“You should really take your kids to Gilroy Gardens, they’d love it!”. That was my best friend, R. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’d get around to it” I said. So when our weekend getaway was coming to an end, we had a choice, see more of Monterey, or try and check out Gilroy Gardens. On a total whim, we decided on Gilroy Gardens. After our late checkout we hit the road for a short ride over to Gilroy Gardens.
Before it was an amusement park, it spent 25 years as a commercial plant nursery called Tree Haven. The founder of Nob Hill Foods Supermarket spent 25 years building this amusement park. It opened as Bonfante Gardens in 2001 and was renamed to Gilroy Gardens in 2007.
For some reason I had the idea that it was a small amusement park in my head. I told my husband we would be there for 2 hours, max, before we’d hit the road again. My first hint I was wrong was the price tag. It seemed steep for a small amusement park. But I quickly found a deal online and we were on vacation so we went for it. Then, as we walked from the enormous parking lot (2nd clue) up to the gate, we saw the ads featuring a water park within the park (3rd clue). The kids immediately got excited, so I send my husband back across the enormous parking lot to get the wet bathing suits from the car. Apparently, this was a bigger park after all!
You enter the park across a gorgeous bridge that is surrounded by trees and beautiful gardens. At the end of this bridge is the park. It’s shaped in a circle, with a main path that goes around the park. In the back, right corner is the new Oasis water play area. We thought we’d hit up a few rides and make our way toward the water area.
However, we didn’t factor in the Labor Day crowd. The park was packed and we wasted 45 waiting in line and going on two rides. Sure, the carousel and spinning strawberries were fun, but not really worth the wait.
The day was hot and the lines were long so we decided to instead bee-line for the water play area. We got in and the kids immediately went crazy with excitement. We had to guide their bouncing bodies to the changing rooms so we could quickly wiggle into wet bathing suits. Then they took off for the sprays, pools, and slides.
My husband didn’t bring a suit, so he found a chair, and relaxed as the kids played. But soon we noticed an area with even bigger slides behind us. So we gathered up the kids, relinquished the chair, and went in search of a place to sit by the bigger slides. This water play area was amazing! It had four big slides, lots of spray areas, and even dump bucket that spills gallons of water on the squealing children below.
My two dare devils loved going down the slides and we lost them for most of the time as they patiently waited in line so they could ride the big slides over and over again. It was a hot day and I had my suit, so I joined them in getting wet and even riding one of the slides with them. After my Seven Peaks experience I wasn’t sure I’d be ready, but I managed to do this one injury free.
Once my husband and I realized this wouldn’t be a two hour affair and made peace with abandoning our late afternoon plans, we settled into some chairs and enjoyed relaxing as the kids entertained themselves. We got ourselves some Dole Whip and Water, and relaxed by the pool while the kids played.
We agreed we wanted to hit the road by 4pm, so around 3 we started the process of gathering the kids, getting them changed, and meandering out of the fun water area. They had seen us eating Dole Whip and were jealous, so we treated them to a giant Icee which they shared. At Gilroy Gardens, they have these Icee machines and encourage mixing, so the kids had a great time picking different flavors to layer and try.
On our way out, we saw a few exhibits on the red woods, and my daughter saw the Ferris Wheel she wanted to ride. My son wanted to join us, but his fear of heights got him at the last minute and he abandoned us. My daughter loved riding up, getting stuck at the top, and terrifying me by trying to lean out the side to see her father and brother below. I let her play with my camera and she even took some pictures of what she was seeing and found interesting up high.
We managed to finally get everyone to the front entrance, where we passed the photo booth. They had taken a family photo when we entered, and we wanted to see how it came out. The day had been such an unexpected fun memory, we decided to buy the magnet, as a way to remember the day and the unexpected fun adventure. We loaded into the car, and the two in the back promptly feel asleep as we finished our ride back home. But I looked at the magnet and the sleeping kids, and felt warm inside. Another successful adventure, another memory made.
- Address: 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA 95020
- Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Open longer hours and during the week in summer and during school holidays. Check the site for details.
- Cost: At Gate, $58 a person. Buying Online, $39 a person. Parking $15 a car
- Discounts: Buy 4 or more tickets online, $37 a person