Day Trip: Gilroy Gardens for Family Fun - 510 Families
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Day Trip: Gilroy Gardens for Family Fun

As a destination for kids under six years old, Gilroy Gardens is a top pick for a Bay Area day trip. Clocking in at roughly 75 miles from Oakland, it’s an easy 90 minutes, making it more attainable than Monterey or Santa Cruz.

Gilroy Gardens is well maintained, with 21 rides, a small water park, and paddle boats. Bring swimsuits, and note that all the water features are included with the price of admission.

The sun always shines in Gilroy, for those who are tired of these cool summer days. (But make sure the forecast is not unbearably hot!)

Gilroy Gardens entrance

Gilroy Gardens is wonderful for those who are going stir crazy with a newborn at home and an older sibling who need to get out, as the park is very stroller-friendly, and offers many shady benches perfect for feeding a baby. The whole family can enjoy the Bonfante Railroad, which offers a great opportunity to see the park.

Gilroy Gardens theme park
The themed rides at Gilroy Gardens celebrate local produce | Photo: Whitney Moss

One of the first things visitors tend to notice about Gilroy Gardens is the lack of commercialization. There are no characters wandering the grounds. The rides feature Bulgy the Goldfish, spinning strawberries, a garlic twirl, and an apple circling a worm (yes, there are a lot of spinning rides, so if that’s not your thing, be sure to bring another adult along who is willing to ride).

Each visit, we have ended the day with a “wind down” at the playground located in the center of the park.

Gilroy Gardens ride
photo courtesy Gilroy Gardens Facebook page

The main draw of Gilroy Gardens is the lack of lines on weekdays. On our last weekday visit, we waited only briefly for a handful of rides. The Duck and Swan Paddle Boats and self-driving cars for two and four people, South County Backroads are the only attractions to consistently require a wait.

The sweet spot for Gilroy Gardens is ages 1-6. Within that range, visitors will be able to ride the vast majority of rides in the park.

There are two roller coasters that require riders to be 48 inches tall. You might be able to entertain an obliging grade schooler with attractions like Rainbow Garden Round Boats and the water park, but you’re pushing it because everything else is aimed at a younger audience. My 7-year old niece slumped over in her seat on some of the baby rides, letting us know they were beneath her. Her 2-year old cousin was thrilled, though.

The water park area is expansive. It is well-staffed with lifeguards and we were impressed with how watchful they were. There are water sources for toddlers to have sensory experiences and slides for bigger kids to challenge themselves.

Gilroy Gardens water play area
photo courtesy Gilroy Gardens Facebook page

We’re so lucky to have Children’s Fairyland in Oakland that parents frequently suffer sticker shock when faced with the price of a day at Gilroy Gardens: It’s $20 for parking, and it’s $50 for admission for visitors three years old and older

Fairyland is great if you’re looking to spend a morning, but Gilroy Gardens is a great option if you’re looking for a full day’s worth of activity, including getting children to nap on the ride home. Even better: spend the day when en route to Southern California to take advantage of the kids’ exhaustion for the rest of the way!

👉 Guide to Bay Area Amusement Parks

Plan your visit to Gilroy Gardens

Gilroy Gardens is open on weekdays during the summer — through August 13 and then weekends only.

Best ages: 7 and under
Prices: Admission is $35 for weekdays and $50 for weekends when you buy tickets online in advance. Kids under 3 are free. Parking is $20 online or $25 at the gate.
Food situation: Outside food can be eaten at the picnic tables outside the gate. Inside there are food vendors. Snacks for babies and toddlers are permitted.
Their website to check current hours and rates. Open 7 days per week for summer hours until August 13.

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2 thoughts on “Day Trip: Gilroy Gardens for Family Fun”

  1. We love it too! There’s plenty of lines on the weekend, especially a 3-day summer weekend. Wouldn’t recommend visiting then.

  2. Pingback: 99 Days of Summer for Bay Area Kids {2017} - 510 Families

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