Gilroy Gardens: The Best Little Amusement Park

On Saturday we packed up the car, kids, and auntie Ashley (my sister) and made the drive to Gilroy Gardens to spend the day. Gilroy is mostly known for their garlic and they host an annual garlic festival every year that draws some serious crowds, but they also have this little gem, Gilroy Gardens, an amusement park themed around agriculture (which we seriously love since we farm). The grounds are beautiful and well kept, with lots of shade and a family friendly vibe. This park is geared toward the entire family and there is something for everyone. Here are my best tips and tricks for a trip to Gilroy Gardens.

1. Arrive when the park opens. This time of year the operating hours are 10am to 5pm. Arriving when the park opens will help you get a great parking spot right by the main gates and guarantee that you will be able to see and do everything the park has to offer.

2. Check the calendar. Gilroy Gardens is a small amusement park and it is not open year round. Make sure you plan accordingly and know the days they are operating and their hours. Right now Gilroy Gardens is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.

3. Ride all the rides. There are a total of 21 rides and the lines are never long, so you should be able to ride everything at least once. You can read more about the rides here.

4. Check out their fun-filled water play areas where you can cool off from the heat by visiting their Water Oasis, Bonfante's Splash Garden, Splash and Squirt, and Bonafante Falls. For those who don't want to get wet, take a ride in a round boat in their "creek" or paddle a swan or duck shaped boat on the lake! You can read more about the water play areas here.

5. Explore the trees at Gilroy Gardens. There are amazing circus trees. Made using elaborate tree grafting processes, these trees are amazing works of art, as well as natural wonders. Make it a family scavenger hunt of sorts finding each new tree (pick up a brochure at the entrance that shows you location and information about each one). You can read more about the trees here.

6. Try all the food! They offer more than usual amusement park food and it is so good! Yes, they have hamburgers, pizza, chicken strips, hot dogs and fries, but their restaurants are equipped to offer healthy choices, non-fried foods, reduced calories, vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. You can view all the dining options here

7. Be familiar with the height requirement for rides. Gilroy Gardens might be the only amusement park you will encounter where your children may be too tall for some of the rides. Several of the rides are made for toddlers and preschoolers and this means that older kids may not be able to ride everything (Bulgy the Goldfish is one example). Of course, there are plenty of rides with height limits that go the other way. 

8. Take time to visit attractions like the Oak Park Playground. Ride thrills are great but kids love some unstructured play time too. It is a giant playground and perfect for all ages. It's great to hit this area up before heading home.  Let the kids run and get all their wiggles out. There is also the Pinnacles Rock Maze. You can read more about these two attractions here

9. Right now through November 27th 2016 you can view the Lumination Chinese Culture Celebrated in a Whole New Light. There are amazing light displays and a live performance. The Lumination Chinese Culture happens only Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 6pm-10pm. Visitors to Gilroy Gardens may purchase same-day Lumination passes for an additional $15. Admission to Lumination is free with 2016 Gilroy Gardens Elite memberships. You can read more about Lumination here.

10. Pony up to the petting zoo! This is open now through October 30th. You can meet goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, pigs and more...all sized just for the little ones. Play with your favorite animals and feed them! Additional charge for Petting Zoo – Adults FREE with paying Child. $5 per Child. (Not included with Membership or Park Admission.) All proceeds go to Pony Up! for the care of the animals. My kids loved this!

11. Last but not least, make sure you stop and visit their shops while enjoying the park. There are 7 stores and kiosks that have a wide variety of unique souvenirs and gifts for everyone. Make sure to take home a reminder of the great family fun you had!

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