It’s time to get in touch with that wonder and curiosity that make all summer childhoods special. At Gilroy Gardens, you’ll find exactly that. Explore the majestic gardens that make them famous, learn about monarch butterflies and ride on a giant banana swing. That’s right. A banana swing. Gilroy Gardens is the perfect family day outing that has it all — even for your pint-sized thrill seekers.


What to do:
Check out rides that leave no kiddo behind such as Garlic Twirl (a cute spinning ride where you and your little ones can squeal with delight in garlic cloves) or Illions Supreme Carousel featuring 96 carved figures and 48 horses you and the family will surely love. Or let your little one get in touch with their need for speed in mini race cars! And the best part is, all of the rides and attractions are built around beautifully landscaped designs featuring colorful flowers, water elements and rock formations.

Need a breather before your kiddo begs to get back on the Garlic Twirl? Take a walk through the Camellia Garden and take in the beautiful, colorful blooms of two different species of Camellia, or venture through the Monarch Garden and see hundreds of tropical and sub-tropical flowers, trees and shrubs.

What to bring:
Be sure to bring swimsuits and a change of clothes to play in the water area “Splash Garden” where kids can squirt their pals on a hot day. You’ll also need an easily foldable stroller, plenty of water, and comfortable walking shoes. We recommend forgoing the over-priced fast food in favor of brown-bagging it with a picnic lunch you and the family can enjoy at the public picnic area near the entrance. Afterwards, splurge on ice cream and treats at South County Cones or Splits-n-Sundaes.

When to go:
Year-round, but you might want to visit the park during the holidays, if only to see it transformed into a winter wonderland during their spectacular Holiday Lights events.

Gilroy Gardens Waterfall
Be in the know:
Tickets are cheapest if you buy online (you save $10 to $20). Or if you think Gilroy Gardens is a place you’ll be coming back to once or twice more this season, consider their season pass for just $40. That’s the price of one adult general admission ticket at the gate!

How to get there:
From San Jose and San Francisco, take Highway 101 South to Gilroy. Exit Masten Avenue, which turns into Fitzgerald Avenue. Turn left at the stop sign where Fitzgerald Avenue intersects Santa Teresa Boulevard. Turn right onto Highway 152 West (Hecker Pass Hwy.). The Gilroy Gardens entrance is on your left side just after Gilroy Golf Course. Parking is $10 per vehicle, so you might consider carpooling if you’re going with a group.

For an interactive park map:

What are your tips for visiting Gilroy Gardens with your tots? Share your insights in the comment section below!

— Nicki Richesin

photos courtesy of Nicki Richesin, Kei! via Flickr, summer park via Flickr and Just Chaos via Flickr