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Men at Kew Gardens 2012

Kew’s annual, seasonal makeover features plenty of family-friendly attractions including Father Christmas’s grotto in the Princess of Wales Conservatory (Dec 8-23; queue opens noon, closes 3pm), a vintage carousel on Kew Palace Lawn (Dec 8-Jan 6 10.30am-4pm; £2), seasonal face painting (you can transform yourself into Rudolph, an elf or even a Christmas pudding) at Climbers and Creepers (Dec 8-Jan 6 10.30am-3.30pm; £4) and hands-on activity sessions in the Orangery restaurant, based on plants and trees associated with the festive season (every Wed & Sun noon-2pm). There are also guided and self-guided seasonal walks, and festive products in the shops, with late openings (until 8.30pm) on selected Thursdays in December (see the website for full details). Once Christmas is over, you are invited to bring your tree (minus decorations) for recycling by the arboretum team (from Boxing Day to mid-January). Kew’s own Christmas tree, decorated with traditional twinkling lights, can be found at Victoria Gate (from Dec 1). From Boxing Day, Santa’s Grotto becomes a space for storytelling and shadow puppetry (Dec 26-Jan 6 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pm).

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