Christmas at Kew (As reviewed by a 4-year-old)

This year we did ALL THE LIGHTS.  It just sort of happened.  We’d already planned a trip to Waddesdon Manor as part of our visit to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (Thomas the Tank Engine comes there twice a year), and Kew I booked in the summer when there was a sale on the cost of tickets.  When the weather looked good for Boxing Day we decided to book Blenheim, which was doing their first ever Christmas Lights event.

Kew, I thought, would be a fitting end to the festive season.  A proper, large-scale farewell to the sparkle before in true English fashion they pack everything away for 2-3 months so we can sit in the dark until Easter comes. (I don’t know why English people do this, but they do.  Toughens us up I think.)

I booked a full package and included parking so I wouldn’t have to hunt.  What we later found out is that parking is a bit mental, but once you get your head wrapped around the fact that driving in a small gap between two buildings constitutes a road everything pans out nicely.  (Plus, OMG I would not want to try to park in the surrounding neighbourhoods in all the madness!) The kiddo, now not a one but two-festive-light-trip veteran, came into this with a plan.  And, in his plan, this meant fairground rides.

All the fairground rides.

As Kew is slightly more than an hour from Oxford I booked the earliest start time so that even though we’d get home late we’d get home reasonably.  The trail was a little over a mile long and had food and drink stops along the way.  Our parking was in the middle of the trail.

Next to the fairground rides.

I realised if we hit the fairground rides before we went out we’d have to hit them again on the way back, thus emptying my wallet.  As such I had a devious plan of going on a Pokémon hunt (Kew is good for the Pokémon) and seeing the lights first, before riding the rides.  This last for all of 5 seconds, as my child throws his Pokémon balls out with reckless abandon.

Thus, I present my kiddo’s review of Christmas at Kew:


Him, “Not the rides.”

Me, “Is this a Pokéstop?”

Checks phone, notices it is.

“Oh yeah!”

Occupied for 2 minutes.


Him, “I am out of Pokéballs.  Is this the rides?”

Me, “No, look at the lights!”

Him, “I want to ride the rides.”


Him, “Marshmallows are suitable.”

Me, “Holy cow, kid.  These are AMAZING.  This isn’t your run-of-the-mill…”

Him, “I’m done.  Can we ride the rides now?”


Him, “This is neat.”

Me, “Yes, you see that glass house?  It’s huge!  Remember we once climbed to the second floor and…”

Him, “Are the rides near here?”


Me, “This is a special installation for the year called The Hive.  Isn’t it pretty?”

Him, “Bees are dangerous, Mommy.”


Him, “The garden is on fire.”

Me, “Yes, it’s representing five of the twelve days of Christmas.”

Him, “Is there a fire alarm in case the fire gets out?”

Me, “Well, no.  They have people looking after the fire.”

Him, “I want to look after the fire.”

Me, “Maybe when you are older.”

Him, (Pause.) “Can we ride the rides?”

After many, many conversations about how far we were from the rides, how many steps we would need to take before we got to the rides and if the phone would hold out long enough for him to catch another Christmas Pikachu we made it to the rides.  I was concerned he would want to ride absolutely everything 300 times over but, as a fairground veteran, he understood how many tokens there were and how many rides that equalled.

He even let me ride two rides with him.

We left happy, content, and with several Christmas Pikachu.  As for Christmas at Kew?  Go, definitely go.  It’s a full-scale production spread over a mile.  Tonnes of food and drink.  Toast a marshmallow, you won’t regret it. Piles of shopping (if you are into it).  And, in kiddo’s view – a very good fairground.

And, as I heard for a mile long walk, the rides are all that matter.


Best. Run. EVER.


So, me and my 1,500 other friends went out in Oxford today dressed as Santa, or, as they sometimes call him here, Father Christmas.

We gorged ourselves on mince pies and then went on a two-mile walk, where we wound up with a pack of teachers singing Christmas Carols.  In the process we raised a couple thousand dollars for the Helen & Douglas House, which just so happens to provide hospice care to kids and young adults.

Why everyone isn’t doing this is beyond me.

I’m sure the logistics of locating and distributing enough Santa suits to fill a college dining hall must be a bit daunting.  And yeah, they have to close off streets in a medieval city centre for about an hour and a half, which may annoy shoppers.  Oh, and you have to get up early.


First, you have permission, all day if you want, to wear a Santa suit around town.  Total permission.  People may stop you and ask why, which is cool.  Some people may look at you a bit funny.  But the bit of joy you get in watching people do double takes, to hear kids screaming, “It’s Santas, Mummy!  Santas everywhere!” is pretty freaking cool.

Second, provided you are awesome enough, you can do this as a walk in a pack and sing Christmas carols.  In our case, we wound up with a group of teachers who knew snippets of carols, but the entire words to Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody.

This is the point in the blog post in which I have to pause and explain to American’s the impact of this song.

There are a few songs that you learn when you come to the UK for Christmas.  Some are a bit disturbing, like Wizzard’s “I wish it could be Christmas everyday”:

Or, The Darkness, which… um… well… just watch it:

But then, there is Slade.  Which, in all truth and fairness, should’ve have made it to the US and into the Christmas charts to be played forevermore like WHAM!  But, alas, it did not.  Instead, you have this awesome hair and a bunch of twigs in 80s outfits shaking their thangs to the what is the most famous holiday song in the UK (right after Killing in the Name of, but that’s another post):

Our particular group kept looping the song when words to Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ran out.  It was so impressive, Jack FM came up to record it to place it somewhere on the radio during this festive time.


When you can get away with wearing a Santa suit, singing Christmas carols, and raising thousands of dollars for charity there should be a lottery for this.  People lining up and begging for spots.  Sure, it’s short at 2 miles and hardly anyone ends up walking because they are laughing to hard but still.