Kew Gardens’ biggest event of the year is back. A three kilometer path with twenty two installations, eight of which are brand new to the UK. With twelve thousand trees and three hundred acres these gardens have more than enough room to amaze.
The iconic Christmas at Kew is back, with many slots already sold out. Kew’s booking page shows most November and December dates and time slots are completely booked; however, some January slots still remain. Non-members' tickets are £22.5 off-peak hours and £29 for peak times. Members of Kew Gardens have discounted tickets available at £19.5 off-peak and £24 for peak times. The earliest slots are at 4:20 in the afternoon, with the last entry being at 8 at night.
Roughly, visitors will take two hours to complete the visit, as many installations are synchronized music displays of lights. The event started on November 15th and will run until January 7th, 2024. Keep in mind that the last entry on Christmas Eve is 7 p.m. Child tickets aged four to fifteen are £19, with younger children having free entry. Visitors must choose a starting gate; the most popular option is Victoria Gate, as it is closest to public transport, resulting in a food market and gift shop at the end of the visit.
The trail throughout the visit is clearly indicated, with chains stopping people from going astray. There are also careful placement decisions on light and audio placement to minimize disturbance to bats and badgers. The first installation on the visit is the Cascade by Culture Creative, with icicle shaped lights hanging from numerous trees synchronized to change with the ambiance music. Changing in an array of blues, greens, pinks, reds, and whites, all changing from the end of the installations towards the front as one could see the changing lights approaching.
In between installations, there were often lights cast onto the trail, showing vines, Christmas at Kew, or wishing a merry Christmas in many languages. Following the visit, there was Whole Hole by Vendel & De Wolf, courtesy of Light Art Collection, imitating a lying tree trunk with moving LED lights through the metal structure.
Next was the Fire Garden by Culture Creative, showing the Temperature House, the Victorian glasshouse and the oldest glasshouse in the world, decorated with LED fire lights with real fire at the bottom of the building. Followed by Electric Avenue by Adam Povey Lighting with tree trunks being decorated with LED lights synchronized to the sound of Hallelujah and other festive songs. Most lighting changes are a ripple effect, as visitors see the lights getting further away from them.
After the mesmerizing trees, there is ‘A Surprise Encounter’ by Rusticus with Santa, who greets all visitors as they pass. As well as asking children to ring the jingle bells while wishing for their Christmas gifts. There is a small stop with a carousel, Helter Skelter, and the official Kew sign. Most generators used for Christmas at Kew are 100% powered by hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is used as the main power source whenever possible.
Following the kids small amusement park, there is Tree Top Rock by Adam Povey Lighting, with roughly 10 metal structures connected in the air that are synchronized to rock music. In 2023, 75% of the installations will be based on LED lights to ensure the gardens can return to a quiet and dark night-time once the last entry is over. After the rock and roll display, there is the Spark Ballet & Floating Candles by Pitaya, with LED lights that mimic candles and small monitors that show changing patterns with a much calmer tone.
Continuing the visit, there is Lili by Tilt, which is a metal frame of lilies with lights for pollen and lights as the leaves shadows slowly change color. Then leading to Trapezoid Heavens by ArtAV and Moonlight Flowers by OGE Design Group with stunning flowers of glowing LED light stems and thin metal frames as petals with smaller round lights as pollen.
Subsequently, visitors were taken to the Christmas Turkey Oak by Kew’s Arboriculture Team, which is a surprisingly large oak tree with its entire trunk decorated in white lights and its branches in green lights. Afterwards, there is the Christmas Cathedral by Mandylights, one of Kew’s most recurring pieces.
Then we can see the new Robins Trail by Cristina Ottonello, which is sequin Robins with lights coming from the trails, making them look sparkling. Kew Gardens also prides itself on the lack of single-use plastic, as their takeaway cups are plastic-free, recyclable, and compostable, with ten trees planted by Eden Reforestation Projects for each box of cups used.
Leading to The Hive by Wolfgang Buttress and Christmas light animation in collaboration with Andy Coates and Stephen Holmes with the music ‘Blue Lullaby’ by BE. Followed by Snapper, The Perfect Christmas Tree by John Lewis, which are massive flytrap illuminations. Afterwards, there are Glasshouses by DAT Events which are simpler LED light sectioned Glasshouses .
One of the most surprising displays is the Liquid Lake by Definitive Special Projects. As there is only smoke generated by a smoke machine, which is then illuminated by lasers synchronized to Once Upon a December from Anastasia. Next there is One Small Thing by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Novak collaborations, and Christmas Symphony by Lightworks in collaboration with Sense Effects & Squid Soup.
The grand final display Christmas Symphonies is a four song long display with floating lights and the front of The Temperature House in the background. Some of the songs included in the last display are Friend Like Me by Will Smith’s Genie in Aladdin and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
This grand Christmas event is exactly what families, couples, and adults need to get into the Christmas spirit. There are numerous rest stops, food stalls, a warm drink bar, and bathrooms throughout the trails to ensure a perfectly jolly evening.
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