I’m still nowhere near with writing up all about our 3 week holiday on the Central Coast in California. We did a lot and to my honest surprise: there is so much quality and educational entertainment for kids, even for the very little ones. During our visit, for a few days, the temperature went through the roof: right up to 40-42C. That’s way too warm, even for California. Welcome to the reality of global warming.
So we had two options with the children: stay indoors or try to find somewhere outdoors, but safe in the heat.
Our friends suggested Gilroy Gardens. It’s essentially a theme park for children, with lots of water features, smaller and bigger rides, little train, petting zoo and some educational exhibits. It’s close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley – you’ve got to drive though, regarding the traffic I have no advice, try not to drive during the morning and evening rush hours, apart from that it’s down to pure luck like everywhere around there.
We arrived early, just after opening, as we thought we’re better to make most of the “cool” morning hours. Tickets were bought online as that’s cheaper than by the entrance. There is a possibility to pay more and upgrade for a yearly pass, if you live nearby it’s worth to pay the extra money towards the yearly membership.
Upon entering we realised, just how big is the park. It’s enormous. There is so much to do, that we couldn’t possibly check everything out in one day.
It was already very warm by 10 am, but luckily, there are lots of lovely big trees (as it’s a garden, ha!) so we could hide from the sun. However, we still couldn’t escape the heat. We stayed till half past 2 and by then both children were exhausted. Not only because of the heat, but also because of all the excitement!
Gilroy Gardens is really more than just a children’s theme park.
Our favourites were:
The vintage small rides
They were really cute, just a small merry go round with little, vintage looking racing cars and another one with fire engines. Even Babi could enjoy them, she was just big enough to ride them at 15 month old. She was absolutely overjoyed with her first rides.
The Bonfante train ride
Both train enthusiasts (the boys) of our family enjoyed this quite a lot. We were also permitted to take Babi too, whilst sitting on my lap. It’s a pleasant 20 minutes journey around the park.
The hot air balloon ride
This again, was just adorable. It didn’t go fast or too high either. Although I had to accompany Bobcat. Suitable for small kids too. But I myself really enjoyed it too!
The water oasis
We spent most of our time here and the water oasis was the main reason we visited Gilroy Gardens. This is a separated, small water park part of the gardens and it’s suitable for very small children too. There are splashing pads, sun loungers, water slides, water sprinkles and very shallow water for the little ones. We could have easily spent the whole day in here. It’s not too big though, so it was quite busy.
4. The Bonfante waterfalls
5 artificial waterfalls and you can walk behind the biggest one. It’s really beautiful. Take my advice: put your phone and camera into your bag!
My favourite part. 6 different amazingly lush and perfectly manicured gardens to marvel with lots of water features. The Circus Trees are also amazing. To be honest we didn’t really explore the whole of it as it was too hot. Maybe next time.
Gilroy Gardens is a nonprofit organisation and there’s lots of educational aspects to the park. Green Spots sheds are placed all around the gardens with interactive learning stations. There’s a monarch butterfly exhibit and a honey bee hut too.
7. Petting zoo
Though this was only a pop up event, I think they should have it all the time. Llamas, pigs and Bobcat’s favourites: little goats!
There’s a lot of different food options around the garden and free buggies for smaller and bigger children for when they get tired of walking.