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Day tripper: Why Kew Gardens should be on your summer hotlist

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One of the best things about researching the Muddy Guide is that I often come across things I end up trying myself.

I mentioned Kew Gardens‘ IncrEDIBLE festival in the guide this week, and in writing about it realised that it’s been an astonishing 8 years since I’ve been to these beautiful gardens. Frankly, that’s too long in my book, so yesterday we spent a day there with some of our London friends.

So was it worth the Muddy mention? Absoutely, definitely, without a doubt. And here are 7 reasons why…

1. It’s massively good value for money.

The Tutti Frutti boating lake

The Tutti Frutti boating lake

Kids under 16 go free, and our adult tickets were £14.50 each. That was £29 entry for the whole day. When you think about how much zoos, theatres and even kids activity centres can cost these days, that’s a steal. There were extras, such as the boating lake (£4.50 per adult, £2.50 per child for 30 mins) but nothing too crazy. There are children’s booklets sold at the cash tills on entry and I’d recommend those too – I think they were £3.50 each but they’re beautifully designed with loads of relevant info, stickers, and games. My kids are still playing with them today.

2. There’s masses to see.

The view from the top balcony of the Temperate House - closed for a 5 year refurbishment from 5 August

The view from the top balcony of the Temperate House – closed for a 5 year refurbishment from 5 August so see it quick

We barely scratched the surface in terms of the botanics, because the kids wanted to do the treetop walk, have running races on the grass, hop on giant spongy carrots, or scoot around the upstairs of the Temperate House.

My attempt at an arty shot. I know, stick to the writing!

My attempt at an arty shot. I know, stick to the writing!

I’ll be going back later this summer and on my hit list are the Palm House, Kew Palace (free entry with the price of your gardens admission), the Pagoda (below), Japanese Gateway, plus the flower gardens.

The Pagoda. As close as we got to it yesterday...

The Pagoda. As close as we got to it yesterday…

 

Mr Muddy outside the Temperate House, rocking his new Frangipani shirt (see, I told you they were groovy!)

Mr Muddy outside the Temperate House, rocking his new Frangipani shirt (see, I told you they were groovy!)

3. The IncrEDIBLEs idea was fun.

 

The decorative veggies

The decorative veggies

Frankly it was jawdropping to see my children taking an interest in vegetables, all of which were planted up in charming flower-style decorative borders. So there were central corn displays surrounded by parsnip, cabbage, fennel, sweet peas, tomatoes, kale, you name it. Really inventive and pretty too.

4. The Tutti Frutti tropical boating experience is a giggle.

kew gardens
This was hilarious, mainly because I regressed to 13 and had a water fight on the lake with my friend’s boat (sorry to those grown ups on the lake who didn’t, um, find it quite so amusing). Two adults and five children ended up utterly soaking wet, and I had the added blow of realising that I was absolutely, embarrassingly chuffing hopeless at rowing. Even the four year old on my boat started shouting, ‘Come on!‘ in frustration.

The aggressors. They got a good and proper soaking though, don't you worry about that.

The water-fight aggressors – but fear not, Muddy readers, I got them good and proper

It took about 5 attempts before I steered the boat into the tunnel under the giant pineapple for what was billed as an interactive experience (we had 3D glasses for the auspicious event). Truth be told, it was a bit of a fuss about nothing – a smoke effect that supposedly tasted of banana and pretty 3D rainbow lighting along with some ambient noise. It didn’t really matter though. It’s a gimmick, but one that the kids enjoyed well enough.

5. The playgrounds are fab

Kew gardens July 2013 047_Fotor

A view from the outside cafe of the playground

A view from the outside cafe of the playground

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My oldest son is nearly 11 and he was as excited to zip around as my 4 year old. The recently revamped TreeHouse Towers are visible from the outdoor cafe seats so if you’re kids are 8+ish you can let them off the leash without too much angst. Just so you know, the zip wire wasn’t working yesterday but I guess that will be fixed asap. I’m guessing your visit won’t be depending on it! If the weather is a bit dodge, there’s an indoor Climbers and Creepers that looked fun too.

6. The food is extraordinarily good.

Healthy food for kids - I knew I'd find it somewhere at a UK tourist attraction

Healthy food for kids – I knew I’d eventually find it at a UK tourist attraction!

I had a bit of a moan recently about Legoland’s food offering and argued that if the food provided was better quality, we’d all eat more healthily. Kew is that case in point. Rows of healthy options for kids and well-cooked fresh food for lunch  – I had lamb with roasted sweet potato, spinach, red onions with pomegranate but there were incredible salads too which you could pile high on your plate. There were of course sandwiches and kids lunchboxes and cakes too, but to have the choice was such a relief.

7. Getting there and travel bits
Our route in on the M40/M25 was a doddle (there you go, just a bit of ‘dad driving route’ talk there!) but of course the reality is that we are all at the mercy of the British roads so you take your chances. The gardens open at 9.30am but we arrived for 10.30am – perfect for a galvanising cup of coffee and energy nibbles for the kids before day started proper. The gardens close at 7.30pm so you can have dinner there too, or maybe mosey into Richmond instead if you have the inclination. We were all pretty knackered after 6 hours there and hopped back home in the car, but you may be made of sterner stuff.

Car parking was easy – £6.50 for the day at the pay and display on site. Alternatively, if you can take the train, you don’t have any of the hassle of driving, plus it’s an easy 5-10 minute walk to the gardens.

Finally, if you go to Kew this summer, pretty please let us know what you think of it in the comment box under this post. Knowledge is power! Hero x

http://www.kew.org/

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