Gilroy Gardens was created for families. The theme was inspired by a collection of extraordinary trees, trained into fantastic shapes. They call them "circus trees."
Big, noisy theme parks can be exhausting, but a day at Gilroy Gardens won't wear you out. That is unless you have kids older than age eight to ten. They may try your patience complaining because they think they're too grown up for those "baby" rides.
The entire park is spotlessly clean, and all the rides and attractions are well maintained.
They also offer overnight camp packages.
What to Expect at Gilroy Gardens
Set your teenagers' expectations and have then take a look at the park online. Between them, my niece and nephew's reactions probably sum up those of most teenagers. My thirteen-year-old niece got a little more grown-up for the day, enjoying the park the same way her auntie did. My twelve-year-old nephew released his still-close-to-the-surface inner child. He had fun but declared that he would rather have gone to a place with thrill rides instead.
Smaller children seem to have a particularly good time here, finding lots of rides that cater just to them. There's even a smaller-sized carousel for the tiny tots.
As for the adults: My husband the skeptic had a great time. My even-more-skeptical brother-in-law dreaded the thought of going but remarked several times how relaxing and pleasant the day was.
Gilroy Gardens Rides
The rides are similar to those in other parks, but with agricultural themes and names. Get a height tag for kids under 48 inches tall at the information booth near the front gate. Consult the signs at each ride to find out whether the kids can ride alone or with a chaperone.
Only a few rides deliver intermediate thrills.
Even those aren't wild enough to make this motion-sickness-prone writer feel queasy - a sure sign that this isn't the place to take a roller-coaster-loving teenager.
On a hot day, the water attractions at Gilroy Gardens are most welcome. You can get mildly splashed at the waterfall and misted in the Rock Maze. Or get soaked in Splash Garden. The water play area includes an 18-foot-tall climbing structure with spraying water and a dry slide, along with plenty of other fun water features.
Gilroy Gardens Circus Trees and Gardens
Monarch Garden is the largest of the park's five gardens. It grows inside a 60-foot-tall greenhouse so large that both a train and a monorail run through it.
The trees are Gilroy Gardens' most unusual feature. They're called circus trees because they once grew at the Tree Circus in nearby Scotts Valley, California. A natural graft between two sycamore trees inspired their creator Axel Erlandson. But his creations are anything but natural. Nineteen of the 70 trees he created are at Gilroy Gardens. Look for the basket tree, four-legged giant, spiral staircase, oil well and others. You won't see anything like them anywhere else because even now, no one can figure out how Erlandson did it.
Practicalities for Gilroy Gardens
- If the kids are going to play in the water park area, bring a change of dry clothes.
- There are lots of flowering plants in the park. Take precautions if you're allergic to pollen or insect bites. Or bee stings.
- Gilroy gets quite hot in summer. Bring plenty of sunscreen, water, sunglasses, and hats. And mister fans or neck coolers.
- Leave Fluffy at home. Pets are not allowed, and there are no boarding kennels. That is unless Fluffy is a guide dog, which is allowed.
- Food is reasonably priced compared to other theme parks, and there's a lot of variety. Outside food, drinks, and alcohol are not allowed in the park, but there are picnic tables outside the gates.
- All of the gardens are accessible by wheeled vehicles such as wheelchairs and strollers. Bring your own or rent them at the gate.
Details About Gilroy Gardens
Gilroy Gardens is open daily in summer and on weekends in the spring and fall. They charge an admission fee and a parking fee. Check their current prices
3050 Hecker Pass Hwy
Gilroy Gardens Website
It's about a half hour drive from San Jose, 90 minutes from San Francisco and about a half hour from Monterey and Carmel.