Attractions & Entertainment Travel

A Day with Grandma at Gilroy Gardens

There’s nothing more relaxing and gratifying to me than a beautifully manicured garden. Add to that the fun of an amusement park and you’ve got the perfect day. That’s what we got when we received some free passes to explore Gilroy Gardens.

Gilroy Gardens Rides

I’ll freely admit, I’m not a fan of amusement parks. Thrill seeking by spinning uncontrollably at warp speed is not my thing. My husband learned long ago not to force me onto carnival rides when they had to close one down and hose it out after my turn. Yuck! I do like to accompany my grandkids on the milder rides and experience some of the thrill and joy with them. A day at Gilroy Gardens was perfect for me.

All of Gilroy Gardens’ rides and attractions are built around beautifully designed landscaping which features many different varieties of trees, flowers, water elements and rock formations.

The grounds were beautifully manicured and cared for. From the minute you walk into the park, you’re greeted with an abundance of plant life and gorgeous displays of landscape architecture. It was really pleasing to my eyes to see this beautiful handcrafted design.

Funnel Cake

All of the staff were cheerful and helpful. It was nice to see so many clean-cut local teens with a fun place to work. The park wasn’t crowded at all and there were no long lines. Some of the rides did have a bit of a wait time, but nothing like your bigger amusement parks. This park is geared more towards toddlers up to age 12. There were plenty of places throughout the park to dine and most of the dining catered to families. We certainly enjoyed sharing a funnel cake topped with strawberries!

Flower Boats

Gilroy Gardens was formerly known as Bonfante Gardens, and was built by Michael and Claudia Bonfante after they sold their Nob Hill Foods supermarkets. The Park was designed to educate guests and to foster a greater appreciation of horticulture. Gilroy Gardens, Inc. is a nonprofit educational institution whose mission is to educate and inspire families, especially children, to appreciate horticulture and the importance of trees in our lives by providing fun and memories in a beautiful garden setting.

I was especially excited to ride in a Swan Paddle Boat with my 4 year old granddaughter. It required a bit more energy than I anticipated, but was fun and relaxing. Then my daughter (whom you all know as Clever Housewife) somehow talked me into going on one of the slightly bigger roller coasters. I don’t know how she talked me into it, but she managed to take a video as proof! My grandkids quite enjoyed hearing me squeal throughout the entire ride.

There’s six different garden types throughout the park – The Camellia Garden, Claudia’s Garden which features conifers and needle type trees and shrubs, Holly Garden, Monarch Garden, Rainbow Garden and South Country Backroads Garden. Also disbursed through the park are many unique and beautiful water features. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and spend some time in Bonfante’s Splash Garden™, a fun-filled water play area that gives kids of all ages a place to cool off in the hot summer sun. Kids can climb up the towering Tree Top Sprayground™—a replicated Circus Tree, spin water wheels, tip over buckets of water and much more! The water park is closed during the colder months.
Gilroy Gardens Waterfalls

I especially enjoyed the opportunity to cool off a bit as we walked behind the Bonfante Falls. This natural water feature is a great way to stay cool without needing a bathing suit. It has 5 different falls and is designed so Guests can walk behind the largest of the majestic waterfalls; a view rarely possible in nature but built at Gilroy Gardens for all to enjoy.

We combined our day with a trip to the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival – a lot to pack into one day. Most of the day was spent at the Gardens, but we didn’t want to miss out on the yummy treats at the Garlic Festival.

The park has limited hours of operation during late fall and winter, but is open daily during the warmer months. There are several venues throughout the park for large gatherings, such as family reunions, corporate events and even weddings. Gilroy Gardens was MY kind of place for a day with grandchildren. Check out their calendar for upcoming events, such as Halloween Scary Boo and Scary Zoo, Halloween Camp Night, Lunch with Santa, and their very popular Holiday Lights – with millions of lights and Endless Wonder. What a perfect way to feel the joy of the Holiday Season.

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Emily Buys

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