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September 23, 2018 12:58am
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Gilroy Gardens: Where the Vegetables Take You for a Spin

Heads up day-trippers

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Heads up day-trippers – there’s more to Gilroy than outlet stores. In fact,
Gilroy’s got a family-friendly gem that’s well worth the drive to the southernmost city in the Bay Area, especially if you’ve got a brood of kids who’d love to swing on a giant banana or take a twirl in an enormous garlic bulb.

 If the name doesn’t give it away, Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is dedicated to spreading the love of horticulture. Founded by Michael and Claudia Bonfante, the original creators of Nob Hill supermarkets, Gilroy Gardens is a non-profit organization offering a unique garden landscape, along with more than 40 rides with plant-related themes. While you visit, you’ll gain a new appreciation for trees and have your pick between coasters, twirling strawberries, mushroom swings, apple and worm riding, or artichoke dipping.

 In addition to the moving attractions, the theme park has a whole section dedicated to a favorite kids’ activity: water play. Especially since Gilroy gets hotter than the average Bay Area city during the summer months, when the park schedule’s in full swing, cooling off at the Super Squirter Station or beside the 12-foot Circus Tree with splashing branches is just the right formula for a fun afternoon. Kids can also get wet from spraying geysers controlled by other kids, or while sliding down 17 feet under cascading water from a twisting tree. If you’ve seen young ones running gleefully through a backyard sprinkler system, imagine how many squeals of delight a raining tree slide would inspire.

 Gilroy Gardens keeps even the youngest of tots entertained, unlike some of the bigger amusement parks consisting primarily of thrill rides. And for the gardening buffs out there, the whole park is designed around a sprawling garden theme; the landscape surrounding the attractions consists of blankets of flowerbeds, footpaths to fruit-bearing trees, rock formations, and a diversity of leaf and bloom.

 In operation since 2001, Gilroy Gardens was formerly known as Bonfante Gardens Family Theme Park. It opened its seventh season in March of 2007 with the new name and ongoing dedication to environmental stewardship. The price of your ticket may seem a bit steep, but in addition to going toward a good cause, it’s tax deductible.

 Before you visit:

 In addition to opening its doors to the summer season, Gilroy Gardens is up and running on weekends during the fall months. In December, when the Holiday Lights event takes place, filling the park with fireworks, laser lights, and holiday music, the park is open for additional weekdays. Just in time for the kids’ winter break. (Additional fees apply to take part in select holiday events.)

 Entrance fees are $34.99 for kids age 3-11 and seniors and $44.99 for guests age 11-61. To save money, pay $29.99 for all ages by purchasing a ticket online. Parking is $10 per vehicle. If you think you’ll visit at least twice a season, consider a $69.99-$79.99 membership – it covers parking, admission, guest tickets, and restaurant/merchandise discounts. Find out more at http://www.gilroygardens.org/.

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