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1.Take a trip on the river
This stretch of the Thames is used all year round by local rowing clubs and from March to October, the passenger boats begin their summer schedule of leisurely journeys from Kingston to Hampton Court and Richmond. A round trip to Hampton Court will take 70 minutes ( a great way to avoid the inevitable traffic jams for the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (usually in July). For a quicker trip back, Hampton Court rail station is a hop away from the river opposite the Palace. Kingston to Richmond by boat is a longer trip, taking an hour each way. See turks.co.uk and Parr Boat Hire for times. You can hire electric boats at Kingston Bridge goboat.com.
Live close by? Take up punting see bbc.co.uk/news/ and dittons.org.uk.
2. Do the Historic Kingston Walk
Find out more about the history of this ancient town and its famous residents. The walks start 11am every Sunday from March to November and the first Sunday of December to February. Meet at the Market House, below the statue of the Golden Queen map. No need to book – just turn up and the tours are Free! See kingstontourguides.org.uk for more details.
You can’t really talk about things to do in Kingston without mentioning shopping. Like most market towns, Kingston’s layout makes it easy to navigate and much of it is pedestrianised. It has a main high street, a picturesque ancient market square, a shopping mall (Bentall Centre) and a vintage shopping area on London Road, all connected by small streets packed with cafes and small independents. Kingston is hugely popular as a shopping destination and has really blossomed in the last few years with the refurbishment of the Market Place and Riverside. For more information about shopping in Kingston see Shopping.
4. Eat al fresco by the Riverside
The Riverside development opened in Kingston last year and it’s a fantastic place to spend a Summer’s evening. There is a great selection of restaurants and pubs offering food and drink and all come with a riverside view. Bill’s, and Cote are down there along with Woody’s Bar and The Bishop. See Kingston Riverside for listings of bars and restaurants. When the weather is good take a picnic down to the river – Canbury Gardens between The Boater’s pub and the railway bridge is a popular spot. Bands play in the Canbury Bandstand on selected Sunday afternoons in Summer. Queen Elizabeth Walk towards Surbiton is also a popular destination for picnickers . Kingston is also home to a few river festivals (see below) if you like entertainment with your picnic.
5. Do a riverside cycle
Starting in Kingston, head over Kingston Bridge and turn left up the tow path. You can cycle all the way to Hampton Court and if you are feeling energetic, cross Hampton Court Bridge and follow the river up to Walton on Thames. You can’t go wrong with any of the cafes on Bridge Road at Hampton Court and don’t forget the Tiltyard Cafe in the Grounds of Hampton Court itself (in the free entry area). If you are heading further up river, stop off at the East Molesey Cricket Club cafe KT8 9AL
You can also cycle down to Richmond and beyond by following the cycle path on the Kingston side of the river. It can get a bit bumpy and it’s a multi-use pathway so watch out for pedestrians but the views are fantastic. The path meanders past Teddington Lock, Eel Pie Island renowned for music and art, and National Trust’s Ham House. Drop into Petersham Nurseries for a browse and tea and cake at the Teahouse or cycle on to The Hollyhocks MAP a fabulous, quirky little cafe perched on a hill overlooking terraced gardens just as you enter Richmond.
6. Visit Kingston at festival time
Though festivals like the Kingston Green Fair and the old style May Merrie are no longer on the calendar there is lots going on in the Summer months in Kingston.
International Youth Arts Festival. This is a huge celebration of youth theatre, dance and art which takes place in various venues in Kingston including the Rose Theatre, the Market Place and on the Riverside. People come from all over the world to take part in this festival and it’s a great opportunity to see some amazingly creative performances by dedicated young people.
The River Festival. A festival and regatta rolled into one. Hundreds of national clubs and chools compete in over 300 races in this event which has been running for 150 years. It’s a spectacle worth packing a picnic for and heading to the river for the day.
Dragon Boat Challenge Organised by Kingston Rotary Club, this is a noisy colourful event where up to 48 teams in decorated dragon boats do battle for a place in the 8 boat final. The event is at Canbury Gardens, Kingston and starts around 10am and there are lots of stalls and rides for the kids.
RideLondon usually takes place at the beginning of August. It is an annual 2 -4 day cycling event created after the 2012 London Olympics covering London and Surrey. It passes through Kingston twice so the town centre and approach roads are alive with cycling related celebrations. It was cancelled in 2020/2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Human Race Hampton Court Swim: The dates change every year and river conditions have, on occasion, resulted in cancellation but when it happens it is quite a spectacle. Check the website for latest details.
November/December Christmas: The Christmas shopping period begins with the switch on of the Christmas lights around the second week of November. There is a seasonal market in the Market Place, Christmas Craft Fair and Bentall Centre has a range of events throughout the season.
7. See some comedy
Kingston is host to some great comedy venues.
Outside the Box has venues at Kingston The Fighting Cocks Pub 56 Old London Road, KT2 6QA and at Surbiton The CornerHOUSE Theatre, 116 Douglas Road KT6 7SB
Crack Comedy Club Kingston – The Cricketers 20 Fairfield South KT1 2UL
The Comedy Store at the Rose Theatre – Once a month on Sundays Rose Theatre 24-26 High Street Kingston KT1 1HL
Also see kingstononline.co.uk/comedy-in-kingston
8. Visit Banquet Records
Banquet Records supports performances at their shop in Eden Street and other venues. There is often a queue outside for band signings and all in addition to being the best source of records of all genres. Visit banquetrecords.com and follow them on Twitter . 52 Eden Street, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 1EE
9. Do the Kingston Park Run
Join the Kingston Parkrun every Saturday morning at 9am. It is a 5k run which you can take at your own pace and it’s free! It starts adjacent to the Hawker Centre on the tow-path. See parkrun.org.uk/kingston/ for more details. Also Park Runs at Bushy Park, and Richmond.
Any ideas for number 10?