I was recently invited to check out Gilroy Gardens family theme park in Gilroy, CA. I took my girlfriend, her 5 year old brother and my 6 year old daughter. We arrived at the park aroundnoon and was pleasantly surprised to find ample parking spaces. The lot is huge! The first thing we saw was a grand entrance, sort of Chinese new year themed, with two big dragons.
The park has an amazing night light display called Illumination and so the entire park is done in a Chinese new year theme. Once we walked in we were greeted by gracious and friendly staff. The first stop upon entering the park was to get the kids faces painted. The face painter, Nicole, did a great job on a “2 faced” man for my girlfriends brother and a beach/sunset theme for my 6 year old daughter, total for the face painting was $39.13.
I’m not too into theme park rides but with the kids pressuring me I couldn’t say no. We went on several rides and the lines weren’t terrible at all. I’d say the longest time spent in line was for the South County Backroads Garden which was about a 10 minute wait. On this ride you can select one of two era’s 1920’s or 1950’s each era has themed cars that go around a track. The kids can steer the cars slightly but have no fear, they won’t be doing any donuts on these tracks! We took a ride on the Timer Twister Coaster and i’ll tell ya, for this 37 year old who doesn’t like roller coasters this looked a bit intimidating. I was nervous that my daughter wouldn’t like this ride too much, but she actually wanted to go on it a couple more times. The coaster isn’t that bad at all, and they even take two photos while on it (the ride goes around the track twice), the pictures came out great!! Another fun ride was the Garlic Twirl, which people get inside garlic cloves and spin around, the kids thoroughly enjoyed this.
All around the park is various signs that talk about the illumination themed displays, the signs and the displays are very interesting and very well made. We stopped to get some lunch at one of the larger cafes there. I was a bit surprised by the food prices. A small pizza (personalized size) was $14. For a family of four the total came out to a bit over $40. Some of the items we originally ordered the cafe didn’t have so we had to choose alternates which was a bit of a bummer considering the menu was sort of limited.
After eating we decided to ride a few more rides then check out Bonfante Falls, this is a pretty nice waterfall area, a lot of people were here taking photos (selfies), it sure did provide a nice backdrop. Next we came across Bonfante’s Splash Garden. This water park is great and was a welcomed sight for the kids who were a bit hot. We hadn’t planned on getting wet and didn’t have any change of clothes so we let the kids get wet in their regular clothes. It was only after when I noticed a nice shop that had a ton of swimsuits and water related items (Sunscreen, hats, glasses, etc) for kids. After getting wet it was almost 5 and the park was closing down to get ready for illumination. To watch Lumination you do have to pay an additional $15 not included with your park ticket. The Lumination is a colossal of light displays that is open on the weekends and it lights up the entire 26 acre park!
Using a combination of traditional Chinese lantern design and modern technology, each display is composed of hundreds or even thousands of individual pieces and millions of LED bulbs. Each one was designed and built by master artists from Zigong, China, home to the original Chinese Lantern Festival. Absolutely breathtaking!
*We were provided tickets to facilitate our review. All opinions in this article are 100% our own.