Who doesn’t love a good festival?? I’m a bit of a festival fanatic and the Gilroy Garlic Festival just might be one of the best! Here are a few suggestions if you are planning to attend…
1. Purchase the weekend special event “Camp Night” package with Gilroy Gardens! This is a great deal! Visit the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival on Saturday, then camp overnight at Gilroy Gardens Theme Park and enjoy the Theme Park on Sunday! The package includes three meals, Garlic Festival admission for Saturday, and Gilroy Gardens theme park admission on Sunday! Be sure to buy tickets early because they mail you the Garlic Festival tickets, the park tickets are printable.
The Camp Night is a great, cost-effective option. We paid about $60/person for the whole package plus purchased Fast Lane passes for $20/person to skip the lines (they came in handy through the day but weren’t needed in the morning). We were able to make a weekend out of the trip and saved on a hotel, not to mention the money that would have been spent on food and parking. Campground amenities included large grass fields (bring your own tent), maintained restrooms (no showers), a covered picnic area, well-lit walkways, nearby parking (parking included in price) and 24-hour security. This was a great first camping trip for Tanner!
This is what our Camp Night Itinerary looked like:
- 10:00am – 6:00pm Visit the Gilroy Garlic Festival
- 4:00 – 6:00pm Arrive at South County Picnic Grove and setup tents
- 6:00 – 7:00pm Dinner in South County Picnic Grove
- 10:30pm – Lights out
- 7:30 – 8:30am Breakfast in Picnic Grove
- 8:30 – 10:00am Pack Up Tents—Campgrounds open to park guests at noon
- 10:00am – Enjoy Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
- 12:00 – 1:00pm BBQ Lunch in South County Picnic Grove
- 1:00pm – 6:00pm Enjoy Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
2. Bring warm clothes and things to do for the Camp Night. The weather was sort of unpredictable so bring something comfortable and cool for the park (and for the festival) and warm clothes (layers would be a good idea) to sleep in. The parking at the Camp Night is very close by, so you don’t have to lug everything around with you. It’s not really a hassle to run out to the car to grab a change of clothes if needed. After the tents are set up there will be time for activities in the large grassy area. Bring a football, frisbee, nerf guns, anything to do outside. They coordinated an evening hike for after dinner when we were there as well.
3. Get to the festival early. Find a parking lot and just park. You’ll take a bus from the lot to the actual festival. This is very easy! They make colored tags for the parking lots and it’s very organized. DON’T LOSE THE TAG. When you leave your tag will tell the attendants which bus to direct you to, so you return to the correct parking lot. When we got back we couldn’t believe how long the lines were with people just waiting to get on the bus to go to the festival. We got right on the bus that morning, no waiting in line.
4. Do the kids activities first. The lines will get very long in the kiddo area as the day goes on. Luckily, we headed there first, not because we knew the lines would get long but because Tanner was dying to get there! They had awesome bounce houses, slides, and games and there were almost no lines in the morning.
5. Don’t pass up the free garlic ice cream! Find the free garlic ice cream booth and try it! The line is going to intimidate you, but don’t let it! It’s probably the longest line I’ve ever waited in, but it went fast. Since it’s free they aren’t taking money, making change or running cards. They are giving out mini ice cream cones that are made in two seconds. They fly through the line and the ice cream is pretty good!
6. Don’t wait until the end of the day to buy souvenirs or garlic products! It gets very crowded in the souvenir tents so unless you plan on buying a bunch of heavy garlic products that you don’t want to carry around the whole time, head in there early and buy your souvenir. My favorite souvenir was the 2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival Beer Mug! You can find them in the beer garden. They will sell out so buy early!
7. Know what’s happening and what you don’t want to miss! Combo Plates in Gourmet Alley are a great way to try a variety of the items on the menu! Don’t forget to check out the Cooking Demos! They even featured Giada De Laurentiis from the Food Network! Download the Garlic Festival App so you don’t miss anything! The Garli-Que BBQ Challenge was awesome as well! Be prepared to walk, the place is huge!
8. Get back to Gilroy Gardens at the designated set up time. We left around 3:30 to get back to the camp to set up. We were ready to go by this time anyway; Tanner was exhausted! The camp area was beautiful and spacious! We had our pick of spots since we got there on time. We were able to find a nice shady spot under a tree. If you wait too long to get back and set up, you will end up in the sun!
9. Take advantage of the included meals. As expected at any theme park the food is rather expensive so the included meals are a huge money saver and the food is good! Plus, there are other yummy treats at the park you’ll want to spend your money on! I saw delicious, unique flavors of funnel cakes at Skeel’s and a wonderful assortment of desserts at the Sugar Plum Farm.
Our Camp Night Menus:
Saturday Night Dinner: BBQ Chicken Quarters, Spaghetti w/Marinara, Fruit Salad, Hawaiian Dinner Rolls, Ice Cream Novelties, Coca-Cola Fountain Drinks, and Water
Sunday Morning Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, French Toast with Berry Sauce, Water, Juice, and Coffee
Sunday Afternoon Lunch: Join the Gilroy Garlic BBQ! Honey Garlic Ribs, Hot Dogs, Garlic Noodles, Potato Salad, Garlic Bread, Ice Cream Novelties, Coca-Cola Fountain Drinks, plus Beer and Wine for purchase.
10. Grab a Map and Get to the Park at Opening! I have to say, this theme park might be somewhat kid-oriented BUT, they had some of the most unique and coolest rides and attractions I have ever seen! If you start when the park opens you should definitely have time to do everything. Don’t miss these rides and check them out in the gallery below!
Sky Trail Monorail: This might have been my favorite ride! You whisk through the sky on the monorail and head through the Monarch Garden. Get your camera ready because you will have some unique and absolutely beautiful photo opportunities of the park!
South County Backroads: This may have been Tanner’s favorite ride! He got to…DRIVE A CAR!! Well, maybe just feel like he was:) The cars were on tracks and move slightly with the steering wheel as you glide through their route. You got your pick of a 1920’s roadster or a 1950’s Chevy and it was like stepping back in time! It’s fun and relaxing, we must have done this one at least five times!
Bonfante Falls: Tanner loved this one too! The waterfalls were huge and he loved going through the tunnel behind them. If you want to cool off this was a great option!
And of course, the unique gardens! Don’t miss out on the beautiful gardens and learning some history of the park!
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