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Amusement Parks: Gilroy Gardens – a Potted History

Gilroy Gardens is a not for profit amusement park which is located in Gilroy in Northern California. It is about a half hour drive from San Jose and about 90 minutes from San Francisco.

It is an amusement park with a difference and not typical of amusement parks in general in that it is centred on a horticultural theme.

The amusement park was founded by Michael Bonfante and his wife Claudia after they sold their Nob Hill Supermarkets chain with the aim of helping people to become better educated about horticulture in order to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of it.

The rides at the amusement park are similar to those in other amusement parks although there are no thrill seeking, daredevil rides as such. Unsurprisingly, all of the rides have agricultural names and themes such as the Garlic Twirl, Mushroom Swing and Artichoke Dip, for example. There are about 20 rides in total, another 30 or so attractions, 6 magnificent gardens and the world famous and unusual Circus Trees which were created by a Swedish immigrant, Axel Erlandson, who has crafted an oil well, a spiral staircase and a four legged giant out of trees. 

Trees are the main reason to visit the amusement park and you can view several species in the Monarch Garden which houses a 60 foot tall greenhouse that is so big that both a train and monorail run through it.

The amusement park also boasts a ride range of educational programmes by day and through night camps which are well attended by the likes of the YMCA, scouts, guides, cubs and brownies groups. In these programmes at the amusement park, you can learn all about plant labelling, composting, carry out rock experiments and learn all about the food chain and how to protect the environment. 

There is also a water play area at the amusement park that includes an 18 foot tall climbing frame with spraying water and a slide or you can simply splash about in the waterfall. 

The amusement park also caters for birthday parties, provides a backdrop for wedding celebrations and corporate events and , over recent years, the amusement park has also become a popular attraction at Christmas time when, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, the amusement park features special lighting displays and a festive holiday parade.

See also:
Amusement Parks: Belmont Park – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Adventure City – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Knott’s Berry Farm – a Potted History

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