Gilroy Gardens Theme Park Guide

Gilroy Gardens Theme Park, Gilroy CA

Panoramic Wheel Ride at Gilroy Gardens
••• Panoramic Wheel Ride at Gilroy Gardens. Jeremy Thompson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Big, noisy theme parks can be exhausting, but a day at Gilroy Gardens won't wear you out. The park is a manageable size, with lots of shade trees and garden spots where you can rest on a hot day. 

The entire park was once spotlessly clean, and all the rides and attractions were well maintained, but in recent years, visitors report a decline of both. They also complain that food has gotten too expensive. Nevertheless, may visitors give it high ratings overall, especially if they have small children.

What to Expect at Gilroy Gardens

Smaller children seem to have a particularly good time at Gilroy Gardens, finding lots of rides that cater just to them. There's even a smaller-sized carousel for the tiny tots.

However, kids older than age eight to ten may try your patience complaining because they think they're too grown up for those "baby" rides. Teens and tweens may act more grown up or release their still-close-to-the-surface inner children. 

Adults enjoy may enjoy the rides, but they also like watching the kids play and trying to figure out how the park's "circus trees" were created.

Gilroy Gardens Rides

The rides are similar to those in other parks, but with agricultural themes and names. 

Only a few rides deliver intermediate thrills. Even those aren't wild enough to make mildly motion-sickness-prone people 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 the 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 also has a water park that includes slides for bigger kids as well as the little ones. Entry is included in the general admission price. Groups of up to 8 guests can reserve a shady private cabana with a patio table, lounge seating and poolside meal service (the cost of meals is extra).

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

  • Gilroy Gardens is open every day in the summer, but only on weekends during the rest of the year. They have special events for Halloween and Christmas. Check hours and events on their calendar
  • Save money on your tickets by buying them online instead of at the gate. And pick up a prepaid parking pass at the same time to save time going in.
  • When you enter the park, get a height tag for kids under 48 inches tall at the information booth. Consult the signs at each ride to find out whether the kids can ride alone or with a chaperone.
  • 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.
  • In the summer, be prepared for a hot sunny day. So hot that you'll be glad you brought your mister fan and neck cooler.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You can turn your day at the park into an overnight trip during their Family Camp Nights which are held during selected summer holiday weekends.

Details About Gilroy Gardens

Gilroy Gardens is about a half hour drive from San Jose, 90 minutes from San Francisco and about a half hour from Monterey and Carmel. They charge an admission fee and a parking fee. Check their current ticket prices