Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew review

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
User rating
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In a nutshell

London’s famous gardens have lots for families to enjoy, and kids of all ages will love the beautiful plants, children’s activities and tree-top walk
Fun for kids
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Fun for parents
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Worth the money
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Facilities
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Family friendliness
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Pros: Amazing gardens with loads to do, great kids activities, beautifully maintained, copes well with crowds
Cons: Not for everyone in bad weather, impossible to see everything in one visit

When we visited:

We visited Kew Gardens on a gloriously sunny weekend day in the May half term

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What age is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew best for?

All ages

How much does it cost?

  • Gate prices: Adults £18, children aged 4-16 £6, under 4s free
  • Online prices: Adults £16.50, children aged 4-16 £4.50, under 4s free
  • Family saver tickets: Family of 4 £42

Are there discounts or cheap tickets available?

Yes, at the time of publication Smartsave were offering 20% off Kew Gardens & a 24-hour River Pass, and Picniq had a ‘kids go free’ offer for every paying adult

Any extra charges once I’m there?

Once you’ve purchased tickets, you can keep the rest of the day relatively cheap if you’re organised, especially if you bring a picnic.

Extras include tickets for the Explorer Land Train (adults £5 and kids £2), although we did everything on foot. But most of the attractions, such as the tree-top walk and ad hoc entertainment, are free, so there is no need to shell out on any extras.

Having said that, the main giftshop is a joy to peruse, so you might want to bring home a little souvenir.

How long will we spend at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew?

I think you can have endless fun at Kew Gardens. We stayed nearly 5 hours and didn’t see everything by half. All the different areas of the gardens are very spread out, so you should choose those that you want to visit wisely. My children (2 and 4) were knackered after their half day, so we had to leave, but could’ve seen many more things that they would have enjoyed. It felt that we ended up sticking to the more obvious and popular attractions such as the greenhouses, whereas a visit further off the beaten track might have been nice too – one for the next visit. We’ll definitely be going back.

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What’s it like for families?

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew is great for families! It’s a sprawling botanical garden in South West London that holds the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological (the study of fungi) collection in the world. It has plants that you can’t find anywhere else, and really offers a world of wonder to curious kids.

What shouldn’t be missed?

Highlights for us were:

  • Its new temperate greenhouse (larger and probably more stunning than any you might have seen before), is the home for ‘the loneliest tree in the world’ – the Encephalartos woodii. It’s a lone male tree, the only type to have ever been found, and there is no female partner to fertilise its seeds. These kinds of stories behind the plethora of plants is fascinating to little ones – and their parents!
  • The staff work hard to entice kids of all ages. When we visited, there were acrobatic performances in the temperate green house, and a visit from the giant puppet ‘Gnomus’, who took families on a tour of the plants and told them their stories – to inspire a new generation of mini conservationists
  • It also had a dragon trail of gloriously painted dragon sculptures spread out over the grounds, with kids encouraged to go on a dragon hunt
  • Check out the ‘What’s On’ calendar online for lovely events and installations throughout the year such as winter ice rinks and light shows
  • Just reading about the different plants with your kids is very satisfying – my kids loved the monkey puzzle tree, for example
  • One of our favourite areas was the different water features in the Aquatic Garden, which we had to ourselves
  • The stunning tree-top walkway, which is amazing for adults and kids alike
  • There are also woodland walks, a Pagoda, ponds and different buildings with intriguing histories, so it is impossible to get bored
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Was it easy to find your way around the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew?

The gardens are very easy to navigate, with clear maps and sign-posting. You can pick up a printed map at the entrance, including any details of events taking place that day. We also stumbled across a ‘make your own dragon puppet’ event by accident, so information on what’s on where could maybe be a bit clearer, but all staff members are very helpful, so it’s always worth asking what to look out for.

What to bring:

  • If you have young children prone to tired legs, I would recommend a buggy or sling. You’ll have to do a certain amount of walking, especially if you want to take in lots of different areas
  • Also bring plenty of sunscreen if the weather is nice – you’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun!
  • There are lots of places to buy food and drink so you won’t be caught out, but you can also fill up your water bottle at different filling points, which is really handy

What you need to know before you go

  • It’s impossible to do everything at Kew Gardens, so I’d recommend just picking a few key points to take in and then enjoy the amazing flora on show in between
  • Pace yourself – we maybe tried a bit too much on our visit (temperate and tropical greenhouses, tree-top walkway, performances, dragon hunt etc), so got a bit frazzled towards the end
  • As well as deciding what your top priorities are, tailor the visit to your child’s interests
  • Are they all about thrills such as the tree-top walkway, or do they enjoy learning quirky facts about the world, or do they just like running and messing around in nature – find the right itinerary for these different needs
  • Read up on unusual plants to help your children get excited about your visit
  • Remind young children that the pretty flowers are for viewing, not picking!

Is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew a good rainy day option?

We had beautiful sunshine when we visited, but we all agreed we would have enjoyed visiting even in the rain. Provided you bring the right gear, I am sure you can enjoy lots of what Kew Gardens have to offer in bad weather too. It might make it even more enchanting.

Did it cater well for different aged children?

Yes, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew have something for everyone. There’s so much to explore that any age can find something interesting or entertaining.

  • Toddlers and pre-schoolers will be amazed by the sheer colour and abundance on view and the kids-specific entertainment
  • It’s easy to take babies too, as there are plenty of paths that can be navigated with pushchairs, and there is loads of sensory input
  • Primary school aged kids will enjoy learning about the amazing species on site or roaming the sprawling gardens, and particularly doing the tree-top walk and other stunning attractions
  • Older kids (8+ years) might need a bit more input from parents, explaining and engaging with all the different info about the nature on offer

By the time we got to the tree-top walkway, our little 2 year old was a bit knackered, so I went up the numerous steps with only my 4 year old. So be prepared to maybe split up occasionally – your older kids might want to learn more about certain plants and get stuck into the information about rare species, while your younger child might enjoy chasing the geese or running through the water features more. Having said that, we did do most things together, and both kids loved it (apart from the tropical greenhouse, which my little one hated due to the sweltering humidity).

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Is walking round the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew the only option?

No, and with hindsight we should have tried out the Explorer Land Train, but we were a bit overwhelmed by all that was on offer and so didn’t sort ourselves out properly. I imagine it might be nice to break up your visit with a stint of being chauffeured round the beautiful gardens.

What are the food and drink facilities like at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew?

There are loads of food options at the gardens, including the child-friendly White Peaks Café. The Orangery Restaurant has a lovely terrace, which is great for eating with kids who like a little run around. Considering that we went the 2nd weekend of half term on a beautifully sunny day, the queues seemed manageable. We had our own picnic, so didn’t visit the eateries, but at our early lunchtime of 12pm, the ones we walked past seemed ok. I’d definitely recommend getting in early, but it was certainly not at scrum-like levels that other popular destinations can attain.

Can you take a picnic?

Yes, there are also loads of beautiful picnic spots, where you can avoid queues and enjoy your own hamper surrounded by amazing nature. The gardens are also dotted with water refill stations, and the staff is happy to refill your water bottles, so you can get away with not spending anything on food and drink and still have a lovely day.

We were really pleased that we brought an extensive picnic. The day we went was beautiful, and it was great that we could pick a beautiful spot away from the masses to enjoy our food without any queues and stress.

What are the toilets like?

The toilets seemed good, plenty of them dotted around, with lots of baby-changing facilities and wheelchair accessible ones. Unfortunately, the main toilets in the newly opened temperate greenhouse were out of order, and the single disabled loo couldn’t cope with demand – so that did catch us out on our visit. However, we managed to avoid any accidents, as there are plenty of alternatives. I’d suggest going to the toilet regularly, as there can be a bit of a walk between the different blocks – and you might not want your potty-training toddler to go underneath an endangered fern!

How well does it cater for disabled visitors?

  • Kew does accessibility really well and provides good access for pushchairs, wheelchairs and those with special needs
  • The gardens are largely flat, with tarmac paths in most places
  • Most of the buildings, and all the cafés and shops have level or ramped access
  • There are unisex accessible toilets within easy reach of all the main attractions, cafés and gates, marked on the main map
  • There is also a specialised adult changing facility equipped with a hoist and changing bench near Brentford Gate
  • There is free disabled parking (for blue badge holders) at Kew’s car park on Ferry Lane (TW9 3AF)
  • For more information visit Kew’s access guide

Opening dates and times:

The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew are open daily at 10am and close at 7 or 8pm in the summer, with last entries at 6pm. Check the website for seasonal changes

Worth a long car journey?

The gardens are definitely worth a long car journey. They are wonderful, iconic and will allow your kids to experience something and see plants that they can’t see anywhere else. It’s magical.

How to get to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew:

Kew is relatively easy to get to by public transport, as you have a few options

  • London Underground station Kew Gardens is just 500m from the Elizabeth Gate, and Kew Bridge is 800m
  • There are also a number of bus routes
  • If you’re driving, there are different postcode for your SatNav depending on the gate you enter by, and parking is quite limited
  • I was advised to come to the Elizabeth Gate (TW9 3AB), where most of the on-street parking on Kew Green is free (beware, there are a couple of ‘residents only’ signs dotted along the road)
  • Arrive early – as by the time we got out of the car just before 10am, people were already jostling for the few remaining spaces

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Kew?

London is packed with family-friendly hotels, B&BS and holiday rentals. Options near Kew include:

Nearby attractions for a longer day out:

The London Museum of Water and Steam is a 20-minute walk from the Gardens. Head into the centre of London for plenty more choices, from the Tower of London and Natural History Museum, to an afternoon matinee at the theatre.

MFM verdict:

We all loved the Royal Botanic Gardens. My kids love running around, so the wide open spaces and differently arranged gardens were heaven for them. Thoughtful entertainment, such as the musical acrobatics performance in the Temperate House or the dragon trail, were really special, and everything is wonderfully maintained. We liked that there are so many different areas that you can explore, where you can get away from the main crowds and let the kids roam. We’re even considering an annual membership (£119 for 2 named adults, up to 4 kids and 2 family guests). Admittedly, we are Londoners, so within an hour’s travel, but Kew Gardens definitely bears repeat visiting.

Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew website

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Intro to me:

We are a family of four (with a 2 and 4 year old)