we’d pre-purchased ride tokens when we bought our tickets) and the kids enjoyed the rides (there’s a Helter-Skelter, how English!) and we got some food from the huts.

img_4872-1There was also a 5-minute looping Christmas play going on, with Father Christmas making an appearance every few minutes like a cuckoo bird.img_4880Our favourite display was the one called “Waterfall,” which was large and mesmerizing, though my photos and videos don’t do it justice.

Our kids finally tore us away because the marshmallow toasting was right around the corner.img_4898It was a bit of a struggle to get the kids close enough to actually toast their expensive gourmet chocolate marshmallows, however.img_4895We spent nearly 3 hours there, and the kids were really tired by the end, but E actually didn’t complain about being tired of walking until the very end, which was pretty amazing, considering the trail is over a mile long.

But their favourite display came right near the end, when they got to run through these colour-changing tentacles.

And the grand finale: an animated light show projected on the fountains.

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