Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is a unique family theme park with over 40 rides and attractions, a water park, interesting educational exhibits, and the incredible hand-grafted “Circus Trees,” all surrounded by majestic gardens. This hidden gem in the garlic-famous city of Gilroy is the perfect spot to enjoy family adventures and make lifelong memories.
Gilroy Gardens is located on Highway 152 (Hecker Pass Highway), just minutes from downtown Gilroy. It is easily accessible from Highway 101, or from Hwy. 152 if you are coming from the Monterey coast.
Come explore everything there is to do at Gilroy Gardens!
Fun Rides for Young & Young at Heart
Get Your Daily Dose of Fruits and Veggies
Gilroy Gardens has several fun rides inspired by local agriculture, including: Artichoke Dip, Apple and Worm, Banana Split, Strawberry Sundae, and the Mushroom Swing.
And, of course, don’t forget the Garlic Twirl. You will certainly work up an appetite on these food-themed rides!
At Gilroy Gardens, the kids get to take the wheel! The youngest speedsters will have fun on the toddler-friendly Pit Stop Racers. For those ready for a longer “road trip” adventure, let your kids drive you through the scenic backroads in a 1920s roadster or 1950s sports car at South County Backroads. Just watch out for the traffic cop!
Time for Thrills
For those seeking a bigger thrill, don’t miss the two exciting roller coasters at Gilroy Gardens. The kid-friendly rattlesnake coaster—the Timber Twister—is hidden away in a corner of the park and zooms through beautiful trees and past sandstones that are original to the area. For an even bigger thrill, visit the Quicksilver Express Mine Coaster, which speeds through dips and turns at a fast pace that is perfect for the brave of heart. Your kids will beg you to go again and again on these exciting rides!
Reach for the Sky or Ride the Rails
Other fantastic rides at Gilroy Gardens include the Panoramic Wheel, the Mushroom Swing, the Banana Split, two beautiful carousels, and the colorful Balloon Flight. The Sky Trail Monorail travels through the Monarch Gardens greenhouse, and the Bonfante Railroad Train Ride circles the entire park with stops at two different stations. If you are tired, catch a ride on the train and enjoy the scenic ride to the other stop.
Water, Water Everywhere
Splash Down at Water Oasis
When summers get hot in Gilroy, Water Oasis at Gilroy Gardens is the coolest place to play. This popular water play area has two sections. The “Original Oasis” was designed for the park’s youngest guests and features a shallow lagoon pool, a splash area, cheerful flower showers, and comfortable beach chairs for adults. The “Expanded Oasis” has bigger twisty water slides for bigger kids (and adults) and a giant tipping bucket and lots of water jets for super-splashy fun.
You can rent a private cabana at Water Oasis; just be sure to reserve ahead of time, as they do get booked quickly. Each cabana includes comfy couches, several complimentary items (such as bottled water and towels), and a mobile charging outlet so you can charge up your phone to take more family photos. You can even order food from your cabana and enjoy your own personal waiter.
There are many other water features and play areas throughout the park:
- Take a ride on a swan or duck paddleboat on Coyote Lake, a replica of Gilroy’s local lake.
- Relax on the nice and easy Rainbow Garden Boat Ride, which floats down a stream past colorful flowers.
- Walk behind a waterfall at Bonfante Falls. This is a popular spot to cool off on a hot day!
- Bonfante’s Splash Garden is fun for all ages, particularly younger kids. Splash and play in the water or slide down the waterslide coming out of the Treetop Playground (a replica of a Circus Tree.)
There is a reason the park has “Gardens” in its name. The park’s original founder, Michael Bonfante, wanted to pass along his love of plants and trees to the following generations. He collaborated with landscape architects to design distinct gardens that are beautiful in all four seasons. See if you can find them all during your visit:
- Claudia’s Garden was the first garden built at the park and is named for Michael Bonfante’s wife Claudia. This peaceful area includes conifer trees, colorful flowerbeds, a small waterfall and pond, and a vintage carousel.
- Camellia Garden is filled with beautiful flowers and is a pretty spot to take a seat, catch your breath, and enjoy the “Mario Garlic and Tomato Jack” animatronics show.
- Holly Garden contains over 20 varieties of holly—in shrub, tree, and topiary form.
- Monarch Garden is a 60-ft. tall semi-tropical greenhouse you can explore by foot or ride through on the Sky Trail Monorail or Bonfante Railroad. This is also the home of monarch butterflies being raised from July through November. (Tip: This garden is a great spot to warm up on a cooler day.)
- Rainbow Garden is only accessible on the Rainbow Garden Boat Ride, a gentle water ride that takes you past colorful flowers and whimsical topiaries.
- South County Backroads Garden is spread over nearly 2 acres and represents the historic agricultural legacy of the Santa Clara Valley, once known as “Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” You can explore this one by car on the South County Backroads ride.
The Circus Trees: Living Masterpieces
Gilroy Gardens is the home of 29 unusual “Circus Trees,” selected by Visit California as one of the state’s “Hidden Gems.”
The Circus Trees at Gilroy Gardens are uniquely shaped, hand-grafted trees originally created by Axel Erlandson, who spent over 40 years of his life (from the 1920s-1960s) shaping them into whimsical shapes. The original 70 trees went through several owners and locations over the years, including “The Tree Circus” in nearby Scotts Valley. Michael Bonfante rescued 29 of the surviving trees and planted them at the park.
Make a game with your kids of spotting the 19 Circus Trees that are in viewable areas of the park—10 of them are near the entrance, 9 are scattered throughout the park. You can pick up a guide to help you identify the trees and their shapes, which include a basket-weave, archway, chain link, cage, and many more. See the Gilroy Gardens Circus Trees web page for more information about these fascinating living sculptures.
Tasty Eats and Treats
Gilroy Gardens has 6 restaurants, and 2 dessert stops, along with multiple snack carts throughout the park.
Castroville Corners, a restaurant by Coyote Lake, serves artichoke fries, garlic fries, mini corndogs, and chicken wings. San Juan Grill, located near the Sky Trail Monorail and Monarch Garden, serves up burgers, chicken strips and nuggets, taco salads, and rotisserie chicken. The Sugar Plum Farm, close to the park entrance, offers coffee, hot dogs, sub sandwiches, salads, and desserts. The Wok, a small stop in Camellia Garden, serves Asian-inspired cuisine, including teriyaki beef, chicken, pork belly, tofu, and more. Uncle John’s BBQ, near Bonfante Splash Gardens, cooks up burgers, hot dogs, salads, and on weekends, special items like chicken kabobs, corn on the cob, and elotes, a tasty Mexican corn on the cob. Another great restaurant, Villa Pasta & Pizza, serves Mediterranean options: pizza, pasta, red lentil curry, Greek salads, and spaghetti.
If you are looking to appease your sweet tooth or treat your kids (and yourself!) to something delicious, visit Skeel’s Funnel Cake, which offers funnel cakes and soft serve ice cream. Visit South County Cones to cool off with soft-serve ice cream, icees, and sodas after your drive through the valley at South County Backroads.
Making Learning Fun
Staying true to the original vision of the park’s founder Michael Bonfante, Gilroy Gardens’ 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.
Today, Gilroy Gardens continues to encourage interest in plants and trees and helps foster an interest in horticultural and environmental careers. Families and school groups enjoy many interactive educational exhibits and nature-focused activities throughout the park.
The Green Barn: Where Art and Science Unite!
This unique space includes a Nature Exchange, where kids can bring in any nature item (a rock, a plant, fossil, etc.) and explore it with a staff member. After earning points the facts they already knew about the item, they can then trade it in for another nature item. The Green Barn also includes an Art Studio for creative, hands-on activities, as well as a cozy Reading Nook stocked with books about science, nature, and art.
Monarch Butterflies—Prepare for Lift Off!
In the Monarch Garden, from July through November, there are Monarch Butterflies being raised. You can watch the developmental process, and in the summer months you may get to see a fully-developed Monarch butterfly!
Tours and Field Trips
Stop by the Welcome Center in Gilroy Gardens to view a schedule for docent-led tours or to pick up one of the brochures for self-guided tours, which include the Agriculture Tour, Gardens Tour, History & Culture Tour, and Water & Environment Tour. Gilroy Gardens also works with schools to educate students of all ages about horticulture and the environment through field trips.
Make It a Family Getaway to Gilroy
Be sure to include a visit to Gilroy Gardens on your next family weekend getaway to Gilroy. Check the Gilroy Gardens website before you visit to confirm the days and hours of operation, as the park is closed for the colder months and only open on weekends during certain months. You can also check out prices for daily admission and membership passes.
Plan ahead to book a budget-friendly hotel room in Gilroy so you can stay and explore some more!
The whole family will definitely want to make a “pit stop” at Casa de Fruta, an iconic roadside resort with fresh produce, sweet treats, and more fun family attractions. Check our list of 33 Things to Do in Gilroy for even more inspiration.
When you arrive in town, be sure to stop in the California Welcome Center Gilroy to learn more about the best places to eat, shop, and play in Gilroy. We’re conveniently located in Gilroy Premium Outlets and can’t wait for you to visit!