Weekend Travel Idea : Exploring Gilroy

Written by Amy Gaerlan. Posted in Recreation + Travel

Going to Gilroy doesn't have to be all about the garlic.  There are various activities and sites for you to explore and enjoy.

Sometimes we all need a little get away.  By “little” I mean something close to home but far enough away that you get your mini vacation on!  Living in the Bay Area gives us a lot of options, and one option for a great get away is Gilroy, CA.  Regardless if you are going solo for some garlic appreciation and wine tasting, or a family adventure at Gilroy Gardens you are sure to have a blast exploring the sights and smells of Gilroy!

Gilroy is the southernmost city in the San Francisco Bay Area and known as the “Garlic Capital of the World”.  It's well-known for its annual Gilroy Garlic Festival which features various foods flavored with garlic and celebrity chef appearances.  About 10 miles northeast of Gilroy lies the famous Victorian Resort Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs which is a California Historical Landmark.

Here's a peek at some of the great places to visit while you're in Gilroy.

Gilroy Gardens

Opened in 2001 as Bonfante Gardens, Gilroy Gardens was built using a botanical theme inspired by a collection of amazing “Circus Trees.”  The park was constructed gradually over a period of 25 years.  Prior to opening it was known as the Tree haven and was a commercial plant nursery as well as a recreational facility for the employees of Nob Hill Foods.  It currently features 19 rides, 27 attractions, six gardens and of course the world-famous Circus Trees created by Axel Erlandson.

When you think of theme parks, you most likely think about fast paced, noisy parks that are filled with rushing from ride to ride.  Exploring Gilroy Gardens goes at a slower pace.  There are so many beautiful and unique things to see you won't want to rush from place to place.

The largest of the parks six gardens is set in a fragrant 60 foot tall greenhouse – it is so large that both a train and a monorail run through it!  The unusual and breath-taking circus trees are a highlight to this park.  The trees were originally grown at the Tree Circus in Scotts Valley, CA.  Of Erlandson's 70 original tree creations, 25 survive today and 19 of them are at Gilroy Gardens.

Gilroy Gardens hosts weddings in the summer and has its annual holiday celebration of Holiday Lights during December.  Do be sure to remember that there are a lot of flowering plants in the park.  If you have allergies to pollen or insects be prepared!  Bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and hats; Gilroy gets pretty hot during the summer.

Gilroy Gardens is located at 3050 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy, CA.  408-840-7100. The park is easily reached from US 101 by following the signs or just take CA 152 west from Gilroy. gilroygardens.org

Gilroy Premium Outlets

For the women (and men!) out there who love to shop this means a 'must stop' is the Gilroy Premium Outlets.  There are – wait for it – 145 factory outlet stores combined together.  People come from near and far to visit this shopping haven experience.  Just doing a quick drive by you'll be sure to find an excuse to swing in and spend some time – and maybe a little money to!

Located at 681 Leavesly Rd. Gilroy, CA 95020. premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=23

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the largest food festivals in the United States.  The festival was created to be a fundraiser for local charities and has raised about seven and a half million dollars for various causes. The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association is a non-profit organization intended to support non-profit groups and projects in Gilroy.

The festival is held annually on the last full weekends in July at Christmas Hill Park.  If you plan on attending, make sure that you're ready to sample some possibly unique treats – like garlic flavored ice cream!  There is also musical entertainment, a Great Garlic Cook-Off, celebrity cooking demonstrations, a garlic braiding workshop, a children's area, arts and crafts, and many interactive displays.

Another fun favorite for the festival is the crowning of Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen.  She's chosen by a panel of five judges based on her personal interview, talent, evening grown, and you've got it – her garlic speech!

Over 4000 volunteers make this festival possible, and over three million people have come to the festival since it began.  This year the festival will be held July 29, 30, and 31st. gilroygarlicfestival.com.

Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs

Need a little break from the excitement of roller coasters or garlic festivals?  Just a few miles away are the Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs.  Located in a mixed oak forest above Coyote Creek, the springs are famed for its mineral hot springs and historic development by early settlers.  Some of structures date as early as the 1870s.  In 1939 a Japanese garden teahouse was built as well as a Buddhist shrine.  Due to the history of the site, it is listed among the National Register of Historic Places. friendsofgilroyhotsprings.org

Gilroy Wineries

Growers through the Santa Clara Valley have honed their craft and enjoy gracing the public with delightful fine wine. So if you need a break from reality, visit Gilroy's historic wineries and leave your cell phone behind.  You might be surprised to find out that the person pouring your wine could be the very maker of that wine.  Daily tasting is available at most wineries, for more information explore the Winey Directory and Events Calendar.

For more information about planning your trip to Gilroy, visit http://www.gilroyvisitor.org/ .  This site includes everything about dining, local favorites, and annual event information.