Thanks to reader Beth Vuolo Gousman for sending us this post after her recent trip to Gilroy Gardens.
As a destination with 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. (I have been on four separate occasions and have yet to see a cloud).
I also recommend Gilroy Gardens 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. It 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.
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.
The main draw of Gilroy Gardens is the lack of lines. On our last visit, on a Tuesday in June, my husband asked if I thought the park was in danger of closing down. We walked onto every ride. Out of four visits, there has been only one day where we have waited in any line of consequence. 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.
We’re so lucky to have Children's Fairyland in the East Bay that parents frequently suffer sticker shock when faced with the price of a day at Gilroy Gardens. It’s $14 for parking, and it’s $39 for admission for visitors three years old and older
Fairyland is great if you’re looking to spend a morning, but GG 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!
Plan your visit
Gilroy Gardens is open on weekdays through August 13 and then weekends only.
Both Groupon and LivingSocial frequently offer deals. At the time this article was written, LivingSocial was offering a $27 admission deal. This is a steal!