As much as we love the festivities in the lead-up to Christmas and the sparkle that New Year’s Eve brings, there’s something oh-so-satisfying about turning over the calendar to see a brand-new year.
With a blank 12 months, 52 weeks, or 365 days (whichever way you look at it) stretching out in front of us, we’re feeling full of hope for the opportunities that 2022 will bring. What’s more, here in the Garden of England our optimism has been heightened further thanks to the vast range of new experiences, big birthdays, and exciting events popping up over the course of the next year.
In true Visit Kent style, we’ve rounded up 22 of the very best things to add to your own bucket list for this year, to help you streamline that ever-tricky New Year’s resolution list. Ready to dive in?
We hope you’ll indulge us as we kick things off with a little self-high-five moment. Yes, you may have heard the news already, but our very own slice of the world has been named as one of Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ regions for 2022… globally! Recognising Kent’s Heritage Coast’s unique combination of history, heritage and iconic natural landscapes, Lonely Planet have given our glorious coastline their official stamp of approval as the only UK destination to feature within this year’s illustrious round-up. Already recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Kent’s Heritage Coast is home to stunning sandy beaches, iconic chalk faces, a thriving cultural and creative scene, heritage hotspots, and an exciting, rolling programme of events. Why not get yourself ahead of the curve, and take a trip to this illustrious coastline?
With The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (not to mention a new series of The Crown!) to look forward to in 2022, we’re looking for a whole host of new and exciting ways to walk in the footsteps of our royals this year. To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee year, the jewel in Canterbury’s crown - Canterbury Cathedral - is launching a special guided tour bookable for groups and FITs, telling stories of royals through the ages. Launching in April, this new experience will also be offered for individual visitors to book on to when they visit the Cathedral and run at regular intervals. Discover monarchs immortalised in stone, wood and stained glass which adorn the Cathedral's walls, including the special statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip which were unveiled in 2015, on this extraordinary, guided journey.
The world of travel as it is right now may mean that you’re not quite able to visit the far corners of the globe in early 2022, but what if we told you that you could experience an epic lap around the Earth and still be home for your tea? Following the popularity of their ‘Museum of the Moon’ exhibition in 2020, Rochester Cathedral are excited to present Luke Jerram’s ‘Gaia’ which arrives in North Kent this year. Measuring seven metres in diameter, Gaia features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, providing the unique opportunity to see our planet on this scale, floating in three-dimensions. Set within the stunning setting of historic Rochester Cathedral and accompanied by a specially made surround sound composition, Gaia’s arrival (between 24th May - 12th June) ensures the opportunity for a truly ‘out of this world’ experience.
Ready to take on a new challenge in 2022? Inspired by the hit ITV physical game show, Ninja Warrior UK Adventure Park opened its doors in December 2021 - the first of its kind for the region. This epic venue features a mix of adrenalin-fuelled TV show-style courses and inflatable runs inspired by the family favourite programme - and promises to combine fun, fitness, imagination, and have many discovering their inner Ninjas in no time. The 30,000ft2 indoor facility, located at Chatham Waterside, includes obstacles to climb, balance, jump and swing across, as well the famous Warped Wall. Wannabe Ninjas will need to preserve some extra energy to tackle the additional inflatable course complete with big red bouncy balls, tunnels, battle zone and the ultimate airbag leap to race through. And if all that’s too much, the Ninja Café is a great place to watch and refuel. Phew!
The benefits linked to early morning routines are undeniable and yet, when that alarm sounds pre-7:00am, the temptation to snooze is often the first big battle of the day. Luckily for us, our friends at Canoe Wild have come up with the ultimate wake-up call that would have even Sleeping Beauty hopping out of bed with no bother! Join the Canoe Wild team as they guide you on one of their Wildlife Sunrise Tours, running once a month between June and September. Wake up the right way with a peaceful pre-breakfast paddle, listening closely for the sounds of riverside wildlife as the early morning sun rises above you. Bliss!
Roll up, roll up! Your annual opportunity to win free tickets to a host of attractions and activities across the county will be returning once more for 2022. What are we talking about? Why, the Kent Big Weekend of course! This annual event, hosted by the team here at Visit Kent, provides Kent residents with the chance to bid in a Big Weekend ballot for free tickets to some of the very best attractions across the county, with winning tickets available to be claimed over a series of select weekends. Final dates and participating venues for this year’s event are still to be confirmed, but experiences on offer for 2021 ranged from entry into some of the county’s most iconic castles and close encounters with wild animals, to delicious meals, relaxing afternoon teas for two, and adrenaline-inducing activities.
Thrill seekers, this one’s for you! Head to Bluewater Shopping Centre this year and you’ll find the brand-new Hangloose Adventure zip wire - the longest and fastest of its kind in the UK - offering a chance to zoom sky high over 50 acres of Kentish parkland. What’s more, the zip line is to be just the first of several adrenaline-fuelled attractions erected at Bluewater, with a giant slide, 360-degree swings, outdoor skydiving machine and Europe’s largest outdoor climbing wall all to look forward to in the next three years. Feeling brave? Zip, zip, hooray…
Forget the winding lanes and traditional seaside entertainment of Brighton - if you’re looking for culture, coast and culinary grandeur look no further than Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. With awe-inspiring artworks, a quaint and quirky high street peppered with independent shops and studios, and a rolling programme of exciting events and exhibits, this seaside spot it simply the place to enjoy an inspirational day out in Kent. What’s more, 2022 marks 20 years of Creative Folkestone – the visionary arts charity at the very heart of this town’s transformation – meaning there’s really no better time than right now to explore exactly what’s on offer here.
Our friends at the Kent Downs AONB are positively passionate about our local landscape, and finding new, exciting ways for visitors to enjoy the great outdoors in a sustainable way. That’s why they’re launching a brand-new arts trail this year that celebrates local heritage, inspiring views, nearby communities, and surrounding wildlife in the beautiful Kent and Surrey countryside. The North Downs Way Art Trail is designed to entice visitors to stop, rest and enjoy some of the beautiful views along the 153-mile-long trail which runs from our very own Dover to Farnham in Surrey. Due to launch throughout 2022 the artworks will reflect the special characteristics of each beautiful location, will be made from sustainable materials, and will also act as sculptural seats to allow visitors a chance to sit, reflect and relax surrounded by wonderful and inspiring art, history, and nature. In addition, each piece will be supported by a range of downloadable self-guided walking and/or cycling routes that will make visiting the sites even easier.
You didn’t think we’d forget to add a new foodie favourite to our list of recommendations for this year, did you? Tunbridge Wells has something tantalising to add to their menu for 2022, with the arrival of Macknade Fine Foods’ newest all day dining space located on the second floor of the iconic Hoopers department store. Situated in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells, opposite the train station, this is the place to relax after a spot of shopping or exploring. Grab a seat to enjoy coffee and cake, delicious brunch dishes or one of Macknade’s famous cheese & charcuterie platters with a glass of Kentish wine. Well… they don’t call us the Garden of England for no reason, do they?
From one tasty tip-off to another! Head to Ashford for the perfect post-work or weekend hangout when you pull up a pew at The Coachworks. Whether you opt for frothy coffee and a slice of cake from Coffee Shed, an American BBQ feast from Street Kings Smoke Shack, or perhaps a pint’s the thing to tickle your tastebuds, you’ll find something to satisfy all appetites under the twinkling lights of The Yard. What’s more, located just next door to Ashford International Station, your journey to and from this hotspot simply couldn’t be easier.
You may have heard the news that last year the UK's first ever bison rangers were recruited to help introduce the animals to the country (what a job!), but what you may not know, is that this little piece of history took place right here in the Garden of England. Yes, that’s right, our friends at Kent Wildlife Trust are currently embarking on a ground-breaking project whereby they’ll be introducing a herd of four European bison to Blean Woods near Canterbury to bring about transformational change and naturally manage the woodlands. The Kent Wildlife Trust have also recently launched a series of Wilder Kent Safaris – a succession of walking tours giving visitors the unique opportunity to experience some of their special reserves and uncover their ‘wilding’ stories with knowledgeable guides. If embarking on The Blean safari later in the year, you may just catch a glimpse of these magnificent animals from afar but will certainly have the opportunity to find out more about the project from your expert guide.
Celebrations to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will take place across the country this summer, but did you know that 2022 also commemorates 20 years since the passing of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother? The Queen Mother was particularly fond of our little corner of the country, so much so that she was gifted her own garden at wonderful Walmer Castle for her 95th birthday, declaring at the time "I have been given many flowers before, but never a garden". Enjoy the subtle features and exquisite design of this jewel-in-the-crown of Walmer's historic gardens when you pay a visit this year.
You’ll want to get your skates on and head straight for Folkestone this year where you’ll be amongst the first to experience the fun and thrills of F51. Yes, the world’s first purpose-built multi-storey skatepark - spread across three floors – is set to open in spring 2022, and we can’t wait. While also being home to the world’s first suspended concrete bowls, this unique space will also house facilities for a host of other activities including BMX, climbing, bouldering, and boxing. Located right in the heart of this thriving coastal town, F51 will be ideally placed for urban sports enthusiasts looking to better their boardslide or hone their heelflip…
The Garden of England has certainly earned its stripes when it comes to brilliant beer and appetising ales over the years. Up in the north of the county, Gravesend was once a thriving hotbed of breweries and innovation, and the area is keen to reignite its reputation once more! Embark on one of Gravesend’s brand-new Beer Trails, running monthly throughout 2022, and enjoy a true taste of what this area has to offer your palate. Commencing in Northfleet at the Iron Pier Brewery and concluding at the multi award-winning Compass Alehouse (with plenty of tastings along the way…), this tour offers the ideal day trip for a group, or a unique experience gift for beer fanatics.
Set in the heart of Maidstone, with roots reaching back to the 1800s, Maidstone Distillery has a fascinating story to tell. Join a guided tour and delve into centuries of history, the distilling process, and a chance to see the still up close, all before taking on a tutored tasting and learning the stories behind their incredible drinks. True gin connoisseurs can even get stuck in with a gin-making experience for plenty of spirited fun. The perfect way to spend an evening with friends, here you’ll be guided through the art and processes of distillery to create your very own 70cl bottle to take home with you, before enjoying a few drinks in the bar. Cheers to that!
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham never fails to find exciting ways to learn more about our marvellous maritime history, and this year is simply no different. Join them between February and November where you’ll have the chance to explore a new, immersive exhibition showcasing objects and findings from the Diving Deep: HMS Invincible archaeological excavation. This exhibition tells the story of the amazing Invincible, her capture, the contribution she made to the British Royal Navy and ship design and her subsequent sinking and rediscovery by a local fisherman, Arthur Mack, nearly 200 years later. Entry to the exhibition is included as part of your admission ticket to The Dockyard, giving you the chance to dive deep into the incredible range of facilities on offer across this unique 80-acre site. Your voyage of discovery starts right here…
You may be familiar with the term ‘take a walk on the wild side’, but have you ever enjoyed ‘an amble with alpacas’? Those looking for an animal adventure with a slight twist should head straight to Reuthe’s, The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks where a scenic stroll with the cutest of tour guides awaits you. As part of this hour-long private experience, you’ll have the chance to meet Reuthe’s alpacas with the site’s expert "Alpaca Whisperer" before allowing Nuzzle and Scratch to lead you off on a gentle walk through historic ancient woodlands and gardens. Ideal as a one-off experience or integrated into one of the site’s fabulous children's parties, this is the animal experience you just didn’t know you were missing out on until now…
In the summertime when the weather is fine… we can think of few places better suited to sitting back and soaking up the sunshine than Mount Ephraim House & Gardens, situated near Faversham. Pair the site’s ten acres of enchanting Edwardian gardens with a packed programme of outdoor theatre performances, and we think you’ll find yourself a summer to remember! With performances of literary classics - from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Pride and Prejudice – to look forward to between June and September, there’s something for all the family at this quintessential country estate. Plus, if you find yourself swooning over the terraces of fragrant roses or elaborate topiary border during the interval, these gardens are open to visitors between April and September every year on Wednesdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays.
If a fun-filled family escape is on the cards for 2022, look no further than our next suggestion which offers a cool yet comfy base from which to discover the glorious Garden of England. Nestled in the heart of the Weald of Kent, Bourne Valley Retreat is the ultimate base from which to explore your surrounding landscape, as well as tap into your wild side. With a plethora of family-friendly walks, cycle routes, and pubs right on its doorstep, Bourne Valley’s 5-metre bell tent ‘Mariette’ will soon have you feeling right at home! Plus, with its very own Mud Kitchen, Bug Hotel, and a toasty fire pit (perfect for toasting marshmallows) on site, there’s plenty to keep little ones occupied, giving grown-ups some very well-deserved down time.
A date to mark in your diary! This spring, the Amelia Scott will open its magnificent iron gates to the public, welcoming one and all to a fantastic new cultural experience in Royal Tunbridge Wells. The Amelia Scott will provide a unique and exciting space bringing together a Museum, Exhibition spaces and Art Gallery, along with Library, Tourist Information, Adult Education and Gateway services. Positioned right at the heart of the community and accessible to everyone, The Amelia Scott will encourage people from all walks of life to explore and share the joys of heritage discovery, reading, learning and participation under the collaborative ethos of ‘Making Culture’. Time to take a trip to Tunbridge Wells…
What’s stopping you from getting competitive in the kitchen for 2022 and showcasing the real flavour of Kent by putting your cookery credentials to the test? Brand-new for this year Margate restaurateurs, Kate de Syllas, Simona di Dio and Harry Ryder have joined forces to launch Margate Cookery School. Centrally situated in the Old Town, this school is set to offer a broad range of courses from fun, approachable wine tastings to more advanced patisserie skills. All classes will be as hands-on as possible, and many will offer the opportunity to sit down and eat with tutors and fellow students afterwards. Keep an eye out for dates and courses over the coming months – this is set to be a delicious experience you and your loved ones won’t forget in a hurry. Ready, steady, cook!