Gilroy Gardens: A Great Day Trip from San Jose, CA

Located about 35 minutes south of San Jose, the city of Gilroy is close to urban sprawl but yet a world away from it as well. To look out over its landscape is to see what adjacent Silicon Valley cities used to look like — orchards, farms, fruit stands, and other signs of agriculture abound. So it only makes sense that an amusement park in this town, which also happens to be the garlic capital of the world, would be garden-themed and offer educational programs. Welcome to California’s only horticultural theme park, Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park!

Gilroy Gardens – Part Amusement Park, Part Garden Expo
A variety of trees, flowers, rock formation and water elements are designed into all of the rides and attractions at Gilroy Gardens. Board a round boat and float leisurely through the Rainbow Garden, a magnificent collection of topiary art and annual color. You’ll swear there is a scent of garlic in the air when you take a spin in the Garlic Twirl. Ride in a strawberry or an artichoke.

Gilroy Gardens - Day Trips from San Jose CA - the Artichoke Dip
Ride the Artichoke Dip at Gilroy Gardens near San Jose.

Take flight to wherever your imagination takes you on the Balloon Flight ride then sail into a story book landscape aboard a paddle boat that looks like swan, a mallard or a classic yellow duck.

Gilroy Gardens - Day Trips from San Jose CA - Swan Paddle Boats
Take a ride on a swan or duck paddle boat.

Founded by Michael and Claudia Bonfante, the award-winning Gilroy Gardens is filled with wide-eyed curious kids on any given day who are learning without even knowing it. Green Spots, offering topics such as geology and seismic activity, the wonders of the Redwood Tree and bugs, provide opportunities to delve into further into the environment around Gilroy Gardens as well as that of the Golden State itself.

Gilroy Gardens Attractions Your Family Shouldn’t Miss

The Circus Trees
Contorted into arches, bird cages, baskets, and chain links, the Circus Trees are a feat of grafting unlike anything you’ll ever lay eyes on. Swedish American farmer Axel Erlandson carefully bent and shaped straight tree trunks and branches into complex designs that were eventually featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

The Monarch Garden
A semi-tropical greenhouse filled with shrubs, flowers, tropical and sub-tropical trees, this garden is named for the butterflies that frequent the California coastal towns of Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove. Whether you walk through the garden or ride the monorail, one of the beautiful Monarch butterflies living there will likely say hello by landing on your arm or your child’s head.

Pinnacles Rock Maze
Named after the national park located near Soledad, CA, there are eight species of trees featured in this maze. The most intriguing of the bunch is the Smoke Tree, which gets its name from the dramatic puffs of smoke which develop from its fading flowers.

Claudia’s Garden
Named for Claudia Bonfonte, this garden features unique geometric topiaries, conifers and colorful beds of annuals. Pass through one of the arched Circus trees to enter this lovely landscape.

Gilroy Gardens - Day trips from San Jose CA - Claudia's Garden
Claudia’s Garden with its arched entrance is one of the Gilroy Gardens attractions that you should not miss!

Ride the Mushroom Swing
While suspended from the biggest mushroom you’ve ever seen, you’ll get the best bird’s eye view of the park from a seat on this ride!

Hike Bonfante Falls
Get a view rarely seen in nature by walking behind this majestic waterfall!

Tips for Gilroy Gardens

  • Check the park schedule: Gilroy Gardens’ schedule is seasonal. Be sure to refer to their operating calendar to make the most of your visit. 
  • Weather: In the summer, Gilroy can be significantly hotter than San Jose. Bring sunscreen and pack a swimsuit. The park also has a water park you may wish to use to cool off.
  • Arrive early: Like many other popular amusement parks, this one fills up. Arrive early and you’re likely to enjoy more attractions before the throngs join you.

Hotels Near Gilroy Gardens
If San Jose is your home base for exploring the surrounding areas, Hilton San Jose is convenient to local attractions but is close to major highways as well. If your plan is to stay in Gilroy for a day or so, Hilton Garden Inn Gilroy is a comfy choice.

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Know Before You Go

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Kristine D. Are you interested in traveling to San Jose? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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