How to make the most of Christmas at Kew light trail: Top tips
We visited Christmas at Kew light trail at Kew Gardens for the first time this year, and what a wonderful experience it was! I've wanted to go for ages so was very happy to finally get tickets. Before going I had quite a few questions though, and while some were answered in the Kew Gardens FAQ site, I did find there were some questions that were still missing - such as where to park for free at Kew Gardens. In addition, I think it is helpful to hear from people that have attended the event themselves, rather than organised it! So here are my thoughts and tips for having a great time at Christmas at Kew experience!
And if you visit Kew Gardens later in daylight, you might also like my posts on How to enjoy Kew Gardens with under 5's and What was Kew Gardens like with corona restrictions
Is Christmas at Kew worth going to?
Yes, most definitely yes, if you can get tickets. Tickets start to be sold in February (I believe members and other priority groups etc.) and the ones that are released later in the year can be quite limited and get sold out very very quick. But the light trail is stunning and really gets you on Christmas mood.
What to wear?
Comfortable but warm shoes as the route is long (2.6km). The day we went was dry, so I wore my Ugg boots. On wet days there are some small sections of the route that can get slightly muddy, but mostly it is paved roads and what appeared to be temporary paving in other places.
Warm coat, and if very chilly, hat and gloves. There were very limited places to warm up on route - just one indoors shop/cafe at the entrance and one almost midway through. There was a stall selling hats and gloves, so all is not lost if you forget them.
And obviously, it is all outdoors so umbrellas / rain coats needed if it is raining!
Do you need a torch?
My eye sight is slightly poor in dark, and I felt OK without one. The trail is quite dark at times, but I found there was sufficient light and no torch was needed. But if it is something that concerns you using a mobile phone torch at tricky spots might suffice.
Is it suitable for kids?
Yes - although I would caution the trail is long and young ones can get very tired!
Overall it is a really family friendly trail. Kew Gardens in general is very family friendly. There are plenty of toilets along the route. The route is also flat and fully buggy accessible, and should be accessible to wheelchairs too.
There is also a traditional fairground midway through, which will appeal to kids as a little pit stop from walking, and will lighten parental wallets at £3 a ride (plus parents paying too...).
After the fairground we saw Santa for a photo opportunity - not a chat, but literally he was waving to people and you could stop and take a photo with him with your own camera.
What are the toilet / food facilities like?
There are lots of stalls to buy food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) from along the trail, and there is even marshmallow roasting experience! We missed this as the girls were being very tired silly, but it looks fun. Food was usual street vendor food, and sweet treats such as churros and waffles. Drinks available were things such as soft drinks, mulled wine and cider, hot chocolate, coffee and champagne.
Plenty of toilets available throughout the whole path.
Are food and drinks expensive? How much money to bring?
Kew Gardens light trail is an expensive day out, no doubt about it.
If it helps, our family of four paid for
- £17.50 for drinks (one water, one hot mulled wine, one hot rum cider, one apple juice and one coke)
- £30.5 for food (one wrap and chips, one burger, one haggis toastie)
- £20.5 for snacks (two portions of churros, three chocolate bars)
So altogether £68.5 on things to eat and drink, and this is on top of entrance tickets.
The prices for food, drinks and snacks were a bit on the expensive side for what you get. We could have been more conservative with purchases but with young kids the trail did take us a long time and happened to be around the time the girls were getting hungry, so we ended up spending more than I had hoped.
Which gate to enter from? What gate to buy tickets for?
Short answer - the gate you have booked tickets for! Due to crown control Kew Gardens sells tickets to all four gates, so check which one you booked before coming to avoid difficulties at the door.
If you haven't booked the tickets yet, I recommend Victoria Gate. This is the main gate and where the trail is designed to start. There is the big "Welcome to Kew" light feature at the beginning, and the trail ends with the grand finale, a massive musical light show at Palm House. Victoria Gate is also closest to the Tube Station.
That said, tickets can be difficult to get, so if in doubt, just book what you can get. And if you are driving, Brentford Gate and pre-booking your parking will be the more stress-free option.
To get a parking space in the Kew Gardens Ferry Lane car park, you have to book tickets to Brentford Gate and pay for pre-booked parking at £10 a pop. This is the car park which is closest to Kew Bridge.
Alternatively, National Archives (inside ULEZ) often offers paid-for parking for Kew Glow Wild visitors, but do check ahead. Then there is Kew Retail Park (also inside ULEZ) with free parking limited to 4h (but check on the day). These is about 10-15 minutes walk away from Elizabeth and Victoria Gates.
Free parking around Victoria Gate is available, but you will have to trust your luck. There are very limited parking spaces on Kew Road, so you are probably more in luck if you try the side roads. This area has residents only parking usually Mon to Friday, from 10AM to noon, after which it is free to park. Also wasn't inside ULEZ! This is what we did, and managed to find a spot few minutes walk away from Victoria Gate!
Then there is Old Deer Car Park (not too expensive), which is a fair distance away, 15 minutes walk from Lion Gate or 30min walk from Victoria Gate. If you use this, there are also buses you can catch down Kew Road.
Kew Gardens light trail, or the Christmas at Kew experience, is a fab day out albeit expensive. Comfortable and warm footwear and warm jackets are needed, as the walking route is long. It is suitable for families, and many parents with young kids enjoy the experience. Best gate to start the light trail is the main gate, Victoria Gate, as the trail is designed to end in a grand finale at Palm House by that gate. Kew Gardens parking needs to be pre-booked, but there are various paid and free parking available locally.
I hope you have a great time at Christmas at Kew and let me know if you have any questions. You might also enjoy my posts about Kew Gardens, such as How to enjoy Kew Gardens with under 5's and What was Kew Gardens like with corona restrictions
You might also like: How to enjoy Kew Gardens with under 5's and What was Kew Gardens like with corona restrictions
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