Gar­dens, grapes and gar­lic

Travel Guide to California - - GILROY - BY JILL K. ROBIN­SON

THIS SANTA CLARA COUNTY CITY is well known as the Gar­lic Cap­i­tal of the World, but the an­nual fes­ti­val that cel­e­brates the pun­gent plant is only one of Gil­roy’s many at­trac­tions. With miles of trails, amuse­ment parks full of gar­dens and agri­cul­tural mas­tery, there is more than enough in Gil­roy to please ev­ery­one in the fam­ily.

French and Ital­ian im­mi­grants who set­tled here dur­ing the Gold Rush rec­og­nized the rich soils and Mediter­ranean cli­mate as an ideal new home for their Euro­pean grape va­ri­etals. The re­gion’s winer­ies of­fer tast­ings and tours for the grape-ob­sessed, es­pe­cially along the Santa Clara Val­ley Wine Trail, which in­cludes more than 25 fam­i­ly­owned winer­ies and tast­ing rooms.

Lo­cal restau­rants of­ten in­clude Gil­roy’s beloved gar­lic. The ded­i­cated gar­lic heads come for the Gil­roy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val at the end of July—a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of food and drink, music, arts and fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment.

A visit to 4,595-acre Coy­ote Lake/har­vey Bear Ranch park can eas­ily take up the bet­ter part of a day, with lo­cal wildlife ex­hibits, a 635-acre lake for fish­ing and boat­ing, camp­ing and boat-launch fa­cil­i­ties, and miles of hik­ing, bi­cy­cle and horse trails wind­ing through oak canyons. The Gil­roy Gar­dens fam­ily theme park lures fam­i­lies with more than 40 fun rides, ex­hibits and ma­jes­tic gar­dens (in­clud­ing the leg­endary “cir­cus trees”).

Once just a fruit stand, Casa de Fruta is an­other pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for trav­el­ers, from its Casa de Choo Choo minia­ture lo­co­mo­tive to an­tique farm ma­chin­ery and freshly baked treats. Shop­pers en­joy search­ing for spe­cial buys at the 145 de­signer and name-brand stores at Gil­roy Premium Out­lets.

Walk back in time near down­town Gil­roy, where more than 75 his­toric build­ings al­low his­tory buffs to me­an­der at their own pace to learn more about the re­gion once called “Pleas­ant Val­ley” and the town’s founder, John Cameron Gil­roy. Fa­vorite stops in­clude the City Mu­seum (in a build­ing that housed the town’s first pub­lic li­brary) and Old City Hall.

FAM­ILY DAY at Gil­roy Gar­dens, top; gar­lic har­vest­ing con­tes­tant at the Gil­roy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val, be­low.

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