Gilroy Gardens - Gilroy, California - non-profit garden theme park and amusement park

Gilroy Gardens is a unique concept, a horticultural themed amusement park aimed at education and amusement. The park was founded by Michael and Claudia Bonfante, former owners of Nob Hill Foods supermarkets. Its mission is to educate guests and foster a greater appreciation of horticulture. It features over 40 attractions, rides and educational exhibits, and is managed by Paramount Parks, Inc. for the Bonfante family.

Gilroy Gardens opened in 2001 as the country's only horticulture theme park. It has become a part of the area's tradition and culture, featuring events like the annual Holiday Lights Festival and receiving awards for quality entertainment. In 2008, Gilroy Gardens was named Best of the Best for landscaping design by Amusement Today, and in 2006, the gardens received the Excellence Award for Silicon Valley's Most Excellent Attractions sponsored by the Silicon Valley Concierge Association.

The Gardens features unique rides and themed horticultural gardens as well as interactive exhibits aimed at increasing the appreciation of horticulture in California. The South Country Backroads ride takes guests along a tour of lavishly landscaped gardens in vintage cars, and the Sky Trail Monorail takes visitors along the top of the greenhouse to view the Monarch Gardens from high above. Other rides feature such unique names as the Mushroom Swings, the Apple and Worm and the Artichoke Dip. All told, there are 21 rides, each of them rated from Mild to Intermediate Thrill ride so that parents can easily choose which rides are most appropriate for their children.

Gilroy Gardens is home to the Circus Trees, a collection of trees that were once regularly featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. The trees were all trained to grow in unusual shapes, including such specimens as the Basket Tree which is actually six sycamore trees trained and grafted to grow together into a basket weave sculpture. The trees were rescued by Michael Bonfante and moved to Gilroy Gardens to preserve them after the original planter and cultivator passed away and the trees fell into neglect.

It is also home to six gardens, including the spectacular Monarch Garden, a 20,000 square foot greenhouse filled with tropical trees and flowering plants. The Monarch Garden is so big that it houses both a monorail and a train to carry guests through the beautifully landscaped tropical garden. Other gardens include Claudia's Garden, with conifers and flowers, and the Rainbow Garden, which can best be viewed from the Rainbow Garden Round Boat Ride.

Gilroy Gardens offers a number of resources designed for teachers and youth group leaders, including field trips, activity manuals and in-park educational tours and exhibits. The Gardens are also available for weddings and other events. Visitors to the Gardens can dine at any one of a number of restaurants and snack bars, including a Taqueria and the San Juan Grill, a family restaurant that offers a variety of meals to appeal to everyone.

Gilroy Gardens is open from April through November with seasonal hours. Front Gate admission is $42.99 for adults, $32.99 for seniors and children. There are discounts and promotions available throughout the season. For more information on ticket prices and schedules, contact Gilroy Gardens at 408-840-7100.

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