Got a little one who loves big thrills? Deep in the heart of the South Bay is the little known kiddie gem: Gilroy Gardens. Don’t let the garden-theme fool you. This amusement park goes above and beyond and unlike so many others, caters specifically to the 36” and under crowd. With an abundance of toddler and preschool aimed rides for all “thrill levels” as well as some very unusual one-of-a-kind Circus Trees rescued from Scotts Valley, California, this destination is a true winner.
What to Expect:
In addition to the abundance of toddler-friendly rides, the park also features extensive and elaborate gardens. Hop on the monorail ride (a kiddie fave) through Monarch Garden, which takes you through a gigantic greenhouse where you will also find a train and a meandering river. For the slightly older crowd (kids ages 4+) check out the Quicksilver Express Mine Coaster, which is also a thrill for mom and dad as it dips and turns through the forest! Rainbow Garden Round Boats wind through a picturesque garden providing the perfect backdrop for those photo opportunists. Kids also love the South County Backroads, where you travel through the “back roads” of South County in antique cars from the 1920’s or 1950’s.
Don’t forget the swimsuits! Even on the warmer days, a stop at one of the two water areas is a great way to cool off. The main water play area, Splash Garden, has five interactive water attractions, including the Treetop Spray ground, Super Squirter Station and a soaker See Saw. The smaller play area, Splash & Squirt, is less busy and perfect for toddlers and smaller children.
Pro Tip: Bring a pair of water shoes; the cement can get a bit slippery on the painted surfaces.
Feeling famished after a day of frolicking? Even though the website states no outside food is allowed, bringing snacks and toddler-friendly drinks was not a problem on a recent trip. There are quite a few shady spots perfect for a picnic.
Pro Tip: Check for a spot in Camellia Gardens, which has a huge picnic table area and a performance stage that hosts a cute puppet show once an hour on the half hour. A selection of food vendors and restaurants are also located throughout the park should you not feel like bringing your own.
Admission: $39 if you buy online; $55 at the door. All kids ages three and up need a ticket.
Pro Tip: Use this Groupon deal to save 51%
More Insider Tips:
• To manage the long day, consider bringing a wagon or stroller. Stroller parking is abundant in front of the rides.
• Don’t lug your stuff around all day! Coin operated lockers are located next to the front gate near the restrooms on your right as you come in.
• Make sure to have some cash with you. The small cart vendors (popcorn, cotton candy, etc.) do not take credit cards.
• Most of the rides near the front are aimed towards toddlers. If you have older kids in your group consider taking the train around the backside and starting from there.
3050 Hecker Pass Hwy .